Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Obstacle As Path

I signed up for these free Daily Dharma messages from Tricycle Magazine to be sent to my email box every morning.  This morning I followed the link and was lead me to this article.   Sometimes I love new media...

The feeling that things are out of sync and that there is too much to do is not new. As Buddha pointed out over 2,600 years ago, we'll always have to deal with the fact that life entails pain and suffering. Perhaps it's that we don't really want to have any problems that makes Our current time seem so full of distress. 
Many people come to meditation practice with the expectation that it will calm them and relieve their stress. Certainly meditation can do this to some extent; even the most superficial meditation practices can induce feelings of calmness. However, when we're knee-deep in emotional distress, we're fortunate if we can remember to practice at all. 
When the clarity of practice becomes obscured by the dark and swirling energy of emotional distress, it is useful to have some clear and concise reminders to bring us back to reality. The first reminder is to awaken aspiration. On an elementary level, to awaken aspiration means simply that we remember to practice. Once we remember to practice, to awaken aspiration means that we see our particular distress as our path. Instead of seeing our distress as the enemy, as something to get rid of; instead of giving it juice by solidifying the thoughts around it into the heaviness and drama of "me," we learn to view distress as our opportunity to see and to open. We relate to it as our path to awakening. 
When we find ourselves in a mess, we might have the thought "This isn't how life is supposed to be." When life doesn't fit our picture, we usually feel that something is wrong. But it is not so much that something is wrong as it is that we're relating to life from the narrow, fear-based perspective of "I want." What we want is to feel good, and when our emotional distress does not feel good, we almost instinctively move away from it. Our discomfort generates fear, and in that fear there is even more discomfort. No wonder we tend to see distress as the enemy, as something to get rid of. 
We have to turn our upside-down view right-side up to understand what it means to see difficulties as our path. The main issue is no longer just about whether we feel good, or whether we like what is happening. The main issue is to be more awake, to learn what we have to learn to stop holding back our hearts in fear. This doesn't mean that we have to like what is on our plate-what it means is that the willingness to open to life's difficulties is not dependent on having to like them. 
The second reminder is to awaken curiosity, asking the practice question, "What is this?" This is not an expression of idle curiosity, nor is it an analytical exploration. It's awakening the desire to know the truth of the moment through experiencing the physical reality of our being. We cannot experience physical reality as long as we're blaming, wallowing in "poor me," trying to escape, or giving credence to powerful thoughts such as "This isn't fair" and "I can't do this." The thought realm is where we stay stuck; it's where things become solid, dark, and unworkable. In awakening curiosity, we retum over and over again to the bodily experience of the moment, to the physical "whatness" of our experience, which is movable, light, and workable.  
Several years ago, I was faced with an alarming reading on a screening test for prostate cancer. After further testing, I felt a great deal of fear while waiting for the results. I practiced staying with the body, asking over and over, "What is this?" The combination of fear and self-pity was powerful, as was the desire to escape, but my continuous effort to retum to the physical reality of the moment began to undercut the solidity of my fear. The question "What is this?" worked like a laser in focusing on the experience of fear itself. In a moment of insight, I realized that none of what I feared was happening now, nor had it ever happened! There was no real pain other than that generated by my thoughts. This realization effectively burst the bubble of my fears. The insight came not from thinking, but from staying with the "whatness" of the moment. It came from being curious about reality. 
The third reminder in working with distress is to awaken humor, or at least some wider perspective. Any time we're obsessing over something that's happening mainly in our thoughts, it is helpful to remember Mark Twain's words: "I'm a very old man. I've had lots of problems. Most of them never happened."  
One way to broaden our perspective is to see the difficulties as just another aspect of our conditioning playing itself out. When we remember this we can say to ourselves, "Here it comes again; what will it be like this time?" This is not a trick to avoid facing our issues; rather, it is a means of getting just enough perspective to be able to enter the difficulty without being overwhelmed by it.
Once when my Pandora's box was opening wide, I went to my teacher, Joko Beck, to describe what was happening. I felt dark and grim, and was embarrassed to reveal that I was experiencing so much fear. She smiled at me and said, "That's pretty interesting. Let's look at this." I got the sense that it wasn't me we were talking about, but just "stuff." Here was a wider perspective. It's not that the fears were an illusion and could therefore be ignored, but that they were simply my particular conditioning. Putting them in this context allowed me to look more lightly at "my fears." 
The fourth reminder is to awaken lovingkindness. This is the ability to bring nonjudgmental awareness from the heart to the unwanted aspects of "me." This reminder can't be overemphasized. It's so natural to want to confirm what is most negative about ourselves that we don't even think about activating compassion or kindness. In fact, much of the heaviness of our distress comes from the belief that we should be different. Especially after practicing for a few years, we think we shouldn't still be so reactive. We think we should be beyond our conditioning. But practice doesn't work that way. Yet when we soften our self-judgment with lovingkindness, the sense of drama and heaviness lightens considerably. 
Sometimes when emotional distress is particularly powerful, nothing we've learned about practicing with distress seems pertinent. Dense and intense emotional reactions can leave us feeling confused and overwhelmed. In these darkest moments, the practice is to bring awareness to the center of the chest, breathing the painful emotions, via the in-breath, directly into the heartspace. It's as if we're breathing the swirling physical sensations right into the heart. Then, on the out-breath, we simply exhale. We're not trying to do or change anything; we're simply allowing our heart center to become a wider container of awareness within which to experience distress. 
Fear takes us to that point beyond which we think we can't go. Breathing into the center of the chest, taking that one breath directly into the heartspace, opening to the pain that feels like it's going to do us in, teaches us that it won't do us in. We begin to experience the spaciousness of the heart, where our harshest self-judgments and our darkest moods lighten up. We begin to understand that awareness heals; and to open to this healing, one more breath into the heartspace is all that is required.
To willingly reside in our distress, no longer resisting what is, is the real key to transformation. As painful as it may be to face our deepest fears, we do reach the point where it's more painful not to face them. This is a pivotal point in the practice life. 
Feeling the limitations of our fears and breathing them into the heartspace allows us to penetrate the protective barriers that close us off. As we begin to move beyond the artificial construct that we call a "self'—the seat of all of our emotional distress—we enter into a wider container of awareness. We see that our emotional drama, however distressful, is still just thoughts, just memories, just sensations. Who we really are—our basic connectedness-is so much bigger than just this body, just this personal drama. 
Seeing this bigger picture one time, two times, or even a dozen times, doesn't mean we'll no longer have emotional reactions. But keeping the bigger picture in view does help us keep from getting lost in our distress as quickly, as intensely, or for as long a time. We finally begin to understand and even believe that all of our stuff is workable.

