When I was diagnosed with brain cancer, the number one thing I realized no one ever said was that I had cancer. That floored me when it sunk in. I had seen five doctors, including a GP, a neurologist, a neurosurgeon, and two oncologists (radiation and chemical), and not one of them had actually said “CANCER”. They spoke to me about pathology reports and grades of tumour and next steps, but you know that scene in the movie where the doctor breaks the “C word” to the tearful patient, sitting on the edge of her chair, clutching her loved one’s hand and a ball of Kleenex? Yeah, I never had that. I felt a little cheated.
Then I felt more than a little angry when, without warning, a package arrived one day in the mail from my local Cancer Center with a bunch of “So You’ve Got Cancer” brochures in it, and a whole book of how to talk to your family about your diagnosis, and a schedule of all the support and education group meetings included. All I could think was “What if I wasn’t an educated person working in cancer research, what if I didn’t know what the tumour grading and all the blah blah really meant? Is this how I would find out that I have cancer?” I indulged in a little tantrum, on behalf of the person I was imagining receiving that package and thinking it was perhaps sent to a wrong address.
After paddling about in the sea of watchful waiting “next steps” for about six months, I ran into the second big thing that no one ever told me. There is a lot of excellent research out there about the effect of lifestyle and diet on cancer. Not just sad, desperate stories about the magic soup that someone’s cousin ate to cure their tumour, but real peer reviewed research that shows that dietary choices can have an impact on tumour growth. I felt like I was emerging from a fog of mental incapacitation (I maintain it was brain tumour induced), and my wheels were finally starting to turn again. I will have other posts on the changes I’ve made in my life and diet, but for now, suffice to say that finding the work of Dr. Thomas Seyfried from Boston College led me on a wellness journey that, one year in, I truly believe has been life altering in every sense. What I noticed once I was able to unstick my mental machinery is that none of my doctors had even alluded to the fact that I might want to do some research on cutting sugar out of my diet, for example, much less going so far as to provide actual advice to do so.
I regularly use visualization techniques for relaxation and therapy. Again, this is a topic for another day. But one of the things I visualize before I go for another monitoring MRI is the cover of my book, which will be entitled “The Girl Who Starved Her Brain Tumour to Death”. And maybe someday some doctor will be able to give it to a patient, sitting on the edge of his chair and trying to clutch onto some thread of his unravelling reality, and say “here’s something you might want to investigate”.