Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Frankincense, Myrrh, and Gold....Oh My!

(Disclaimer; I am not a doctor, nor do I pretend to be one. Everything I do, I research first, and do at my own risk. I am aware that my methods are not approved by the FDA to treat humans and could harm me. And I am okay with taking that risk.)

Since the rapid growth of both tumors, new and old, I have been aggressively trying different methods to try to speed up the process of eliminating these tumors. I have continued to eat a vegan diet. I have continued to get weekly IV treatments. And I have continued to take supplements, though varying in types. Something else I have tried to no avail is injecting directly into one tumor as basically a test subject if you will, while leaving the other, original tumor, alone.

No avail...until now. On this past Saturday evening, I injected a low dose of Frankincense oil. Yep, before you ask, I do have Myrrh and gold as well. At first it just burned a little at the site of the injection. But throughout the night the pain continued to get worse. It was so bad I was unable to sleep. Sunday, the intensity of the pain increased to the point that I was sweating from it. It was a burning, fire-like pain. I tried just about everything I could think of to even minimize the pain, if even just a little. I did take aspirin, but it made no difference. Heat, ice packs, bath...nothing.

The pain, while super intense, was localized to the tumors only. Yes, even the one I didn't inject was burning. But, Monday, that changed. While the tumors were the only thing burning, I developed a fever and began to ache all over. Ok, fever, still not necessarily a bad thing. Fevers are an immune response to something foreign in the body. If the Frankincense did what it was supposed to do, then maybe my body is finally working to get rid of the tumors.

While the pain is not nearly as intense, the fever is persistent. When I finally got home from work, I immediately did a visual check on said tumor. Before today, it was swollen and red. And please don't insult me by suggesting it is infected. I'm not knew to injections, in fact, after chemo I had to have daily injections at home to increase my white blood cell count. And as I said, I've been doing injections of different kinds over the last couple of months. Besides, I am on so many immune boosters, I'm not sure anything could infect my body.

But today, it definitely has a very different appearance. I'm not sure if it is good or bad. Time will tell. So for now, please pray. Pray for wisdom, endurance, and strength. Pray, pray, and pray some more for wisdom. If this is working, it will be worth every ounce of pain. If this works, it will be a great idea. If it fails, it will be my worst idea ever. It will be a gigantic mistake.

Please, please, please, after reading this do NOT suggest I go see a doctor. I would find that simply insulting. ;)

Thanks for reading and don't forget to pray.

Monday, September 1, 2014

I'm My Own Worst Enemy

I'll do my best to give a quick overview of what has been going on. I didn't realize that it had been over two months since I last updated.

In late June, my awesome friend got some of her friends together and had a benefit concert for me. It could not have turned out more perfect. The venue where they were having it was very small, so the only thing I had prayed for that day was no rain so that they could set up their equipment and play outside. As we drove around downtown looking for an impossible parking spot, it was pouring down so hard that I could barely see to drive. I eventually found myself on the tippy-top of a parking garage. Before I even opened my door, the rain stopped and the sun was shining. It didn't start raining again until we were driving home. After the first set the band moved to the sidewalk and we had ourselves an outside concert. I was surrounded by friends, new and old, family, and passersby who stopped to listen, hear my story, and show support. In all, over $2600 was raised and more continues to be donated on a monthly basis. I am very grateful for my friends who helped make this possible and for everyone who came out to show their support. And of course for all the donations.

Shortly after that wonderful day I had a devastating discovery. A discovery I would keep all to myself for weeks. My mind needed time to process what my mouth was going to have to say. Maybe part of me believed that if I didn't talk about it, it would go away. Deep down I knew that wasn't the case, but denial can be so necessary at times. In one of my moments, I broke down crying and shared my news with Bob, but only Bob.

When I got diagnosed, there were very few people that I actually told personally. Bob had the displeasure of that job. I did however tell my mother. But not this time. I wasn't talking. I was completely shut down. Bob had to step in and enlist some moral support for me.

At the end of March, I had one detectable mass, as seen by ultrasound and mammogram, and clean lymph nodes. By the end of June, just three months later, I had two masses, one large and one very small, maybe the size of a pea. By the end of July, I had an enlarged lymph node, and both masses had multiplied many times over. I was quickly reminded of the monster  with which I was dealing.

Panicked, I made appointments. And no, not with an oncologist. As I had stated previously, the conventional path is not for me. So I made appointments, three of them. One with an M.D who practices integrative medicine. Another with a nutritional counselor.  And the last one with a chiropractic doctor who specializes in this sort of thing.

Remember the doctor from way back for whom I had lost all tolerance? Yeah, I went to him. Bob had run into him and he asked how I was doing. He was shocked to hear that after 18 months I was still on this road. He was also very adamant that I get in to see him. And I was happy I did.

There were weeks of thinking leading up to those appointments, mulling over everything that I had been doing from beginning to end. What was different? If this was working before, why isn't is working now? This once very small mass, so small I could feel the titanium marker, was now the size of a golf ball. And a second one had grown and was not too far behind in size. How? Why?

All three professionals basically wondered the same thing as I did. In the end they each determined it was me. Me? Yep, me. My thinking had changed. After that appointment at Hillman in late March, the recorded message playing through my head became an echo of all the things they had said to me that day; "You need to be careful of what you are reading...there's no scientific research to back up anything you are doing...if you don't get this taken care of [by an oncologist] or you are going to die..." Even though I knew what I was doing was working, even though I knew there was a ton of research to back up everything I was doing, even though I was expecting to hear those very words come from their mouths, they got me. At first I was okay. But after a couple of weeks, they got me. The months following that appointment were spent internally planning my funeral. I had daily thoughts of ending it all. It seemed perfectly reasonable to me that speeding up the inevitable would be better for those around me, better for my family, better for my friends.

Apparently, my body was responding to this negativity. My PH levels, which I test daily, dropped. Regardless of what I did, I was in a constant state of acidosis. (I don't have the time to explain PH levels here, but on a scale of 0-14, a healthy PH should be slightly neutral, just above 7. Mine was in the 5-5.5 range.) A perfect condition for c***** to thrive.