From Ezra Bayda, Bursting the Bubble of Fear, Tricycle Magazine

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Commit to Sit

commit to sit 1Here's How To Do It.

Tricycle magazine is partnering up with Sharon Salzburg this year to once again offer guidance for a DIY mini-meditation retreat at home.  Think of it as an invitation to get started (or re-started) on a daily practice.

Yeah.   I think I'm gonna go for it.  For cryin' out loud, commitment is so hard for me to muster these days!  But what the hell, after all, last night after two weeks of foot dragging (and smelly dog-sitting) I finally cleaned my damn carpets...  Who knows what I may be capable of!

Here's another link this year's 28-Day Meditation Challenge.  You do not have to buy anything.  Just show up.  Easier said than done, my friends, and don't I know it!

Maybe I'll see you on the online cushion?

PS:  I also stole this image from Tricycle's blog.  Just too beautiful to pass up.  May it inspire you as well.

Friday, January 28, 2011

How To Grow

Last night I went into Portland to attend a reading of Growing a Farmer by Kurt Timmermeister.   Kurt  was  the owner /operator of Cafe Septieme, which started as a single room with four tables in the Belltown area of Seattle lo these many years ago-- when it was still rough and cheap and relatively free of condos. I was one of a number of his neighbors who fell in love with the place and ended up working there for a time.   I attended the reading with my friend Hugh, another Septieme veteran and we ran into a third -- Patrick, Kurt's first-ever employee.  (It tells you something about Kurt that three of his former kitchen/wait-staff went to some effort to hear him talk, support his book and celebrate his success.)

