The C Word – Part 11
New adventures in naturopathic medicine!
Feeling good! Feeling positive. Feeling grateful. Feeling OPTIMISTIC.
For two weeks I was basically stuck at home with low immunity. My neutrophil count was a dismal 0.4 when they postponed my chemo the first time. It was 0.5 the day I was sent home without having my port installed. Nine days later when my chemo was postponed for a SECOND time, it was a whopping 1.1. The safe range for neutrophils begins at 2.0. And after three weeks, I still wasn’t there. I asked the nurses and my doctors what I could do to boost my counts. Food? Supplements? Lifestyle? They all said that aside from that injection that makes your bones hurt, there was nothing I could personally do. That the chemo can have this effect and I needed to be patient while my system replenished itself.
The elephant of anxiety resumed residence on my chest.
How the hell was I supposed to kill the cancer if I couldn’t get my treatments? And how could I live and work if my immunity was so desperately compromised? I felt deflated. Time was ticking away and I was desperate to start seeing some shrinkage. The dark thoughts started feathering in around the edges of my fortitude. Every little tweak or ache fed my fear that the cancer was growing.
Whenever I get to that place, when the dark thoughts try to wiggle their way through any cracks in my fortress of positivity, I need to yell. Loudly. When I studied the Actor’s Method, I learned about “releasing sound” in order to relieve anxiety and center yourself. It’s like controlled screaming, and it works. Now, if you’ve ever been up against a situation which feels out of your control, you probably know it’s the pinnacle of frustration. I wan you to think of one now. Something that you feel powerless, or at least under-powered, to fix. Got it? OK. Now I want you to picture that situation as vividly as you can, take a deep breath and yell
Ahh, that’s better.
Next, to take action.
After lengthy research and a fair bit of waffling, I finally added a Naturopathic Doctor to my care, and I could not be happier with my decision! She works WITH my Doctors and Oncologist to support me. I’d done some research, trying to find the right ND for me. Naturopathic care is partly covered by our extended benefits (that’s the additional health insurance you can purchase in Canada or get through your employer. It just helps with additional medical costs that aren’t covered by the Provincial Health Care system) but it doesn’t cover much, and based on the pricing I was seeing, it would only fully cover 1 or 2 appointments, and I wasn’t sure about the treatments themselves. Still, this is the only body I’ve got. The only life I have. I mean, frugality is noble, but when you start nickel-and-diming your own well-being, you’re not honouring or valuing yourself. So, I filled out the intake forms and made the appointment.
The Doctor got all my charts and files in advance and went over them all prior to our appointment. Since my White Blood Count was so low, I had to switch the appointment from physical to virtual at the last minute, but that didn’t matter. She asked me a few more questions to clarify a few things and we talked for a glorious hour and a half about my situation and health.
I asked her questions which I’d never been able to get proper answers to by my team. It felt so gratifying to finally get some clarity. We discussed various treatment options that we could explore if needed such as local / regional hyperthermia, IV vitamins if I get depleted again, immunotherapy and the treatments she started me on.
“Our first job is to get those neutrophils up” she said. Since I’d been told there was nothing I could do on my own, I was curious. She had me double my dose of Turkey Tail from 1,000 mg to 2,000 mg and add 2,000 mg of vitamin D to my daily routine. The two special treatments she added to my routine are Fermented Wheat Germ Extract (Metatrol Pro) and European Mistletoe injections (Helixor / Visoscan).
Mistletoe you ask? The stuff you kiss under at Christmas? Yep! Well, basically. Extensive studies have proven Mistletoe to be a safe and effective treatment. For over 100 years, it’s had widespread use in Western Europe, where it is combined WITH conventional cancer treatments in up to 75% of cancer cases. It has compounds which have cancer-killing properties. When used by an experienced cancer specialist, studies have demonstrated that mistletoe improves patient outcomes, increases survival rates, and improves quality of life. The Fermented Wheat Germ Extract supports the regulation of cell metabolism, helps to rescue mitochondrial function, enhances mechanisms of cellular repair and differentiation and regulates immune system support and Th1/Th2 balance.
My appointment with the Naturopath was on Friday, October 1st. We picked up the treatments on Saturday the 2nd. My next round of chemo was to begin on Tuesday the 5th, which meant that my bloodwork would have to be in the clear on Monday the 4th. Two days of the new supplements to double my counts? I did NOT have high hopes.
I started my Wheat Germ Extract capsules and my husband Doug gave me my first mistletoe injection. The injections are given subcutaneously 2 x a week. (Doug was such a good nurse, I didn’t even feel the poke.) And then, Monday rolled around.