The only other time I had experienced such rapid growth was in the very beginning when I was waiting for a diagnosis. So is it possible that this mass of mutated cells has stress hormone receptors? It is possible, but they don't test for that.

So then the answer would be to reduce stress. Right?

 So what do I do about it? How do I get this turned around?

So if it was indeed my mind that put me off track, then the obviously place to start would be my mind. I've been working on relaxation techniques, visualization, and positive affirmations. I've been reading a book based on the research related specifically to this in regards to c***** treatment. I was shocked how much our thoughts control how our bodies respond.

On day three doing these simple exercises outlined in this book, I realized that each day my PH climbed a little higher. By the fifth day it was within an acceptable range. And now, it's where it needs to be.

I've also started weekly IV treatments. At first I was getting vitamin C IV's and now I am getting hydrogen peroxide. While I don't have the time to explain the benefits here, it is widely accepted and perfectly safe. After my first treatment, I felt more energetic than I have in a long time.

Another therapy that had been suggested but wasn't practical because of time or money, was the use of a sauna. The daily hassle of going somewhere and the cost previously kept me from considering this. However, a few weeks ago, I come home from church to find an infrared sauna in my bedroom.  Bob, through a odd set of circumstances, made contact with a man who was looking to get rid of one. The man originally wanted nearly $1000 for it, but Bob was able to talk him down to just a couple hundred. Infrared sauna offers many health benefits, not only for holistic treatment, but for those who have chosen conventional treatment as well.

So, while things have gotten not good, they are improving from where they were. I guess most importantly, I have peace. My days are filled with joy. I don't have fear over the future. Continued prayers are always appreciated.


Saturday, June 21, 2014

No Regrets

Imagine for just one moment that you were an inmate on death row. The day had finally come for you to be put to death. You lie down on the bed. They place the IV in your arm and you know it will only be minutes until you pass away. Imagine the fear you would feel.

That is exactly how I felt while I was receiving my last chemo treatment. I wish I could convey to you how real it was to me that I was going to die. So real that as I laid there sobbing I was texting Bob to please tell our children how much I loved them, and that they were the last thing I thought about before I died.  Now obviously, I didn't die, but the feelings were real. 

Let's say for argument sake that I'm wrong about everything. I'm completely nuts. None of this works.  I still won't, under any circumstances, ever get chemotherapy again. I don't want to spend whatever time I have left on this earth sick, in bed, worrying about fevers, dealing with side effects, and not being able to be a mother to my children. I don't believe that the answer to healing c***** is pumping poison into my body in hopes of killing the bad cells quicker than it kills me. This includes radiation.

So with those two, chemo and radiation, off the table, the only other conventional option left is surgery. I haven't completely ruled it out, but every time I even start to entertain the thought everything inside of me starts screaming. Maybe it's me being selfish or vain. Or could it be something more than that? Could it be that our bodies instinctually know what is best for us.  Who knows, maybe at some point in the future I will consider surgery, but as for right now it's not an option either. 

I'm not saying that chemo doesn't work. Obviously it does work in some cases. I know people who it has been successful for. But in my particular case things didn't look too promising. If I were to go the chemo route first, my immune system would be destroyed, because that is what it does to you, and then natural therapy has less of a chance of working.

Most often, these are the stories you hear. After all the conventional treatments have failed, and the c***** has spread to multiple organs, and there is nothing more doctors can do, a person will turn to holistic treatments as a last ditch effort, but by then it's too late.

Let's talk statistics for a second. Originally, when I first found out that I had c*****, I thought I had an 85% chance of surviving the next five years. That doesn't sound too bad, right? That's what the odds are for someone diagnosed with stage 2 breast c*****. I soon found out that when it is specifically Triple Negative breast c*****, the kind I have, the odds drop to 77% chance of surviving the next five years. This is because it is usually more aggressive and harder to treat than other kinds. In time, upon further researching, I realized that the specific type of Triple Negative I have only accounts for about 6% of all Triple Negative diagnoses. (Read that again, it was pretty important) I also learned that this specific kind of Triple Negative breast c**** that I was diagnosed with is the most aggressive form of breast c***** and usually has an infiltration rate of 45%. And the survival rate drops. I laughed when I read that, not that it was at all funny. I laughed because if mine only had an infiltration rate of 45%, I would consider myself lucky. Yep, 90% right here. 90% of those deadly cells are capable of reproducing. That means mine has the capability of growing twice as fast as what the most aggressive breast c***** usually tops off at. It has the capability of nearly doubling when it grows. It. is. a. beast. And the survival rate drops. I can't help but ask myself, if anything between 10-20% growth rate is considered unfavorable, then what is a growth rate of 90% considered?

All those statistics are for women who choose to go the typical route, chemotherapy, radiation, surgery. But whoever said I was typical? After two rounds of chemo, and much prayer, I knew that conventional wasn't the way for me. It's been over a year now since I have had chemo and I have been able to successfully contain this potentially rapidly growing c***** to just the original tumor through prayer, diet, exercise, vitamin C IV's and injections, and loads of natural vitamins and herbs. But, containing isn't good enough. The idea is to destroy it completely. Which is exactly what I plan to do.

I fully believe that I will overcome this diagnosis and go on to watch my children grow up and have children of their own. But, if in the end I'm wrong, I have zero regrets. I am spending each day being able to be a mother to my children, not sick and in bed. I have been able to attend every baseball and soccer game this past year and coach their Junior Bible Quiz team all the way to Nationals. I have been able to live a life making lasting memories with my children. Something I would not have been able to do had I continued with traditional treatments. I am completely at peace with my choice, regardless of the outcome, which by the way, looks favorable. ;)

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Am I Okay?

