InspireHealth Supporter, Anne Jerome shares her integrative approach to lung cancer and those ‘aha’ moments that helped to inspire her healing.
I met Dr. Hal Gunn, a cutting edge thinker and doer, a number of years ago at an IONS (Institute of Noetic Sciences) Meeting. He was a guest speaker, so I had the opportunity of learning about InspireHealth in an intimate setting. Not only was I impressed with Dr. Gunn, but grateful that here in our midst, we have a centre that provides a holistic integrative approach for those who have received a cancer diagnosis. Hearing the InspireHealth philosophy was wonderfully exhilarating! This model of cancer treatment is a good example of a team approach that exemplifies collaboration between the patient and health care professionals from various disciplines. And now, whenever I meet or hear about someone who is facing recovery from cancer, I enthusiastically recommend Inspire Health.
My cancer story begins in February 2011 when I was hiking with my husband and a couple of friends in the Himalayas of Nepal on a 17-day trek. I usually bring up the rear, and it often takes my body a couple of days to adjust to a daily hiking regimen, but after a few days this time, I was struggling just like the first day. I thought this was odd, but I initially spent neither time nor energy thinking that there might be a health issue. But toward the end of week one, I felt that maybe there was a problem.
Fortunately, when folks who had reached the peak of Annapurna Base Camp returned, they said that a vicious storm had blown in and reaching the top was virtually impossible. So we made the decision to return to Pokora, our starting point, reducing the trek to 10 days. Although I was feeling fine, I had made up my mind get a chest x-ray when we got to Kathmandu. My suspicions were correct. I had a mass in my upper right lung. I was immediately sent to another lab to get an MRI, and yes, the mass was the size of a large lemon. It was suggested that we return home to Canada immediately, which we did.
On the day we returned, I phoned my doctor and actually got to see him that day. Since I had the x-ray and MRI images in hand, he was able to fast-track me to the Cancer Agency. Several attempts were made to get enough tissue to obtain a conclusive pathology report, and finally the diagnosis was made: Stage 3 Lung Cancer.
Although I had been a smoker for many years, this shocking news still hit me like a ton of bricks. I was almost 67-years-old and an active and happy senior. I thought I was invincible! Fortunately, my years of spiritual work helped me avoid going on a guilt trip. I immediately started counting my blessings: my dear sweet, caring husband of 41 years; 2 kids happily married with 2 precious kids each; and, my loving and supportive extended family and friends far and wide. What a lucky person I am! However, like most folks, I was curious, so I did some research about lung cancer. The statistics really discouraged me. Without skipping a beat, I changed direction and researched inspirational stories. I felt so uplifted as I listened to several of these kind, thoughtful people sharing their lung cancer stories. For me this was definitely an ‘aha’ moment! Yes, there was hope that that scary prognosis could be confronted and beaten!
But then I realized that it would be impossible to overcome this health obstacle on my own; once again my spirituality came to the fore. Instantly, I knew what I had to do and gladly; another ‘aha’ moment! The next step was to reach out to everyone in my network. So I wrote the first of several letters to all my email buddies and told them my story; I asked them to join me on my healing journey by sending prayers, loving thoughts, visualizations, funny emails and positive vibes; whatever they were moved to send my way would be much appreciated. Already, the heaviness of my predicament was noticeably lessened. The response was truly amazing. Initially, I cut out each note of loving support and taped them to our kitchen wall. Each morning, as I walked into the kitchen, I could feel that they were there with me as I began my healing journey. How comforting it was to have an angel brigade holding me up 24/7!
Because of the late stage cancer diagnosis, I had to move quickly, so I chose the allopathic route, plus spirituality to rid my body of this ‘visitor’. I got through the chemo treatments relatively unscathed – only one minor blood clot, some weight loss, practically no hair loss, a bit less energy, but surprisingly, I still had a strong immune system. I immediately wrote to my email buddies and thanked them for all that they were doing. This indeed was a pivotal moment for me because now at the cellular level, I knew that we are all connected, and when one wee part of that web is traumatized, then the whole web is impacted. All these beautiful generous people were gifting me with their love, prayers, visualizations (waterfalls washing away the cancer cells), emails and positive vibes. I immersed myself in this ocean of love because it was so healing! So whenever I sent a health report, I included a gift of gratitude which could have been a song, poem, prayer, quotation or even a dance, and on YOUTUBE when possible!
After a short break from chemo-therapy, I began the radiation program. At the beginning of all my treatments, I called in everyone on my ‘healing’ team, visible and non-visible. I didn’t have any expectations. First I spoke gently to my body and apologized for the chemicals and toxins that would be travelling around inside my body, but I also said that these treatments were designed for my body to reach homeostasis! So if my body could be cooperative, patient and tolerant, then all would be well. But most important, I asked the Universe in its wisdom, to make certain that the highest good was being served here. I basically surrendered and trusted that whatever was meant to be would be. After each treatment, I thanked my body for doing its part in being strong in the recovery process, and I also thanked all the beings who were there with me ensuring that all went as intended.
I have so much to be grateful for, and here I am especially thinking about the compassionate care-givers at the Cancer Agency. It was always a pleasure to see my oncologist who trusted that I knew my body best and, therefore, I could push it as far as was reasonably possible. The nurses and technicians administering the treatments were exceptionally caring in every possible way – explaining each procedure clearly, listening attentively to my questions or concerns, noting suggestions, and showing their sweet disposition any time of the day.
The allopathic route I chose was augmented by an integrative routine which consisted of a number of components. Firstly, a diet focused on alkaline and anti-inflammatory foods; second, exercise such as gardening, walking, biking, hiking or going to the gym; third, complementary healing practices such as acupuncture, yoga, chanting and meditation; and last but not least, activities with family and friends. Exchanging hugs, hearing positive comments, laughing together, and attending inspirational activities together have carried me far higher than they realize.
I engage in two other social activities, which also continue to make my life more meaningful. I volunteer at Soup Sisters where we make soup for women and children suffering from domestic violence, and for at-risk youth. I also volunteer at Food Quest where food is rescued, rather than taken to the landfill, and offered for sale at a sizeable discount to folks who fall below the poverty line. It’s tremendously rewarding to be of service to those in need. Since my recovery from the Big C scare, ‘giving back’ has taken on a much greater meaning. Obviously, my time here is not finished, so connecting with the less fortunate gives me an opportunity to bring a little light into their lives.
Since the conclusion of the cancer treatments, I have been going in for blood work and a chest x-ray every three months. All that remains physically is some scar tissue which probably contributes to my slight windedness. But even though I have decreased lung function, last summer I hiked The Chief and the three peaks of Seymour. Now those were two proud moments! It’s ironic that my cancer journey began while climbing mountains, and following my treatments, I have returned to the mountains. Reaching the peaks has always been a challenge for me, and so I took on the recovery from cancer as if it were a mountain. I drew strength and confidence from my years of hiking, which fueled my passion to embrace the gift of life. I feel confident that the continued dietary changes, spiritual practices, exercise program, feelings of deep gratitude and a positive attitude will continue to provide many years of wellness to my life.