I went to my blood work appointment on Monday at Eagle Ridge Hospital attired with two masks over my face and wielding a bottle of hand sanitizer. I mentioned that my counts had been very low so I was hoping to get in and out of the hospital as quickly as possible, and the lab obliged.
Tuesday morning: Chemo Day. I woke up and waited for the phone to ring. For two reasons: one, because I assumed my counts were still low and they’d call to cancel again, and two: because in all the chaos of cancelled appointments, I couldn’t remember what time I was meant to report for chemo IF it was happening, and I had an inkling it was an early morning one. I’d left a message the day prior for someone to please call and let me know. The phone rang a bit after 8:00 am and the nurse on call told me I was to come in at 9:00 am. She didn’t have access to my blood work yet, so she couldn’t tell me if my chemo was on or not. So, I rinsed my face, threw on some clothes and Doug drove me to the cancer centre. It’s about a half hour drive so I asked him to please wait until I knew if I was staying or not. Once checked in, I asked about my blood work and they pulled it up. Good to go! Really? I was shocked. I texted Doug to relieve him of duty and went in for treatment.
I asked the nurse if she could let me know what my neutrophil count was. Are you ready for this? It was 4.6! Over FOUR TIMES what it had been just two days prior to my blood work! Now, if that’s not a Naturopathic success story, I don’t know what is!
My Naturopath had also recommended nightly fasting (which I already do naturally) and fasting prior to my treatment and on the treatment day. Water and broth were ok she said. So, I went in with a clear stomach and a clear mind. The treatment went through my PICC line again, since the port installation had been rescheduled for October 8th. They gave me the anti-diarrhea medication again during my treatment and I had no problems. I only felt the mildest touch of nausea the following day and took medication to eradicate it. I was still tired the day of my treatment and the day after, but by Thursday I was at full capacity again, feeling great!
On Friday I had to do a REAL fast for my port installation. I needed to check in at the surgical day care unit of the hospital by 12:30 pm with the procedure to be performed at 2:30 pm. No food, no water after 8:00 am. I forgot to set an alarm and awoke with a start at 7:50 am and ran out to the kitchen to eat something quickly. Thankfully, I still had a couple of my “chemo power cookies” into which I’d baked all the supplemental nutrition from my smoothies: the power greens, protein powder, turkey tail, etc. I munched that up, washed it down with a glass of water and crawled back to bed for another hour.
Doug drove me to the hospital. I checked in and went to the day surgery area. I was wrist-banded, gowned and warm blanketed and left to wait in a bed for my surgery. The lab tech came by to draw my blood, and it was determined that I did not need an IV, as they’d use the PICC line to administer the fluids and sedation, and then remove it after the port was in.
Around two pm, I was wheeled through myriad hallways to the Interventional Radiology department where I was parked to wait for the procedure. I was curious what my counts looked like three days after I received my chemo treatment so I asked the nurse in that area if she could tell me what my current neutrophil count was. Are you ready?
SIX POINT ONE!
I could scarcely believe that my immunity level was even HIGHER than it had been before I ever began my chemo treatments. The news bolstered and fortified the newfound sense of optimism supplied by my new naturopathic support.
I was wheeled in and prepped for my procedure. I was given conscious sedation (it was fentanyl – I looked) and local anesthetic. They draped me in a blue sheet and the doctor began. High from the sedation, I chatted amiably. It came out that I’m a performer and the doctor asked me to sing something for them. So, lying there in my hospital gown under my blue canopy, loopy in the head, I somehow decided that I should sing one of the parody songs I’d written last year, and launched into a rousing rendition of “The Wash Your Ass Polka” (sung to the tune of the Hoop De Do Polka).
“Wash your ass, wash your ass, or on fellatio your partner may pass.
Wash your ass, wash your ass, it’s just two inches ‘tween the fore and the aft.
Wash your ass, wash your ass, be you a gentleman or lass –
Not your whole ass, but your ass hole
Wash your ass for them tonight!”
Giggles and chortles punctuated the performance, but I was high and oblivious to the fact that this might not be the most appropriate song for the moment at hand. I continued…
“You wash your pits before you snuggle and you hug, ‘cuz smelling clean is very nice.
You brush your teeth before you snuggle and you hug, ‘cuz tasting sweet is outta sight.
But just think twice before you start to 69, and tuck that nose in tight,
Please respect your partner and
Lather up that anal gland,
Wash your ass for them tonight!”
Still giggling, they finished the port installation, bandaged me and sent me back to the recovery area. And, I don’t mean to BRAG but I DEFINITELY made an impression. Because the next day, I found that they’d completely forgotten to remove the three electrode stickers from my body.
In the words of the inimitable Ralph Malph:
I’VE STILL GOT IT!