"How are you?" Have you ever thought about this little phrase? We go around saying it all the time, but we don't really mean it. It's really nothing more than a polite gesture with an equally polite "good and you?" retort. I get asked this question repeatedly throughout my work day as I'm sure most people do and my answer is always the same - a polite "Good". But the truth of the matter is I'm not good. I'm not even just okay. I'm a mess. Sure, I do a pretty good job of holding it all together while I'm at work, at least on most days, but at home, around the people I'm most comfortable, the people I love the most, they see a much darker side. A side that I'm ashamed to admit I have become.
When I was pregnant with each of my children, except the last, I had incredibly horrible morning sickness through the fifth month. The only way of describing how I felt was a cross between the worst hangover ever and as if I had been hit by a truck. I consider myself to be a strong person, capable of dealing with a lot, but after months of being so sick, I would just cry daily. I was sick and tired of being sick and tired. I believe we're capable of dealing with anything, any amount of pain, but it's the duration of the situation or the pain that wears on us.
That's pretty much where I am. I'm tired of doing this. I tired of taking 100-150 supplements a day. I'm tired of not being able to eat the foods I once enjoyed, not even in moderation. I'm tired of having to drink carrot juice. I'm tired of having to pack everything I will need for the day, including filtered water, to go to work. I'm tired of carrying it all around. It's been almost 16 months now since I was diagnosed and I'm tired.
I have plenty of days when I think what really is the purpose of this. Why prolong the inevitable? I'm a huge financial burden on my family, every month going further and further in debt. I feel guilty for how I treat the people I supposedly love the most. I have days when I act like such a monster I'm quite certain I am causing more damage to my children being alive than I would being dead.  So if I'm going to succumb to this anyway why not speed up the process. I feel discouraged and hopeless.
I'm sure you're wondering what has changed that has led me to feel this way. So I'll back up to my last ultrasound.
In the days following my ultrasound at Hillman, I was mostly confused, confused about the results. As the days turned into weeks and the confusion turned into anger those words that they spoke to me that day continued to play in my head. And my own thoughts echoed more of the same - this was so stupid, why did you think you could do this, what were you thinking. Doubt mixed with fear completely took over.
At that point I was teetering on the edge and then the mass grew. Unlike how it shrunk, it grew practically overnight. It went from so small I could barely feel it to unbelievably big. So small I could feel the titanium marker to oh crap this can't be good. All the months of hard work GONE!! It was and is bigger than it ever has been and for no obvious reason. I started questioning everything. Was it this? Was it that? And over the edge I went.
I prayed, had people pray with me, for me, over me. I wasn't praying necessarily for healing, though that would have been an acceptable answer to my prayers. I was praying for God to take away my feelings of absolute despair. All I wanted was to feel better.
Then one morning I awoke from my sleep abruptly. I don't think it was a dream, but more of just an intense feeling that I needed to read my Bible. I randomly opened to Romans and began reading. My feelings of despair lifted. I had a good day. As long as I read good days followed. I'm not talking wonderful, joyful days, but days that I didn't want to jump in a hole and cover myself with dirt.
It seemed to be one message repeated to me in different ways for the following week. The message was I needed to have faith, faith like Abraham. Either I believe in God and believe His word is truth or I don't. I know His hand has been over me this entire journey. I know I am doing what I am supposed to do. I know this is His plan. So as far as options, I have none. That may seem completely foolish to most people, but I know without a shadow of any doubt this is the only option for me.
So I guess the real question is not how am I, but am I okay. And the answer to that is no, I'm not. I'm better than I was. But I'm worn down. I don't look sick, I have my hair back so everyone pretty much expects things to be back to normal and they're not. I carry this heavy emotional weight around and it's taking its toll.

I would say today has been the best day I have had in awhile. I feel like fighting again. I feel as though the battle is mine to win. Surviving is my only option. 

I know there have been a lot of unreturned phone calls, texts, and messages. I hope no one is taking it personally. I'm not mad at anyone. You haven't offended me. I just don't feel like talking on the phone. I don't feel like going out. I don't feel like being around people. Mostly I just need time to be by myself and time to concentrate on doing what I need to do.

So continue to pray for me, I can certainly use it.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Dear Sir/Madam

I'm not standing for being treated badly without speaking my mind anymore. The following is a letter that I sent to Hillman C***** Center regarding my latest appointment. 

