Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Handless Maiden's Brother & Some Good Food

The spell of the Handless Maiden is unfolding. My cast is coming off in the morning, and so begins the road to recovery. I will be doing some mainstream hand therapy along with my own set of exercises, dives, micromovements, and a variety of other tricks. A whole team of people will do various forms of their-hands-on-my-hands. I have minimal discomfort and the numbness is already about 60% better. The surgeon told me not to expect full recovery for 3-6 months and I'm already well on my way!

My brother and sister-in-law are coming (from south Florida, where I grew up) tomorrow for a 4 day stay. I'm looking forward to long days of hanging around the kitchen table telling stories and drinking tea. We will most likely venture out to some of my favorite local spots, but I'm mostly looking forward to just being together.

I'm bursting because of the difficulty typing/writing. I'm writing in my imagination, and hoping to get some of what I think about down on paper before it fades away. Please hang in there with me, and give me a few more weeks, and I will have some juicy blog entries. My hands need more rest. Typing is slow and I can't hold a pen yet.

Here is a link to another one of those amazing, informative, and inspiring talks from the TED Conference this year, entitled "Can we eat to starve cancer?"

In addition to Dr Li's list of anti-angiogenesis foods, here's a list of foods that are known to be anti-cancer (for you science nerds, via inhibiting nuclear factor Kappa Beta):

almonds, anise, basil, black pepper, caraway, cardamom, cashews, chili peppers, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cumin, fennel, fenugreek, fig, flax seeds, garlic, ginger, gooseberry, holy basil, lemongrass, mango, mint, mustard seeds, nutmeg, onion, oregano, parsley, pecan, pomegranate, rosemary, prunes, saffron, sesame, tamarind, and walnuts.

Reference: Aggarwal, B. and Shishodia, S: Supression of the nuclear factor kappa beta activation pathway by spice derived phytochemicals: reasoning for seasoning. Ann NY Acad Sci, Dec 2004; 1030: 434 – 41.

Whip up something with a high "Yum factor" as Rebecca Katz, author of "The Cancer Fighting Kitchen" says. Check out her fabulous book:

Monday, May 17, 2010

On Ice

My surgery went very well and I am resting comfortably with my hand wrapped in a bandage with a built-in circulating ice bath. Ice water offers fabulous pain relief! The anesthesia hasn't totally worn off yet, so I'm bobbing and weaving as I type with one hand and let you know I'm okay. I’ll be back blogging when I can resume hunting and pecking with a few more fingers.

Thanks so much to all of you who emailed, called, prayed, or did a little dance for me today. There are too many to reply to you all, so please accept my heartfelt gratitude to you all as a group.

Steve is making me laugh & is cooking something with those little green French lentils. Yum!

I spent a while in the waking part of my day listening to more of Clarissa Pinkola Estes' "Theater of the Imagination." She is so entertaining and inspiring. But tonight we will watch a movie that is so inane that I'm embarrassed to tell you. Silly comedy is good medicine.

I'm "on ice" until the dark night of the Handless Maiden reveals its next phase.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Handless Maiden Explores A Path To Healing

I am writing this entry on the eve of my wrist surgery, with great difficulty navigating the keyboard. I'm sorry about the lack of entries, but it has been so hard to type with my fingers oscillating between numb and electrically buzzing. My hand is so swollen; instead of fingers I have sausages about to burst their casings. Relief is coming soon.

Many of you have contacted me with all sorts of advice on different therapies and treatments. You should all know me well enough to know that I have tried everything - every form of Osteopathic treatment, many types of massage and tissue release, applying therapeutic lotions and soaking in potions, acupuncture, homeopathy, Continuum, micromovements, sounding, electrical stim, ultrasound, herbs and supplements, Chi Gung, other energetic approaches, exorcism, meditation, infra-red, cold laser, visualization, and much more. This is not mundane carpal tunnel syndrome. This is a situation made unworkable by the tenosynovitis side effect (inflammation of the lining of the tendons in my wrist and the lining of the joints in my wrist) caused by my estrogen-blocking medication. I accept that I need the medication to block the estrogen that feeds the cancer growth, and I accept that I need external help to create some space to prevent nerve damage in my precious hands. I feel confident that this is the right thing to do and that this is the right time to do it.

I am using this "opportunity" to explore the age-old fairy tale of The Handless Maiden. My Jungian friends explain the deeper soul level meaning that helps me transcend the grief of  having lost the subtle sensing and depth of my relationship to my hands.

Clarissa Pinkola Estés presents a fascinating analysis of the tale of The Handless Maiden,

"The Handless Maiden is about a woman's initiation into the underground forest through the rite of endurance. The word endurance sounds as though it means to continue without cessation, and while this is an occasional part of the tasks underlying the tale, the word endurance also means to harden, to make robust, to strengthen, and this is the principal thrust of the tale, and the generative feature of a woman's long psychic life. We don't just go on to go on. Endurance means we are making something."

I am making another pair of hands for myself, and this will in turn lead me to a new life. I am being as creative as I can as I dissolve and reform a new body that is capable of carrying me into the next part of my life. I yearn for a rest, but it's not time yet to be done with this enduring.

My surgery is Monday at 9:30 am Pacific Time, if you are inclined to enter the field and send a thought or prayer. Steve is taking me, bringing me home, and taking Tuesday off to be with me. I have people lined up to help me out for several days. I'll have Steve post an entry on Tuesday to let you all know how I'm doing.

Here is a poem that my friend Mary passed on to me that I find profoundly comforting.

