It really did start with deodorant.
After the initial cancer diagnosis, everyone around me - friends and practitioners alike - seemed to ask me about my deodorant. They all told me to stop using my high powered, aluminum packed deodorant and switch to a natural brand. Cancer loves aluminum, and I was literally slathering it onto the lymphnodes under my arms. Back in my apartment, I stood in front of my medicine cabinet in my bathroom.
If deodorant is bad for me, what else in here is bad?
The bathroom raid turned into a full blown apartment raid. I read every label on every bottle and filled a garbage bag with paraben packed shampoos, phthalate and sulfate rich creams, paraffin ladled soaps, and toxic cleaning products. With one eye shut, I turned to my face creams and makeup last. It physically hurt me to throw away my two hundred dollar face cream, but if it had formaldehyde in it, it had to go. I basically performed an exorcism in my apartment that day, and rid it from everything toxic.
Once I detoxed the apartment, I thought perhaps I should cleanse the emotional as well.
The emotional effects of cancer were beginning to make themselves known, and I couldn't help but think what had caused this all to happen. A thought that is truly overwhelming, and one that sent me running around New York City on a mission to resolve my inner harmony, find happiness, breathe deeply, find my center, get balanced, and drink gallons of green juices.
You see, once I detoxed my apartment, I wanted to detox my life.
I wanted to help myself clear away the emotional garbage, and support myself through treatment.
Here is a list of wellness resources that I used to get myself happy and healthy during, and then after, cancer happened.
Psychological Counseling - Healing the body by healing the mind.
During therapy, I became fascinated with exploring why I am the way I am through my weekly sessions. I learned that we are physical and emotional beings, that our repressed fears and anxieties manifest themselves into physical forms to make themselves heard. I learned that you can't heal a body without healing the mind. After a year of therapy, I find it difficult to understand why everyone doesn’t go.
Key Note: Feel free to cycle around until you find your person. There must be a connection for you to reach the optimal benefits and results of good therapy.
Craniosacral Therapy - Getting the cerebrospinal fluid moving.
Cranialsacral therapy is "a gentle, hands-on method of evaluating and enhancing the functioning of a physiological body system called the craniosacral system - comprised of the membranes and cerebrospinal fluid that surround and protect the brain and spinal cord." (Upledger Institute International) These tiny manipulations improve the circulation of the cerebrospinal fluid, improving overall circulation and energy flow throughout the body. Basically, you lay on your back on a massage table while the practitioner places their hands on key points on the body. A great CST practitioner is even able to pick up on physical and emotional issues simply by the touch of their hand. I've been asked if I was upset, anxious, having trouble sleeping, or if I had something to get off of my chest. You name it, my practitioner felt it, and it was all totally on point. It's like physical telepathy, where our energies seem to be able to communicate with each other. It sounds crazy, and I can't explain how it works, but it does. Deeply calming, extremely centering, it's like hitting the reset button on your nervous system. I feel refreshed, happy, balanced, calm, and relaxed all at the same time. And the night after your treatment, you sleep like you've never slept before. It’s basically witchcraft, and I highly recommend it.
Key Note: A good practitioner is a must. Your energy is sacred, so be careful who you have messing around with it. Go with someone who you trust, has loads of great reviews, and has been recommended to you from a professional.
Acupuncture - Pin pointing your body's natural source of energy and healing.
HELL YES, acupuncture. Dating back 2,500 years as an integral part of Traditional Chinese medicine, I am totally addicted. What does it do? Manages pain, improves sleep quality, balances hormones, relieves anxiety, boosts energy, combats fatigue, kick starts appetites - anything you want. Again, cue the massage table, but this time with teeny, tiny, needles placed in strategic points on your ears, back, legs, and feet. And no, you can't feel them. The needles are tapping into the body's natural meridians, increasing blood and energy flow, and literally helping your body connect the dots. I often fall asleep on the table for a quick 20 minutes until the treatment is over. I went once a week for 6 months straight during chemo and felt the benefits tenfold. They are subtle, but after treatments, I feel relaxed and peaceful, always ending with a gorgeous night's sleep, which is damn near impossible when you are pumped full of chemo and steroids. Near the end of my chemotherapy treatment, I started focusing my acupuncture on hormonal balancing since I was trying to lift myself up and out of the menopause that chemo had driven me into. After three months of targeted acupuncture, systems returned to normal (thank God), which is several months faster than what is typically expected for most. An ancient, proven, powerful resource. Highly recommended.
