For many children, a new school year has begun. Some will enter a classroom for the first time while others will face new challenges and expectations as they start a brand new grade level. All of us, young and old have shared these experiences and for most of us, we continue to learn something new, long after we have graduated. We are all students and we are all teachers, forever shaped by our experiences. I have firsthand knowledge of just how powerful the mind can be. We have the power to heal, the ability to grow and expand our culture as we find our way to a destiny that was intended for each individual. Positivity attracts good things; a sparkle brings an abundance of light. A smile can make the hugest difference in a person’s life for those giving as well as those receiving. It is a blessing to learn something new each day and interact with people that for one reason or another, we were just meant to meet. Life is so beautiful, filled with endless experiences to share. Today my friend Susan invited me to exercise in the park with a class of ten women. We embraced beautiful Mother Nature as we worked out in front of God’s most magnificent creations. We Stretched, jumped and pushed ourselves while we were surrounded by bountiful beauty. It was so invigorating and the experience makes me have more gratitude today than ever before. I hope each of you can experience the joy of outdoor exercise as you embrace life. Today, I am taking time to rejuvenate, reflect and I will stop and smell the beautiful roses which are in full bloom today. May you receive many blessings each and every day! Sending Lhasa Love from my heart to yours…Jen
Hello Lhasa Love fans! It has been a very long time since I last posted. It is my hope that each of you are finding your own path and that your inner voice is guiding you in the right direction.
This summer has been fantastic. I LOVE spending time with my daughters and watching them grow up. As I look back at my life, I am so proud of them. They faced many obstacles attributed to having a sick mother. Life didn’t always seem fair ten and a half years ago but somehow my family managed. As I revisit those years in my mind, it is clear that I did not make peace with the disease or with accepting and loving myself. I was unable to accept my circumstances and had numerous thoughts about events that I just could not change. It took me many years to realize that I did have the power of choice and free will that offered an opportunity to create real change for the positive in my life. Fear had always been the biggest, negative obstacle in my life. Now, almost eleven years later, I no longer allow fear free reign over my thought processes. In my case, fear was more debilitating than the cancer and prevented me from living my life and reaching my fullest potential. Fear and negativity also prevented me from completely healing. My husband once said to me, “Jenny, you will be fine but you will look back and realize that you wasted so many years that you were not living your life”. David helped me to reconnect with that inner voice and promote life, love and healing. I truly owe him my life and he is forever my soul mate.
Today, I continue to take my Cellect religiously, never missing a day. I do not consume processed foods, alcohol , coffee or anything unhealthy. I limit how often I eat out at restaurants and limit my time with overly negative individuals. I have taken a step back from doctors, who can plant seeds of negativity and fear. I weaned off medication and feel wonderful. I have adjusted my diet and limit carbohydrate intake. Excessive carbohydrates cause me to feel tired therefore, I choose foods that are organic, high in protein and contain good fats. Daily walks help me to feel invigorated and my spiritual connection with God has been remarkable and a blessing. I continue to serve others facing disease in order to aid them in the empowerment process that every newly diagnosed person needs and deserves. We have the power to change ourselves and live a fruitful life! Sending lots of Love to you and may you be blessed now and always…Jen
Today marks a step in the right direction. After I dropped my daughters off at school, I had an epiphany: God speaks to me and I am drawn to the idea of mediation and prayer. I light my white cranberry candle and focus on my breath. I thank God for all that he has done for my family and me. I thank him for outlining a path in my life that is so clear with an undeniable purpose; I am a survivor, mother, wife and many tell me that I facilitate healing. As a former educator, I dedicated my life to my students. As a survivor of Stage 3 brain cancer, I dedicate my life to humanity. Helping others is my purpose. It fosters healing and wellness for all to soak up. The golden yellow light flickers and keeps me in the moment. I fill my lungs up with precious oxygen and I focus only on that which is in the moment. I do not think about my list of responsibilities because this moment is for me.I continue in the moment until Buddy’s shrieking bark which only a Lhasa Apso could master, breaks my moment of total serenity. I refocus and continue breathing deeply, extending my arms in front of me and exhaling with a calming “shhhhh” intended for my boisterous, beloved Buddy, whom I adore. I am certain that he is a human trapped inside a dog. Buddy is aware of everything important in my family’s life. Somehow, he just knows everything. Throughout my war with cancer, Buddy has grown increasingly more attached to me. He cuddles with me, something he never did as a pup. He has grown accustomed to giving and receiving love.