Blessing The Boats (at St Mary's)
by Lucille Clifton from Quilting Poems 1987 - 1990

may the tide
that is entering even now
the lip of our understanding
carry you out
beyond the face of fear
may you kiss
the wind then turn from it
certain that it will
love your back 
may you open your eyes to water
water waving forever
and may you in your innocence
sail through this to that

Friday, May 7, 2010

Cancer & The Environment

I am struggling with painful, numb, and buzzing hands, and cannot write one of my usual poetic, philosophical blog entries, but I had to make this info available to all of you. 

I am doing fine otherwise. My monthly check-up at Stanford last Wednesday was "uneventful," which is a dream come true for someone with cancer. My hand surgery is happening May 17, so writing is going to be a challenge for a bit. Please hang in there with me and keep checking my blog. It cheers me up when I log on and see how many people have read it each day (it varies from 35 - 250!)

I am providing you with 2 things: an article from Thursday's NY Times about a report published by the Cancer Panel that advises Obama on health policies. I also pasted a link to the actual report. My friends at Commonweal had a part in this project. Please consider supporting their quest to heal both individuals and the planet: http://commonweal.org/index.html 

Here's the actual report:

Here is the summary article: 

New Alarm Bells About Chemicals and Cancer

Published: May 5, 2010
The President’s Cancer Panel is the Mount Everest of the medical mainstream, so it is astonishing to learn that it is poised to join ranks with the organic food movement and declare: chemicals threaten our bodies.
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Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times
Nicholas D. Kristof

On the Ground

Nicholas Kristof addresses reader feedback and posts short takes from his travels.

The cancer panel is releasing a landmark 200-page report on Thursday, warning that our lackadaisical approach to regulation may have far-reaching consequences for our health.

I’ve read an advance copy of the report, and it’s an extraordinary document. It calls on America to rethink the way we confront cancer, including much more rigorous regulation of chemicals.

Traditionally, we reduce cancer risks through regular doctor visits, self-examinations and screenings such as mammograms. The President’s Cancer Panel suggests other eye-opening steps as well, such as giving preference to organic food, checking radon levels in the home and microwaving food in glass containers rather than plastic.

In particular, the report warns about exposures to chemicals during pregnancy, when risk of damage seems to be greatest. Noting that 300 contaminants have been detected in umbilical cord blood of newborn babies, the study warns that: “to a disturbing extent, babies are born ‘pre-polluted.’ ”

It’s striking that this report emerges not from the fringe but from the mission control of mainstream scientific and medical thinking, the President’s Cancer Panel. Established in 1971, this is a group of three distinguished experts who review America’s cancer program and report directly to the president.

One of the seats is now vacant, but the panel members who joined in this report are Dr. LaSalle Leffall Jr., an oncologist and professor of surgery at Howard University, and Dr. Margaret Kripke, an immunologist at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. Both were originally appointed to the panel by former President George W. Bush.

“We wanted to let people know that we’re concerned, and that they should be concerned,” Professor Leffall told me.

The report blames weak laws, lax enforcement and fragmented authority, as well as the existing regulatory presumption that chemicals are safe unless strong evidence emerges to the contrary.

“Only a few hundred of the more than 80,000 chemicals in use in the United States have been tested for safety,” the report says. It adds: “Many known or suspected carcinogens are completely unregulated.”

Industry may howl. The food industry has already been fighting legislation in the Senate backed by Dianne Feinstein of California that would ban bisphenol-A, commonly found in plastics and better known as BPA, from food and beverage containers.

Studies of BPA have raised alarm bells for decades, and the evidence is still complex and open to debate. That’s life: In the real world, regulatory decisions usually must be made with ambiguous and conflicting data. The panel’s point is that we should be prudent in such situations, rather than recklessly approving chemicals of uncertain effect.

The President’s Cancer Panel report will give a boost to Senator Feinstein’s efforts. It may also help the prospects of the Safe Chemicals Act, backed by Senator Frank Lautenberg and several colleagues, to improve the safety of chemicals on the market.

Some 41 percent of Americans will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lives, and they include Democrats and Republicans alike. Protecting ourselves and our children from toxins should be an effort that both parties can get behind — if enough members of Congress are willing to put the public interest ahead of corporate interests.

One reason for concern is that some cancers are becoming more common, particularly in children. We don’t know why that is, but the proliferation of chemicals in water, foods, air and household products is widely suspected as a factor. I’m hoping the President’s Cancer Panel report will shine a stronger spotlight on environmental causes of health problems — not only cancer, but perhaps also diabetes, obesity and autism.

This is not to say that chemicals are evil, and in many cases the evidence against a particular substance is balanced by other studies that are exonerating. To help people manage the uncertainty prudently, the report has a section of recommendations for individuals:

¶Particularly when pregnant and when children are small, choose foods, toys and garden products with fewer endocrine disruptors or other toxins. (Information about products is at www.cosmeticsdatabase.com or www.healthystuff.org.)

¶For those whose jobs may expose them to chemicals, remove shoes when entering the house and wash work clothes separately from the rest of the laundry.

¶Filter drinking water.

¶Store water in glass or stainless steel containers, or in plastics that don’t contain BPA or phthalates (chemicals used to soften plastics). Microwave food in ceramic or glass containers.

¶Give preference to food grown without pesticides, chemical fertilizers and growth hormones. Avoid meats that are cooked well-done.

¶Check radon levels in your home. Radon is a natural source of radiation linked to cancer.