Traffic Ticket…

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At 5:23 pm today, I  was pulled over near my home by a motorcycle Sheriff by the name of A. Ramirez.  On most days,  I spot motorcycle sheriffs in this spot (intersection of Del Obispo and Camino Del Avion, hiding at Dana Mesa street) waiting to pull some over or see them in the act of having someone pulled over.  So today, as I approached this area (as the light was turning red), the car in front of me slowed down abruptly at the Dana Mesa Street which forced me to change lanes fairly quickly.  That is when I noticed the deputy with lights on!  Initially I thought he was pulling that car over, but when he came behind me, I was confused.  I thought did I violate some rule by moving over without giving a signal?

Once the light turned green, I crossed the intersection, and pulled over.  Right from the beginning he was aggressive, didn’t respond to my greeting or took off his mirrored sunglasses (even though I took mine off out of respect to authority).  He told me did I realize I was going fast? and that he clocked me 55mph in a 40mph zone and he did so by seeing how fast I came up on the car ahead of me.  I was quite perplexed as I had a very slow commute home, not only it was the office rush hour, but I encountered  multiple red lights, closed train crossing, waving candidates (who hoped to be elected during the upcoming elections), etc, all slowing traffic plus this area was also a school zone!  I told him that he must be mistaken, I wasn’t going fast.  He continued to ask me in a taunting tone”why were you going fast?” I told him yet again that I wan’t going fast.  However he continued with the same line of questioning, I told him that I wasn’t going fast but if he thinks I was, I apologize for that. It felt everything fell to deaf ears but he remained persistent.  Having no experience with law enforcement before, I didn’t know what answer he was seeking.  Also, I started questioning myself, if my disease or treatment was causing some lapses!  I told him that I had and was being treated for 4th stage metastic cancer, and it appears that this information is what he needed to continue with is taunts.  He lectured me on if I was taking medications or treatment that has me dizzy, then I should have been pulling over and not speeding!  Also, when he asked for drivers license, car registration and proof of insurance information, he was okay with 2013 car registration information (as that was the first paper I pulled from the glove compartment) but wanted the latest proof  of insurance.  He didn’t wait till I could locate it, instead that he will be right back.  He returned a few minutes later handed me the ticket and stated ” here’s your ticket for speeding and I have also added inability to show proof of insurance”,  and made me sign the wireless device.

I thought we are done and he was doing his job, he wouldn’t let me go and in his sarcastic/taunting voice stated that you stated you are not feeling well, should some be picking you up?  I told him I am okay, I can drive,  He continued with his jabs again, should you not be calling ambulance?  These jabs were very disturbing to the point that I had to curtly state  “Sir, you have already given me the ticket.  And you obviously can see that I am okay.  If there is nothing else, you need to let me go”.

The ticket does not have me as perturbed as my interaction with him.  This officer’s demeanor, lack of tact and professionalism, goading someone’s illness, etc. did not leave a good impression!  I am debating whether to file an official report with the OC Sherrif’s office.  Will keep you posted!

Oncology f/up

Last week, I saw my oncologist for my 6 month followup.  Overall the visit went well, he added Palbociclib (Ibrance) to be more aggressive with my treatment.  According to him Letrozole by itself was the treatment a decade ago but now with all the advances in breast cancer research, adding newer meds like Palbociclib have shown to increase life expectancy.  Plus he ordered Zoledronic Acid (Zometa) infusion every 3 months to build bone!  He also ordered a bunch of other tests, such as, blood-work panels to check my liver and kidney function, STAT CT and Bone scan.

The biggest concern I have is from starting Palbociclib (Ibrance) as neutropenia and lowering white blood counts (WBC)!  Does that mean I am going to be prone to infection/ other diseases?  One of the things I was looking forward was to traveling to India to see my sister (who’s visa got cancelled) and see family and friends.  I know I can build the red blood counts (RBC) thru food and supplements, but what about the  WBC?   Needless to say I am bummed but I guess this means more research (before this special ordered medications comes).

Is It Vanity? Hair Everywhere…

Lately I have been really concerned with the amount of hair I am loosing.  Perhaps the better word for it is ‘shedding’, with my bed, pillows, bathroom floor, shower, sink, clothes, etc., all littered with my hair. Ironically, it feels like I am competing with my dogs regarding who will shed more!  Who knew that I, who bravely handled the worse part of my disease progression, would be so challenged with this aspect.

Truthfully, the thinning of the hair to the extent you can see the scalp in many places is very demoralizing, worry-some and very difficult to deal with.  I have to shampoo daily plus learn new ways to part or style hair to ensure they remain fluffy, minimize thin spots and combat sebum that flatten the hair and make these areas visible.  Dry shampoo and root touchup sprays have become my best friends!

