On Wednesday September 16th I was officially diagnosed with DCIS Breast Cancer.
If you don't know me, you might be wondering my age, i will say I don't look it... I am not bragging, it's just fact. I attribute it to having some pretty awesome genes (thanks mom and dad) and to the years I have spent leading a very active lifestyle AND slowly morphing my eating habits over time. ( I don't consider myself vegan, but i eat a Raw Diet most of the time) As a health & fitness professional, I can tell you without a doubt that 2 magic diet answers are NOT in the form of a pill, they are indeed fitness and food. (guess my age to the right and WIN! something from a Fly Girl store!)
Let's move on to the 2nd part of the 1st sentence, that I have been "diagnosed with DCIS Breast Cancer". Don't worry, I am ok. Yes it is the scary "C" word. It's a word that has much FEAR attached to it and I hope this documentation of my personal journey can HELP us ALL to NOT FEAR.
Breast Cancer is NOT a sudden occurrence but a process that has been developing over time. I am sure you are thinking "well how do you get it"? Excellent question! According to the Mayo clinic "Cancer is caused by changes (mutations) to the DNA within cells. The DNA inside a cell is packaged into a large number of individual genes, each of which contains a set of instructions telling the cell what functions to perform, as well as how to grow and divide. Errors in the instructions can cause the cell to stop its normal function and may allow a cell to become cancerous." Remember the Angelina Jolie story about her having a radical double mastectomy because she carried the BRCA ( breast cancer) Gene? Turns out that is a VERY SMALL % of why a woman might get Breast Cancer. Turns out that even if you carry the BRCA gene there is a VERY SMALL % you will even get Breast Cancer in your lifetime. To explain, you CAN carry the BRCA gene BUT the gene has to some how be "turned on" or "change" for you to get cancer. I ended up having a BRCA test done since my sister was also diagnosed with Breast Cancer this year. I remember them showing me a chart that is embedded permanently in my brain. The chart indicated that MAJORITY of WHY they think people get cancer is ENVIRONMENTAL. I remember thinking "holy crap, i feel really dirty and toxic right now". Whatever I have been doing, did in my past, am currently doing, have all lead up to this moment in time. It was my 1st big "Aha moment" in this journey. FYI, both the BRCA tests for my sister and I came back NEGATIVE.
Let's address the "DCIS" which stands for "Ductal Carcinoma In Situ". The definition, which I like, from www.breastcancer.com is "the most common type of non-invasive breast cancer. Ductal means that the cancer starts inside the milk ducts, carcinoma refers to any cancer that begins in the skin or other tissues (including breast tissue) that cover or line the internal organs, and in situ means "in its original place." DCIS is called "non-invasive" because it hasn’t spread beyond the milk duct into any normal surrounding breast tissue. DCIS isn’t life-threatening, but having DCIS can increase the risk of developing an invasive breast cancer later on." I have been told that if you get breast cancer, this is the one you want.
Let me give you a timeline so you can understand what happened. In April of 2015 my sister was diagnosed with DCIS and within 3 weeks had a double mastectomy. She has spent the past 9 months recovering. I will be more explicit on another blog about this topic. My lovely mother kept asking me when I was gonna get my mammogram. Given the situation, my response, " i will do it, gonna wait until the end of the summer, cuz if I had it I don't wanna know now, let's just get Lisa better".
I was really thinking in my head "yeah right, whatever, there is no way". So in September as promised I went to all my yearly appointments. I got a new gynecologist and we did all the possible tests you can get just to make sure I had a clean bill of health. All results good! Got my mammogram at a facility near my house and bam I was done! Then I got a phone call. "Hi Miss Herbst you need to get another mammogram and you need to go downtown to the other facility where they have better equipment ". Ok. Not really thinking twice about it since I had pap smear redo's in the past cuz they said they didn't get enough tissue. I thought oh they just can't see the images clearly and wanna double check. I went in Tuesday September 15th 10am and had multiple X-rays, then sat in a waiting room with my hospital gown. I did a 2nd round of X-rays 45 minutes later. I did an ultrasound another 15 minutes later. I did a biopsy that same day at 1:3opm. The doctor who performed the biopsy called me the next day and told me I had DCIS Breast Cancer and needed to meet with a Surgeon.
My brain was going 100mph and I was instinctively planning out my timeline in preparation for surgery so it fit MY Personal Schedule. I stayed up late nights googling DCIS and it's meaning and trying to find.... I don't know what. Just trying to understand DCIS, Cancer, Surgery options, and getting more explicit info from my Sister so I could compare and make some decisions regarding surgery.
Week 2 & 3
I met with 2 surgeons. I wanted a couple opinions. The 1st Doctor said here is what you have and here are your 2 options. Lumpectomy with Radiation and Tamoxifen OR Mastectomy with or without breast reconstruction. I was given the % of the cancer returning for each of the options. I was told to get an MRI so they could try to determine IF there were other places in the breast that had this DCIS, but it might not give an accurate reading. I was told IF i selected the Mastectomy they MIGHT be able to preserve the nipples. I was told they would also be able to determine HOW MANY of the Lymph Nodes I would need removed DURING the surgery. THEN the next 20 minutes 3 different lovely ladies presented different research studies and they asked me if I would like to participate. (remember I am at Northwestern Hospital in Chicago and it is also a school too- Given that I am also a teacher I understood why they wanted to talk to me- my mother sat across the table getting more heated minute by minute, angry that this was not the time to discuss research:) I was then sent home with this book (to the right) to make decisions? The 2nd opinion surgeon had the same information BUT she definitely was leaning towards a decision that was more "breast preserving". ( ie: the lumpectomy) I met with a genetic counselor and had the BRCA testing done. I also proceeded to have the MRI of both breasts. (fyi- both surgeons recommended the MRI since I have dense breasts meaning you have more non-fatty tissue vs. fatty tissue)
My diligent mother was doing her own in depth research now that she had 2 daughters with breast cancer. She started sending me links to these Cancer videos. I drug my feet to watch, but once i started I was hooked. They were long. They were terse. They were informational. They were eye opening. Ironically, they came out only this October 2015. Destiny? I don't know. There were 9 documentaries. Each documentary was about 90minutes. The documentaries consisted of interviewing MANY physicians and health professionals and researchers within what insurance companies call ALTERNATIVE medicine. Here is the link If you feel like checking it out... http://thetruthaboutcancer.com/ . I had lots of questions. I instantly became my own research assistant. I thought my computer time was too much already, I was now permanently glued to to my computer, my ipad, and my iphone. I took notes, then re-watched and took notes again. I researched ALL the people mentioned in the documentaries and came across Dr. Veronique Desaulniers the "http://breastcancerconqueror.com/ ". I bought her audio book and listened to it 2 times. Then a 3rd time and took notes. I also came across this site http://www.americanaci.org/ and this guy Bob Wright author of Killing Cancer- Not People . There was a definite theme that kept repeating. 1) Yes you can cure yourself naturally 2) Yes you should be detoxing your body, your household, your spirit 3) Yes you can use herbs and supplements 4) Yes you should be exercising and eating mostly cruciferous vegetables right now 5) Yes you should include stress relieving regimens daily .
Bam! My decision was made. I was going to cure my breast cancer naturally. It all made sense and seemed to Fit ME best considering my health & fitness background and spiritual beliefs. I began my mission and had no idea what was in store for me or WHO could essentially help me. I went to a 3rd doctor to get another opinion, extensive blood tests, and to check out the option of "integrative" medicine at http://www.blockmd.com/ where I met with another author and doctor. I thought I could get some diet advice, and perhaps utilize some of their integrative services and have it be covered by insurance. I had informed them prior I was going to be healing naturally and I wanted some guidance. The Dr. opinion was Yes I needed surgery because my cancer results contained "cribriform". I was told to contact his surgeon friend and line up a surgery in the next few weeks. The dietician in my opinion was very amateur and gave me very basic text book guidance. The therapist could see I was on my journey and felt my emotional and spiritual behaviors were A ok and told me to do a bit of meditation each day. After 20 vials of blood, I walked out of the center past patients receiving chemotherapy.
I left feeling like sh++. I learned that "integrative" means using "complementary therapies that address the physical, nutritional, psychosocial, and spiritual aspects of healing" AFTER surgery. AND furthermore, NO these services are NOT covered by insurance. Just to be clear, "Conventional medicine is a system in which medical doctors and other healthcare professionals (such as nurses, pharmacists, and therapists) treat symptoms and diseases using drugs, radiation, or surgery." I learned the definition of WHAT I was seeking to be "Traditional medicine which is the sum total of the knowledge, skills, and practices based on the theories, beliefs, and experiences indigenous to different cultures, whether explicable or not, used in the maintenance of health as well as in the prevention, diagnosis, improvement or treatment of physical and mental illness." After all my readings, my OPINION and simplistic dissection of differentiating the 2 are: Conventional is based on the technical biological science that we study in schools, and Traditional is based on how particular segments of our population have repeatedly used natural elements to help heal the body.
Time to get my brain straight and pump myself up for this journey ahead of me. I now saw it was gonna be a very tough and challenging one. I realized I was personally being challenged and my belief is it was happening for a reason. So in true Tami-style, I picked up the reigns and charged forward. No looking back to see if I made the right decision. No looking back and feeling sorry or regretful. No looking back and judging.
My MRI also came back in week 4. I was told they found suspicious areas in the other breast and wanted me to come back for another Breast Biopsy. I made the decision to NOT have a 2nd Biopsy and to start my Alternative journey, which I will now officially start to call Natural Healing. I declared this in my head so I can be strong in my decision and keep trudging through this quicksand. I feel like ALTERNATIVE has perceptions of "it's not good", "it doesn't work", "it's quackery", "it's not necessary" AND the FACT that it is NOT covered by Health Insurance also SENDS THE PUBLIC MESSAGE to People that it is NOT good and NOT supported. According to WIKIpedia, "Alternative examples include new and traditional medicine practices such as homeopathy, naturopathy, chiropractic, energy medicine, various forms of acupuncture, traditional Chinese medicine, Ayurvedic medicine, and Christian faith healing. The treatments are those that are not part of the science-based healthcare system." Thanks WIKIpedia!
I sat in front of my computer majorly PISSED OFF at the world of Insurance, the world of Peoples Perception, and the world of What Government Deems acceptable in regards to our Health Care. I was PISSED OFF that because I was CHOOSING my declared
3rd Option (that is what I am now also officially calling it) that did not include surgery or drugs, Insurance would not pay for my choice. I felt penalized. I felt let down. I felt ripped off. I felt deceived. NOT the feelings I was going for BUT necessary to provoke CHANGE. It catapulted me into a solid Natural Healing mode and I have not stopped since.
Thanks for reading!
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