The guy is inspiring.  In the most surprising way.  He does not talk big.  He pays scrupulous attention to the details of what pleases him, has endless curiosity and the kind of courage to "stumble around in a dark room and run into walls until (he) finds the door."  And every door I have seen him open leads somewhere marked by beauty and simplicity.  Authenticity.  Them's mighty words of praise in my book.  Kurt's the real deal.

Asked about this courage last night, he said something I thought pretty profound;
There Is No Permanent Record-- unlike what they told us in school.  So failure does not bother me.  I fail again and again and again.  That's how I learn.
Remarkable.  And he is a good writer, too!  Don't take my word for it.  Check out the book, and be inspired for yourself.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Look Into Your Future

Excerpted from the "Weekly Teachings" emailed to me by Tricycle Review:

The concept of karma is a confusing one to many Westerners. The earliest notions of karma conceived of it as an accretion to an action, like a mote of dust that clings to sweaty skin. Matthieu Ricard, a monk in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, was asked the Buddhist view of karma. He responded:
"At each point in our lives, we are at a crossroads. We are the fruit of our past and we are the architects of our future. When we ask, “Why did this happen to me?” it is because of our limited view. If we throw a stone up in the air and forget about it, when it falls down on our heads, we shouldn’t complain, although we usually do. We have this notion that what happens to us is somehow independent of our own actions. We can ask, why did this happen? but the more important question is, what we are going to do about it? 
If you want to know your past, look at your present circumstances. If you want to know your future, look at what is in your mind. If we know that our fate is in our hands, then the quality of our actions becomes a central issue. The whole point of karma is to recognize how our actions determine our future, so that we can begin to act properly. It’s not just a cosmological or philosophical matter. It’s entirely practical. The main point is not to get in trouble again."

For a hard-core WHY? asker such as myself, this understanding could be key.  I wonder what  connection this has with our human love of narrative.  We love stories and stories are all about the who, what, where, and most intriguingly, the WHY.  And the why is usually the one we experience most subjectively, I think.

Reminds me of  Forster's famous example of narrative v. plot:  Narrative is one thing after another-- The king died, and then the queen died;  Plot requires causation-- The king died, and then the queen died of grief.

But in real life, how much do we really know about the causes of other people's actions?  We speculate--  oh gladly-- it probably comprises the lion's share of our conversations.  The line between gossip and reasonable, loving concern for another is slippery indeed.  But how often do we really ask ourselves Why?  Not Why did this happen to me?  But  Why do I behave this way?  If I look behind my own actions, what are my true motivations?  Or, as some wise person put it:  What is it I really want for myself and others?
"If you want to know your future, look at what is in your mind."  
I am going to carry that one with me today.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

My Sangha is Your Sangha

Most of you know that I am the opposite of tech-savvy.  It is a small miracle that I can make this simplest of blogs happen.  So it may come as no surprise to you when I say I kinda suck at internet.

By that, what I mean (beyond other things that I do not even have language for), is that  I can often NOT find what I am seeking online.  Before I started this blog, for instance, I looked around for something, ANYTHING online written by, for, or about buddhist practitioners dealing with their own illness and/ or death.  Zip. Nada.  I mean, I found nothing!  No wait, I did find a book on by Sandy Boucher about her year undergoing cancer treatment, which I bought and read.   But I wanted more, now.   I wanted dialogue.  

So I started this, rather one-sided, dialogue.  It's been good for me...  and you?

Yeah, just it, see:  It doesn't feel like much of a dialogue.  I do know some people read this sometimes, mostly because they tell me so (or because they were raised by my mom-- hi, SOMs!) but, really, I don't get a lot of back and forth.  Although I definitely talk about some of the same things I write about here when I run into my friends in real life (IRL, as they say online-- Wow!--  I have never felt so much like someone's lame spinster aunt in all my life!)  I'm nothing if not forthcoming and willing to share my personal obsessions with my friends.  (I don't know about you and your friends, but that is kinda what my friends and I DO...)

So it took me a bit by surprise when I got a follower I didn't personally know, and then a comment from another blogger whom I do not know.  Following them back up outta my rabbit-hole lead me on a crooked link chase to a WHOLE MOTHERLODE of BUDDHIST BLOGS, very few of which I had ever chanced upon before.  Click on any of these blogs and you will find more links to more blogs-- an ever-widening gyre of expanding or narrowing interests.  If you don't like one site, just keep clicking...  It is a little like when my dad first got his big satellite TV and had a zillion channels for the first time!    Maybe you all knew about this already, but it is news to me.