Also, I don’t remember my oncologist, pharmacist or my online research highlighting that hair loss was a potential side effect of Letrozole.  Therefore, this amount of hair loss has indeed been quite a surprise!  Although my recent email exchange where he shared ‘hair loss / thinning is a side effect of any hormone blockade medication. There are varying levels of severity but I tend to see a “plateau” phase where the thinning reaches a certain point and stabilizes. In other words, it would be highly unusual for a patient to lose their hair entirely with this medication’.

I take this as great news which gives me immense hope!  Now my new plan to aid/stimulate hair growth is to 1) daily massage my scalp with ‘Brahmi oil or Bringraj oil’ at night and washing it out in the morning (will need to protect my pillow and sheets); 2) restart ‘Manjishtha’ to support my blood, lymph and circulatory system; 3) incorporate ‘Amla’ for a healthy dose of Vitamin C, etc.  My research also shows that topical 5-alpha reductase inhibitors (found in pumpkin see oil) and supplementation of vitamin C (Amla) and omega-3 fatty acids would support hair growth!  Lets see if this plan aids me in restoring my crowning glory. I will report out in 3-4 months if this plan helps me any.  Wish me luck!

 

Radiation completed. How did I fare?

Having established a solid mind-body-soul mindset, along with Ayurvedic help, I was ready to commence my treatment.  Instead of taking anti-nausea medication, I planned to buffer my stomach with fruit. So I started by taking fresh pineapple about 30-40 mins prior to my radiation treatments and banana right afterwards.

This approach worked till round 8 of radiation, but round 9 and 10 were especially tough! Not only was I tired and had general malaise, my food pipe hurt when food or liquid went down especially at the hiatal valve/ stomach pit area,, my face swelled up and my body felt weak. Yogi Cameron suggested increasing the ‘Manjistha’ (blood and lymph cleanser) along with incorporating daily self oil-massages (Abhyanga) using ‘Bala’ or ‘Mahanarayan’ oils, to support the lymph system.

Verdict – Increasing Manjistha along with Abhyanga helped tremendously. I was also pleased that the body (although a little backed up) worked optimally!

Ayurveda

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With the body weakening fast, radiation and chemo down the road, preparing the body by ensuring it was running & eliminating optimally, maintaining its vitality to endure long toxic assaults, etc., became momentous and center-stage in my life!  The mind-body-spirit connection had to be strengthened, well thought-out and executed.  This was make it or break it time!  The warrior princess was alive & kicking!

Already on prescription steroids and pain pills (Norco), with prescription for anti-nausea medications for radiation treatment due to effect my digestive/ gastrointestinal tract and secretory glands, and with chemo down the road… there were concerns galore!  How do I effectively manage all the side effects and toxins (constipation due to pain pills being primary concern), plus how to buffer the stomach, liver, pancreas, gallbladder, intestines, etc. from short and long term damage!

Needless to say, diet and nutrition moved center stage!  Food became sacred!  To achieve the right physical strength and calm mind (and to balance the flow of energy between the two), my relationship with food and lifestyle had to overhaul and be transformed!  Foods- type of foods, herbs, minerals, and supplements which would fortify the body, help build the body (bones in my case), kept it vibrant (while counteracting side effects my treatment and prescription medications), allowed for proper elimination and to bring it to a state of balance, before, after and beyond treatment, became a conscious intention.

Good thing! I had had a head start in my journey down Ayurveda way, although in infancy stage!  So didn’t need much convincing, however, the diagnosis did propelled it to center stage in my life fast!  I was seeking spiritual transformation as I knew my purpose of life was more than I was doing. I was more caught up in my ego, desires, wishes and materialistic pursuits, busy lifestyle, and resulting negative emotions and thought patterns.  I understood that there is more to life than that and I need to restore the delicate balance between the mind, body, and spirit by doing lifestyle modifications, incorporating meditation, mind-training by chanting, incorporating daily spiritual practices, reigniting my creativity, etc.

While doing online research on Ayurvedic medicine and lifestyle I repeatedly saw myself drawn to Yogi Cameron’s youtube videos.  His aura and energy was crystal-clear!  His advice sound and practical! His lifestyle was disciplined and ascetic!  He was the healer for me!  Once we were able to schedule a phone appointment, we discussed my diagnosis, treatment plans, need to build the bone tissue, my lifestyle, diet, spirituality and daily practices, etc. Following is the plan we came up for me during radiation, that will commence Feb 5th and last for 10 sessions.  I will give an update as to how it went for me.

Yogi Cameron’s Plan for Me

Morning Sadhana

  • 6-10 Asanas – to open the muscles and channels of the system.
  • Pranayama of Full breath and Alternate nostril breathing – each done for 5-7 minutes each.
  • Spiritual practice – to thank the divine and set intention for the day

Nutrition during Radiation-

  • Probiotics – double the dosage!
  • Drink Ghee in hot milk – helps transport ghee to deeper bone tissue.
  • Tip- Everyone should incorporate daily 3 tsp of ‘Desi Ghee’ daily, young or elders!
  • Vegetable soups/smoothies/juices(even when not hungry)– for nutrition
  • Fresh Tumeric and ginger root juice – bitter so mix it in a little water

Supplements

  • Shilajit – encourages healthy cellular function/ nourishes muscle tissue
  • Ashwagandha – encourages nerve, muscle function, adrenal glands
  • Shatavari – cools the body, nourishes tissue and immune system
  • Manjishta– cleanses blood and lymph
  • Bala Oil – (external use only) – massage oil for muscles and joints/heart

Bedtime

  • Triphala – one hour before bedtime on an empty stomach to help clean the colon (a must)

Yogiji Cameron you are such a blessing from the divine in my life.  Thank you!

