Have you ever had a season of life that was hard and you wondered what good could possibly come of it? Perhaps at the end of that season, or maybe months or years down the road, you were able to look back and see how that season, despite all of its hardships, resulted in something beautiful?
When we lived in Hawaii, we had the pleasure of enjoying seasons where MANY MANY caterpillars would invade our yards, both front and back, and a few times, when we could see they were getting ready to form a chrysalis on something dangerous (one of our kiddos’ bikes or climbing structure), we moved them to a safer place. A few times, we would move the caterpillar to a stick and lay it over a large jar. We would leave it on our lanai or bring it into the kitchen to watch it form its chrysalis and wait for it to emerge as a butterfly. My husband actually set up his GoPro to capture the change and it was a fascinating site to behold. I remember wondering if the change from caterpillar to butterfly is painful. If a caterpillar does have the ability to feel pain, I can’t imagine that the process would be pleasant but at the end of such change, something absolutely breathtaking emerges!
Like the caterpillar, the past three years have been hard and painful but I can see God is doing something beautiful! I have been praying about how God wants me to continue treating my Stage IV breast cancer. You know, the one that currently can’t be found ANYWHERE in my body! My last PET/CT showed No Evidence of Disease and my Guardant Health blood biopsy showed no detectable circulating tumor genetic alterations. However, that doesn’t mean that microscopic cancer stem cells or circulating tumor cells aren’t still there. There is just so very little that it can’t be detected. That alone is an absolute miracle in the medical world and almost entirely unheard of for any Stage IV cancer.
My traditional oncologist wants me to continue with my oral chemo and my Herceptin infusions “until the cancer progresses.” She doesn’t believe it is fully gone or that it ever will be and that stopping treatments will mean it will come back, likely with a vengeance. With all that I have learned about the metabolic approach to and theory of cancer, I know that even stage IV cancers can be healed and managed. It does require certain medications, supplements likely for life and lifestyle changes but so does every other manageable disease on the planet and I’ll take manageable over “terminal” ANY DAY. My chemo and Herceptin are not without side effects. So far, thankfully the side effects of both have been manageable but the herceptin can (and has) caused heart failure. I am concerned that staying on herceptin indefinitely will ultimately end in heart failure. I have been asking God for clear guidance because while I am open to stopping those meds, I also realize it could be detrimental to stop them too soon. I need to be certain the timing is right.
This Tuesday, I had an echocardiogram of my heart. I have these performed every 2 months due to my previous heart failure while on Herceptin and another med (Perjeta) combined. Herceptin has been slowly decreasing my Ejection Fraction (EF), which is the rate at which the Left Ventricle pumps out with each heartbeat. It came back up a few months ago but I have been concerned it was coming down again. Amazingly enough, the test revealed that it was actually INCREASING! It went from 50-55% at my previous echo to 58-61%! Anything under 50% is considered heart failure and Ideally we want to see it at 60-65%. This definitely helped me feel more comfortable about the positivity of staying on Herceptin a bit longer.
Yesterday, I traveled over to Seattle for an appointment with my Naturopathic Oncologist, Dr. Standish at Bastyr. If you’ll recall, upon meeting her last year, I shared my discovery of the Metabolic approach to cancer, & my Care Oncology prescribed meds. She was not familiar with this approach and had never heard of Care Oncology but she was intrigued and had her team contact them to get more information. Upon receiving said information, she fully supported my “repurposed” meds and supplements. This past fall, I also gave her the book that God placed in my path to guide my treatments, How to Starve Cancer, by Jane McLelland.
At my appointment, Dr. Standish came in and sat down next to M (my 3yo) and said that she first wanted to say a few things. M kept interrupting, showing her she could draw her numbers so I honestly can’t remember what came first or second but I believe she first commented on my blood biopsy results and said based on the results and looking at all my recent bloodwork, she feels I am likely in complete remission and is amazed at how effective everything I am doing has been. She then looked at me and said thank you for introducing me to the metabolic approach and especially Jane’s book. She went on to say they are ALL reading it (I’m assuming this means her colleagues and students) and that she is using the metabolic approach on a number of her other patients and she is pleased with how it is working. She asked me where I obtain my Mebendezole and when she realized I have it compounded at a local pharmacy at a reasonable price she was ELATED and made sure her student made a note of it.
We then discussed further treatment. I expressed my concern with continuing long term but also with stopping too soon. We discussed my side effects thoroughly and I shared that I recently discovered that Jojoba oil is working WONDERS for my hand foot syndrome (caused by the chemo) and she just quipped that I’m teaching THEM so much. We also discussed the fact that I have another CT scan next month, and I mentioned wanting to do another blood biopsy with a company called Biocept. I explained that I had a blood biopsy processed by them 2 years ago and at that time, no genetic alterations were detected but that the NUMBER of circulating tumor and stem cells was just slightly higher than what they consider “normal,” indicating “micrometastesis,” I suggested it might be wise to have them process another blood biopsy and use the test from two years ago as a baseline. She mentioned that it is a costly test but that the information would be invaluable in deciding further treatment.
So, since I have very few side effects and am managing them well and my heart function is up, we agreed that we won’t change anything just yet. I will have the CT scan, have the Biocept biopsy drawn, and we will meet again in April to discuss the results. If the numbers are within normal levels, we will formulate a plan for stopping chemo and perhaps Herceptin in the future.
Honestly, I was so thrilled during that entire appointment I wanted to cry. I was so incredibly humbled when she thanked me and I started to realize the extent that God is using my journey to make a change in the cancer world. This realization came even more into focus that evening when I checked my email. There, in my inbox, was an email from a metabolic researcher at University of Washington. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Back in SEPTEMBER, I googled metabolic research in Seattle on a whim, found a team/lab that is studying various metabolic things and decided to shoot them an email, not expecting much but of course hopeful that something might come of it. I’d explained my diagnosis and that I was using a metabolic approach and my cancer was rapidly regressing. Fast forward to yesterday, this researcher emailed me back, apologizing for the delay, explaining their website was re-done this fall and many emails got lost in the redesign. He said they would be interested in my information and asked how I was doing. I promptly replied, thanking him for his reply and shared that I have NED which was confirmed via blood biopsy. ALMOST IMMEDIATELY he replied saying he was cc’ing my email to some of his colleagues who are doing metabolic cancer research. Y’all, his colleagues also responded and both would like to speak to me regarding what I’ve done; one from University of Washington and another from Fred Hutchinson.
I am sitting here in shock and awe at what God is doing here. On THE DAY I called to schedule the MRI that led to my stage IV diagnosis, God plopped Jane in my path and whispered “this is your path…follow her…trust me.” THREE YEARS AGO while I cried on my bed at my first stage IV (mis)diagnosis…God whispered “I want to do something BIG with you.” And I cried back, “I don’t want to do something big, I want to do something SMALL.” He has guided my every step and is not just content healing me but is using me to heal others. I have no idea what will come of these emails/calls/whatever with these researchers but I have faith that God is at work. I want to be crystal clear, THIS. IS. NOT. ABOUT. ME. I am simply a woman who was at death’s door and God is using the tenacity that he created me with to do what I can to spread the word and to BE THE CHANGE I WISH TO SEE in the cancer community. To God Be The Glory in this!
With my mom facing a breast cancer diagnosis, my MIL having lived through breast cancer, and myself having it, my two daughters are at HIGH RISK.
I. WANT. BETTER. FOR. THEM.
I want better for EVERY person who faces a cancer diagnosis.
I dream of the day that Cancer is no longer a four letter word, no longer feared.
Perhaps, just maybe, that day is closer than we think!
Blessings and Hope,