So, I've been flying thru cyber-space today, and boy, are my arms tired!  Not to mention how thread-bare my credentials as a Buddhist Blogger suddenly seem.  I mean, I guess I never thought about it before-- what right do I have to do this?  What do I think I know, anyway?  Well, truthfully:  Not Much.  Haven't mislead anyone, there.  This is really only about me trying to figure out me-- using the ancient tools of Buddhist and Yoga practices and texts.  And the practice of writing.

Once I got over myself, then it was kinda nice to know there are SO many of us out here-- trying to shed light on our paths with these same tools.  Glad to know you, cyber-neighbors!  (Cyber-sangha?  Hmmm... this mash-up lingo thing could get really old really fast, I can see that now, and am backing away  v-e-r-y  s-l-o-w-l-y....)

May we be good to one another, and dedicate all merit to sentient beings everywhere.  Boddhi Svaha!

Friday, January 21, 2011

A Hard Stick

That's what I am.

Getting blood from me is akin to a turnip.  Usually.  Sometimes-- oh, wonders of wonders-- the needle slides in and the stuff flows like silk from a spool.  But those sticks are rare.

This causes distress for all concerned. Me, the nurses, the scheduling people who want my chair, the patients waiting for same...  It's sticky situation all around.  And predictably so, which might not help either.

I try not to anticipate that it will be rough.  But if the past is any indicator of the future....  Well, let's just leave that at "challenging."  I try not to get pissed off about it BEFORE it happens.  And I try not to get pissed off as I tick through the list of the latest "helpful hints" that always come my way about "next time":

Next time drink lots of water.  Hydration is key!
Next time, be sure they warm your arm first. 
Next time put this salve on 20 minutes before.  
Next time, use more salve.  Thicker!  As thick as a quarter!  Maybe put it on more then one place, since we aren't sure where we'll stick you.  Wrap your arm with plastic wrap!  
Oh, well, that salve might help with pain, but but actually constricts your blood vessels, which makes it harder to get a needle in...
Next time drink more water the day before, and then Gatorade the day you come in.
Next time tell them you need the tiny needle-- a number 24.

I know none of us like this.  But the fact remains I am on the business end of this needle and you are in a white coat.  That does not make us enemies.  You are inflicting pain on me.  I suspect that makes you feel like you are not good at your job.  That does not have to make us enemies either.

You want me to kid around with you.  I want to look out the window, zone out, drift into ipod-land, meditate,  and/or, in general, find some way to not engage with you in the painful, stressful here and now.  You seem to resent that.  I resent that you won't let me just be whatever way I need to be, but instead seem to want me to make you feel okay.  I got my hands full just making ME feel like its okay.  SO.  This is where the trouble between us seems to start:  Who will control the tenor of this situation?

I know that IF I were a better person this would be a lesser problem.  Knowing this does not make me that better person.  It just elicits my judgment about what a lesser person I am...

I remember visiting one of my first meditation teachers in the hospital.  I was younger and even more ignorant than I am now, and hospitals kinda scared me.  During my visit my teacher did far more to take  care of me than I was able to do for him.  He made it okay for me to be there.  SO not his job.  And he did it without any resentment, in total graciousness.  He was genuinely glad I came.  But not because I made anything easier for him.  Maybe I gave him a way to practice:  he could work with my terror, my resistance, my desire to be better than I was...

Yeah.  No danger of my floating off on a cloud of enlightenment any time soon.  Until I can get over my peevishness that I should be the one to reach out and solve this mish-mash of misunderstanding over fitting a needle into my vein, the situation is unlikely to shift on its own.

Over and over again, the invitation to let go.  Or be dragged.  Which will I choose this time around?

Friday, January 14, 2011

Liquid Sunshine

I finally talked to my oncologist Dr T on the phone yesterday. (He is usually very good about getting back to me--  this two-month delay is highly unusual and was due, I think, to three things:  1) He needed to look at the research. 2) He was visiting a daughter abroad for the holidays. 3) He is getting ready to retire in Feb.  I know-- sad news for me, because he has been such a patient, reliable, reasonable guy to work with.  Now I have to break in a brand new doctor!)

