Monday, October 29, 2012

Goodbye, Cancer!


"Good morning, you are Cancer Free!"  
Wednesday was my birthday and I received the best birthday present ever when my doctor called me with my newest biopsy results first thing in the morning. I had to ask him to repeat what he said since the phone woke me up and I was still half asleep. Best news ever after my long, painful, terrifying and expensive cervical cancer scare. How did I get there? 
When I lived in Czech Republic I used to get my pap smear and routine gynecological exam yearly since I had free health care. When I moved to USA I lost my free health care and my job has never been able to provide me with health care. I have to pay for any doctor's visit, surgeries, or medication out of pocket. Since I was pretty healthy I figured that I did not need to go get my pap smear every year. I skipped a few years to save money which turned out to be a big mistake and at the end it did not save me money, but rather cost me (and still will cost me) thousands of dollars. Two years ago I had an abnormal pap smear after not having any pap smear for four years. My doctor wanted me to do a colposcopy to check for precancerous cervical cells (which can turn into an invasive cervical cancer if left untreated). When I got my $300 bill for the lab work (on top of my  pap smear) I decided to wait for the colposcopy since the lab bill was a nasty surprise. Few month later my father died of brain cancer and I was totally consumed with grief so I forgot about my abnormal pap smear. The next year life got in a way again, I had to have an emergency oral surgery and later that year my dog Shelly needed two surgeries so all my money went to pay for that. Once again I did not do the colposcopy. It was not only a question about money, but also the fact that I am extremely scared of any needles, and medical procedures. In the beginning of this year I started having some problems, mostly annoying pain in my pelvic area and bleeding. I went to the gynecologist and he got upset with me that I did not come see him earlier. We did another pap smear and the results were very abnormal so I was told that I needed the previously mentioned colposcopy and biopsy of my cervix. And I needed it immediately. I waited a few month to get the courage to do this and also to save up enough money for the procedure. We did three biopsies and colposcopy which was very painful and uncomfortable. Physical pain came with a mental pain when my friend died the day after my biopsies. I was so depressed and upset I did not even care about my biopsy results. Those came a week later. My doctor called me to tell me that they found something bad during my biopsies: high-grade, possibly cancerous cervical dysplasia. He recommended a full hysterectomy but due to my young age, the fact that I don't have any kids, and that I don't have the money for hysterectomy, we agreed on a less invasive cervical surgery to remove these precancerous, possibly cancerous cervical lesions along with a part of my cervix. Since I waited so long to get my biopsy I could not do the simple method of cryosurgery-freezing abnormal cells or laser therapy-burning away abnormal tissue. Lucky me............I was mortified and crushed. I wanted to crawl into bed and cry. I cried every day. I was angry at myself that I let life get in the way and put it off for so long. I was angry that I did not have health insurance. I was scared. I felt sorry for myself. I was mad at myself. I was mad at the world. I was worried that this thing was in my lymph nodes and other organs which would mean more surgeries, possibly including a full hysterectomy. And then what? Radiation? Chemotherapy? How would I pay for it? How could I afford not to work for a while? Would I ever have children? Would I ever see my family in Czech Republic? How would I go through this with my anxiety, and needle and medication phobia? Why is this happening to me? I eat very heathy vegan diet, I don't smoke, I hardly ever drink, I don't take drugs, I exercise, I try to do my best to take care of myself and now cancer?  I lost all my motivation and good spirit. Thankfully I was surrounded by amazing people who love me and supported me through all this. My family, companion animals, friends, work clients, my blog readers, Twitter followers and pen pals offered me love, kind and encouraging words and support. I could not do this without them. I could not do this without my loving husband who has been there for me 24/7. 
I am very grateful to have such a beautiful support net around me. I am also thankful for all the care packages, visits and vegan goodies that I received during my tough times. I had friends from all over the world supporting me and giving me virtual hugs and sending me goodies (some even from Australia, Czech Republic, Croatia, Canada, etc). 

Last Friday I had my super expensive surgery. It was recommended that I do this under a general anesthesia but due to fear of being put under and the high cost of this anesthesia I chose to do it under a local anesthesia instead. I am not going to get into details about my surgery but it was a very traumatic and painful experience with some complications. I wish I did that under a total anesthesia instead. I was home for a week recovering and yesterday I was able to go back to work. However, I cannot lift anything too heavy, bend or exercise for a few weeks to prevent the risks of bleeding and other complications. I miss my daily running so much but my healing and recovery is important so I am willing to wait until I am 100% better. I was in a lot of pain for days, but now I am feeling much better. 
Ladies, don't make the same mistake, get your pap smear yearly (or every two years if your doctor recommends it). Don't let your life get in the way of your health!

Luckily my doctor was able to remove all the bad stuff so at this point I am cancer free and I do not need any further treatment. 
I have a 95%-97% chance to stay cervical cancer free. 
However, I have to do a pap smear every three month now for at least a year and then every half a year to monitor my cervix. Doesn't it sound like fun? Very expensive fun considering that each pap smear will come with a hefty lab work fee. 

