Living Trust, Final Will & Advanced Directives…

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Being young, single, successful, immortal and invincible, I had plenty of time to get my financial house in order!  Perhaps a partner and children will come into my life and that’s when I will square my financial interests.  Didn’t realize that everyday I was taking a risk and playing ‘Russian Roulette’ with all my investments, retirement and saving accounts, property and assets, etc.  Never did I take the time to identify how I would like my desires and wishes to be carried out in case I got incapacitated from an accident, illness, disability or death.  I guess I must have felt that I was going to live forever!

Now I had the chance to make this right.  I researched the ubiquitous DIY online $49 deals, perused many DIY blogs and youtube videos.  Although many of these processes seemed simple and doable, I knew it was above my expertise, knowledge and experience! So I bit the bullet and I decided to go with a professionally trained flat rate lawyer well-versed in estate planning and probate law. Boy was I glad that I did.  Following is what I learnt-

  • It was more than a ‘Will”.  There were several ‘must have’ documents that needed to be completed, such as, revokable living trust, pour over will, durable power of attorney for assets, advance health care directive, etc.
  • Any property or asset not listed ‘living trust’ goes under the jurisdiction of the probate court!  During probate, it must be proven in court that the person’s Will is valid, their property is inventoried and appraised, taxes and debts must be paid (as well as the lawyers and court fees), and then the remaining property is distributed among the heirs and beneficiaries (a lengthy process). Plus, probate becomes a matter of public record at the time of the individual’s death.  Most if not all DIY will end up in the probate space.
  • Living trusts bypasses probate, since technically assets you put in a trust are owned by the trustee, not you, so upon death the trustee can transfer your property and assets directly to your beneficiaries.  Revokable because you can amend it as you go along or to cater for any life changes that occur.

In conclusion, I think if you want to do this correctly and save your loved ones the hassle, do choose a professionally trained attorney.  Not only is the process made seamless and straightforward, with long-term economic advantage, the guidance and advise was direct. For instance, I asked what if I were to buy additional property, how would that work?  She told me to buy it in the name of the trust as it automatically will  fall under my ‘revokable living trust’ with no need to make additional amendments! And I can always reach out to her for any questions I may have.  Monies well spent!

Karmic?

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The recent partial solar eclipse in February just reminded me that I was at the doctors 6 months ago (on August 21st), the day of the total solar eclipse dubbed ‘The Great American Eclipse’ by the media!  However, that day my cancer evaded getting diagnosed.  I wonder why?  Was it for my karmic and spiritual growth? Doesn’t everything happen for a reason…. hmmm! More food for thought!

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.

Celebrating Life…

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This is blog is intended to be a celebration of life despite it’s ups and downs.  Who said life needed to be static!  Like a roller coaster, sometimes you are on the top and sometimes in the bottom, but always moving!

We all deal with something sometimes, whether physical, mental or emotional.  What matters is how you choose to deal with life’s various challenges!  I know my metastatic breast cancer journey will not be easy but hopefully this blog will help inspire, build awareness, and exchange information.