He read the journal reports on IV high-dose vitamin C (or as he consistently referred to it, ascorbic acid) and sees that they are promising.  But these studies do not constitute clinical evidence, so he cannot recommend the use of ascorbic acid as a treatment for breast cancer at this point in time.  He feels he does not have enough evidence to make a call in favor or against it.

Not a big surprise.  It was a very civil discussion.  And he does NOT object to having the Celilo Infusion Center leave my IV line intact after my monthly Zometa infusions so that I can go somewhere else that same day and receive an infusion of vitamin C!  Dr T will write up an order indicating the same.  So that is good news.

I meet with Joan Laurance, a local naturopath, who believes she can help with the infusions once she gets the protocol information from Dr. Standish at Bastyr.  So.  Onward!  This may not happen til Feb, but I think its gonna happen.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

"On The Withered Tree, a Flower Blooms"

I got that from Joko Beck's Everyday Zen (p.35), quoting the Shoyo Roku.

I want to address how sheepish, how oddly exposed, I have felt at the possibility that it might even be construed  that I have laid any claim to being "awake" in my last post...  And to clarify what I mean by the same.

I recognize that, at least in someone the likes of myself, this is not a permanent, on-going state of no-mind.  I am no enlightened master.  I have just had the experience of waking up.  I nod off.  I wake up again.  Life goes on.  Maybe the difference is I am more aware of how precious it is to be awake?  And how possible it is to change one's mind- snap! - in an instant-- from one state to another.  If we don't hang on too tightly.  Big If.  

Which reminds me of another favorite quote I have been holding out on posting here.  This one I saw on a magnet at Powell's Books, and I swear to this day I will go back and procure the thing... although maybe I do not need to, since the sentiment is so emblazoned on my brain:
Let Go or Be Dragged.
'Cause, really, let's get serious here:  Those are our only two choices.  

And, for me, it is in the letting go, in my allowing myself to just be -- to just be with the possibility of my death, to just say:  Okay, there may be nothing more to get from this tree, nothing more to ask of it, it looks pretty far gone from here.  Abandon hope.  Let go.  Just be.

And then the blossom appears.

I cannot tell you how surprised, how grateful, how stunned I was-- and am even now-- by the grace implied in this gesture.  Of how completely ordinary and completely beloved this swinging wide of the gate made me feel.  Pema Chodron says we can count on the universe, it will always speak to us, it is always in response to us.  My little yes was met with such an outpouring of blessing, that truly, I can hardly comprehend or find words for it.

And yes, I forget and I get peeved or I get swelled up with pride, or a million other things.  But then I remember.  I remember, and I wake up and swear to you my darlings, I laugh.  I laugh!  I forgive my small mind, my fear, my grasping, and as tenderly as a mother untwining her child's fingers from too much Halloween candy, I let go.  

And every time, every single time I let go, the universe mets me where ever I am.  It is extraordinary.  And, I am convinced, it is extremely ordinary.  Our birthright.  Or maybe our birth privilege.  

I do not pretend to understand all this.  I call this kind of thing yoga-magic--  I don't necessarily "get it", but I cannot deny that it exists.  And because I continue to fuck up, I  continue to experience it again and again on every scale and every level:
On the withered tree, a flower blooms.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Inquiring Minds

People ask me just what all I have been doing in response to my Stage 4 breast cancer diagnosis.   I suspect this curiosity is in part due to my results:

I have gone from feeling like an absolute piece of shite, with no energy, limited ability to move, think, eat or shit (pardon my french, but this is so damn essential to one's health and happiness--- if you do not have cause to know this from personal experience, may god bless and keep you so blissfully ignorant) -- to feeling pretty durn good on the physical plane.   And, if I do say so myself, on a bit of a red-hot roll in terms of my spiritual growth and general level of joy and sense of liberation.

First of all, as they disclaim on late-night TV:  Results Not Typical.

It would be crazy to advocate driving into a brick wall because it feels so good when you stop.  Three strikes with cancer and one damn-near wild swing at death is not the only way to wake-up.  But waking up is good.  A damn lot of hard work and I know it is not over yet--- (My yoga teacher evidently has a circle of friends who laughingly refer to themselves as "spiritual over-achievers" in a nod to the fact that it ain't ever over, baby.  Ever.)  But waking up is good.  It makes appreciating everything else possible.  And I have to credit cancer-- and the resulting comprehension of the reality of death, ie, impermanence--  as the vehicle that woke me up.  When the student is ready...

Secondly, if you have read much of this blog, or know much about my history with cancer, you know that I am a firm believer in finding out what you believe and acting in accordance with it.  The research I did 13 years ago during my first dance with this disease taught me that the single most important thing that survivors of cancer had in common was that they acted in accordance to their own beliefs--- whether that was juice fasting and prayer or handing it all over to an expert in a lab coat.  

Yes, information is power.  I love information.  I seek out a lot of it.  I want to understand how things work-- even scary, technical things like chemotherapy drugs.  But part of the reason I want to know these "facts" is so I can engage my imagination and my belief system to work with them.  And I want to do that because as an artist I instinctively understand just what powerful allies imagination and belief can be.  In a battle with mere facts, I would not bet against them.  (But hey, maybe there need not be a battle--  maybe they can better serve us working together.)

This discovery-- the importance of acting in accordance with one's beliefs--  lead me to work with acupuncture, Tai Chi, Traditional Chinese Medicine and naturopathy as modalities for treating my cancer.  (Along with traditional, conventional, allopathic, western medicine:  After all, the first thing I did was have surgery to remove the lump from my breast.)

I can go into this at length another time-- how my understanding of the systemic nature of the disease, along with chemo's really rather shoddy record as a breast cancer "cure" lead me to these conclusions-- and how successful the line of treatment I chose was:  Seven years cancer free is something even a avowed chemotherapist would consider a triumph. After all, at five years out, They (in this case, Conventional Medicine) pronounce you "cured."  (At ten years out they do it again, which if one is paying close attention may prompt one to ask, Wha' the heck? )  But I want to get to what I am doing NOW, because that is what I get asked about.

My second bout with cancer was in 2004.  I once again sought advice from both allopathic, western cancer docs and a naturopath well-versed in breast cancer.   The naturopath-- while reminding me that I  had a choice-- recommended I undergo conventional treatment (surgery, chemo, radiation, hormone drugs) and support myself with naturopathy and acupuncture (and love and imagination and friends and hydrotherapy and meditation-- my usual go-to cure-alls.)  It was a long season in hell, but I came through it, and had another, what? Six years without cancer.

They (ie, Conventional Medicine) declared me "cured" once again at five years out.  Which meant that the Breast and Cervical Cancer Program which had been providing my health coverage unceremoniously gave me the boot.  I believe the letter said something like:  Good Luck Finding Health Insurance out there in the Free Market with a Pre-existing Condition of Recurrent Breast Cancer! 

So.  Now.  Summer of 2010, Round Three, Stage Four.  Conventional Medicine no longer considers my breast cancer "curable."  ( Uh.  Like they did such a great job curing it before? But I digress...)

In part, I think, because They have so little to offer me -- other than the hormone medication and the strengthening agent for my bone metastasis, which hope to hold the progression of the disease at bay, at least for a time-- Conventional Medicine is more open then ever (and the good people at Celilio have always been particular good about this, being all cutting-edge and west-coast) to my incorporating "complementary" or "alternative" treatments into my regime:  No-one acts like acupuncture is akin to examining the spilled entrails of a live chicken (unlike when I brought a acupuncturist in to treat  my brother-in-law while he was in a hospital in PA).  In fact, Celilo has an acupuncturist on staff!  And while getting them to actually include my naturopath in the loop of monthly lab reports, etc, takes on-going prodding on my end, no-one has raised the least objection to it.  At least not until just recently...  we'll get to that story shortly.