Today is a blessing. Looking back at yesterday, it was also special. I was able to watch my thirteen year old perform on stage at her school concert. Tonight will be another treat as I watch my ten year old perform on stage. While meditation and prayer keep me in the moment, happy memories and future events keep me smiling. Life is so beautiful and words cannot adequately convey the gratitude that I feel. Peace and love cover me like a blanket as I live my life to the fullest. I never forget that I was only given a four to six year prognosis back in 2002 for a nasty, terminal disease that I have truly conquered. Life is good…
Sending Lhasa Love to you,
Get started on your own healing journey and find serenity- http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/meditation/hq01070/nsectiongroup=2
Mind over Matter
When I was first diagnosed with terminal brain cancer I felt so overwhelmed and defeated. Memorial Sloan Kettering gave me little comfort or hope. My neurosurgeon seemed speechless after my operation and the hideous cycle of negativity ensued for many years. Doctors at Sloan tossed around life expectancy numbers that were beyond grim and I was offered chemotherapy and radiation for my terminal condition which promised no pot of gold or light at the end of the tunnel. I knew as a rational and intelligent person that these two options seemed pointless and totally futile.
When I visited Sloan, one month later, I tried to be less emotional; in other words, I tried to build myself up, braving through a tumultuous storm of negativity. I couldn’t understand why anybody would do treatments for a hopeless cancer that could never be toppled into remission. I was belittled when I discussed nutrition. The very, mention of any alternative treatments caused my doctors to scoff and dismiss me like I was downright stupid. One never forgets the feeling of helplessness or despair when the fight for life and peace, is so strong. In 2002, I was given two choices which, if successful would provide me with a limited survival time and a poor quality of life. With the prospects of chemotherapy and radiation as my only form of options, I declined both showing little interest in any cytotoxic, DNA damaging therapies. I sought alternative treatments and intravenous nontoxic vitamin drips in order to keep hope alive in my heart. My three year old and my newborn traveled with me to an alternative doctor in Connecticut while my husband and I searched for the holy grail of hope. I was poked, injected, left sitting for hours while receiving various non-toxic intravenous treatments. I didn’t object because I believed I was doing the right thing for me. Three years later, I relapsed finding myself with another tumor in the same part of my brain. My brain surgery was successful and doctors once again suggested Chemotherapy. Despite my track record of failure, I decided to make my own path and refuse treatments. My husband researched constantly, often going to sleep well after midnight. His message to me was always the same: Jenny, you will be OK”. My response was always: “At what cost?” He was my number one advocate, sideline cheerleader and he gave me hope when my doctors offered none. Several months later, after my second relapse we traveled to Germany for dendritic cell therapy, hypothermia, and interferon treatments. Again, I heard my husband’s words: “Jenny, you will be OK.” I managed to do well for quite some time but then I relapsed for the third time. It was at this point that I agreed to another brain surgery and when the pathology report revealed a more advanced, aggressive brain tumor, decisions had to be made quickly. My husband and I agreed that chemo should be considered. I felt that I had exhausted numerous treatments along with countless dollars only to find myself sick again. Once again, my husband proclaimed: “Jenny you will be alright”. He arranged for me to receive healing prayer along with the support from a wonderful therapist to keep my faith and will to live, strong. Hope was so close to being lost, and I was exhausted. I reluctantly took chemo for approximately nine months. After a few months and a clean PET scan, I felt a new fire of hope within me begin to brew and hope was born! When I became sick for the fourth time, eighteen months later, I knew I had to try something completely different and extraordinary. I was fierce, angry and nobody wanted to take me on. I said no to chemo and started taking a natural, mineral supplement in high doses. I had nothing to lose and felt confident that I could win my war against cancer. I heard my husband’s words: “you will be alright Jenny”. As a four time survivor I was left believing that I would be okay despite