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The very word “Recurrence” is frightening.

On some level, often unconscious, I think every cancer patient wonders, “Will the cancer come back?”

I am addressing the topic of Recurrence because for some patients, even with years of “no detectable sign of cancer,” it does come back.

And when it does, your very foundation can be severely shaken. You may feel like a ship in a gale force storm, bobbing up and down helplessly, at the mercy of Mother Nature.

That was my personal experience. I was diagnosed with Stage 1 Pancreatic Adenocarcinoma on October 7, 2020. I had a distal pancreatectomy on October 23, 2020 that removed 40% of my pancreas, all of my spleen, and 8 lymph nodes. The surgical margins were clear and I was told, “We removed all of the cancer. It is probably never coming back, but for insurance, it is recommended that you have chemotherapy.”

I thought that recommendation was valid, so I underwent 8 rounds of the chemotherapy Gemsar from January 4, 2021 to late May 2021. At that time I was told, “The cancer is gone and it is never coming back.”

I felt relieved and happy. I looked forward to releasing all the trauma of my cancer journey. For the next 30 months, all my surveillance tests showed no detectable traces of cancer. As I was approaching the 3 year mark, I felt sure that cancer was behind me in the rear view mirror. I was “cancer free.”

I was blindsided when a routine CT scan for my Pulmonary doctor showed, “Something suspicious” in the upper Left Quadrant of my Liver in 2023. It turned out to be a small 11mm metastatic Pancreas tumor that had settled in my Liver.

Between the time of the test results that suspect a tumor, the results of a diagnostic test, and the treatment modality chosen to deal with it, there is an excruciating period of the UNKNOWN which can be terrifying. Add to this the reality that it can take a month of consultations, additional tests, discussions among the members of the tumor board, scheduling delays that push the treatment start date even further, insurance approval delays which leave WAY TOO MUCH TIME for the patient to be tormented by FEAR, ANXIETY, PANIC ATTACKS.

That was my experience: It took a full, excruciating month for the Tumor Board to discuss my case and make recommendations on how to proceed, I had to wait weeks for second option consultations with a variety of institutions. During that time, my world was turned upside down and quite chaotic: I was frightened, depressed, panicky, sad, almost despondent. The doctors kept saying, “This is very grave.” Each consultation recommended that I start systemic chemotherapy right away. Only one consultation recommended a Liver Ablation, which is not usually done with Pancreatic cancer patients.

I chose to have an Ablation of the small liver tumor – performed by an excellent Interventional Radiologist with a specialty in treating the liver. It is an Outpatient procedure, done under general anesthesia and the intervention is performed from the outside of your body. Probes are inserted though your skin. They surround the tumor on two sides, guided by CT imagery, and radiofrequency waves burn the tumor until it is destroyed. The Interventional Radiologist then makes sure there are clear margins, and burns again, if necessary.

Once I made that treatment decision, I was back in the mode of Pancreatic Warrior Maiden. I knew what I wanted and what I did not want. I trusted myself and my body’s ability to heal herself.

My recovery time was short. I had some soreness, but by the fourth day, I was back to my routine of anti-cancer diet, run/walking 1-2 hours up and down steep hills, spending time with my loved ones and in nature.

My body healed quickly, but my emotions were still pretty messed up. “How can I deal with not being Cancer-Free? How can I deal with not being Stage 1 anymore?”

It took me a painful amount of time to wrestle with this. Finally, I came to this conclusion:

“I am ALIVE and thankful to be alive. It’s okay for me to be LIVING WITH CANCER. I can only live gracefully in the moment and see what happens next, scan by scan, blood test by blood test. I remain committed to my strong anti-cancer diet and exercise, Tai Chi in the park, basking in the love of my family, and loving myself every step of the way – body, mind, emotions and spirit. I believe that my body can heal and repair itself. I will continue my Holistic Approach to Cancer Recovery and continue with routine surveillance.

I am a child of God and will use the gifts He has given me to encourage and uplift other cancer patients around the world. I will do whatever is in my grasp to ensure that the cancer does not return and must leave the rest to Him.”

To date, it is 7 months since my Ablation and there is no detectable cancer. I am happy and humbled.

In case any of you are ever faced with a Recurrence, this is the PLAN OF ACTION that I recommend:

The dilemma for you is:

How do I transform myself from my current “Quivering” into a “WARRIOR” mode?

The answer is: It will take you days and every Holistic technique within your grasp to pull it off. Here are the play-by-play steps:

#1 Acknowledge your true emotions at the point you are told “There may be a recurrence of your cancer.”

Take out a journal and write them down. You may feel FEAR, TERROR, ANXIETY, PANIC, DEPRESSION, ANGER, SADNESS, HOPELESSNESS. Know that all of these emotions are normal to this situation. Don’t feel embarrassed or ashamed to have them.

Share your emotions with your family and trusted friends, and let them support you by going with you for doctor visits, consultations, diagnostic tests. They can help you ask the frightening questions to your doctors. ( I taped my doctor visits so that I could remember what was discussed.)

Set up a Support Group of people to see you through this new challenge. We need the love, support, and prayers from others to bolster our fears and sense of powerlessness. If you are connected to a Cancer Support Group, share this new challenge with them. You can also seek out a professional therapist who understands the dynamics of cancer to guide you on this new portion of your Cancer Journey.

The main thing is don’t be isolated and silent!

The emotions and thoughts you are having generate the Fight/Flight/Immobilization response in the parasympathetic nervous system – which flood your body with adrenalin and stress cortisol, which, in turn, hinder the effectiveness of your immune system and its ability to kill cancer cells. The memories of how you felt when you were first diagnosed and treated for cancer are stored in the cells of your body and they can be easily triggered and resurfaced to torture and overwhelm you.

#2. Instead of dreading the diagnostic tests, you have to “reframe” them from being “bad” and, instead, see them as “good and helpful.” These scans and other tests spot cancer early and lead to positive outcomes in treatment.

#3. You have to realize that transforming yourself from “quivering” to “WARRIOR” can only come from deep inside your Self. People cannot talk you out of “quivering.” You must spend serious quiet time with yourself and remind yourself about the STRENGTH you have already manifested – strength in your body, mind, emotions and spirit.

(For me, it begins with pushing myself physically. Instead of a run/walk for 1 hour, I push it to 2 hours, with one pound wrist weights. I talk to myself as I am walking: “Remember who you are, how you got through surgery, chemo, blood clots, Liver Ablation. Feel the strength in your legs and your core as you run down steep hills and walk up even steeper ones. Remember how brave you were when you recovered from surgery and chemo. You never gave up! You kept bouncing back! YOU CAN DO THIS OVER AND OVER AND OVER AGAIN. You are a fierce, feminine Warrior Maiden!”)

There are many other techniques to employ on a day-to-day basis, depending on the severity of your anxiety:

Pray a lot and write in your journal.

Take a long, hot, relaxing bath and rest or read an inspiring book.

Juice, make a smoothie, or cook some recipes with extra-high anti-cancer properties. These will empower your immune system.

Take a regenerative nap – where you totally relax and let go of all tension.

Sit up close and personal with your family members or animal children and bask in their love and the exchange of oxytocin.

Try yoga, Tai Chi, meditation, relaxation exercises . (It’s hard to hold anxiety in your body when you are relaxing and stretching in these practices.)

Garden or sit on the ground outside. Close your eyes, relax your body, and listen to the sounds of nature, feel the sun or the breeze, or smell the roses.

Allow yourself to release tears of sadness for what your body, mind, emotions and spirit are going through.

Most of all, try to bring yourself back to PRESENT TIME and WAIT FOR THE FUTURE to reveal itself.

Take your personal power back and make a schedule for each day. Plan what you want to do, and do what you can. Build in social time with people you love and trust. Ask for help if you need it. Plan some fun every day. Celebrate that you are alive.

TELL YOUR SELF HOW MUCH YOU LOVE your body, mind, emotions and spirit. Don’t judge their reactions. Continue loving yourself, day- after- day, moment-to- moment, over and over and over again.

#4. Face this “potential Recurrence” in the same manner you did with your first experience with cancer. You have a Skill-set that is tried and true. You are alive! You got through it! Trust the Skill. Trust your SELF. Trust your dedicated Healthcare Team. And Trust GOD – who has carried you through each and every time.

#5. Don’t be attached to “what is now” in terms of your appearance and lifestyle. Some parts of your life may temporarily change with a recurrence and treatment. Go with the flow, and know that your body will heal, your hair will grow back, your life will be restored to normal, and you will have years of health ahead of you.

#6. Make sure you are clear with your doctors what treatments you want, and those that are unacceptable to you. Ask questions, share your feelings, make the final decision yourself. Keep pushing the medical system to expedite a definitive treatment plan and date of intervention. If you have to, keep calling the Schedulers and ask for the soonest possible appointments. Put yourself on their waiting list. This is YOUR LIFE and you must be willing to fight for the best treatment in the shortest time possible.

#7. Once your treatment begins, relax into it and have trust that your body can recover and your life can return to normal afterwards. Continue using a Holistic Cancer Recovery Plan for your body, mind, emotions and spirit.

I pray this Game Plan blesses any cancer patient who is newly diagnosed or dealing with a “POTENTIAL CANCER RECURRENCE.” My prayers and Love are with you!