Dear Sir/Madam
A few weeks ago I had an appointment at the Hillman Cancer Center. The purpose of my appointment was to monitor the known cancerous mass in my right breast. I was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma- triple negative in February of 2013. After two rounds of chemotherapy I decided to seek alternative therapy which I have been doing for over a year now with success. I say with success because the original biopsy used to diagnose the cancer also showed that it was incredibly  aggressive, having a 90% infiltration rate. So even though I still have cancer, it is confined to the original tumor and has not spread. My husband and I have put a lot of consideration into my decision. We have read and researched and have spent a great deal of money on my treatments. 
With that being said, I would like to tell you about my recent visit to your facility. 
Upon my arrival, I filled out the appropriate paper work in the waiting room, writing directly on the form that I currently have cancer, the type I have and the date of the diagnosis. My script from my doctor also stated that I had a known carcinoma and that I was there for a bilateral breast ultrasound. My name was called and I was escorted to the next waiting room and given a gown to change into.
While I was waiting I noticed the mission statement of your hospital stating that it is goal of your facility to treat each patient with dignity and respect. I had hoped this would have been the case, but as it turned out for me it was not. 
After a short wait, I was greeted by a mammogram technician named (Blah, blah, blah). (Blah, blah, blah) asked me my name and birth date to verify my identity and led me down the hallway towards the rooms where the mammograms are done. She informed me that I would be starting with a mammogram since I had found a lump and also since I had not had a yearly mammogram since 2010. I'm not sure why at this point she was not aware that I currently have cancer since she should have had both the form that I filled out and the script from my doctor that both stated my diagnosis. She also had the wrong medical records as I had never had a mammogram in 2010. In fact, I had never had a mammogram prior to 2013 when I was diagnosed because I was only 36 years old at the time. I informed her of this. She had me sit in the waiting room while she retrieved the correct medical records. But this really is the lesser of complaints from my visit.
Once back with the correct medical records she began asking me some questions regarding the gaps in my treatment. I explained to her that I had decided to seek alternative treatments. She said and I quote " oh, that's great, good for you", which by itself, I suppose, would have been fine, but she followed it with a story of a woman. (Blah, blah, blah) said "I knew a woman who tried to do it [cure her cancer] the way you are doing it, but she didn't use any common sense about it. When it became obvious that it doesn't work she still refused treatment, and well, you know." I was a little taken back that she would be sharing this with me.
Then she informed me we were still going to start with a mammogram. When I informed her that I wasn't interested in having a mammogram she became very irritated with me and arguing with me about my decision. I ultimately ended up giving in but I still believe that the mammogram was unnecessary. I don't think I should have to debate whether I get a mammogram or not with the technician when my prescription from my doctor was clearly for a bilateral breast ultrasound. If I say I am not interested in having a mammogram done, I don't think the technicians should argue with the patients about their decisions. But, even this is not the biggest part of my complaint.
While she was performing the mammogram she asked me about the types of treatments I am doing, which I didn't mind answering. What I did mind was (Blah, blah, blah) then saying to me, "you should be careful what you are reading" and also, "there's just no scientific prove of what you are doing". 
 I have had ultrasounds done every three months for the past year. I have had them done elsewhere and have gotten conflicting reports. I chose Hillman for my testing this time because cancer is what you do. I consider the doctors there to be experts. I do not expect people in the medical field to necessarily understand my decision,  but what I do expect is quality care regardless of my course of treatment. I expect the same respect as a patient as someone who has chosen chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery. I do not expect to go to an appointment and argue and debate my views or my choices. I do not expect to get unsolicited advice or to be belittled, or to have my intelligence insulted by the technician. But yet this is exactly what has happened.  
I hope that this kind of behavior won't be continued to be accepted by Hillman Cancer Center. I am extremely disappointed that all patients aren't treated equally at your facility. And maybe (Blah, blah, blah) would benefit from some sensitivity training because although my fight may differ from others with cancer, I am still fighting for my life. 
Mrs. Tara McCreary

Saturday, March 29, 2014

March Ultrasound

As most of you know, I recently had a breast ultrasound to check the status of the c*****ous tumor hanging out in there. It had been three months since I had any imaging done, so I thought it was time to check things out.

First, let me back up and start by telling you about my appointment with my PCP and how that came about. Many months back I had an appointment with my primary care physician, who is a family practitioner. He had asked me to keep him in the loop concerning my condition and forward results of any tests to him. So after December's testing I had sent him the results via email like he had asked. Several weeks went by when I started playing phone tag with him. Eventually, I guess he figured he would just send me a letter.

It was short and sweet and to the point. It read:

Hey Tara,

Thanks for the email and update. As you clearly know imaging isn't 100 percent and can be interpreted in various ways. I am glad you are keeping an eye on things and if at any point you want to discuss them I am happy to do so.

And, of course, I greatly appreciate your updates as I am thinking about you and how it is going.

Hope you and your family are well.


Dr. Good Guy, MD

I wasn't sure exactly what he meant by testing isn't always 100% accurate, but I thought, hey, why not, a fresh pair of eyes would be a good thing and I was curious what his take on the situation was.

Once in the exam room, he positioned his laptop between us so we could look at the results of the last three sets of imaging together. He didn't have one negative thing to say. If fact, he was very encouraging. He said he respected my decision and that I had obviously spent a lot of time researching everything I was doing. He asked me how he could be of help to me. So I asked him for a script for another ultrasound and blood work. He even asked me if there was anything specifically I wanted tested in the blood work. He's a keeper.

During the appointment, I thanked him for his willingness to help me, to which his reply was "why wouldn't I do everything I can to help you?". That's how doctors should be. I have no idea whether he agrees with my decision or not. That really isn't the point. The point is that he respects my decision. He respects the fact that it is my body and I should have the choice to treat my ailments how I see fit. I have read a lot of stories where this wasn't the case. Then I experienced it for myself as you'll read about in a minute.

One of the things I had discussed with Dr. Good Guy was where to go for the impending ultrasound. I had brought up going to Hillman C***** Center for their expertise. C***** is what they do. Who better to go to, right? He agreed, stating, like anything else the more you do something the better you get, the more knowledge you gain in that area. So, Hillman it was. Another good reason to go to Hillman, so I thought, was because this is where I had had my original imaging done.

I knew what this would mean for me, though. I knew this would mean coming face to face with the opposition. I had made up my mind that I was going to go in there proud of the decisions I had made, confident of what I believed in and defend my position strongly. HA!! Not quite what happened.  But it was a nice thought. All the pep talks in the world couldn't have helped me out that day.

The first thing you do after signing in is fill out a form - family medical history, prior lumps and bumps and c*****. All the usual questions. I wrote in large print letters: CURRENTLY HAVE C*****, TRIPLE NEGATIVE, DIAGNOSED 2/18/13. Important detail for later in my story.

They shuffle you from the main waiting room to another one where you sit undressed from the waist up awaiting your turn wearing a fashionable hospital gown sitting alongside a handful of other anxious woman, separated from any support person who may be there with you. I, of course, already knowing the system, chose to go by myself.

After a very nerve racking twenty minute wait which I spent thinking of quick witted replies for possible questions, this seemingly friendly middle aged lady came to the doorway and called my name. To make sure they have the right person the first thing they always ask you to do is state your name and date of birth, which I did. Then she said, "Hello, my name is blah, blah, blah, I am going to be doing your mammogram today". She proceeds to tell me how if I have a lump the first thing the doctor is going to want is a mammogram and not an ultrasound and since my last mammogram was in 2010 (yes, she said 2010) then I was due for my yearly anyway.

WHOA, WHOA, WHOA, stop the train!! I wasn't there for a mammogram. I was there for an ultrasound. And furthermore, I had never had a mammogram prior to 2013 when I was diagnosed for my known carcinoma!! So clearly they have the wrong person even after having all my information. I politely explain to her, because I had made a conscious decision to be kind and Christ-like no matter what, that I am not there for a mammogram, I already know I have c*****, and I never had a mammogram in 2010. Not a great start to my appointment, but hey, everyone makes mistakes. I was willing to overlook that little mishap and move on.

She returns a few minutes later, after, I can only assume, retrieving the correct medical records. She sits down next to me to ask me a few questions.

"The last thing we have on file for you is that you were going to Dr. So and So at Magee Women's Hospital".

So this was it. It was time to have a moment of truth.

 "Yes, then I went to C***** Treatment Centers of America (CTCA). Then, this is where my story differs from most, after two rounds of chemotherapy I decided I was going to seek holistic treatment. I have been doing that for almost a year now".

Want to know her reply?

 She said very excitedly, "Oh that's great. I'm so glad to hear that."

 Sounds good, huh?  What a relief. She was a supporter.

Then she asked me what doctor I was seeing. Her words, "who do you see for something like that?". With my defenses down, because I thought she was on my side, I told her. "Oh, I went to Dr. What's His Name in the beginning. He gave me a list of supplements to take." (Keep this in mind, too.)

Luckily, I was very careful with my wording because as I would soon find out, she was anything but on my side. I am well aware of the fact that it is against the law to claim to treat c***** by any means other than those approved by the good ol' FDA. Chemo, radiation, surgery being the main ones.

 And truth be told, I really don't see anyone. I had a couple of appointments early on in the process where I was given a specific regimen to follow to aid in boosting my immune system. The couple of nutritionists that I did see made it very clear that they don't treat c*****. I even signed papers stating that I fully understand that they were not treating me for c*****.  They treat my immune system, my immune system fights the c*****. That's how it works.

After that little conversation she said the doctor would still like a mammogram because I was "due" for my yearly anyway. This is where I started to feel just a tad defiant. You see, I am not in favor of the yearly mammogram that they tout. Mammograms use radiation and radiation causes c*****. I am already at high risk for c*****, obviously, and really I didn't see the need for it in this particular situation and I told her such.   Agree or disagree, that is my position and I should have the right to choose what I feel is best for me without further harassment.  But being that I was on their field, I eventually gave in and played ball by their rules. Though, it was apparent that Ms. Blah, Blah, Blah was very annoyed with me and couldn't understand my point of view at all.

Now the next part is where I truly failed. I apologize to all the people who think like me for doing such a horrible job at representing our position.

Keep in mind that while getting the mammogram there was conversation the entire time. For anyone who has had one before you know that it's not a super lengthy process but not super quick either. It might take 10-15 minutes. So just like when you get your hair done, even if you'd rather not talk, you make polite conversation. I thought that was what we were doing, at least at first. Until I realized it was really more of a time for this lady to insult my intelligence and interject her unsolicited opinions. Thanks, but no thanks, lady.

While having the mammogram done she noticed the discoloration of the right breast and questioned the reason for it. She referred to it as bruising, but in reality it was caused by a hand-held infrared light. I use it nightly and on occasion I have been known to dose off, leaving it on for a few extra minutes. So, technically it is a burn, not a bruise. Anyway, I explain this to her. Now, people can ask, "why?" and be genuinely interested in learning something, or they can ask, "why?" with an accompanied look of disgust on their face and not really care to learn anything. It was definitely the latter of the two that she asked me. I had explained that I had read somewhere that it could help. Her reply, "you should really be careful what you are reading", of course, with the same look upon her face.

Now, since this was said sometime after she had told me that there was no scientific evidence for what I was doing, I was definitely good and annoyed at this point. Up until then I was quiet. I had tried to defend my position but my mind was totally blank. All the quick witted responses had been buried under a huge cloud of disbelief that she was actually talking to me like this. Was this the same lady who couldn't manage to read the form that I had just filled out with the large print letters stating that I currently had c*****? Is this the same lady who just pulled the wrong person's medical files and didn't catch it even after I gave her my date of birth? And now she wants to tell me about medical evidence and warn me to be careful of what I read!!! It's not as if I read what to do on the back of a Cracker Jacks Box.

Why couldn't I think of something to say?  As hard as I tried, I had next to nothing. It's harder than you may imagine to articulate a reasonable point while having your breasts smashed. And as if having your breasts fondled by a strange woman isn't degrading enough, I had to have my intelligence questioned at the same time. Thanks for the extra salt tossed in my wound, lady.

The only thing I got out of my mouth was that the theory behind the infrared light was if the c*****ous cells were heated above 108* F they couldn't survive. I'm not even sure if that's entirely true, but it sounded good and I knew she wouldn't have any idea what I was talking about. I would have liked to, in retrospect, told her maybe she should read more, or maybe she should focus on doing her job correctly before worrying about how I choose to treat myself. Or perhaps she should try to learn something for herself instead of just regurgitating what is spoon-fed to her by the medical talking heads. So, yes, maybe it was best that I lost my words that day.

If only this were the end of my appointment, I would have left as one annoyed little camper and been on my way. All the insults and I hadn't gotten the ultrasound that I had come for.

Once in the next room, I waited just a few short minutes, long enough for the breast smashing tech to inform the radiologist that a nut job awaited her in room three.

The conversation went a little something like this.

"So, I understand you had two rounds of chemo and then stopped to seek alternative treatments and are now seeing Dr. What's His Name?"

Well, I'm certainly not getting caught in that net. I sternly reply, "No, that is not what I said. I told her that I buy my supplements from him. That's all."

"So who do you see for your c*****?"

"I don't see any doctor for my c*****. I consult with my primary care physician regarding any tests results and that's it."

If I was going down in flames, I certainly wasn't trying to take anyone who has tried to help along the way with me. I saw the line of questioning as a blatant attempt to try to incriminate doctors who won't toe the line. If you think I am being paranoid then just watch Burzynski: C***** is Serious Business on Netflix. Then get back to me about paranoia.

Anyhow, turned out that this doctor was the same doctor who had done my biopsy the year before, the one I had questioned about the importance of placing a titanium marker at the site. Now for round two.

