Friday, January 30, 2015

Can't fight the seether

I have a pinhead amount of tolerance for the alarmist, click-bait, downright Onion-like nature of the pop culture cancer dialogue. And believe me, some of my cancer cousins are the worst at perpetuating this mythical garbage. I have politely and swiftly removed myself from many a group or conversation that dipped into “eating this one food could give you/cure your cancer” territory.

We’re all waiting for someone to tell us that there’s an easy answer to why we got dealt this garbage hand and a magic solution to make it all go away. If you’re not a smoker and didn't work in an asbestos factory in the 1970s, it’s a big fat mystery why your body was invaded by terrorists.

Looking to the oncology community for answers is like asking Netflix why it's recommending Face/Off. Both can walk you through the official Nic Cage algorithms that brought you to this terrible place, but in the end, neither really knows why this specific thing happened to you. And even if we could cut ourselves and our cancerous family members open and lay our cells out on a paper towel for a miniscule matching game, the biology you were born with tells only part of the story. There are epigenetic studies showing that we can actually change our genes over time through exercise, better nutrition and even meditation. 

I don’t think doing any one of these things really well can prevent an occurrence or reoccurrence, but I do know that doing just one of these things really well is not an indication that you’re really taking care of business. We all know the story of the salad eater or marathon runner who gets slapped upside the head with a cancer diagnosis. Like Meryl will tell you, it’s complicated.

I’ve been back at work for three months now and have been feeling strong like a bullfighter during the day, but the persistent itch on my neck bugs the shit out of me, I’m falling asleep on the couch at 9 pm lately, and the other day, I had a dizzy spell in Target that for once wasn't brought about by all the polyester and Snickers bars around me. So even though my latest ultrasound and heart test results literally spit out a picture of a teenager and I’m fairly nailing the exercise and nutrition part, I've decided to stop relying on the regular antibody infusions as my only third-party intervention strategy. I'm dipping into the holistic well once again.

Last week I went to see a naturopath – the same one I stole an expensive breast cancer book from four years ago and never returned. She didn't mention the theft but said she might have a homeopathic remedy for my itch, determined I was likely anemic from my Marilyn Manson-like appearance, and said I was avoiding spirituality like a big atheist baby and it was keeping me from feeling like a whole person. All good advice to cram into 45 minutes.

Dr. S gave me special, lovely-tasting oral drops in four little vials and told me to get my iron properly checked at my next cancer clinic visit.


I was skeptical about the drops, like I'm skeptical about all things granola. They’re for liver detoxification, which sounds like a Gwyneth Paltrow punchline, but I was willing to try. I do believe in the power of full body healing, and shit if I don't have anything left to lose.

Since then, the drops have helped the itch. No joke. After more than six months and hundreds of dollars of creams and prescriptions later, the unicorn tears harvested by third world babies in utero actually work.

I was feeling pretty confident and very LA-celeb like when I walked into my last appointment at the cancer clinic, ready to say in my nasally voice, “well, my naturopath says…”, so I got bossy and asked for an extra iron test beyond the regular hemoglobin count. I also admitted to the drops and how they were helping. This may seem like no big deal, but when you ask for extra bloodwork at the cancer clinic and talk about naturopathy, it’s like telling your hairdresser that you coloured your hair out of a box and it was pretty great. They shower you with disdain at first, question your sanity and then act nice only to humour you.

Sure enough, I got my lab results back today, and I’m anemic. I need to do a test to see if it’s worse than anemia (when you're metastatic, every ailment is cancer - Woody Allen would be happy in this world), but for now, I’m on over-the-counter iron pills that I’m expecting to wreak havoc on my system.
If they’re terrible, I’ll get all high maintenance on myself, speed dial my naturopath for more eye of newt while I stroke my lap dog and scream at my assistant.

If they’re not, I’ll chalk it up to the fact that I really am half lion, half woman.

All this truth seeking reminds me to keep the dream of the 90s alive, when I had a middle part and was pushing against everything.

I need to channel my inner Veruca Salt, band and Wonka chocolate eater, and summon the seether when something feels off, advocate for myself, and continue to politely drop-kick the people who tell me I got got cancer because of the bologna I ate 35 years ago.



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