It’s a never-ending clusterfuck. This thing I have. It rarely leaves me alone. I think that’s the most unsettling part of living with a chronic illness. Some days are fine, other days not so much, and you never know if or when it’s going to strike hard again. Which would provoke a good amount of fear, don’t you think? And living in fear isn’t the most awesome way to pass the time, especially due to the “never-ending” part of it all.
I’ve been trying to figure out why I suddenly stopped writing about the state of things. At the end of November when I realized, on my birthday, that the year I had spent in chemotherapy had possibly been all for naught, I guess I didn’t want to talk about it anymore. I felt defeated, lost, beyond angry. And super annoyed that my birthday was ruined the way a fresh pair of Uggs can be ruined by a fresh pile of Doberman shit.
Being completely open and honest about my health on this blog has been incredibly therapeutic for me, and I’m so grateful that I’ve been able to connect with others who endure similar challenges. But I also wanted my story to be a source of comfort and hope. When I had none to offer, I disappeared... into darkness. And once you’re in that place, it’s hard to imagine being anywhere else.
I didn’t stay there for very long though. I’ve never been able to do that really. I usually go two weeks tops in total despondency until I snap myself out of it. So after snapping out of it (this time around), something good happened. I didn’t tell you about it because, well, there’s the fear factor I live with. I was afraid I’d be speaking too soon, afraid to jinx it in any way, afraid it was all a fluke. But enough time has passed now, almost four months, and this good thing seems to be holding up just fine. Sooo let’s get cozy, this is gonna to be a long one (that’ll come to you in parts).
After being sucker-punched with relapsing edema and lab results that indicated my kidneys were going backwards, I thought, “If the crazy side-effect-ridden Western medicine didn’t get the job done, maybe some crazy alternative-FDA-unapproved Eastern stuff will!" Now there was no way I was going cold turkey on my Western meds, I’m not sure that will ever be a possibility for someone like me, but I wanted to try something in conjunction with the drugs. I decided Ayurvedic medicine was going to be my experiment of choice. In a fairly manic move, I signed up for Transcendental Meditation, a week at The Chopra Center (yes, as in Deepak), and an Ayurvedic cleanse my girlfriends had been telling me about for years called Panchakarma.
Now we all know I’ve been down this road before. Trying this that and the other and coming up with nothing and then tossing it in the “voodoo” files. Which is probably why I just smiled and nodded whenever they told me that I MUST try panchakarma! But now I was desperate, I honestly would’ve tried anything. Though a cleanse did make actual sense. Especially if it meant ridding of all the leftover chemo just sitting in my body apparently doing nothing. So I gave it a shot.
And girrrrl, let me tell you, it ain’t no voodoo. It is old school science. This stuff’s for real. And I fucking went so hardcore with it. Like, Original Gangsta style.
Now I know that doesn’t look very hardcore, it looks more like heavenly spa bliss, but parts of what I’m about to share with you are not very appealing. Or ladylike for that matter. And other parts may cause your brows to furrow in absolute doubt. Please note that I am not claiming to be an expert in any of the following. I’m simply going to tell you what I’ve experienced and… how it has changed my life.
Let’s start here:
AYURVEDA - THE SCIENCE OF LIFE
Ayurveda comes from two Sanskrit root words - Ayus, which means “life,” and Veda, which means “knowledge” or “science.” Ayurveda is the oldest form of preventative medicine and health care on the planet. Over 5000 years old. I told you - old school science. Original. Gangsta.
And my path to Ayurveda kicked off with me crapping my brains out for fourteen days.
See? Not very ladylike right? My husband is so proud of my blog.
I know that sounds like a crazy… load of crap (buh dum bum), but I assure you I was in the hands of an amazing and wise Ayurvedic Therapist. I like to think of her as an angel in the body of a tiny, sometimes feisty, Columbian woman named Martha Soffer. And I’d rather call her a healer than a therapist, because what she has done for me qualifies as a miracle in my somewhat skeptical mind.
Like I do with all prescription drugs and medical procedures thrown my way, I googled Panchakarma until I went cross-eyed. I knew there were dietary changes I had to make, I knew there would be an “elimination” festival, I knew there were massages involved and that the whole thing would be deeply detoxifying, both physically and emotionally, etc. My fearful self made my Type-A self cover all the bases. But I still wasn’t at all prepared for what I was about to experience.
When I first walked into Surya Spa, a cozy sanctuary nestled in the hills of the Pacific Palisades, I was immediately taken by the soothing aroma - a combination of herbs, oils, and insanely delicious ayurvedic cooking. It was like stumbling upon Mother Earth’s kitchen and wanting to eat everything while curling up for a nap at the same time. The aroma alone comforted me and any reservations I had went out the window. I was excited for what was to come. Especially if it meant that whatever was on that stove would end up in my belly at some point.
Then I met Martha. She sat down with me and looked at my swollen legs and feet as I told her about my current lupus nephritis predicament. She checked my pulse, which is one of the ways imbalances in the body are detected in Ayurveda, and instantly knew something was also going on in my neck (cervical spinal stenosis), and in my reproductive system (temporary menopause due to the Lupron).
I soon found myself telling her everything - about my health, my relationships, my past - not because she asked but because I wanted to. She felt my pulse again and shook her head, “Too much fire, too much heat.” I wasn’t sure what she meant at the time, but I knew that I’d always imagined lupus as a fire burning me from the inside out. I cried and kept saying I was tired. I was so tired of being sick and I was afraid… to live like this… forever. She looked at me and said, “You’re going to be okay. I will help you.” And for some reason I believed her right away.
To be continued…