So hi there, I am back…back to regular blogging, back to health– physically, emotionally, spiritually and creatively.
So, news of my world: I had surgery for colon cancer on November 25th, 2014, which now feels very long ago—like a bad, surreal dream.
I was offered chemotherapy, which would increase my odds of being alive in five years by 10%. The side effects as explained by my oncologist: Anaemia, progressive tiredness which persists for some weeks after the treatment ends. Depressed immune system and risk of infection: the treatment reduces white blood cell count. Bruising of nerves, peripheral neuropathy, numb hands or feet, which may make typing hard, and which sometimes is permanent. Nausea, diarrhoea, mouth ulcers. Temporary hair loss. Eye problems. Headaches. Muscles, joint and stomach pain. Abdominal pain. Changes in liver function. 1 in 200 die.
The adjuvant chemotherapy recommended supports surgery by killing any cancer cells which may (or may not!) remain. It’s like an insurance policy, and is potentially over-treating, the oncologist explained. Colon cancer does return for 40 to 50% of patients—i.e. hey, cancer is not a joke (or, at least, a very bad one!). Adjuvant chemotherapy reduces recurrences by 10%.
As I prayed, I became convinced that toxic chemotherapy which often causes permanent physical, emotional and intellectual damage was not the path for me. Not the path through the dark woods on which I would meet the Father, Son and Spirit whistling as they stroll.
Might anything besides chemotherapy give me a 10% survival benefit? My oncologist said that research shows that exercise increases survival after colon cancer. As does Vitamin D and aspirin. People know what they know and don’t know what they don’t know. Could there be evidence-based research that my oncologist had not yet looked at, did not know of?
“Oh God!” I prayed. “There are 298,000 species of plants. Surely, surely, some of them would zap any remaining cancer cells without the havoc wrought by toxic chemicals. Is it possible that God who placed dock leaves near stinging nettles did not create even one plant which would bless the body while neutralising cancer cells? Even one plant which would strengthen the immune system to “fight” cancer so that it would not spread? Surely God will lead me to such plants.”
In the Parable of Weeds in Matthew, Jesus recommends leaving enemy-sown weeds in the field lest, in uprooting them, good plants are uprooted as well. When I thought about chemo, there was no light in it. I felt sure chemo, for me, was not the way of the Spirit, that the Spirit would guide me to non-toxic therapies that might strengthen the immune system, rather than weaken me body, mind and soul in the process of zapping renegade demon cells.
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As I called out to the Lord in my distress, the title of a book a friend had recommended popped into my mind: God’s Way to Ultimate Health by George Malkmus, who watched his mother rapidly grow ill and die from toxic cancer treatments rather than the disease. (A common experience, apparently!) Declining chemotherapy, he cured his colon cancer by aggressive doses of nutrients through juicing. A raw food diet. Supplements. Exercise. My friend recommended Chrisbeatcancer.com, who inspired by Malkmus used these strategies to heal his own Stage III colon cancer without chemotherapy.
Diet and exercise had been my Achilles’ heel, and so I had some of the lifestyle risk factors for colon cancer. So while I have not changed as drastically as I would have liked, over the last eight months I have changed what I eat, and I intend to continue, respecting my body as a gift God gave me, which I need to keep healthy for my intellectual, spiritual, emotional and physical life to flourish.
Malkmus recommends a discipline which he says will change your life, and might possibly save it. Walk a mile as fast as you can, write down the speed; then, each day continue walking as fast as you can until you can do a mile in 15 minutes. Then walk two miles as fast as you can, until you can do 2 miles in 30 minutes; then 3 miles in 45 minutes, then 4 miles in an hour. I was walking a mile in 30-33 minutes after surgery, and am now down to a 21 minute mile (and walking 3.5 miles, over 10,000 steps) and am loving the increased fitness—especially because I can now be on my feet, exploring all day on holiday. I still need major improvements in fitness, but am optimistic, since I have been steadily improving my pace.
Other changes: Carrot juice. Green juice. Salads. A lot of vegetables, steamed or roasted. No meat. Less diary. Fish and salmon every day, since Seventh Day Adventist studies show that eating oily fish protects against colon cancer. A handful of supplements, some recommended by my younger sister, Dr. Shalini Cornelio who has worked in cancer research at Sloan-Kettering Memorial Hospital in New York City: Resveratrol (grape seed extract). Sulforaphane (broccoli sprout extract). Turmeric. Aged garlic. Probiotic supplements. Fish oil. Vitamin D. Aspirin. Calcium. Multivits.