I sit up after she was done. I had asked if she would discuss the results with me or if I would have to wait until my PCP called me to know the results. She said she would discuss them with me.

Now, this is where things get strange. And well, when things don't make sense, I start to question what I'm being told.

She said, "I'm concerned because it is bigger than it was last year."

Yep, strange. I had the same look on my face when she said that, that you probably have on your face right now reading this if you've been following along for awhile. P-U-Z-Z-L-E-D is the only way to describe it.

"This is very odd. This is so completely different from the results of my ultrasound done three months ago".

She was taken by surprise that I had had additional imaging done. "You had another ultrasound done? Somewhere else?"

"Yep. Three months ago. And three months before that. And three months before that. And this is completely different from what any of those said."

She shrugged her shoulders and went back to pointing at the images still on the screen. "It's a different shape, but bigger."

"Hmm, well, it obviously isn't growing at the rate it was because the biopsy results showed a growth rate of 90%."

Now she was speechless. I'm sure if the oncologists with many more years of experience than her had never had a patient with such an aggressive c***** than neither had she with her many fewer years on the job.

At this point I was too confused to feel defeated. That wouldn't come until the drive home.

I was staring at these images, but they mostly don;t mean much to me because I don't know what the heck I'm looking at. So I ask her to explain some things to me. I'm looking at grey matter vs. black matter. What's the difference? This is how it was explained to me. Grey was the harder, thicker tissue. C*****. The black was either cyst-like or necrotic tissue. Necrotic? Dead tissue.

Keep in mind that at this point in the appointment I am very interested in their take of the situation. They clearly don't think I have two brain cells to rub together and well, let's just say I decided to play along.

Necrotic? Why would there be necrotic tissue in the tumor? And her explanation? Because the c***** is eating away at the surrounding tissue.

Umm, yeah, I don't think so. Besides, it was inside the borders of the tumor. Not in the surrounding tissue.

I asked if she had used Doppler to check for blood flow. She hadn't. So she had me lay back down to take more images. There is blood flow. I'm thinking blood flow is good. Blood flow takes the needed supplements to the cells to kill those bad boys. But let's check to see what the doctor thinks of blood flow.

She says blood flow is bad. Why? Because the blood feeds the tumor. Well I guess if I was eating animal protein and sugar it would be. But I'm not.

Any guesses where that necrotic tissue was? Same place as the blood flow. That's where.

To make matters even worse, when I got the written report from the hospital the test results were stated in the report in two different places and they were different numbers in each place. So I don't even know which one might be correct or how greatly exaggerated. However it may be. UGH!!

Now, just for the sake of argument, let's assume that this doctor is telling the truth. We would then also have to assume the last three ultrasounds were wrong. Let's say that for the last year I haven't managed to shrink the tumor at all. Have I failed in what I was trying to accomplish? No, I don't think so. Worst case scenario I have only stopped the tumor from growing and spreading and I have not managed to shrink it. This is one possible theory.

Theory number two. This doctor exaggerated the margins of the tumor to emphasize her belief that I should treat my c***** with chemo, radiation and surgery. She used her power to tamper with test results in order to use those results as a scare tactic.

I've come up with theory number three and four but really they just get way more confusing from here. I honestly don't know what the complete truth is at this time. Every theory leaves me with more questions than answers. Not one of them makes sense with all the pieces to this puzzle.

So while the actual size of the tumor is questionable, there are certain things that we know for sure, verified by the mammogram and ultrasound images done that day. After one year of no conventional medical treatment of a very, very aggressive breast cancer (90% infiltration/growth rate) this is what I know to be true:

1. The c***** is confined to one tumor in the right breast. ( size undetermined at this time)
2. No lymph node involvement
3.It has been determined that it is in fact the titanium marker that was placed in the middle of the tumor that I can now feel. (but yet somehow I am supposed to believe the tumor is bigger)
4. The tumor that once was protruding from the breast surface feels flat even though the breast itself is smaller because I have lost 25 pounds since then.
5. Parts of the tumor have either become cyst-like or are necrotic as compared to previous images
6. My Ph levels are consistently in the normal range

I'm not sure at this point what someone's argument would be against what I am doing. I know that my decision to not go the typical route has annoyed people and made others very angry. Everything I am doing is based on scientific evidence, even though it isn't well documented or widely excepted by the medical establishment.  More people should be asking why it isn't. Why aren't people told that c***** feeds off of animal proteins and sugar? Why if what I am doing is working am I the one seen as crazy?

(NOTE: Just in case you hadn't figured it out, all the names in the retelling of this story have been changed to hide their true identities )  ;)


Tuesday, March 4, 2014

What is that?

February 18th marked my one year anniversary. In some ways it's hard to believe that it has already been one year and in others it's hard to believe that it hasn't been longer as it feels like on some days as though it has been many.

I've been thinking back on the days leading up to the diagnosis lately, both the day that I had the mammogram and ultrasound and the day of the biopsy. I can quite vividly remember the expression on the radiologists face as she was looking at the ultrasound screen. I had gone to Hillman Cancer Center where the radiologist was actually the one doing the ultrasound not a technician. She chose her words carefully and at that time I was clinging to any possible diagnosis other than the dreaded "C" word. She had given me the name of something else that it could have possibly been,  as we later found out that would be false hope.

I returned on a different day to then have the biopsy done. I thought I knew what to expect as they had described the procedure to me when it was determined from the ultrasound I would need a biopsy done. Only as I sat in the exam room waiting all alone I took notice of some small cubes of clear plastic. In each of the several cubes were very tiny, differently shaped pieces of metal. I would soon find out they were titanium markers. I remember thinking that if one of those things were going to be placed inside of me that no doubt that is something that would have been told to me. Right?

