“Saying no can be the ultimate self-care.” –Claudia Black
The power of no can be the ultimate self-care. I find that most women have a hard time saying no. I think it’s because we are raised to be “people pleasers” and that can be disastrous when we are trying to heal from a chronic disease. We need the power of no. Yesterday I masked up for my weekly outing to Trader Joe’s. As I was standing in the checkout line, I saw her. She was wearing a pale pink chemo hat with bright blue surgical gloves. I knew that look and I knew what she was going through. As I continued checking out, I heard that soft and still voice of Spirit. I needed to talk to her. One thing I have learned on my healing journey is not to ignore Spirit. You obey.
As I began a conversation, I realized she was scared and angry. I knew about those feeling too. Cancer treatments are hard and most times harder that the cancer. We can often lose ourselves and our power. I accompanied her to the bagging stations where I bagged her groceries, she talked while I listened. I had heard her story many times. She had breast cancer. She had been though surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. Her side effects were overwhelming. She was nauseated and tired all of the time while in constant pain from the surgery. She had “chemo” brain and told me several times she was anxious. And then she mentioned “the pill” and that’s when she got hot with anger. Her oncologist wanted her to take a chemotherapy pill for the next ten years.
She was angry because her doctor had said that with surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation she would be done. As is the case most of the time, it didn’t take long for her anger to show its true color. Fear. She was afraid. She was barely managing her current side effects and “the pill” would add many more side effects. I nodded and listened. Finally, I said, what’s stopping you from telling your doctor no. She looked at me and said, tell him no? I am not going to take the pill? I smiled and said, exactly.
She then told me she had researched “the pill” and how the side effects were monstrous. And then she said, he’s the doctor and it might give me 10 more years but at what cost? I understood this. The most precious currency for folks who have significant health issues is more time. But it can come at a huge cost to ourselves and our loved ones. As I pushed her grocery cart to her car, I told her that saying no to any treatment was within her power. And that she could find creative ways to manage her side effects. Her face lit up as I asked if she’d like some resources. She handed me the back of her receipt and asked for me to write them down.
I would love to tell you I am bad ass unicorn poofing through brain cancer because I am special. No, I have a dynamic team of helpers who help me care for myself. If you have a chronic disease, you need a team of helpers. My first helper was my surgeon, the next helper was Leslie Brennan at Artesian Natural Foods. I’ve known Leslie for 25 years and she is a plethora of information. Her store is a treasure trove of supplements, essential oils, non-toxic body care and quality food.
A health food store like Artesian’s can be a great place to find items that can support you. For example, Leslie helped me find a lotion that helped soothe my head from radiation, a tea that helped with nausea and CBD that helped with anxiety. When you are managing your side effects, you provide yourself the luxury of thinking more clearly and making good decisions about your care. I suggested that my new friend go and visit Leslie. There is one caveat I’d like to add here. Not all health food stores are created equal. You want to make sure that staff are knowledgeable.
The second resource is a functional medicine doctor. These doctors are different from traditional medical doctors. They see the whole person and believe that disease has a root cause. Cancer, heart attacks, strokes and diabetes just doesn’t happen. Functional medical doctors hunt for the root causes through personal history, genetic and lab testing.
I feel blessed to have Dr. Maxine Barish-Wreden (Dr. Max). The first lab panel she did found I had high levels of arsenic in my system. Where was I getting arsenic? City water. This prompted the installation of a reverse osmosis system. My arsenic levels dropped. I wouldn’t have thought that city water would have arsenic. It does along with other nasty chemicals. You can check out your water quality at EWG.
My labs also uncovered nutritional deficiencies like vitamin D and Iodine. Dr. Max helps me manage my supplements. As I have said before don’t take supplements willy nilly, you need guidance. She also checks nutrition, exercise, acupuncture, meditation, and forest bathing. Dr. Max helps me create a healing environment.
Once I finished sharing these two resources my new friend took a deep breath. I could tell she was still anxious, but she was also lighter. I had planted the seed that she could participate in her own healing journey through self-care. Personally, I believe that it’s not fair to expect doctors to fix our illness. They have tools that can help us and we should explore those tools. But at the end of the day, we are responsible for our health. My new friend waved as she drove out of the parking lot. I heard that soft, still voice thank me. And with that I knew I had touched a life in the Trader Joe’s parking lot. She had the power of no, the ultimate self-care.