Last year, my best friend and I celebrated our birthdays by going on a hot air balloon ride. I was so full of joy and excitement. I had just conquered my fear of heights and it was so exhilarating. I thought I was healthy and living the life! Later that month my life changed. I say for the better, but some might think for the worse. I haven’t shared what has really been going on with me this past year, outside of my family and closest friends. I felt as if I wasn’t ready up to this point. I think now I need to reveal my truth.
In April 2015, I went to the V.A. (Veterans Affairs) clinic concerning my knee pain. My doctor looked at my knee, but noticed something else. I had several round bumps around my neck, groin region, and around my arm pits. She said she was going to refer me to a specialist so he could have a better look. I went to see the specialist the following week and he examined me and said that I must have a biopsy to see exactly what it was. Next thing I know I’m being scheduled for surgery to have one of my lymph nodes removed. I thought a biopsy meant that some of it would be removed, but they said they had to remove the whole thing. It was probably the size of a half inch ball.
More than a year before, I had seen a civilian doctor regarding the lymph node under my arm. She had it looked at but decided it wasn’t something to worry about. My husband was the one who insisted I go get the bumps looked at, but I wasn’t too concerned about them. I’m so thankful he is in my life to support me through this.
My sweet brother-in-law picked me up and drove me to the VA Hospital in San Diego for my biopsy. It was early in the morning and I felt a little scared because I had never had surgery before. They put me in a small room before taking me to the surgery room where the nurses and doctors had a “huddle.” It was a preoperative meeting to go over all the details. The doctor asked to look at all my lymph nodes so a nurse showed him. He saw the biggest one on my left leg and said, “so we’re removing this one.” At this point I was just lying there observing everything, but I thought to myself “that’s not the one.” Luckily, a nurse showed him the one under my arm and said that one was to be removed. It was the less invasive one, since it was closest to the surface of my skin. After surgery, I woke up and saw a nurse in front of me asking if I needed more drugs for the pain. I happily said yes!
My husband came to pick me up from the hospital. He looked a little worried and admitted that he thought it wasn’t going to be that big of a deal, but he said it looked pretty serious. I was on pain killers and the anesthesia hadn’t completely worn off, so I barely ate and pretty much slept all day. I had a full time job so the doctor gave me three days off. I would also have the weekend until I went back to work.
The next day I felt a little better, but I had to use a pillow at night, so I would not put pressure on the surgery wound. All that was holding it together was something that looked like glue! No stitches were noticeable, but I believe they told me they were internal.
A week or so later I got a phone call from my doctor and was told that I had Follicular Lymphoma, a type of cancer. “Follicular lymphoma is a type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. It develops when the body makes abnormal B-lymphocytes – the lymphoma cells. (B-lymphocytes are white blood cells that fight infection). The lymphoma cells build up in lymph nodes. The most common symptom is a painless swelling in the neck, armpit or groin.”
I was getting ready to go to dinner with my family that day, so I didn’t tell my husband right away because I didn’t want to ruin our dinner. It was hard not to think about it at dinner, but I toughed it out and held in tears like I always tried to do. After we got back from dinner I told my husband what the doctor said. I started crying and we both held each other in our kitchen. I told my husband I made an appointment the next day to ask my doctor more questions. The next day the doctor explained what I had and that it was slowly growing because of the fact that I had seen a doctor a couple years previously for one of the nodes. That was a good thing. It meant that I didn’t have to rush into a decision about my treatment options. I was basically on a “watch and wait” type of treatment. Which, in conventional medicine, means that you do nothing different or make any changes in your life and you go about living the same life you were before your diagnosis.
What? This puzzled me. I don’t want to “watch and wait.” Wait for what? Why? To watch my life go by?! To wait until I need to have chemo or radiation!? I don’t think so! I started to research everything I could about Follicular Lymphoma and cancer in general. What caused it and how to treat it. I was focusing on natural treatment options because I did not believe that putting poisons (from chemotherapy/radiation) in my body was going to make me better.
In 2013 I had been on a major health kick. I was working out daily and started this Bikini Series from Toneitup.com to get fit for my wedding. I was also on a mostly Paleo diet because a close friend of mine was on it and it sounded like something I needed. I had a lot of allergies and sensitivities to gluten and dairy, so the Paleo diet removes that from your diet. When I would eat regular food, or the Standard American Diet (S.A.D.), I had terrible sinus pressure in the morning and I also had stomach issues. I remember getting easily tired on a daily basis. I did not have the energy to do much, but maybe one thing a day that was considered normal house work. I just thought I was weaker than everyone else around me because I had a small frame. I even remembered the last paper I wrote for college was on how to cure cancer the natural way. I guess I was preparing myself for the job.
Telling my family was the hardest part. Especially telling my mom. I tried putting on a positive attitude even though I was holding in tears and feelings of fear. I asked my husband if he could be the one that told our family and closest friends because it was easier for me. I think I probably wanted him to say it, so that it would not be that much more real for me. My mom is so supportive in all aspects of my life, but worries about me daily. She even called me once telling me that when I was a baby, her doctor told her to stop breast feeding me at three months because she was pregnant with my brother. She did what he suggested and put me on a popular baby formula, but I could not keep it down, so they switched me to a soy based formula instead. I wonder if that’s what started it all? I believe breast feeding is so important and provides the best nutrition for a growing baby. I didn’t get that, instead I probably got G.M.O. (Genetically Modified Organism) soy. Gross.