I had a lot of time to think about cancer and various treatments since my father died and I was determined not to do chemotherapy or radiation if they left some cancer behind or if I had an invasive cancer. This was something I thought about a lot. I respect everyones decision to treat their cancer in ways they think is the best, but for me chemotherapy or radiation was not an option. I have seen the long term side effects of chemotherapy and radiation. 
I work with animals and many animals who undergo such dramatic treatments do not make it through, or if they live they only get a few month but their quality of life is not good. I have only seen a small handful of animals who were cured by radiation or chemotherapy (but they also did some holistic treatment in addition to it), but most were also pretty young. I lost my father to cancer, I lost my grandma in law to cancer, I lost my uncle to cancer, I lost my dog to cancer and I knew many people and animals personally who died because of cancer despite the treatment they received at a hospital. Yes, there are thousands of lucky people and animals alive nowadays who live because of the traditional treatments but I bet you they also changed their diet or received an additional holistic treatments or supplements, including doing yoga, meditation, acupuncture, etc. I am happy that it worked for them. 

Here is a documentary that shows pretty much what I think about the whole cancer thing, from the traditional and approved treatment options in USA, pharmaceutical industry, to holistic approach. While I don't agree with everything that this documentary shows, I think it is a very valuable documentary that I would recommend to everyone. Yes, there is a place for pharmaceutical drugs and surgery so I am not saying that holistic approach is the only way, but we all deserve to know all our options before doing a radical chemo or radiation treatment. We deserve to have a choice and to know all aspects of all possible treatments. Don't judge someone for not wanting to do chemo or radiation, it is a very personal choice. 
Do you have an experience with holistic cancer treatment or any natural cancer treatment? 



                                                                                              


(Video source YouTube )


Here are some of my favorite blogs and websites with cancer tips that promote plant-based lifestyle. 

My friend Lindsay S. Nixon who is the author of Happy Herbivore cookbooks and a HH website had a similar experience like me many years ago. That experience sent her down the road to vegan diet. 

Carrie's thyroid cancer battle at Carrie on Vegan Blog 

Lindsay's cervical cancer journey at Standing with Cancer Blog 

A few interesting cancer tips on Raw Vegan Forever Blog 

Chris, a chemo-free cancer survivor at Chris Beat Cancer website 

Cortney, a cancer survivor at Green Drink Diaries website 


PCRM promotes preventative medicine through innovative programs

A non-profit organization in San Diego, CA, dedicated to providing education and training in the Gerson Therapy, an alternative, non-toxic treatment for cancer and other chronic degenerative diseases. 

Physician and nutrition expert who teaches better health through vegetarian/vegan cuisine. 

Website with amazing cancer tips and helpful resources. Kris is an author of several amazing books, including "Crazy Sexy Diet", "Crazy Sexy Cancer Tips"and "Crazy Sexy Cancer Survivor" 


Ladies, please, promise me that you will do your yearly Pap Smear! 

27 comments:

  1. Wow, Elisabeth. Congrats on being cancer-free! That is fantastic. Your story is exactly why we need health care reform. I was recently at the doctor and they are now recommending that women only get pap smears every 3 years- I think that is very negligent. I go annually, anyway.

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    1. Thank you, Kris! 3 years is too long, I think doctors and health insurance are getting cheap and lazy.

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  2. Elisabeth! I am so glad to hear that you are on the road to recovery! How awful and scary this must all have been for you! I went through something similar, though was able to charge the procedures on my credit card, as it seems it was in the earlier stages. I was able to receive some help from state/government funded assistance; I lived in Hawaii at that time. As the nurses told me and as I came to find out as a current resident of the state, California offers women's health care assistance to all qualifying women. I'm not sure if such aid is available where you live, but if there are Planned Parenthood clinics, maybe they can assist you with the future medical necessities.

    I wish you all the best! At uz se brzo uzdravis and mas to za sebou!

    Karolina

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    1. Diky Karolino :-) I looked into government assistance in Georgia but I did not qualify for any help. The only thing I might be able to do from now on is to get cheaper pap smear but the lab work is usually what costs the most.

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    2. To je skoda! Preji at ti to vsechno dobre vijde!

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  3. Your post really touched me - especially the part where you had access to free health care until you moved to the US. It's sad that our country uses the media to paint this terrible picture of other countries - yet systems other countries have in place, like free health care, are things the US should be looking to other countries as examples - not something to fear. Thank you for sharing your story and I'm happy to hear you are on the road to recovery.

    I have also been following Carrie on Vegan and her cancer story. And thank you for giving Gerson Therapy a shout out - any time I hear someone has cancer, I recommend they check it out before they look to chemo or radiation. If we feed our bodies healthy plant foods, our body can take care of us. Thanks again and be strong!

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    1. Thank you for all your kind words, Maggie! I love Gerson Therapy and I saw all their documentaries and read a lot, too.