So rather than a path of passivity, submitting to a toxic regimen, I took a path of positivity and challenge—exercise, and mega-doses of nutrients through juices, salads, and supplements to strengthen the immune system against errant cells. In eight months, it has left me stronger than I have been for years, perhaps decades, rather than significantly weaker.
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I put out of my mind the fear of death. And any irrational fear of cancer. I told God I was making the best decision I could with the light given to me and if I had mis-read his will, and the days ordained for me were up before I had done my life’s work, well then, okay. He is the Lord of my cells. I will trust him with cancer and my life and death as with everything else. As I said, “Okay, Lord, I’ll leave the date of my death up to you. You choose,” fear and anxiety drained out of me and I could think clearly.
Chemo? No way.
And, oh me of little faith, after researching natural ways to strengthen my immune system to neutralize cancer cells, I also—repeatedly– asked Jesus to reach out his mighty hands and zap any remaining cancer cells in my blood stream.
Do I believe in the efficacy of prayer for physical healing? That’s one of the frequent questions I’ve been asked as a blogger over the last five years. Of course, I do…just as I believe in the efficacy of any prayer. Physical healing is not a special subset of prayer; miracles occur here, as in any realm we pray for with faith.
I like to read the Gospels taking Jesus at his word. I like to read the Gospels as if Jesus is alive today, and can reach out his hand and heal me as he healed so many two thousand years ago.
I prayed as Jesus commanded with a mighty mustard seed of faith. So why act as if Jesus hadn’t heard me, couldn’t hear me, would meanly not hear me, and take toxic drugs too? What’s the point of praying, and then acting as if God surely has not heard your prayers?
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At my check-up on June 19th, the colonoscopy, blood tests and chest/abdomen/pelvis scan showed no evidence of disease.
In her documentary, “Crazy, Sexy Cancer,” cute presenter Kris Carr says, “I would not call cancer a gift because I would not give it to you, but for me, it has been a gift.”
I would echo that.
I feel like one who has crossed over from death to life.
And I have, physically.
The Apostle John gives us a spiritual sign that we have crossed over from death to life…and it is not the absence of cancer cells. We know that have crossed over from death to life because we love one another, he says
Love, the spiritual gift before which eloquence or tongues, prophecy or scriptural insight, faith or generosity, count for nothing. For too a long a time in my Christian life, I have privileged these–effective prayer, faith, scriptural insight, prophetic gifting. I considered them my spiritual gifts.
I am coming like Christina Rossetti to believe that “all is small save love, for love is all in all.”
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Oh, all sort of gifts came with crabby old cancer.
Living in the moment, free and bird-like. A remarkable diminution of worry. If I cannot control errant cells in my body but have to trust God with them, with the days of my life and the date of my death, why not trust him for everything else?
A freedom, a lightness came as I left my life, finances, career and death in God’s hands. I am practising not worrying about anything at all.
A wry coolness and lightness with whether I achieve my dreams or not.
A greater desire to write beautiful things that might last, things with some significance, that might actually bless people.
Momento Mori. Remembrance of Death. In the Middle Ages and early Renaissance, the thoughtful placed a skull upon their desk as a reminder to focus because life was short and death was certain.
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So here I am, back again. I spent some time deciding whether I wanted to be just a writer of books, or a blogger as well. In the end, I decided that blogging was a calling—yes, a ministry, my ministry–and that I should be faithful to it, so here I am. Back.
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What sort of blogging will I do?
Honest blogging. Life is too short to be anything but honest, in one’s speech, one’s writing, and one’s relationships.
So I will blog honestly about where I am in my Pilgrim’s Progress.
Bunyan’s Pilgrim eventually reaches the Heavenly City. But while he staggers on his pilgrimage through the Slough of Despond, the Hill of Difficulty, Doubting Castle, and Vanity Fair, though he was such a very flawed character, he still had much to teach less-experienced pilgrims who had not yet encountered Giant Despair or Beelezub’s Castle, simply because he had transcended so many obstacles.
And so, though I would like my Christian story to be purely sheerly inspiring, I will tell it honestly to help such as I who struggle with the same temptations, the same spells in Doubting Castle, the same stumbles into the Slough of Despond, the same meanders into Vanity Fair.
Come and read?