so much hardship and pain. I believed I would in fact be okay and by the same token I felt great pride in my fight as well as my decision to be a renegade. With partial blindness in one eye and a huge hole in my brain my will to live; the very impetus for each breath I took was stronger then ever. I was not interested in anybody’s opinions, especially those of my doctors. Doctors always left me with a broken heart blanketed by immense sadness. By providing myself with proper nutrition on a cellular level, along with a positive attitude towards my illness, I caged the beast called Cancer. Today, I never consider myself: “cured or cancer-free but I am blessed to share that I am tumor-free. Had I viewed all of my relapses as diabolical failures and not found alternatives, I surmise that I would not be writing this blog today. I always listened to my inner voice and my family. They fought harder for me in the beginning and years later their passion for my life came to fruition within me. Although the fight is never over, avoiding complacency and ignorance help me remain empowered and very strong. Keep your fight alive!
Sending Lhasa Love from my heart to yours…jen
Hi everybody! I cannot stress the importance of second, third even fourth opinions when it comes to a diagnosis of any disease. When treatment of any kind is warranted it behooves us to take the necessary steps to look at all of our choices and options. As a ten year terminal brain cancer survivor, I never accepted a terminal diagnosis even though it was constantly shoved in my face . To be frank, I was insulted when I was given a 4-6 year prognosis back in 2002. I had a lot of work to do; two small children needed me and I was only thirty years old. I had my whole life ahead of me and the conversations that I had with doctors one, two and doctor three at institutions A, B and C all left me feeling disenchanted, depressed and defeated. Regardless, I kept searching with my husband, always looking for some promise and hope. I remember leaving St. Vincent’s Medical Center on a very cold, snowy, December afternoon, just three days , after brain surgery. I hadn’t seen my babies in such a long time and I was surrounded by the spirit of the Christmas season everywhere, which, only heightened my levels of anxiety. Being nursed back to health in a Catholic Hospital had me question my faith, God and religion in general. I was completely disgusted by crucifixes displayed everywhere which seemed to find me and track me down like Jackals in the middle of the night .What had I had done to deserve such a platter of despair and painful hopelessness during such a time of joy and perfection in my life? It wasn’t just the fact that I had just given birth to the most beautiful baby in the nursery, so pretty in fact that several nurses at Winthrop University Hospital had stopped by my room just to tell me so. I felt so sad and nauseated because I had left my little three year old cheerleader at home, right at a time when she needed me the most as she was going through personal transitions with the arrival of a new baby sister. I wasn’t there to manage anything and I felt I had abandoned my three year old daughter, Emily, even though both she and Lexi were well taken care of by my family. To add insult to injury, Now, mommy had cancer and it was the mother load- terminal! Phew, that’s a lot to handle especially during the season that is suppose to give so much. I didn’t think a terminal tumor was on my Santa’s wish list- Sorry, I couldn’t resist the sarcasm . Outside my hospital room window, I could see all the Christmas trees lined up below, as families and couples both young and old selected their perfect tree to take home. After painfully being told that I had an Astrocytoma, a very aggressive form of brain cancer, associated with a poor prognosis, I peered up at Nurse Mary. I could barely speak or find the words to say. Her granddaughter was born on the same day as my baby Lexi whom I had not seen in over a week. As I choked on words to say, I surrendered and just pointed to the IV and motioned for its’ removal. I forced a little smile and nodded showing a sign of thanks and gratitude for her gentle hand and kind ways. Next, I turned my attention to the unconscious patient sharing my room; an elderly man who made little sound or movement. I placed a fishbowl filled with beautiful yellow roses, a gift from my cousin Marc and Lori. and whispered in his ear: “feel better, my friend”. I quickly exited the hospital floor and said no goodbyes , not because I was wasn’t grateful for my care and all the kindness I received; rather, I could not face anybody because I felt I wore my cancer in shame and proud, I certainly was not.
As we drove back home to the small seaside village of Atlantic Beach, on the South Shore of Long Island, Christina Aguilera’s song played on the radio: Beautiful. “Not I, I thought, as I felt damaged beyond repair, broken and shattered in a million pieces, with a heart that truly hurt, terribly. Minutes before my arrival, in preparation for seeing my precious babies and my Christmas Tree, I placed a facade of forced, empty smiles in an effort to show my family that I was okay and more important, that I loved and appreciated them. I practiced my smiles several times, with effort as I looked at myself with total disgust in the passenger car mirror. I share this experience because, throughout all the pain, tears and immeasurable hurt, which lasted for many years, six to be exact, I allowed doctors and reports to fill me with fear that essentially allowed others to define me and control me. I fought their words which cursed me like demons and hurt like swords and then one day I smartened up. It really was not about them anymore. This journey was not theirs to be had, rather it was mine to celebrate with those that were important to me and with whom I embraced and loved. On my journey, I had free will and choice. At the end of the day, I could choose who I wanted to carpool with. For years, I was my own worst enemy and one day, my husband suggested that I try healing prayer. I realized there was a way to filter out the negativity of the disease as well as the messengers whom only brought negativity as well as a doom and gloom mentality to the table. I mean brain cancer absolutely sucks but it doesn’t have to be the end. In fact, it has actually introduced a whole new beginning for me in terms of meeting many beautiful people, each day of my life. Here’s something else to consider, doctors may never tell me exactly what I want to hear and that’s okay. I can only place the expectations on myself. I have no right to change anybody but myself. I have moved beyond needing their approval for what I do to stay well. As I celebrate my survivorship with my family and friends, I leave you with something to look at. I found it very interesting as it sheds light on the importance of multiple opinions. My cousin, Dr. Justin Garcia sent it my way. Check it out and be blessed:
Believe in everything that you do!! Never stop fighting… I fight everyday and will fight for the rest of my very long life…
Sending Lhasa Love from my heart to yours…jen
I want to hear from you- Do you think our thoughts can change our body’s DNA. Can we self-heal? Do we have powers that expand above and beyond that which we can even fathom? Check this out. I have my own set of thoughts.
Another Leap of Faith
Tomorrow it will be two weeks since I experienced a focal seizure and/or ocular migraine. Based on my research, the two present themselves similarly. Shortly after my experience, it seemed evident that changes in my life needed to be made. For one, I have been taking anti-seizure medication for a decade due to the fact that my original brain tumor presented itself with a focal seizure. My oncologists support my continuation of medication, with the assumption that my disease would progress. However, in my case, there is no progression. Thankfully, I am alive, well and have become very educated through my survivorship and overall experiences. There seems to be a pervading pharmaceutical drug culture evident in our cancer clinics across America and the biggest drug pushers are many of our doctors. For example, each time I visit Duke Clinic, I am either given a prescription for Lexapro, which is an anti-depressant, even though I do not complain about mental anguish or despair. In many instances, different fear tactics are used in the nicest of ways in an attempt to create self-doubt and insecurity on my part. During the same visit, doctors also discuss the use of the drug Glee vac, even though they confirm that there is no visible tumor present on my MRI. They refuse to administer a PET scan which would confirm any possible, microscopic cancerous activity which they always imply “may exist”. My doctors want to treat me with a cytotoxic drug even though they confirmed that there is “no activity”. Often, doctors can be so confusing, even manipulative…They are not elated with the fact that I don’t have a visible tumor, rather they focus on the fact that they have failed in not treating my brain tumor which clearly does not exist on the MRI scan, but was only based on my original stage 3 diagnosis years prior. I have repeatedly asked for a PET scan which would confirm any suspicious cancerous activity but my doctors continuously explain that there is no activity. I am