April Fool's Day Mets

Sybil had been complaining of back pain for a number of weeks. She told me it was the result pulling something while moving her printer. She'd seen her oncologist early on and was advised to watch it. Numerous acupuncture, chiropractic, and massage appointments provided only temporary and partial relief. Two things that did seem to provide immediate (though still ultimately temporary) relief were ginger compresses and my touching the area and concentrating on reducing the pain.

Sometimes my attempts at drawing off her pain caused quite dramatic results. On a few nights, when she couldn't sleep no matter what she did or took, I would touch her sore spots and concentrate on the pulsing waves I could feel there. It seemed as though I could make their amplitude first increase and then lessen. I would press spots, rub and hold when I felt a pulsing energy. Sometimes I would feel a dramatic energy wave come into me. Other times it would be like a twitch of a nerve. In any case, Sybil would fall asleep after I did these things. Unfortunately, I would often feel pain in my body after doing these "treatments." Sometimes I would feel the pain in the exact same spot in my body that she was complaining of. Other times I would feel generally worn out - very hard to describe this correctly, I felt tired and just plain "bad" without actually feeling ill.

Sybil went on a weeklong business trip, which made me extremely concerned. She phoned to ask me to set up an appointment with her general doctor. We had booked a vacation trip to Portugal the week after Sybil's return, so few choices for an appointment remained. I couldn't get a doctor's appointment on the days Sybil requested. She was planning on returning on Saturday, but I knew she could push it back to Friday night. So, I booked a Saturday morning appointment. When I called her back to tell her this and she didn't argue about leaving the work trip early, I know she must be in a lot of pain.

I spoke with her one more time on the phone while she was on her business trip and she seemed to be in great distress. In tears, she told me about how she had booked herself at a terrible motel and how she had fallen at a courthouse. She was in a great state of anxiety and clearly in a lot of pain.

When she returned Friday night she was practically a cripple. She couldn't even wheel her bag to the elevator and needed my help to walk. The next morning, her general practitioner was very concerned that her cancer could have become metastatic to her bone. He told her she should immediately get an x-ray.

At the doctor's I realized that Sybil had been in a denial phase about her back pain. I suppose I must have been doing this as well, to a lesser extent, but at this point I was very concerned that her cancer was involved. I immediately told her we would cancel the trip, no matter what the x-ray showed. She was reluctant to do this but we had no time to argue.

Indeed, we went directly to the hospital for an x-ray. After much waiting around, she got in, and of course they said it was inconclusive. However there was enough question to warrant an MRI. This created an extremely frustrating day for us as we were forced to check into the hospital first (to get the MRI) but had to do this through the dreaded Emergency Room. We've had terrible experiences of endless waiting there in the past and tried to get around this. In fact, we should have been able to bypass the Emergency procedure since she had seen her doctor within the last 24 hours. We made lots of calls, trying to make the right people aware that we shouldn't have to go through ER, but in the end wound up waiting endlessly in Emergency.

Since it was a weekend we had to wait even longer for someone to read the MRI. Again, nothing was conclusive, but there was enough evidence to keep her in the hospital and suspect mets. What was clear was that a part of her spine was completely damaged. Actually, most of the doctors there were able to completely convince me that we were dealing with mets to the bone, but Sybil remained unconvinced. She was concerned enough to agree to stay in though. Her denial phase was starting to end.

Actually, I'm not blaming Sybil for being reluctant to realize what we were dealing with. We had no idea that mets could occur so quickly after initial treatment. She'd had a complete bone scan within the past year and that had been clean. However, now we realize both how quickly mets can spread and how difficult it is to read the bone scan results. She was just starting up her job again and looking forward to a much-needed vacation. Who wants to think about cancer after the hell we went through last year dealing with it?

Unfortunately, we did have to deal with it. Oh boy, did we have to deal with it! This was our April Fools, 2000 surprise. (Ironically, the Chicago mayor was admitted to the same hospital at about the same time.) On the bright side, it was fortunate I got her in to see the doctor before leaving the country!

This was truly a terrible day for us. I've never experienced anything worse than having that cold chill of realization slowly, relentlessly sink into my brain. I continued to pray fervently that Sybil wouldn't have to go through what seemed to be happening to us, but I felt like we had just been thrown out of an airplane without a parachute.

Aside from the horrible news of the mets and having to wait around so much, things weren't going too badly at the hospital during the next few days until Sybil badly pulled some muscles in her back while trying to get up. No doubt her muscles were strained from compensating for the severe bone pain and lack of proper support from her spine. This caused a chain reaction of painful charley-horse type pain in lower back/hip/side area. She was in this constant, excruciating pain for three days. All the doctors and nurses could suggest were progressively stronger pain "killers." For the first time I learned that they don't really have anything to "kill" pain. As Sybil mumbled after receiving the heaviest drug "I'm still in agony, just too muddled to...." They just put this foggy veil over the pain but they certainly didn't kill it.

