Before I started chemotherapy in May 2017, my oncologist, Dr. Monica Mead (she is my second oncologist so she is not the oncologist I wrote for my blog “Cancer is Back!” on May 21, 2017), said to me: “You have cancer of Diffuse Large B-Cell Lymphoma (DLBCL) Primary non-Hodgkin of Liver. It is stage IV and your PET scan showed that 90 percent of your liver has been taken over by cancer. You have weeks to live, so we must act right away. I recommend EPOCH + Rituximab chemotherapy—five days of chemotherapy for 24 hours a day, every three weeks. There will be six rounds of the treatments. As you receive each chemotherapy treatment, your body will become weaker, and the side effects might give you intense pain and symptoms.”
I have had many clients come to me for macrobiotic nutrition counseling.
Some of them have had chemotherapy treatments, and I heard the side effects were very hard.
Cooking for themselves was sometimes impossible, and they were having challenges eating most of the foods that help them.
I could only imagine, but realistically, I did not know till I had my own chemotherapy.
I had no idea how much damaging impact my body and mind would receive—the suffering of pain, discomfort, and weakness—from the chemotherapy treatments. I had nothing to compare it to in my life, except heroin addiction withdrawal: achenes, pain, irritation, discomfort, fever, weakness, hopelessness, and more.
After this experience, I now know what my clients went through. I am sure everyone is different, so I do not know everything, but I can see where I was not able to help them now.
When I go back to macrobiotic nutritional counseling, I believe I can help a little better than before after this experience.
Back to my own experience of chemotherapy:
I wrote about my first chemotherapy experience “My First Chemotherapy“ on my blog on June 12, 2017.
I was at UCLA hospital in Santa Monica. I started to feel better while I was there and in the beginning, I was curious and scared to see a new experience of chemotherapy. I had no idea the side effects were so painful experiences.
Especially the Neulasta shot caused really bad side effects of bone pain, which lasted more than a week.
The second chemotherapy was another new experience—doing outpatient and getting chemotherapy at home.
So again, being a curious person, I was focusing on new things. Of course, the side effects were very bad—which I wrote about “Side Effects of Chemotherapy and Neulasta“ on my blog on June 14, 2017.
But I was still an inexperienced chemotherapy patient, so I was able to hang in there.
By the time the third chemotherapy came, I was getting tired and wary of more.
I was experiencing sleepless nights and going to the bathroom six to seven times during the night.
Experiencing irritation and the inability to do anything but breathe and feel my heart beats as I lie down and feel pain.
I was learning the suffering of pain all over again (as when I had ovarian cancer in 1993 and a life-threatening car crash in 2001).
I was too weak and fatigued and felt too much pain, and red blood cells were too low so I had to have the first blood transfusion.
The fourth chemotherapy’s side effect triggerted me to have pneumonia and another blood transfusion. I really wanted to stop taking chemotherapy, but I got one week off from the chemotherapy and I felt a little better. The fifth chemotherapy treatment was unbearable and red blood cells and platelets were too low so I had to get another blood transfusion.
I got so depressed and almost lost hope and belief.
I wrote about “Emotional Side Effects of Chemotherapy and How to Help Them” on my blog July 10, 2017.
In order for me to overcome the side effects, I have been taking care of myself actively at home, eating macrobiotic foods, taking remedy drinks (Azuki tea, Green Leafy drink, Burdock tea, Lotus tea etc.) and doing external remedies (body, facial, and head scrub, foot and hands bath, etc.). I have been receiving Reiki every week from my friend Sally Barns (Giorgio Bosso and Kiyo Okada also gave me Reiki too), acupuncture from Dr. Kaneko, moxa by Emily Kiba, cupping and gentle massage by Vladka Zboril, Rakkenho massage by Michiyo Masubuchi, therapeutic massage by Sal Venice, shiatsu by Asi Shnabel, and hypnosis by Jessica Porter. I am also taking care of myself daily with moxa over the kidneys, intestines, and liver—which has helped me not have to go to the bathroom so often at night—and doing neck, hand, toe, and finger exercises and Do-In whenever I can. Eric has been giving me leg and back massages before I fall asleep every night. I do vipassana meditations—even a short one or while lying down—whenever I can, everyday.
When the sixth round of chemotherapy came, I finally saw the light in the dark tunnel, because this could be the last chemotherapy. It took much longer for me to start feeling better after this one because my white and red blood cells and platelets were so low, and I was not able to even move much. I had to remind myself once again that the key to my successful recovery was to be patient!
I was so sure I’d have to go for a third blood transfusion, but my white blood cells and platelets came up a little bit, and Dr. Mead wanted my red blood cells to recover on my own this time, instead of getting a blood transfusion. I really appreciate her decision to trust my body would recover on its own.
Dr. Mead said, “You did very well with all six chemotherapy treatments. What do you think—it was not too bad, was it?”
I replied, “It was so hard and bad, and I did not know if I would make it!”
Her eyes got big. She said, “I am surprised to hear you say that. You had no complications, so I thought you did very well.”
“I guess I had no idea how hard it would be before I started,” I said.
“I love to be active, but I could not do anything.
I had to be lying down so many days with pain, and that was so hard for me.”
“I understand that you were healthy before and took care of yourself well,” she replied. “But this time, you had lymphoma cancer, and yours was very bad. Do you remember almost all of the liver being taken over by cancer cells? When you came to see me the first time, you could not even walk. I diagnosed that you had only weeks to live, but you look so much better now. You did not have to go back to the hospital with any serious issues, and you were able to eat without vomiting while you were in treatment. So, I would say congratulations for completing your sixth chemotherapy treatment successfully!”
She continued: “Your strength is going to come back slowly, but you must take it easy still and not do too much.
I know you want to go back to your gardening, walking with your dogs, teaching your cooking classes or yoga—but you must take time to heal. You have to have a PET scan test in the beginning of November to see how the chemotherapy treatments helped get rid of cancer. I have a good feeling it is gone, but we need to make sure and see what we can do next, and also take care of your hepatitis C. Now, go home and rest till all your blood cells are back to normal, and enjoy yourself. Again, remember not to do too much!”
I was happy to hear what she had to say.
I replied, “Thank you! You really helped me so much!”
In the beginning, I had a different oncologist who I did not feel understood my needs.
I wrote about him a little bit as “Cancer is Back” on May 21, 2017.
It was very difficult to communicate with him, and I felt I did not receive a fair consultation from him, since neither he nor his assistant contacted me when my PET scan result showed 90 percent of my liver taken over by lymphoma cancer in May 2017.
I am glad I did not give up and found Dr. Mead, who understands my lifestyle of macrobiotic nutrition and holistic approaches.
As I am starting to feel better, my mind tells me to do many things: “Do this, let’s do that”—but my heart and body say, “NO, not YET! Take time to heal fully first.”
I am learning to listen to my body and heart so I feel connected and comfortable with myself.
I am so grateful to everyone who has been supporting my recovery.
Thank you so much, from the bottom of my heart.
There is the PET scan test soon so I hope to give you good news after mid-November.
With all my love,
Thank you for your prayers and continuous support!
We are grateful and invite you to help us at this time by YouCaring Fundraising to Support Sanae’s Recovery from Cancer or purchasing our books directly from us to cover my medical expenses.
Here are our books:
My post mailing address for sending your card, gift or check (check payable to Eric Lechasseru):
2610A 23rd St.
Santa Monica, CA 90405
I will not be able to personally reply to each person, but I promise I will read everyone’s messages, emails, and cards.
Love, Sanae 💖