Key Note: The better your acupuncturist is, the more you will feel and reap the benefits. Go with a referral from someone your know, ideally a health expert or practitioner.
Chiropractic Adjustments - Aligning the system.
Those first "snap, crackle, and pops" were life changing. I felt like my entire spine got put back into place. Yet another massage table, I got off this one feeling a whole foot taller. The treatment starts with a quick massage and then the chiropractor adjusts specific areas of stiffness, weakness, or discomfort. During his assessment, my practitioner had noticed that my legs were out of alignment due to lower back stiffness. After a couple of twists and turns with strategically placed hands, the deep "POP" that came from my lower back seemed to resonate through my skeletal system. I think it even shook my intestines back into place. And then I felt a wave of fluid and energy and air rush up my spine, like someone had unclogged the water pipe. The most incredible feeling. Like WD-40 for the bones. Afterwards, it felt like I had a 90 minute massage in just that 20 minutes of treatment. I walked home feeling lose and limber, and after a few days, I noticed that my neck wasn't as stiff and my shoulders were relaxed. I could lay on the chiropractic table every day, but I hold off and go once every few months. For me, it was revolutionary in serving the body system.
Key Note: Be sure to find a good practitioner. Don't just go to any Joe Shmo to put your body back into place. Go with someone who you trust, has loads of great reviews, and has been recommended to you from a professional.
Meditation - Giving yourself a second to stop, drop, and breathe.
Meditation is a developed skill. For me, I responded better to the idea of taking ten minutes to check in with myself. I am a person that quite likes being inside her own head, so I created my own space to do just that. I pick a time of day and scan my body from head to toe, asking it how it feels. If I get too distracted during this scan, I switch over to imagining myself at the bottom of the ocean, swaying with the tides, surrounded by the calm and swirling silence. And I'll chill there for a few seconds, or minutes, watching the light come through the waves. Sounds weird, but I am always left with a feeling of peace afterwards. You just have to find what works for you, use what holds your attention, and be kind to yourself if you need to guide yourself back into focus. The most important thing is to be kind, while you give yourself a moment to sit and breathe.
Yoga - Bringing awareness to the body by stretching it out.
Through therapy and after, there is something incredibly healing about being in a quiet room with quiet people, just trying to be better. The physical aspect of stretching and balancing was so healing for me during my cancer treatment, helping with stress relief and pain management. Because I'm slightly hyperactive, and get easily distracted, I was always a big fan of the cardio sweat sesh workout, and bouncing around between treadmills, bikes, and step platforms while trying to keep up with the choreography. So, in short, the practice of yoga was a new skill I had to develop while I was sick. I am totally in love, and I go once a week. Whenever I find myself getting distracted during my practice, I place my focus on the feeling of the stretch, and the feeling of my muscles working, my joints separating, my ligaments lengthening. I'm a visual person, so this imaging tactic helps me to be present, and I leave class feeling relaxed and rejuvenated. A must do for anyone looking to give themselves some love, attention, and inner calm. Also, my arms got pretty toned, which is a nice perk.
The main takeaway here is to be open. Be open to trying anything that feels good, that sounds right. Explore. Learn to listen to your body. And it will tell you what it needs.
There is so much out there to help us cope, heal, and recover from any struggle, be it physical or emotional. And it goes beyond pills, drips, and shots.
Know someone that might like to read this? Share with love, my friend.