Second Update

July 28, 2017

in Waking Up, Growing Up

Update to my dear and valued friends and cohorts:

Although I have often thought of contacting you with an update about my current cancer journey I just haven’t gathered my thoughts well enough nor made the time to try to encapsulate what this has been like and where I am going next.

Over the past many weeks I have received many loving, heart-warming and inspiring messages and feel regretful for not replying.  Each one was meaningful to me and I have saved them in a folder so I can easily access them for reflection.  Your messages and support matter to me.

My partial mastectomy surgery was May 2 and I have been advised by the several medical professionals I’ve been consulting that it is important not to wait longer than three months for the drugs that are designed to deal with my particular form of cancer.

One of the amazing, and at times overwhelming aspects of this process is that I have continued to receive new news and information every few days.  The time has flown by and I have been challenged right to the edge of my capacity to gather information, engage with an array of approaches (some through trial and error,) adjust to significant changes in my lifestyle, weather the multiple journeys back and forth between Gabriola Island and Vancouver where many of the practitioners I’ve been seeing are located.

And, I have had a wonderful visit from one of my grandsons, his wife and their three children, my great-grandchildren, as well as spending some time with my son Scott, leading a few workshops, participating in two retreats and having some precious walks and times with dear friends.

The results of the pathology report from my surgery indicated that one of the two forms of cancer I have is relatively rare, only 15% of women have this particular one.  It is considered aggressive and as my oncologist said straight out “it is a killer” if not properly treated. I was also told that there is a particular drug, Herceptin, that is has proven to be highly successful in preventing metastasis, which otherwise is highly likely to occur in a short time.  Hence the importance of not delaying treatment further.  The catch with the Herceptin is that although in other countries it is possible to access Herceptin without doing chemo at the same time, in Canada Herceptin can only be given with chemo.  Apparently the effectiveness of Herceptin needs to be supported by the chemo.  It could  be possible to access Herceptin privately at a cost upwards of $40,000, which is so not realistic for me.

It is simply too much for me to express or explain the frustrations and complications I encountered in the beginning trying to get timely referrals and information.  All I will say is that I found it mind-boggling and incredibly time consuming, not to mention tiring.  In the process I encountered several caring and skilled practitioners.  Eventually I was successful and got to the professionals I want and trust.  Along the way I have also been astoundingly blessed with many wonderful, knowledgeable, loving friends and family here and in China who have been honest, supportive and generous with their time and assistance.

As some of you know, from the outset I was determined to not subject my body to chemo and to go only alternative routes, while remaining as open as possible to learning and gathering the full range of information in order to make the most wise and informed choices.  In the recent few weeks I have been to several pivotal appointments and as of this Wednesday I am finally choosing to surrender to the Herceptin and chemo.  This is the most enormous act of surrender I will have ever experienced.

Alongside I intend to continue on my path of vegan diet, breathing, meditating, working with the precious and remarkable beings I have discovered – a shaman, intuitive healer, acupuncturist, naturopaths, homeopath and more.  Some of them right on Gabriola, how amazing is that!  I have completed a life-altering brain wave training and spent a nourishing several days in retreat with close friends and entheogenic journeyers in the Kootenays.  Just this past week I have also signed up for a new program out of UBC using leading-edge technology to personalize treatments based on factors such as genetics.  Like I say, this is an expansive, all-encompassing spiritual, emotional, intellectual, psychological, physical process like no other I could have imagined.

On Wednesday, at the urging of my oncologist and also family and friends, on top of the flood of data and information I have accumulated, I told the oncology people at Lions Gate Hospital that I would go ahead with the Herceptin/chemo treatment.  I have been having regular tests to monitor the tumor cell count in my blood and the most recent test indicated that my cell count has continued to rise rather than stabilize or decrease. Thursday morning they contacted me with dates (for next week!) and gave me the preparation data.  That was fast!

I am writing this email to you from Strathcona Park Lodge outside of Campbell River while leading the third annual workshop for teens from China.  Being here and working with them is important to me and I feel grateful to not miss this opportunity.  I am feeling pretty good, (I believe as a result of all the things I have engaged with to look after myself) although I definitely get fatigued more easily.

So, the details are:  I will go straight from here to Vancouver this Monday night.  Tuesday, August 1, I will have blood tests and a heart test at Lions Gate Hospital.  Wednesday, August 2 I will have the first Herceptin/chemo treatment.   Turns out that is exactly 3 months since my surgery.

Of course I am not the only person to have ever gone through chemo and I know many brave and incredible folks who have been sicker than I am, gone through much more than I have and who are now living well.  And, as I have said all along, I am taking better and different care of myself (which I could have/should have been doing all along.)  My intention is that this cancer is a powerful messenger, a wake-up call and not a death sentence.  One of my primary motivations for surrendering to the treatment is in support of that intention.

The reason I am making it important to write to you now is that I simply don’t know how I will feel after the treatment.  Even when I have been feeling relatively ok I have found it a challenge to write so I can’t predict what it will be like afterward.

For me, the preparation info was daunting.  I have to take 3 different prescriptions right away to alleviate nausea and the many other side effects. The heart test is because the drugs may impact my heart function, which will have to be regularly monitored.  I was shown a chart indicating the timing of inevitable (after the very first treatment) hair loss, all variety of severe digestion upsets, extreme fatigue, occurrence of mouth sores and on and on.  I was told that some people are whacked severely while it can be not as severe for others, however it is utterly unpredictable.  Apparently I will have one intravenous drip for 1.5 hours and must have my hands and feet encased in ice to prevent the drug from destroying toe and fingernails.  Then a second 1.5 hour drip, followed by a third drip (by this time I had blanked on the info of how long the third drip is – either an hour or half an hour.)

I sincerely believe that the field of loving and healing co-created through your caring and thoughtfulness is the best support anyone could ever ask for and for that I feel truly blessed and profoundly grateful.

Please forgive typos and anything confusing in this update.  I am keeping to my commitment to get to bed at a reasonable hour while I am here so I can be fresh for the team and teens in the morning and be as strong as possible for my fast-approaching treatment so I’ll be pressing “send” as soon as I can grab the elusive internet connection.

With heartfelt gratitude to y’all,  love light laugher linda

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Linda Nicholls

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