SO.  For those wanting The Recipe for my current success:  Under the guidance of my oncologist at Celilo Cancer Center , Dr. Sam Taylor, I take:
  • Arimedex, in generic form, by mouth, once a day.
  • Zometa, by IV, once a month.
  • Blood draws, for labs including measuring tumor markers, once a month.
Under the guidance of one of the leading researchers developing a protocol for naturopathic approaches to breast cancer treatment, Dr Leanna Standish at Bastyr University, I take the following twice a day:
  • Turkey-tail Mushroom Extract:  Called by other names in Chinese and Japanese medicine, it has been used for centuries as an immune strengthener and for the reduction of tumors.
  • Curcumin:  A component of the spice turmeric, held to be a natural anti-carcinogen.
  • Bromelain: An enzyme found in pineapple, thought to aide digestion and reduce fluid build-up.
By my own lights, and with permission from both health-care professionals, I continue to work with
  • Yoga 
  • Meditation
  • Acupuncture 
  • Other assorted mumbo-jumbo-- including occasional medical marijuana, which I have found quite helpful.
That's where we are now.  And next?

My naturopath would like to add to this regime a monthly infusion of high-dose vitamin C.  My oncologist will not sign off on same.  Meaning I cannot receive it at his institution while I am sitting there once a month with a needle already stuck (finally, usually with great difficulty and distress-- remember, I am a "hard stick"!) in my vein.

Why not?  I do not have a definitive answer from him yet.

I put the question to him mid November.  I heard through Nina, the Oncology Nurse Practitioner, that Dr T had said No, he did not want me to take vitamin C.  When I  asked if this pertained to IV as well as oral, as there is new research on just that distinction (there had been earlier evidence suggesting that high doses of oral vitamin C might increase tumor growth), she did not know.  I told her about finding this online from the Canadian Journal of Medicine:
"In light of recent clinical pharmacokinetic findings and in vitro evidence of anti-tumour mechanisms... the role of high-dose intravenous vitamin C therapy in cancer treatment should be reassessed. 
• Intravenous administration of the maximum tolerated dose of vitamin C produces plasma levels 25 times that achieved when the same dose is administered orally. At high plasma concentrations vitamin C is toxic to some cancer cells but not to normal cells in vitro.
• Using the National Cancer Institute Best Case Series guidelines, the authors reviewed 3 cases of advanced cancer where patients had unexpectedly long survival times after receiving high-dose intravenous vitamin C therapy.
Implications for practice: In a setting of biological plausibility and clinical plausibility, further research into vitamin C as a treatment for cancer is warranted.
This article has been peer reviewed. "
My naturopath, Dr. Leanna Standish, is currently involved in this kind of research.  She sees evidence suggesting that taking Arimedex and IV Vitamin C together is more effective against Stage 4 breast cancer than either one alone.

I understand this has not been proven effective yet... but has it been proven harmful?

And since it is my body and my risk, and since conventional medicine has nothing better to offer me, if I am willing to play the guinea pig, why not let me to give it a try?  I would like to hear more arguments both pro & con.  Stay tuned.  I will find out what I can.  After all, I have an inquiring mind myself...

In the meantime: Yes, thank you for asking, and as Godfather James Brown says,  I feel good!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Pema Chodron - Five Slogans of Machig Labdron

Want to wake up and be of service to the world?
Here are the five instructions given to Machig Labdron in the 12th century:

1)  Confess your hidden faults.
2)  Approach what you find repulsive.
3)  Help those you think you cannot help (sometimes translated as those you do not want to help).
4)  Anything you are attached to, give that.
5)  Go to the places that scare you.

Those are just the everyday, how-to-life-your-life, "relative" instructions.
The "absolute" instruction?

If you do not grasp with your mind,                                                                                                         you will find a fresh state of being.

Dearest Pema,
Thanks for giving me plenty to work with in the New Year.  I am grateful.  And a tiny bit overwhelmed. Your friend and great admirer,

Saturday, January 1, 2011


 by William Stafford

For the past.
For my own path.
For surprises.

For mistakes that worked so well.
For tomorrow if I'm there.
For the next real thing.

Then for carrying it all
through whatever is necessary
For following the little god who
speaks only to me.

My friend Gin sends this poem out in some form almost every new year.  So every year, I re-discover it.   It is always worth re-reading.  And every year I get a brand new chance to re-dedicate, re-pledge and re-commit to it.  Here's your chance!  

Best wishes.  And thanks, Gin.