So what does it mean to me?

My brain was on superdrive!  Was my demise imminent? How long did I have on this earth plane?  Was it going to quick/undignified? How do I break the news to my loved ones? What about my dogs?  What about estate, living will, advanced directives, funeral planning and related expenses?  What about work, paycheck and insurance? Questions galore!

Ironically, a strange tranquility descended upon me and my fears of dying just abated!  My only concern was for my parents regarding how would they handle their own child’s passing.  I knew I had to be strong for them!  But why was I so composed given that I had struggled with the dying and funeral process in the past? What changed?  Was I still stumped or did I finally accept the inevitable? All I can say is that for the first time in my life, I felt alive, A-Ok, content, free, liberated, peaceful and protected!  Whatever the outcome I knew I had the wisdom, teachings and strength of my Sikh faith, gurus and other eastern traditions, where we were taught that death is a natural part of living and a inevitable law of nature (where we all must return to our creator some day), however, the soul does not die but aspires to be released from the cycle of rebirth (which we Sikhs called ‘Mukti’, Hindus call ‘Moksha’, and Buddhists call ‘Nirvana’). Its based on the principle that human birth is the highest form of birth, and unlike animals, we humans know the difference between right and wrong, so we can improve upon our ‘Karmas’ and gain transcendence from death and rebirth cycle.

So, in knowing finality of life is really no new news – think how many beings will not wake up from sleep tomorrow? how about the flu deaths gripping the nation? or the Russian air crash that took place today?  Some had no chance to say goodbyes, put their lives in order or have a chance to live a more meaningful life! So getting this golden chance to overcome my pride/ego, desires, material pursuits, possessions, etc., and learning deeper love, compassion, contentment, and connections, and commitment to living a more vibrant, noble, thoughtful, richer and spiritual life is my plan to honor this blessing and protection by the Divine.

Here We Go Again..

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January 18, 2018, will ever be seeded in my memory. That day the phone call from my primary care physician (who is also a personal friend), was interesting.  I am used to him being goofy but that day his voice, his concern, his care was discerning and dead give away that something was wrong and the news was not good one. I told him to lay it out to me straight!  He shared that the MRI results were in and that my cancer had returned but in my spine!  I asked what does that mean? He said “not good”.  What about the prognosis, I asked?  “I am so so sorry.  I am so so sorry” he responded!  Although stunned, I wasn’t surprised  (I wonder why, I will have to think of it some more), but at that moment, I started to feel his devastation and despair as though he had failed me in some way.

Almost immediately he worked with my oncologists to order a battery of tests including CT scan, bone scan, more lab draw, etc., and I went and saw my oncologist on 1/26.  He shared that because its now considered chronic/palliative, the treatment will be somewhat different that before.  Although bone biopsy was conducted, he was 100% positive that it was breast cancer of the spine!  He did share that this (breast cancer) perhaps is the best cancer to have given the amount of progress that has been made in this area of research, and how people are able to live a long and meaningful life even with it. His treatment plan which he shared with me was interdisciplinary, which included consultations with neurosurgery (to assess spinal cord impact as the lumbar/thoracic location was an area of concern), radiation oncology, dentist, etc. along with ordering CT guided bone biopsy, more lab for hormone markers, continuation of steroids, etc. The preliminary treatment plan was to start me on Tamoxifen and once a month (this plan is pending and awaiting bone biopsy diagnosis confirmation).  My oncologist is a thoughtful man and very thorough in his planning and execution, I know I am in good hands!

Next, my sweet boss came into play.  She is a sweetheart and the best boss that I have ever had – she is effective with a great heart and soul!  I am so very grateful to have her as a blessing in my life at this stage especially.  Thank you Sandy!  Being a manager in the healthcare field and a physical therapist by training, she knew to get me in touch with one of the finest neurosurgeon she knew.  Not only did this neurosurgeon personally contact me but thanks to in network electronic medical records (EMR), he was able to dial down my fear of spinal cord impact and said it looked good and was going to message my oncologist to commence treatment immediately.  My appointment with him for further evaluation in on 2/28.

Next met with radiation oncologist consult on 2/1/18, who was another sweetheart and who once again went over the tests.  Based on her assessment, my history of breast cancer, and neurosurgeons consult for starting treatment immediately, she too was confident that treatment can be commenced immediately (without need of definitive bone biopsy diagnosis).  I started my10-day radiation treatment this week!  Day 5 today and am feeling stronger already.