Update #2 2/17/14

[Originally posted to a Lotsa Helping Hands website on 2/17/14]

Hi Everyone,

Chemo round two was a bit rough. The 8 hour infusion went faster than I expected, the 10+ days of nausea afterwards, not so much. It’s no secret that chemo isn’t fun, so I wasn’t expecting a party. On the other hand, I’ve learned that it’s also the sort of thing you can never truly understand unless you’ve been through it personally. A friend analogized going through cancer as similar to becoming a parent: people can describe the experience to you in great detail, you can read books about it galore, but until you’ve lived it, you just simply cannot fully know what it means. Of course, joining the parent club has a lot more upside than joining the cancer club. I’d gladly turn in my membership card for the latter. But, that’s not to say there’s nothing positive about getting cancer.

What’s that you say? There’s something positive about getting cancer? Well, yes. If you want to put your community to the test, see if friends, family, acquaintances, and even strangers will come through when the chips are down, get cancer. (Actually, don’t — Universe, I’m totally joking here, enough with the cancer shit already.) The thoughtfulness, generosity and straight-up love that continues to flow my way brings me to tears on the daily. I feel like a woefully inadequate broken record, but I’m going to keep repeating it: Thank you. Thank you for the cards, the meals, the prayers, the gifts, the visits, the messages, all of it. THANK YOU.

So, onto a bit of content. I wanted to address a question I get often: Why, where, how did I get this? I have no idea. My doctors have no idea, either. Comforting, right? The explanation they gave me went something like this “We don’t know. Your cells mutated. It happens in everyone, all the time. Usually, mutated cells die off and everything’s fine. Sometimes they don’t. It sucks when they don’t because then they keep multiplying and mucking up everything, but they didn’t leave a note explaining how and why they did that. Tricky bastards.” I’ve been told that it’s not genetic, so I don’t have to worry about my kids inheriting this (thank goodness), nor can I blame my parents (damn). I also know that I had few typical risk factors. I’ve never smoked a single cigarette or been around much second-smoke even. I’ve been vegetarian, bordering on vegan, for decades (I’m the kombucha-drinking, kale-chip-eating person in the aisles of Wholefoods that YouTube videos make fun of). I have no family history of lung cancer. I exercise regularly. I do yoga regularly. The only thing I will cop to is stress.

I’m a type-A kind of girl. I participated in a UCSF study over the past three years on stress and parenting, and according to their metrics, I was off-the-charts stressed out. I took that seriously. I’d seen the headlines on the alternative health magazines in the Wholefoods check-out line: stress causes [insert health issue du jour]. I was trying to address it. I took a meditation course this past summer. I started going to acupuncture. Did you notice me breathing a little deeper in yoga class? But, perhaps this is a case of too little, too late. I don’t know.

I have read that my variety of non-smoking lung cancer is on the rise in younger women, which says to me that something in our environment likely plays a part. Like most everything, it’s surely a complex mix: individual factors, environmental factors and who knows what else. Maybe wash your non-organic produce a little better than I did. I’m not sure. I’ll keep reading and if I figure it out, I’ll definitely give you a heads up.

While I’m curious to know the “why,” really, for me at this point it’s more important to focus on how to move forward from here. I plan to keep working every angle, from chemo, to an anti-cancer diet (more on that later), to, yes, meditation. And, the prayers, and the vibes, and the love and the support from all-corners — I’ll keep taking that, too. Thank you so much for that, it means the world to me.