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  4. Hi Elisabeth! Today, I came across your wonderful blog via Twitter. I'm so sorry to hear what you've been through. It must have been such a horrendous ordeal but it's a relief to hear that you're now clear. I'm ashamed to say that I haven't been for a pap smear for 10 years. After giving birth to my son 9 years ago I just couldn't bear the thought of the medical profession touching me again 'down there' (it was a pretty horrible birth experience). I've tried to 'will' myself to go for the smear a couple of times but keep coming up with excuses. No more. I promise I will go and get the test done. I owe it to my family. Thank you so much for giving me the push I needed xx

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    1. Thank you, Sharon! I totally understand how you feel about getting the pap smear done. It is not a pleasant thing to do, but it can prevent worse things. I hope your pap smear will be quick and not traumatic and the results will be O.K. Good luck!

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  5. Thank you for sharing your experience. You are very brave to do so and inspirational. It's important for people to know that vegans are not impervious to illness.

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    1. Thank you, Bitt! I hope that my post will encourage girls to do their pap smear yearly. Also encourage people to take a better care of themselves and not to think that cancer cannot happen to them just because they are vegan or raw foodies, or live healthy.

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  6. Wow, I had no idea you were going through this. So happy that you're doing well. This is inspiring and you're already doing all that you can with your vegan diet. I'm sure it will help you recover and bounce back quicker. Sending you a virtual hug! \O/

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    1. Thank you, Kelsey :-) I was not willing to talk about it on Twitter or my blog because I was very emotional about it. I was worried I would get even more depressed if I got more people around me involved in that painful journey.

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  7. I can relate to most everyone’s posts, finding a good doctor in the Detroit area is not easy. I recommend Dr. Pauleena Singh because she was one of the most pleasant doctors I have ever encountered. Call her (248) 792-3690 or check out her website at www.bloomfieldhillsfamilydoctor.com

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    1. Jenna, thank you for the tip but I do not live anywhere near your doctor, plus I don't need one since I am cancer free now.

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  8. Big hugs to you on your recovery. It's sooo scary but you are on the other side now and will be stronger because of it. Stay strong and keep doing what you're doing!!!

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    1. Thank you, Carrie! And thank you for the inspiration!

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  9. Congratulations!!! That's wonderful news. I'm sorry I haven't been keeping up with my favorite bloggers since my move :( I'm sorry you had to go through all that, but happy you are on the road to health and recovery.

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  10. I totally understand what you are going through. I had a very similar experience. Only I HAD insurance and the moronic HMO doctors were not concerned with my abnormals PAPs, so I had no reason to believe they were an issue. It was only until I didn't have insurance and had to go to a women's clinic that they told me how serious an abnormal PAP could be and kept hounding me to come in to get a biopsy. First biopsy showed dysplasia, they did a LEEP to remove it and upon examining that discovered cancerous cells so I had to get more of my cervix removed in another procedure. Luckily it had not spread and I have had normal PAPs for the past 7 years. Nothing is scarier than hearing your doctor say the word cancer.

    I'm so glad you are cancer free, just know there are a lot of women out there who have been through it and are here to support you. Take care of yourself and keep up with all those PAPs! It seems like a pain in the butt, but it's worth the piece of mind!

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    1. I am so sorry that you had to go through this, Kylie! I am happy that you are also cancer free! Thank you for the support!

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  11. Hi Elizabeth,

    I'm really sorry to hear about your recent health problems. I'm very glad that here in the Czech Republic the standard of healthcare is so high and that it is so low-cost too as unfortunately I have had to rely on it more than I would have liked :(

    Czechs are a resourceful nation though in my experience and those genes combined with that American positively positive outlook mean you can face anything I'm sure.

    Warm regards,

    GIC

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    1. Thank you. I am doing so much better now :-)

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  12. Congrats, Im happy your story had a happy end. I know what you've been through, I had a cervical conization my self too, when i was 30 years old and also my problem had an advanced status. Im living in Eastern Europe and for my operation I went to Austria and also paid it by my self, because in my country the hospitals are the place where you go to die not to be saved. Have fatih in your lucky star and keep on doing those 3 months checkings, I was saved, but a girlfriend of mine, which did the operation in same month with me and she is 2 years younger, had to do after 3 months a hysterectomy. I hope you will recover well and fast! Meanwhile we are all by your side and we wish you well. Best Regards, Laura

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    1. Thank you, Laura! I am sorry to hear that you had to travel so far to get your surgery. I am glad that you are O.K. now :-)

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  13. Wow, USA doesn't seem like a place where one wants to live... I live in the Czech Rep. and I have free pap smears once a year. For those who take HA (hormonal anticonception pills) they even can go every 6 months for free pap smear. Also the surgery is for free.

    Well, actually "free" isn't always free, but the cost is divided between the millions of inhabitants (tax payers) who give this rather small amount of their income to the health insurance. But it's still worthy.

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