When the love of my life was diagnosed with stage three rectal and colorectal cancer, I went on red alert to the growing epidemic of cancer. It was 15 years ago that cancer first touched my life. My gorgeous friend Michelle had just gotten engaged and was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Sadly, she passed away within a year of her marriage. Since then, cancer has claimed lives of others in my life, and today I have nine close to me who are winning the battle against cancer: in the brain, bone marrow, breast, skin cancer, stomach, liver, and tumors.
I began researching full-blast, and the more I learned, the more I was overwhelmed with decisions that had to be made. At the same time, I wanted to shout from the rooftops my frustrations in what was happening to my life. I felt like I was drowning in the onslaught of disorganized information and treatment protocols, both alternative and institutional. I wanted a guide. I wanted someone to tell me in absolutes what we would do. And most of all, I was desperate for Darren, my soulmate, to do everything that they asked of him.
This was nearly impossible, and thanks to the strength of character and self knowing that Darren possesses, we got through radiation, chemotherapy, two surgeries, and living with a colostomy bag.
I have come to know that there is no expert out there who has the ultimate answer. I’ve come to have growing faith in what I like to call the “trifecta of health”—feeding life and energy into ourselves through mindfulness, exercise, and nutrition.
The most challenging of the three is mindfulness: knowing thyself, being kind to thyself, and spending time everyday to become more centered, more balanced, and more connected than before. That means not berating one’s self for straying outside a plant-based diet or not making it to the gym, and also not feeling guilty in having fun or indulging once in awhile. It means loving oneself and focusing energies on feeding the body with the best nutrition to give it the energy it needs for healthy cell function, and moving the body to help it flush toxins, strengthen muscles, and keep tissues supple and hydrated.
This lifestyle guide to the trifecta of health was what I wanted to give Darren for his birthday, so I wrote him a day-by-day guide to an ideal week of mindfulness, nutrition, and exercise to help him recover his strength after his first operation.
Darren lives half on Vancouver Island and I live in Vancouver, so the guide was a way for me to be supportive to him even when I wasn’t with him. Darren is a kind of man who lives life. He loves what he does for a living, does everything that he enjoys to do, makes time to see everyone he wants to spend time with, is kind and generous without care of recognition, and he’s that person who can make any day truly special.
Now here’s my honest truth: I fluctuate daily, sometimes hour-by-hour, between feeling like the luckiest girl on the planet with our life together, to desperation that I am not strong enough or cut out to be the support system. I worry that I am not doing enough, that he isn’t willing to do enough, and I question the meaning of that. I teeter between thinking about and saving money for our future and seizing the day: doing everything now. And that is where I am today, trying to make the most out of every moment of every day, not only for Darren, but for myself and the loving group of family and friends around us. We try our best to live life well, have the most fun, have lightness in our lives, and most of all, to pass the message on to others struggling with the same illness Darren had.
Thus the birth of our book, Health the Way Nature Intended, a guide to eating and living well with a stoma. It is a book created out of love from Darren, myself, and our group of friends to help and inspire others to get through their treatment and regain a happy, healthy life.
Previously posted on http://www.thecancerstore.ca