The first natural treatment I tried was from Chrisbeatcancer.com. I knew I had to change the way I was eating, so in this website it shows how Chris got rid of his cancer by drinking vegetable juices and eating salads all day. It was pretty extreme, but I was determined to try it. Plus I already liked salads a lot. I tried to make one of the salads, but it was hard to do figure out how much protein to eat or how to make the most appetizing salad with all the nutrients I needed to fight cancer. The juices were easy to get because I would go to Jimbo’s, Choice Juicery or Nekter for them or my husband and I would make organic juices at home. Nekter juices are not organic, so I go there rarely now. Eating organic food is something I knew would help me, since they are not grown with pesticides. The juices I had were not yummy at first, but eventually I got used to them and found the right recipes for me.
We decided as a family that I would have one 16 oz juice daily as one of my natural treatments. My digestion was not the best when I began juicing, so having juices easily absorbed into my body was the best thing I could do to get the vitamins and nutrients I needed. Most of my family and friends did not believe at first that natural treatments would work for me, but I think now I am showing them that they can help. Before my diagnosis, everyone around me already thought I was healthy, so they were wondering how I got cancer in the first place. I’m not sure what it was exactly, but I do know that my body was out of balance.
Some of the things I ignored in life had to do with stress, such as having a stressful job, not getting enough sleep, worrying too much, not letting go of the past, not forgiving, being in toxic relationships, and having too much to do. I did not know how to cope with stress and how to release it from my body in a healthy way. Before I was diagnosed with cancer I would get newsletters from About.com. I even enrolled in their Stress Management weekly online course. It helped a little, but I still needed more. Later I found Oprah & Deepak’s 21-Day Meditation and I would do it, but only if I remembered. I think I registered for three of their 21 day meditation courses, but never fully completed any of them! I needed a habit and an easy one because I had such a busy schedule. I decided to look into a meditation App. The best one I found was Stop, Breathe & Think because it was FREE! One of my favorite words! I started using it after my diagnosis at least once a week – fast forward to now and I am meditating daily on my own. This was the best thing for me because I always felt rushed during the day and as if I did not have a moment of quiet for myself. I decided to do it at night because it was quiet and I could just go to sleep relaxed afterwards. It’s an easy App to use. You click on the feelings you have at the moment and it comes up with a few options for meditations. You click on one and put on your head phones then press play. A woman’s voice comes on and she guides you through whichever meditation you clicked on. I noticed when I used it at first I was so angry and in a bad mood, but after weeks of using it I noticed I was happier! I mostly needed the gratitude meditation, so I think that noticing what I was grateful for made me happier. The deep breathing also helps with relaxation and stress relief.
Since enrolling in the Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN) in January, one of the things I have learned as a health coach student is that it takes time and patience for things to change. The school believes that six months is the best time to pick up a habit, drop a habit and create lasting changes in your life. It is a process called Transtheoretical Model of Change, or TTM, which psychologist Dr. Prochaska came up with since the early 1980s. “Prochaska’s Transtheoretical Model (TTM) acknowledges that lasting change generally proceeds through six key stages: from Precontemplation, to Contemplation, then to Preparation and Action. But that’s only the beginning, and we can easily coast right back into preparation or contemplation if we lose our nerve, focus or steam. For our behavior change to prove sustainable, it must enter a Maintenance phase (generally, six months or more of consistent action) until it finally becomes ingrained as a stable habit.”
I have been enrolled in school for over six months and can definitely say it has been a blessing for me. I have learned so much about myself and how to create a peaceful and relaxing environment, even though I am going through so much. The school keeps me accountable and now I feel as if I can manage this life for sure! Bring it universe! I think I can finally start to heal because I have accepted what the universe has brought on for me. It is a journey into a better life and a future of helping people along the way.
Many times I have wanted to just start blogging about what I was going through, but I think I hesitated because I was not ready to admit to myself that I had cancer, especially on social media. Maybe I was trying to hide it and create this sort of illusion that everything was ok in my life. Well my life is not all ok, but it is definitely getting better. I am not yet cured from cancer, but I am trying a lot of things that have helped me get healthier and have a more balanced life. I feel stronger and I have more energy throughout the day. I also feel more at peace with life and its challenges. Life is not going to be perfect, but having a greater appreciation for the little things, like the beauty all around me helps me cope with the struggles I face. I am eating the best organic food, practicing yoga, journaling, and meditating daily. Yoga has helped me the most with getting my body and mind to work as one. One of the main benefits of yoga is breathing and a sense of balance. Yoga inversions, such as head stands, help with your lymphatic system drainage. The lymphatic system is part of your immune system, so I am trying to do everything I can to positively stimulate it. I can almost do a head stand now!
Wow, the things your body is capable of doing. I want to share my knowledge with the world and help create a “ripple effect” (as the IIN school is trying to achieve). Deciding to become a health coach was one of the best decisions of my life. I am following my passion and with what I am learning can help people figure out what theirs is! I have been sharing some of my healthy lifestyle experiences through social media, but can now be truly honest about all of them. In my blog, on www.balancedhealthybody.com, I am going to share each natural treatment option for cancer that I have tried so far, and I have tried a lot! I’m also going to share my dietary changes and other natural remedies I have tried for things other than cancer. Not everything works for everyone, but hopefully this will help someone going through the confusion of finding what works for them.
I have accepted my diagnosis and can now truly heal and help others do the same. My name is Ixtlaly. I am a Brave Babe. I love and accept myself. I send love and peace to all.