highly knowledgeable when it comes to cancer. Past experiences tell me that I am totally fine. I know if there was any activity in my brain, that I would have had surgery by now. It has been one year and six months…truly amazing and unthinkable for stage 3 brain cancers and I am holding my own. Pharmaceuticals have a place at times in life but, I don’t want pharmaceutical drugs to shackle me anymore. My husband discovered that the anti-seizure drug, Trileptal was causing my seizures, many years ago. Experience taught us that we actually knew better than all my doctors. When I ended up in the emergency room for the third time during the summer of 2004. It wasn’t any doctor who uncovered the awful fact that this drug was tripping my seizures and not any physiological condition or my cancer. My husband, and my personal hero, defender and advocate of me, made the discovery. He expanded his already broad range of knowledge on my medical condition and it was my husband that put the pieces together ultimately illuminating the broader picture; the medication was causing my sodium levels to plummet, thus sparking gran mal seizures. Interestingly, the only gran mal seizure I ever had was due to the pharmaceutical drug, Trileptal. After a conversation with Dr. Fred Eichhorn, the inventor of Cellect and 27 year pancreatic cancer survivor, he explained how the body often reacts to the toxic side effects of pharmaceutical drugs when healing is in place. The situation can be compared to a healthy person receiving insulin when they don’t have diabetes. The effect would not be good. Over the years, I have ignored my drug related side effects such as my racing heart, dry eyes and extreme fatigue. I always accepted these side effects as being a part of my “new life”, after cancer. As I continue to evolve, age and grow wiser, I continue to empower myself by making choices in my life and creating positive change. I am in charge of me and it feels great! I encourage all of you to research your meds, especially if you don’t feel well. There are so many healthy alternatives that have similar effects and are safer. The weaning off of Topamax continues and I continue to feel better. I have no fear as I stand tall and listen to my inner voice.
Sending lhasa love from my heart to yours… jen God Bless you all!
Thursday was a tough day for me. My girls had little viruses and were home taking it easy. One of my daughters came home the day before with a fever from school and instinctively I knew that my body was fighting something because I was just not right. A few stomach cramps, and a little dehydration left me feeling light headed and tired. Although I had no fever, I was waiting for one to register. By 11 AM, I was weak. I hung up the phone and a red circle appeared in my left eye. It was bright with yellow with a little green in it. It was kinetic and swirled. As quickly as it came, it left; it was a focal seizure and I recognized it immediately. Focal means visual. It lasted for approximately ten to twenty seconds but the fallout left me with a four hour debilitating seizure headache which, sent me straight to bed along with Advil and a heating pad. Many people with brain injuries will be able to relate to my short lived experience whether they have experienced something similar in nature or had an aura, regardless, when there is damage, these can often occur at times throughout one’s life. I offer full disclosure for all to read, as a way to share my journey because when things like this occur, we cannot get discouraged or curl up in a state of fear. Fear can be so debilitating that it can prevent a person from living his/ her life. I shared my experience with close friends and family, and some are concerned because of my past track record. Since I was just scanned in December, I am not worried. Honestly, I am not worried about cancer in general because I am doing everything in my power to heal myself. My greater concern is not exposing myself to unwanted viruses and germs because my brain is my Achilles heel and right now after three surgeries, it is the source of my greatest weakness. It is also the source of my greatest strength, hope and faith. My experiences allow me to serve others and give full disclosure as a lens into my survivorship. I try to learn from every experience on my journey. As a result, I am addressing the edema in my brain wholeheartedly and enthusiastically working more diligently to break down the swelling by adding probiotics, olive leaf and colostrum into my daily regimen. The fight for longevity must continue and my fight must never turn idle. May God Bless all of you! Sending Lhasa love from my heart to yours…jen