Does Zero Equal Something or Nothing?

It always feels strange to put personal news on a public platform. I share this in hopes that my journey will provide some insight for anyone in a similar situation.

Disclaimer This is my story, not yours. I tell my account here to encourage each woman to research her own specific diagnosis and glean details at full tilt. Get as much information as you can, get second/third opinions, join support groups, then make an educated decision for yourself, and move forward in confidence.

This summer I was delivered some shocking news. Doctors told me I have “breast cancer.”

After a whirlwind of second and third opinions, plus other doctor visits (each entailing four hours of travel each way, back and forth to Seattle), a needle biopsy, which failed, and then a surgical biopsy (!), I finally had my official diagnosis.

Doctor: “You have breast cancer. It’s called Ductal Carcinoma In Situ, Stage 0. It’s not life threatening, really nothing to worry about. And you don’t need to rush into treatment. We recommend you have a second surgery to ensure clear margins, plus six weeks of radiation treatment five days a week, and five years of hormone blocking drugs.”

Me: “Excuse me, WHAT?!”

I suddenly remembered a woman in the mammogram waiting room back in NYC just a few months earlier. She was making quite a stink about the quality of care she had received recently, and other women joined in with their complaints. I had never heard anything like this before in a doctors’ office. I remember thinking, “Is this an example of the health care system in New York?” Before she was called in for X-rays, the woman stood up and emphatically pointed her finger in the air. In a strong, firm voice she said, “Question! Your! Doctors!”

This made quite an impression on me at the time, and now I know why.

Cut to me, approximately two months later in Seattle.

What is Stage 0? Is it something or nothing?

I began my research on Ductal Carcinoma In Situ, Stage 0. I took a deep dive into finding out everything I could possibly learn, both good and bad. Risks, chances of recovery, clinical trials, every YouTube video possible, every medical symposium with experts on DCIS, every article on the internet, five informative books, plus more. The doctors and medical world don’t like the internet because patients tend to self-diagnose. But all I can say is thank goodness for online resources!

Almost every piece of information I found on DCIS Stage 0 says that it is a highly controversial subject. The medical industry doesn’t have enough data and research on this new type of “pre-cancer” yet. It’s only been discovered in the last twenty years. Because of advanced technology (yay!), today’s mammograms are now able to spot these abnormal cells that are just sitting there “doing nothing”(boo!). Many doctors question whether “Stage 0” is actually cancer at all, and there are a lot of discussions about removing the word “carcinoma” from the title entirely. After all, a woman hears the word “cancer” from a doctor, and her whole life turns upside down in an instant. The experts scared the daylights out of me, all the while saying that DCIS is 100% treatable with the standard prescription of surgery, radiation, and drugs.

Doctors don’t know the likelihood of these abnormal cells disappearing on their own, (= nothing), or breaking through the ductal walls and becoming invasive (= something!). They can only say with certainty, that the cells “may” or “may not” turn into something bad.

Okay…let’s go with may not!

The explanation for the prescribed aggressive treatment is, “It’s a preventive measure. By getting another surgery, radiation treatment and drug therapy, you will reduce the chances of DCIS Stage 0 returning by half.”

But what if you opted for an “active surveillance” (i.e. watch and wait) method and your return rate statistics show that your chances are at 12%, like mine? Do I really want to go ahead with an aggressive treatment program to reduce my chances of return by 6%?

So what is the reasoning behind treatment?

• Is it because the survival rate (for a ten year period) with the aggressive treatment is almost 100%? (But treatment causes many bad side effects and could have a negative effect on one’s overall psyche and wellbeing.)

• Is the success rate for Stage 0 folded into the overall success rate for breast cancer survivors? (In order to make breast cancer survival rate numbers rise?)

• Are doctors legally bound to advise the aggressive treatment route? (I haven’t found anyone willing to help me with an “active surveillance” approach, at least not so far…but I will find you!)

• Does a fear of lawsuits and malpractice issues make doctors unwilling to take on the perceived risk of supervising a gentler approach for the patient? Is this Health Care or Health Careless?

• Is it because the executive boards of hospitals, research labs, and medical business administrators answer to the billion-dollar drug and pharmaceutical industries?

Disclaimer This is not any kind of slight against individual doctors. I believe that most DRs are great people, and have committed themselves to helping people be well, and save lives. It's really an honorable job. But they're not Gods. They are human beings, messy and fallible like the rest of us. My point is we may be at the mercy of "an industry problem".

I am still surprised to think that I may (or may not) have a type of breast cancer, especially when there is not a single person in my family who has ever had it. I read one article entitled “Do you have the breast cancer personality?” which asks:

Are you/Do you :

  • Highly conscientious, caring, dutiful, responsible & hard working? yes
  • Worry for others and carry other's burdens? yes
  • A People Pleaser with a great need for approval? when I was young, yes
  • Have a poor relationship with one or both parents and/or a spouse? yes
  • Internalize Toxic emotions like anger and resentment? Um, yes
  • Unable to cope adequetely with stress? I thought I was doing okay but..."
  • Have unresolved, deep-seated emotional problems and conflicts from childhood and often unaware of their presence? I wasn't aware of...oh no...yes?

Still, the quiz sounds like BS to me.

Spoiler alert. I’ve decided to take an “active surveillance” approach to wait and see if anything else happens around the 1.2 cm that the surgeon already removed, and to keep a close eye on everything else in the vicinity. One thing I know for sure going forward: if I learn of new, BAD developments happening with my cells, I will begin the standard, more aggressive treatment immediately.

Otherwise, for now, I choose to see things like this: “Wow, I am so lucky to have the resources to learn all this new information! Wow, I am so lucky that I can have a super-healthy lifestyle with a new and improved diet, emotional state, and boosted immune system! Wow, I am so lucky I have a choice of active surveillance instead of more hospitals, treatments and drugs. I am so lucky it’s only Stage 0.”