After someone came in and asked a bunch of standard, routine questions I was escorted to the room where the biopsy would be done. I was then sitting in the room on the procedure table with three hospital employees around me when finally they explained that after the tissue sample was taken a titanium marker would be placed in the tumor. I was wrong! I had a hard time believing that everyone up until that point had left out what I thought was such an important detail. I like making informed decisions, but evidently that wasn't going to be possible. I argued against it, but outnumbered 3 to1 and they were saying it is absolutely necessary, I really didn't feel as though I had any other choice. I ultimately gave in with the thought that I would eventually have a lumpectomy and it would no longer be of any concern.

Several days later I learned the results of that biopsy. And here I am one year later.

A few days ago, I was feeling what is remaining of my once stage II sized tumor and felt something peculiar. Imagine the thinnest gauge guitar string possible was wrapped around the tip of a pen then the pen was removed leaving only this small, rounded, very thin wire. That's what I can feel peeking out from surrounding hard tissue. Now I can't say with 100% certainty, but I believe that what I am feeling is the titanium marker that was placed during the biopsy. And since I wasn't able to feel it until a few days ago, I do believe that is a good indication that the mass is continuing to shrink.

A lot of people have been asking me if I have gotten another ultrasound, yet? I have not. That's the plan, though. So after I have I'll be sure to let you all know what those results are. For now, continued prayers are appreciated.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

JBQ...What's That?

 Aiden, who just turned 10 years old,  competes on a Junior Bible Quiz team. Junior Bible Quiz (JBQ) is a nationally recognized competition where the competitors, in teams of up to 4 in our district and up to 8 in other districts and nationally, study and memorize predetermined sets of questions in a JBQ study guide book. In the Penn-Del district only third through fifth graders are eligible to compete.  Questions are valued at 10, 20, or 30 points. The questions cover all books of the Bible and range in difficulty according to points. There are a total of 576 questions but our league only plays half the book each year rotating every other year which half is played. Three quizzers from two opposing teams sit at a table with hand buzzers while a quiz master reads questions. When a question is read the quizzer buzzes in, interrupting the question. They then have to finish the question and answer it correctly. If the question is answered incorrectly the team loses half the point value of that question. If an individual quizzer answers five questions correctly during a round that quizzer "quizzes out". If a quizzer answers three questions during any round wrong that quizzer "errors out". Each round is made up of 20 questions and generally there are 7-9 round at a match. There are three matches in the regular season followed by district semi-finals then district finals in Hershey, Pa.  It actually takes a whole lot of work on the quizzer's part to memorize not only the questions and answers but also the appropriate buzz-in point of the question. It's the job of the coach to figure out the best strategical method of play. 

Our involvement with Junior Bible Quiz started three years ago when our daughter, Reagan, was in the third grade.  She competed that first year as a ten-pointer. With what seemed to be very little effort she memorized all her questions, answers and buzz-in points. She also seemed to be gifted with quick hands for buzzing in.

The following year Brennan, who was in fifth grade, decided he wanted to quiz, also. It turned out Brennan was equally as talented at quizzing as Reagan. With Reagan learning the 30 point questions and Brennan the 10 point questions and a third equally as quick 20 pointer, their team was unstoppable. For the first time in the history of their school competing in JBQ they went to nationals. That year nationals were to be held in Orlando, Florida.

As a family we were unsure we would be able to commit to the challenge. There were many things to consider the biggest of which was how were we going to afford a week's vacation in Florida for a family of six. It seemed impossible.

After much prayer, we agreed to go and everything fell into place. We would do fundraising to offset the travel costs and one of the team members offered to have us stay in their timeshare with them at no cost. We were soon on our first family vacation and national JBQ finals in Florida. What once seemed impossible became possible.

Nationals were very eye-opening. We went from being the big fish to very tiny fish competing against the best of the best from all over the country. These kids were QUICK!!  Out of 80 plus teams competing our team came in 55th.

According to Penn-Del district rules only third through fifth graders can compete, but national rules differ. To compete nationally you can be in the second grade through the sixth grade. So the next year, which was last year, Brennan was too old to compete in our district, but Aiden was entering the third grade and to my surprise he wanted to quiz. I admit I didn't think Aiden was going to do very well. And not being able to read how was he going to learn the questions? It was because of Aiden that I decided to become a coach. It was my way of protecting him in case he didn't do well.

Reagan, now in her third and final year, was our 30 pointer and Aiden was a 10 pointer. I soon realized that Aiden was just as capable as his brother and sister at excelling and soon gave him the added extra challenge of learning not only his 10 point questions but I also had him learning 20 point questions. For Aiden having dyslexia didn't stop him, it only changed how we had to study. We ordered the mp3 version of the questions and he learned through listening to them when I wasn't available to study with him.

Just like the year before,we were on the road to making it to national JBQ finals. I would have my dream team, Brennan, who now met the grade requirements to quiz nationally, Reagan, and Aiden. The only year that three McCreary's could all compete at a national level on the same team.  This time our destination ---Texas!! I was so excited. I had it all planned out. We could just fundraise again to offset travel costs and that same team member said we could stay with them in their timeshare again. There was nothing to stop us....so I thought.

But it was just after semi-finals last year that I discovered a lump in my right breast. We went to district finals in Hershey, Pa and I sat through the awards ceremony knowing that when I returned to Pittsburgh I had a biopsy scheduled.

It's still so hard to believe that it was a year ago. I remember standing outside of the hotel in the cold so the kids wouldn't hear my conversation while I was on the phone with my doctor. He wanted to touch base about what had been found on the mammogram and ultrasound.  At that point we still hadn't told the kids anything.  Brennan later told me that he knew or at least suspected I had c***** because of the changes I made in my diet. He had remembered me talking about animal proteins and sugar feeding c*****. And that by eliminating both you could slow down or even stop its growth.

The results of the biopsy were devastating enough but then to add salt to my wounds it also meant we wouldn't be able to go to Texas. This once in a life time opportunity of my dream team would never be. I would now need to turn my focus to the battle of my life.

So here we are a year later. Last weekend Aiden's team that I coach competed in JBQ semi-finals and the top four teams in each of the two divisions would go on to the district finals in Hershey, Pa. Our team was tied with one other team for first place in our division but since it was decided by head-to-head our team would end up being in second place.  We made it to Hershey, again.

