Category Archives: Cancer Writings

The Peloton Part 2: A Brief Follow-up to a Previous Post

I received numerous questions about a previous post titled The Peloton. Here I try to answer them.

 

Lynn greeted me at the Kansas City airport on a Friday afternoon in early June and eagerly relayed the plans for the following day’s kick-off to the “Vision Tour”. There would be twenty-five serious cyclists in the peloton. This was a collection of men serious about their bicycles. For them, a one-hundred-twenty mile excursion seemed like a delightful way to spend a Saturday. Then there was me. My love for and desire to support my friend compelled me to endure the soreness and inevitable chaffing that would follow. I was glad to learn that I had been assigned the task of driving the “sag-wagon” (a support truck for anyone who found themselves in distress) and would join the pack for the final fifteen miles into Manhattan.

The details, as Lynn laid them out, had been carefully arranged, but there was one aspect outside the realm of careful planning that could make or break the trek: weather.

A meteorologist friend had kept a vigil on the climate in the week leading up to the event. An early prediction of a beautiful sunny morning soon gave way to an ominous storm front bearing a torrential downpour. Cyclists are a dedicated bunch known to willingly endure tremendous physical suffering as they charge up the side of mountains or ceaselessly pedal into a fierce wind coming across the plains of Kansas. They are not, however, crazy. When weather conditions promise lightning and flooding, plans get rescheduled. By five-thirty Friday evening Lynn made the decision to delay the launch of the tour to Sunday.

For me that meant a number of things. First, my return flight to Dallas was Sunday afternoon so I could no longer participate in the experience. Second, I was able to sleep in without kids jumping into my rib cage asking me to make pancakes. Third, the delay allowed Lynn and me to spend a wonderful Saturday afternoon together. Lastly, my entire Sunday wasn’t a loss as I was able to play a quick nine holes of golf with my brother-in-law before being dropped off at the airport.

The peloton was somewhere between Lawrence and Topeka by the time I stood on the first tee box and sliced my golf ball into a lake. What was impressive, however, is that of all those who volunteered for the ride the only person who couldn’t make it because of the rain delay was me. When their friend was in need they made room in their schedule to be flexible and showed up.

My flight back to Dallas allowed me the opportunity to think about the incredible number of people who are in my family’s peloton and showed up when we were most in need. We are all eternally grateful for everyone who carved time in their schedule to send cards, emails, Facebook messages, phone calls, care packages for the boys, run errands or travel to Dallas for a visit. We treasure the encouragement and continue to love hearing from you as we “ride on.”

 

The rain delay scratched both the bike ride and the basketball game. But I stand ready...

The rain delay scratched both the bike ride and the basketball game. But I stand ready…


15 Year Anniversary

On July 31st, 1999 two very young college students married in a church in Andover, Kansas. and celebrated into the night with family and friends. Tonight this couple has modest plans to mark the passing of fifteen years of marriage. There will be dinner at their favorite raw food restaurant, then, an early bedtime because tomorrow is a work day and they need their sleep.

 

I recently asked Teri her thoughts about the past fifteen years and she summarized it simply stating, “I have a lot of carrot juice invested in this marriage.”

 

Happy Anniversary, my love. What a ride.

 

Before…

I think I can still fit into my tuxedo!

I think I can still fit into my tuxedo!

After…

Teri and I today

Teri and I today


The Peloton

My usual breakfast fare doesn’t normally include a hotel buffet line three miles from my house but when my friend Lynn is visiting Dallas and there is only a mere hour to spend together before the demands of work drag us back to our respective careers, I will make do with whatever is on the menu. This meal was the first opportunity for us to talk since his wife passed away a few months prior. Small talk isn’t his style so the conversation dove deep and the tears flowed. We are each, it turns out, suffering through a loss. He was grieving his spouse while I mourned the loss of my health and the planned future for my family. We comfort each other over bowls of tepid oatmeal and discussed the need to re-imagine life, one forged in the fire of this suffering.

“Bruce,” he said and a grin spread across his face, “I’ve got something in the works. Something, I think, that is going to be big,”

Lynn is a dreamer, always looking at the big picture. I was instantly intrigued by his proclamation. “Alright. Lay it on me.”

“I’m planning a bike ride to cast a new vision for my life.”

“Okay. Where are you going to ride?”

“The ‘vision tour’ will start in Kansas City and end eight-hundred miles later in Crested Butte.”

“It’s your personal Tour de France, but with fewer mountains and no yellow jersey at the end.”

“Yes, and I want you to join me.”

“Uh, what?”

“In cycling there is a big group of riders that in tight formation who work together and become more aerodynamic, can ride faster and farther while expending less energy.”

“Yeah, sure, the peloton.”

“Exactly. Come be part of my peloton.”

“Man, I don’t know if I could ride eight miles right now, let alone eight-hundred.”

“Not whole way, just for a day. Ride the first leg from Kansas City to Manhattan.”

“How far is that?”

“One-hundred-twenty miles.”

“Lynn, God didn’t build these skinny legs for endurance sports. I’ve tried and the result wasn’t pretty.”

“How about this, you could meet us along the way and ride the final fifteen or twenty miles into Manhattan.”

“I might be able to survive twenty miles, but I haven’t touched a bike in two years. I don’t even own a bike anymore, it was stolen out of my garage.”

“I’ll find a bike for you to use. Think about it.”

Lynn isn’t crazy, he’s a cyclist, and cyclists are fanatical when it comes to their sport. They have their own social clubs, language, clothing lines and, for many, their own rules of the road. They push their bodies to endure through the sweltering heat, bitter cold, driving rain and thrashing winds then celebrate the suffering while sharing hard earned pints of beer. It’s a fantastic world of camaraderie and friendship for those who find pleasure in the sensation of leg muscles burning in protest as the mind forces the body to peddle one more mile and to summit one more steep hill. For men like Lynn, who have a garage bursting with bicycles, are known by name at the bike shop and talk intelligently about pelotons, panniers and sag wagons, hours spent “in the saddle” are better than therapy.

Lynn’s “vision tour” across the Amber Waves of Kansas and into the Rocky Mountains made sense because he understands that life’s most difficult moments, the one’s that disrupt the routine of life and destroys best laid plans, whether caused by the death of a spouse or a terminal cancer diagnosis, are opportunities to reinvent yourself and experience God in new ways.

Not every person, however, plans a grueling bike ride to cast a vision for their life, but the process of re-purposing is a vital part of the healing process. There comes a time when it is necessary to face the suffering head on and forge through the jungle of emotions and uncertainty in order to understand how these experiences will impact the future.

I began re-envisioning my life the moment, twenty-one months ago, the doctor’s words, “The test was positive for cancer,” filled the silent hospital room. The re-imagining process is slow and tedious and there isn’t a single aspect of life that escapes the examination. Parts of life that seemed mundane were put under a microscope and scrutinized anew.

When I walked through the front door of my house after two weeks in the hospital it felt as though I was entering for the first time. Through the filter of a terminal cancer diagnosis the furniture, tile floors, ceiling fans and even the grass in the back yard felt new, as if I had never been in that house. My children greeted me with tender hugs and I wrapped my arms tightly around them, kissed them and savored the scent of their hair. The joy of that aroma was immense and I wept.

“Why are you crying, daddy?”

“I’m so happy to be home and see you again.”

“I’m glad you’re home too.”

At that simple act of a hug from my sons ceased to be a mechanical process of bending elbows, pressing flesh and a quick squeeze. Each hug from that day since serves to re-iterate the motivation for the hard work and sacrifice my wife and I put into nutritional therapies that are repairing my immune system so it can rid my body of cancer.

Scrutinizing the present and renewing passion for the future doesn’t happen overnight and requires asking both the big and little questions:

“Am I living for my highest calling?”

“How can I use this new knowledge to help others going through similar experiences?”

“How do I do a better job of managing stress?”

“Will the Kansas State Wildcats compete for the Big 12 title this year?”

“Am I doing enough of the right things to allow my body to heal?”

Following nutritional healing protocols is difficult work that requires complete transformation of habits and thought. Progress is tracked through a number of tests and the results I’ve received indicate healing is well on its way. Additionally, my physical condition, stamina and abilities continue to improve (this past weekend I scored the best nine holes of golf in over five years). These results are a gift from God that give hope on days when I am consumed with fear.

 

Lynn finished his vision ride but didn’t do it alone. There were a peloton of riders with him at nearly every stage along the way who sheltered him from the fierce Kansas winds, motivated him to push through the fatigue, engaged in probing conversations and celebrated when he crossed the finish line.

Like a group of cyclists whose communal efforts allow them to cut through the headwinds, travel faster and encourage each other to power through the fatigue our family continues to be carried along by the support and love of family and friends. Life, like cycling, is best done in a peloton.


Survive and Advance

Avid college basketball fans anticipate the advent of March like a five-year-old waits in expectation for Christmas. The entire month is filled with compelling match-ups and exciting games but the opening days of the NCAA Tournament truly are the most wonderful time of the year.  For myself and long-time friends Joel and Dave the dawning of the month of March ushers in the continuation of the March Madness Marathon tradition. Joel converts his living room into a tournament shrine where TV’s and food abound, Dave flies in from Florida, and for four glorious days we cheer on the underdogs as they play for an upsets and curse the teams who ruin our predictions. As I write this Joel and Dave are updating their brackets based on the latest game’s outcome and I’m sipping on a glass of carrot juice. 

Despite my cancer diagnosis the tradition carries on. The weekend does, however, look quite a bit different for me than in years past. There are no days off when working to heal the body with nutrition. When a person’s life is on the line, each day of survival is an upset.  The nutritional cancer protocols don’t take a vacation just because I’m enjoying a few days with college friends. In fact, being out of my normal routine requires serious preparation in order to keep going. Watching basketball, these days is a lot of work. Here is a list of things this plant-based cancer survivor needs for a weekend of basketball watching (in alphabetical order):

  • Almond Milk
  • Apples
  • Avocados
  • Barely Grass
  • Beets
  • Blueberries
  • Braggs Aminos
  • Carrots
  • Carrots
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Clothes
  • Cottage Cheese
  • Cucumbers
  • Flax Seed Oil
  • Hummus
  • Juicer
  • Kale
  • Lemons
  • Limes
  • Mason Jars
  • Nutritional Yeast
  • Parsley
  • Raspberries
  • Red Cabbage
  • Sea Salt
  • Shaker Bottle
  • Shampoo
  • Soap
  • Spinach
  • Strawberries
  • Swimsuit
  • The Zip
  • Walnuts
  • Wheatgrass
  • Winning Tournament Bracket

 

It has been seventeen months since I sat in an oncologist’s office and was told I wouldn’t survive more than a year. That prognosis casts a dark shadow over last year’s tournament and I wondered if I would live to see another March Madness. A year of survival and thriving health has replaced fear and uncertainty with joy and hope. So I, like teams that win a close game to move onto the next round of the tournament, continue to “survive and advance.”


Screams Like an Adolescent Girl

My wife once proclaimed that I am the woman in our relationship.

This declaration was made one evening when, while playfully wrestling with my sons, the two-year-old was launched from my arms onto a bed mattress. As he arched through the air and peals of laughter poured from his mouth I saw a belt, coiled like a snake, beneath the comforter at the precise place he was about to land. I stretched my arms to catch him but was too late to avoid the clap of his head hitting the buckle. Glassy eyes stared up at me and I forced a smile hoping a happy face would convince him all was okay. Gently I lifted him onto my lap to examine the impact and found a small drop of blood.  It was at this point, in the words of my wife, “screams like an adolescent girl” streamed from my mouth. My yells startled the four-year-old and he began to mimic my distressful yells. Teri sprinted into the room, quieted the screeching chorus, took control of the triage and issued an abundance of motherly kisses.  The tough little guy didn’t even cry. My wife, however, was less than impressed with my performance. Once the belt was put away and a bandage applied she rolled her eyes and said, “I swear, Bruce, sometimes I think you’re the woman in our marriage.”

How many fingers am I holding up?

How many fingers am I holding up?

The exaggerated reaction couldn’t be helped. Squeamishness is an inherited trait. My dad, who fainted in the delivery room when my mom was giving birth to me, passed it onto me and from what I can tell about my sons, there is a good chance they carry the queasiness gene too. I’m not hemophobic, the site of blood doesn’t result in a wave of nausea causing my knees to give way and throw my body to the floor. What causes my brow to squint and teeth to grind is the action or injury which results in the flow of blood. Be it an accidental impalement or the prick of a needle, the effect is the same.

I thought the weak stomach trait had passed my generation until several years ago when I donated blood. It wasn’t the first time my veins had been drained of a few ounces, but it was the only occasion I made the decision to watch as the phlebotomist pierced my skin with the needle. My memory after the initial stab is a little fuzzy, but I do remember waking up on a table, a wet towel on my head and being encouraged to help myself to as much orange juice as I needed.

This strong aversion to bodily injury creates a bit of a conundrum when tracking the efficacy of nutritional therapies I am employing to fight cancer. Establishing a means by which the progress of the protocols can be measured allows us to make adjustments as needed.  The most common method is to undergo a scan prescribed by a doctor. A trip through the CT scan tube, however, is accompanied by massive amounts of radiation and a discussion with an oncologist. Fortunately there are many alternatives which include the pain-free urinalysis and vampire-like blood tests. I incorporate several of them in order to gain a better picture of the healing occurring in my body.

All of these tests are imperfect indicators, providing an educated clue at what is happening beneath the skin. While professionals trained in the analysis of the results guide the interpretation of test results, outside of cutting a person open and taking a peek inside, there are no completely accurate methods to tell with one-hundred-percent certainty whether or not cancer is present or how aggressively it is spreading.

I recently willingly subjected myself to another blood syphoning for a test which measures a protein found in the blood called thymidine kinase (TK). The body creates TK when cells go through the process of division and then eliminates it from the body. High levels of TK are associated with rapid cell division and correlate, in the instance of someone diagnosed with cancer to the aggressiveness of cancer. This test doesn’t reveal whether or not cancer is present (a separate test has indicated cancer cells are still present), rather the rate at which it might be spreading. This is really the most important thing to know. The presence of a tumor is unsettling, but a person can live for decades with a growth that doesn’t grow. Tumors become deadly when they grow and impair the function of vital organs. Results of the TK test are expressed in a number which correspond to a range that gives insight as to the fierceness and growth rate of cancer. A number lower than twenty is in the range of low risk while a number between seventy-seven and one-hundred-twenty is considered high risk.  It is common for aggressive and fast spreading cancers such as mine, stage four metastatic melanoma, to fall into the range of 130 and above.

TK Reference Levels_001

The phlebotomist tapped my vein then shipped the crimson specimen in a box packed with ice to Utah where the sample was recorded and tested then flown to Sweden for additional testing.

I waited.

Fear and doubt taunted me daily. Has enough time passed to effect change? To heal the body? To stop the spread of cancer? To make any impact at all? