Thursday, May 1, 2014

The long tail

I had a dark moment on Tuesday, but I've now accepted Carissa as my personal saviour.

And this is the thing about cancer. You can be motivated by the challenge or defeated by the dire faces on any given day, but after all the inspirational messages float past your eyes for the millionth time like so much fluff, it's really just up to you. It's not so much courage as just getting on with things.

After I rolled the metastatic word around a bit on Tuesday, I did two things: sign up for a 90-minute consultation with an integrative doc at Inspire Health and begin reading Anticancer by French doc David Servan-Schreiber. I don't take on new cancer tomes easily after all the reading I've plugged into my brain over the past four years, but this one came highly recommended as something as close to a bible for the team at Inspire Health.

The doctor visit started with a hug, which was so very human. I told her everything about my health since 2010 and talked about my life and fears and hang-ups.

She acknowledged the things I was grand-slamming, like juicing, meditating, walking, going plant-based, taking 2,000 IUs of Vitamin D every day.

Then she suggested ways to bring everything to the next level, like eating some nuts with my juice to ensure the fat soluble vitamins were absorbed, meditating on some forgiveness for my GP's laziness and my self-flagellation over not being able to prevent a recurrence, making my walks a no excuses daily ritual and dabbling in everything else, not getting bound up on which supplements might be beneficial, but  focusing on getting enough whole foods instead.

We talked about my family and really getting joy out of being together, whether it's sharing the badass meditation pillow Pete bought me this week:

Or just generally taking a moment where I can:

We also talked about not being afraid to get some high-quality grass-fed red meat into my life every once in a while. Grass-fed isn't just natural, it means high in omega-3s, which heal rather than promote inflammation, and it contains CLA, a boffo fatty acid that has been shown to reduce the risk of cancer and other chronic ailments like diabetes.

Despite living in the land of locavores, it's not easy finding grass-fed beef. The nearest organic butcher told me today their beef is hormone-free and partially grass-fed, but grain-finished. My lovely little grocery store down the road, which packs a shitload of local goodness into its tiny aisles also has hormone-free, ethically raised beef, but it's not grass-fed.

I don't actually miss beef much, but I'm trying to find a way of eating that is plant-based but also includes everything magical, like unicorn meat, which I'd gladly try if I knew it attacked cancer cells (or at least tasted half-decent on a bun).

I came away from the appointment with a second hug and something great for my back pocket. I told the doc I'd had a bit of a panic attack at seeing the metastatic word and she said, "As doctors we're always so concerned not to give our patients false hope, but there's also such a thing as false hopelessness. Don't get caught up in our words and statistics. This is about you and only you, the rest is so much noise."

I was already moving past it all and feeling lighter.

I began reading Anticancer yesterday and I'm already hooked. The doc who wrote the book is no longer alive, but when he was diagnosed with a brain tumour at 31, his prognosis was bleak, with the median survival rate, with treatment, at less than one year. He died almost 20 years after this diagnosis and in the meantime, became one of the godfathers of integrative cancer care in the world.

He talks about seeing yourself as part of the long tail of statistics. There's always a median, with one side encompassing the group of people who die earlier and the other with the group of people who die years and years later as part of the long tail of the trend, sometimes succumbing to something other than their original cancer.

I woke up this morning feeling like the long tail, which is slightly less sexy than it sounds but no less powerful. I can do this. In fact, I can do this with style, motherfuckers. Just you wait.


  1. You leave me speechless, on every post. You are a force to be reckoned with.

  2. wow continue to amaze me. you are the BOMB......your determination and strength are out of this world. keep this attitude up front, you cancer survivor, you! xo

  3. Take a trip across the border. Trader Joes has TONS of grass-fed meat. So unfair we have to go that far to get it. Ignore every other food source south of the border tho ;)

  4. In a world (mainly) devoid of long-term thinkers yet overflowing with short-term doers, I love the utilization of the long-tail. Your saviour, Carissa, is one smart cookie.

    A fellow maverick of yours, Benoit Mandelbrot, came up with the term 'fractals'. This self-proclaimed 'outsider' was hell-bent in studying and proving there is beauty in roughness, and that it can be broken down into smaller bits of beauty. You can read more about Benoit here. (It's his own words)

    My point?

    Your are the outsider finding beauty in your current patch of roughness and will do so over the course of the long-tail.

    You will break it down. I can feel it.

    Like Frankl, you are, "Saying Yes to Life in Spite of Everything".

    Now, go be a 'fractal', MOFO.