The kids competing in JBQ and me coaching it has honestly been one of the best experiences for us as a family. It combines two of the things I love best, the word of God and competition. It is absolutely amazing to see what these kids are capable of memorizing. You wouldn't believe how intense the matches can be. Ian has already decided he wants to quiz when he enters third grade next school year. He's already started learning his 10 point questions.

I honestly thought by now I would be c*****-free. I thought when it was time to consider whether we would go to national JBQ finals this year I would be past all this. But alas, here I am. Not quite there. I don't know whether it would be the right decision for us or not.  Even though they don't take place till June we will need to decide within the week after returning from Hershey. I'll be praying about our decision. Ultimately, the decision isn't mine. If we are meant to be there God will make a way [where there seems to be no way].

Sunday, January 26, 2014

17 weeks and counting...

This post is dedicated to my friend, Jamie, who reminded me over lunch last week that I haven't posted in awhile. Thanks for over 21 years of friendship with births, marriages, deaths, more births, and for me more and more births, marriage struggles and c*****....I think we've covered just about everything.

Now to my update: 

Imagine trying to watch your hair grow. Imagine trying to watch grass or a flower or a child grow. When you are in constant sight of something you often don't notice the subtle changes like you would if you hadn't seen it for awhile. Similarly, it is hard for me to tell whether this mass is getting smaller from day to day. I would most definitely benefit from not paying it any attention for a period of time, say even a week, but instead I'm almost nearly obsessed with touching it, trying to figure out if it is smaller than the day before. I can't tell you if that is the case, but thinking back to December 4th, the day of my last ultrasound, I know for certain it is smaller now.

I'm not sure that what I have remaining even qualifies as a lump anymore. I can no longer grab it around the edges in either direction, left to right or top to bottom. It is taller than it is wide, but feels nearly flat, especially around the edges. From what I can feel, in the middle there seems to be a pit or a dimple. It would seem to me, if it continued to shrink in the same pattern it would be two separate smaller sections of hard abnormal tissue. 

I have my days where I get frustrated because I was truly hoping it would have been gone by now. I've read lots of stories of people who have cured their c*****s in much less time than this. Although I've read just as many that took longer. On days when I'm feeling down and out I try to remind myself that as long as I am making progress, no matter how long it takes, I'm moving in the right direction. 

My journey on a holistic path began in April. I've made mistakes and gave into temptations in those early months from April through September, eating things I shouldn't have eaten, and ultimately caused the c***** to grow and spread. That is why when I am eventually c*****-free and count the number of weeks this took I will be counting from September 29th. That's when I switched back to what I am doing now. Since my late September ultrasound I have not eaten things that I shouldn't have. I have had absolutely no animal products or by-products and no sugary items, no sugar substitutes, nothing with sugar as an ingredient, which was one of the mistakes I made the first go at it. Both the salsa and the tomato sauce I was eating had sugar as an added ingredient which I never would have suspected. 

Not being able to enjoy the usual foods that I have eaten all my life has had its challenges. But I can say that I have successfully made it through Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's, Brennan's birthday, Reagan's birthday, Aiden's birthday, Bob's birthday, and my own birthday. (not in that order but all since the end of September till now) I haven't snuck so much as a bite of any off-limit foods. 

I think most people would be surprised if they knew what I ate, after all being a gluten free, organic, sugarless vegan who is not allowed fried foods, salt (I am allowed sea salt), caffeine, fluoride, GMO's, tap water, microwaved food, artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives sounds pretty restrictive to most. (this may not be a complete list)  But I have found many new foods that I enjoy. Tonight's dinner... Thai curry sauce over lightly sauteed Asian vegetables with organic wild rice...mmmm.

When my friend and I met for lunch last week it was the only time during this past four months that I had gone out to eat for the obvious reason....What was I going to eat?? I gave in on the organic figuring if that was the only time it wouldn't do much harm. I was actually surprised when I managed to order a fulfilling meal off the menu. Jamie and I both had a good laugh at how completely random it was. I had a side salad, no croutons, with Italian dressing, a baked potato, no butter or margarine, with a side of salsa, and a bowl of fruit. Although I wouldn't make a weekly event of this while still being in the active c***** stage it was nice to be able to go out and visit with a friend I hadn't seen in a long time. ( This I guess could be considered eating something I shouldn't have because it wasn't organic, but it was the only time. I definitely didn't eat any sugar and animal....just to clarify)

On a side note:

Since quitting chemo in March my hair has been a work in progress. It started slowly growing back about six weeks after my last treatment. I trimmed it with clippers every other weekend for the first couple of months until it got thicker. Since then I have let it grow having Bob or my mother or the kids trim just the hair at my neckline so as not to end up with a mullet. It's been slow to get here but I finally have 2.5 to 3 inches of hair, ten months later. Darker than it once was, I am thankful it didn't come back in gray as I heard it can. And maybe with some summer sun it will lighten up. I am considering at some point in the not too distant future getting an actual haircut.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Imagine the Unimaginable

From the time I found the mass in my breast in late January until I finally got a diagnosis on February18, I played out the moment I would hear the news over and over again in my head, imagining what it was going to  be like to hear them say those words. I imagined how they would say it. I imagined where I would be. I imagined how I wanted Bob to respond.  I imagined how I would react. I imagined how it would feel. I imagined every possible scenario there was to being told "you have c*****". But thinking back he never even said those words to me. He said "it's not good, it's invasive ductal carcinoma". I guess it's a good thing I'm relatively intelligent or I may not have even understood what he was saying. But I did understand and nothing I had imagined compared to when I was listening to him say it in reality. It was unimaginable.

Here I am, 10 months later, sitting here imagining. But this time I'm not imagining how devastating it will feel. I'm imagining how happy I will be. I'm imagining how I'll find out. I'm imagining where I will be. I'm imagining who I'll tell first. I'm imagining how others will respond. I'm imagining how I'll react. I'm imagining what it will be like to hear them say "you don't have c*****". And I imagine it will be pretty unimaginable.