Don’t get me wrong— I’m still scared sh##less. But I will move forward in confidence and trust my gut on this. As I live my life in good health, I consciously choose to stay positive, find a good team of doctors willing to guide me along this journey, stay vigilant in finding alternative therapies that work, and above all, be grateful that I’m still here.

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If you are in a similar position, and would like to know more, please DM and I’d be happy to provide great resources and support.

More stuff to know:

The American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists states that: “Cancer is a preventable disease that requires major lifestyle changes. Only 5-10% of all cancer cases can be attributed to genetic defects, whereas the remaining 90–95% have their roots in the environment and lifestyle.”

Breast Cancer Triggers

  1. Standard American Diet = SAD
    • Processed, packaged, and chemically preserved foods
    • Excessive sugar consumption
    • Bad fats and oils
    • Hormones and antibiotics in food
    • Processed Foods
  2. Environmental Toxicity
    • Home cleaning products
    • Air fresheners
    • scented candles
    • Pots and pans (some)
    • Beauty products - lotions, perfumes
    • Electro-pollution - cell phones, computers, celltowers, wifi, baby monitors
      • The World Helath Organization dubbed electro magnetic fields as a type 2 carcinogen
  3. Physical and Hormonal Stress
  4. Emotional Wounds
  5. Dental Toxicities
    • Metal fillings
    • Root Canals
    • Metal Implants
  6. Imflammation & methylation
    • Smoking and Alcohol
    • Sleep Deficit
    • Environmental toxins in and out of the home
    • Saturated fats, trans fats, and too many omega 6's
    • elevated blood sugar
    • Chronic Stress
  7. Unnecessary Surgery
    • Dental X-Rays
    • Radiation Therapy
    • CT Scans
    • Mammograms
    • Drugs and Chemicals

House of Royals

House of Royals

Our Relationships....

This new collection of works, “ animals as royals”  is not about what you eat or don’t eat. It represents the health of our relationships as a whole society.

I am speaking of how we actually treat each other- including all creatures great and small. A simple concept that we should strive for and that requires teaching and learning so each of us can be better humans and tend to each other’s needs.

This is the definition of benevolence, and just like people, animals have consciousness too.

Considering our relationships with animals allows us the opportunity to show more compassion, love, kindness, consideration, understanding, sympathy and tolerance. We may not be able to stop all the violence in the world, but we can certainly lessen the amount of violence in our own lives- one step at a time.

Take a look at how we treat newborn babies. We coddle them as angels, and watch their every breath with the servitude of a holy being. Now think about how we treat the elderly, the sick, the needy, the handicapped and the poor.  We ignore their needs, and treat them as if they are invisible, or worse.

I know it’s not always easy to like people. The older we get, the more set in our ways we become. Our worlds become smaller and smaller as time goes on. To say we are a polarized society is an understatement. We live in a world where no one listens or considers opposing viewpoints, each side digging their heels in deeper and deeper in obstinance and self-righteousness.

We have hard time getting along with people who are not like us, so maybe we could start with our relationships to animals. After all, animals were made to live here too.

Best of all, these benign creatures don’t have a voice. Literally. They don’t cause arguments or disagreements with us – only a quiet and peaceful existence. They sit with us, in silence, just listening.

And to me, that’s worthy of a gold crown at the very least.

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What is GROWLOVE?

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GrowLove is a collaborative project I'm starting out of a desire for more. More money? Nope .... More material things? Definitely No … More meaning? Yes! More Fulfillment? That's It! More love? Sign Me Up!

With all of the blessings and opportunities I've received in support of my creativity, I've always known that there's more to life than just creating art. There's no doubt that art-making, for me, is a valuable and wondrous practice.  Doing it makes ME feel better. It brings me personal satisfaction, feelings of euphoria, and a great sense of accomplishment. But at the end of the day .... then what ? Does any of it really matter ?

Sure it feels amazing to contribute something you’ve made and share it with a tiny corner of the world. But when I look at our world as a whole, with all it's creatures great and small, trying to live, work, and exist together in unison -- does making art actually contribute in a real, actionable and meaningful way? Yes, I think it can, AND......

GrowLove is a response to these questions. We are interested in supporting a variety of causes including :

CHILDREN WITH ILLNESS

FIGHTING TERMINAL ILLNESS SUCH AS CANCER, HEART DISEASE & DEMENTIA / ALZHEIMERS

EMPOWERING WOMEN

DISASTER RELIEF

ENVIRONMENTAL INITIATIVES

COMMUNITY OUTREACH

FIGHTING HUNGER

HEALTHCARE

EDUCATION

During the past 7 years of "growing" my work, I've looked for ways to share my gift with others. Donating art pieces to Lopez Island Hospice, Seattle Children's Hospital, St. Andrew's School for low income Families, fundraising for the Fred Hutch Cancer Research Center and Emergency USA - a life support for civilian victims of war and poverty - and most recently, sending an original Wonder Woman piece to little Maya who was diagnosed with Leukemia at 4 yrs old...these are all tiny things, but it's a start.

Because the Wonder Woman story was such a hit with all the gals who saw it, my next small step was to create some posters and give them out to anyone looking for some inspiration. This gift is more about the message, not the print...Here's the letter I wrote that goes with the poster:

GrowLove is about actively bringing joy and positive messaging into the world - even if it only lasts a minute. The power of love is the strongest and most positive force we have, and it’s contagious. The act of giving back (even in the smallest way) immediately opens doors for more of the same. Join me in planting a seed for someone, something, one tiny thing, that you can feel good about. Then watch it grow.