Turkish market spices ~2000 (photo credit: John LeMay)
“Oh, wow. Oh, wow. Oh, wow.” – Steve Jobs last words
Istanbul is a special place. The spices and flavorful food. The colors and architecture. The markets and history. Also, it’s personal. Our daughter is named after the Hagia Sophia. My college thesis advisor, Seyhan Ege, was Turkish. Now, our best hope for finally achieving remission from ovarian cancer is in Istanbul. American “gold standard of care” failed me, as it does the vast majority of ovarian cancer patients. The truth is that I was told to go into palliative care/hospice in August 2020 by an “expert” with a typical lack of curiosity and imagination. Nontoxic therapies got me through many healthy months since then. I kept running, doing yoga, working, cooking, eating, hiking, enjoying my family….but those naturopathic interventions were still not enough to achieve remission, unfortunately. My ovarian cancer is aggressive.
Chemothermia is an integrative oncological clinic started by doctors who were tired of watching patients with difficult cancers die badly from the same treatments we’ve given them for decades. How refreshing. What do they do there? The short answer is they combine traditional treatments like chemotherapy (low-dose, bio-individualized) with nontoxic therapies that stress cancer cells (e.g., local and whole-body hyperthermia, hyperbaric oxygen, ketogenic diet) and protect healthy cells (e,g., IV nutritional infusions). In many ways, they do all-at-once the multiple therapies I’ve employed over the last 2 years. They’ve published remarkable results, including a Cleveland area patient who shared her incredible story with us, from near-death to remission in 6 months. Traveling internationally when you don’t feel well is daunting, but we are hopeful.
I’m also at peace.
I did everything humanly possible to heal. What I learned about cancer is in my blog. What I learned about love is in the hearts of John and the kids. Much of what I’ve learned about life is in my book/blog/speeches. I’ve enjoyed my work, a luxury I never took for granted. I’ve lived a full life. Our home has been full of peace and love. I’ve traveled around the world for pleasure and work. I’m so grateful I could work around raising our kids. Memories of doing simple things with them and as a family…picnics, reading books, creek walking, cooking, swimming in the ocean…fill my head and my heart. I was fortunate to meet and marry the best partner I can imagine in this adventure of life. I regret nothing about our choices and how we spent our time.
Still, cancer should not be this common. It should not force lousy choice after lousy choice on a relatively young (53) woman and her family. If the treatments are successful, I’ll be there for 3-6 months, missing a big chunk of our son’s senior year of high school (“the boring part” he sweetly reassured me, now that soccer season is over). Still, it’s not right. I’m certain this epidemic of cancer is not part of the cosmic design but rather a problem of toxicity we humans have created. I’ll continue raising that flag for as long as I’m able. At least I grew up, had kids, raised them, and enjoyed several decades. Many are not so lucky.
No matter what happens now, I have faith….
- That love lives on, and I can (in a not creepy way) still be part of the lives of my loved ones even if I’m not here physically.
- That at some point in the next year, my body won’t hurt so much anymore.
- That our kids have what they need. I couldn’t be more in awe of who they are or excited about the good they will do in the world and the amazing lives ahead for them.
- That our friends and family will embrace John, Sophie, and Grant, with empathy as you have always done
- That the transition from this life holds a kind of magic we only glimpse until it’s our turn to go. If I can’t say “Oh, wow” out loud when it’s my time, I trust I will feel it. That transition is the greatest adventure of all, really, and we will all take it. I’m still hoping for some pizza and wine on the other side (and many other yummy foods my human body can’t process anymore)!
Still, I pray….
- I can be at all the graduations, dance at weddings, rock grandbabies, and continue to make holiday meals.
- I can be a sounding board for all the decisions to come, including the most important of all…life partners/co-parents.
- I can stick around for the fun part w John…and put my arms around him for the rest of his days here. Oh, how we loved to travel and looked forward to more in retirement.
So, we’re off to Istanbul together for one more adventure. It’s not what we had in mind when we imagined “retirement” travel, but hopefully, this trip enables more in the future. I’ve downloaded Turkish lessons on my phone and look forward to breakfasts with olives, baba ganoush, and spicy baked tomatoes. As I feel stronger, I will enjoy strolling through the markets and the warmth of the culture. Mostly, I look forward to finally getting the help I need, the possibility of a real remission, and maybe some rest.
Thank you for your love and encouragement, now and always.