During this time she was vomiting all food or water and was incontinent. She looked like hell and I constantly needed to look after her. Remembering my earlier success with touching her, I wanted to try this. Unfortunately, she couldn't roll to her side at this point so I couldn't get my hands directly on the areas where she was hurting. So, I tried to get my hands as close as I could. I also learned that giving her audible suggestions while she was in her drug stupored states could actually get her to sleep. I developed an "affirmation routine" that became progressively more effective.

Basically, the "affirmation routine" consisted of touching her lightly, mentally concentrating on a healing force, and making positive, healing statements. I would also stroke her hair or wave a finger scented with lavender oil under her nose. I was amazed at how receptive Sybil was to this, despite being asleep. If I told her to breathe deeply and relax, she did. If I told her she was healing herself, she seemed to try and concentrate. Most dramatically, if I told her I loved her and would take care of her she had a strong emotional reaction.

Consciously, Sybil was completely unaware of what I was doing. She was quite surprised when, three days later, I described what I had been doing. I was a bit surprised that she had no waking memory of these "affirmation routines". Once, I stood for four exhausting hours doing the affirmation healing procedure. At that point it was by far the longest period of sleep Sybil had in a very long time. I hadn't had very much sleep myself and was quite exhausted with my efforts. After waking, Sybil, still in pain, made a cranky, critical demand/remark. I immediately had a reflexive flash of anger. After all I just went through for her, to get a nasty remark for a reward! I stopped myself though. Did I really want to undo four hours worth of work with one nasty rejoinder? Fortunately, I calmed myself down and swallowed my anger. At the time I didn't realise that Sybil was completely unaware of what I had just done. Of course she felt bad about the incident when I related it to her days later. I'm just glad that I've learned enough not to snap back at her. Up until this point, I used to dismiss Sybil's claims that I had healing talents, but after this I really felt that I could consistently heal, at least with Sybil.

One of the many, many problems with the hospital (Don't get me started!) is that people are constantly coming in to interrupt, often for no useful reason. It's a revolving door and a terrible place to try and get well. While doing the affirmations with Sybil I was careful to deflect anyone coming in. I would talk to them, but would continue giving Sybil reassuring affirmations. I was also very careful that nothing I said to the intruder could be interpreted negatively. For example, I once pointed at a broken machine and shook my head, rather than saying: "It's broken" and risk Sybil's subconscious taking this negatively.

Sybil's mother came in to town, followed by her sisters, leaving me some time to do things like sleep and study about how to best treat Sybil. Now that her condition had become so serious, so quickly, I felt I had to find a new game plan -- fast. I'd completely lost any little faith I had that conventional medicine would be her sole salvation. I had a bit of a revelation while studying Ayurvedic medicine. I was stuck by how closely Sybil fit the symptoms of a dosha disorder, specifically an excess of vata. She was anxious, she had constipation, slow digestion, memory loss, lower back pain, etc, etc. Most strikingly, it appeared that she had unresolved emotional conflicts. She needed, craved, a great deal of reassurance. She fit the vata body profile perfectly as well. The clincher was when I remembered that when I first met Sybil she told me she had been seeing a traditional Chinese doctor, who told her she had "qi stagnation". It seemed to me that Ayurvedic's "vata excess" was very similar to that of TCM's (Traditional Chinese Medicine) "qi stagnation." In fact, she had been seeing the TCM doctor for some of the same symptoms of excess vata. My Sybil is a worrier, and that is the emotion that most influences stagnation of qi. I felt that over a long period of time, her unbalanced condition could have made her more susceptible to her cancer.

Increasingly, I became convinced that we needed to follow a vata-pacifying (or qi moving, or whatever you want to call it) program to aid in her healing. Additionally, I felt she needed some to undergo sort of detoxification. I wasn't opposed to returning to the conventional treatments of more radiation and chemotherapy. In my view, they might help, but I just didn't see them as important as getting Sybil's overall environment (mental and physical) healthier, more balanced, and less prone to cancer spread.

We're just getting started in developing Sybil's new treatment. I'll address it in another file once we get the basics down. I'm hopeful because once we develop a plan, I'm confident Sybil will be able to stick to it. She can be very dedicated and assiduous once her focus is clear. She's very, very tough. I'm truly amazed at what she has been able to endure and overcome.


Matt Donath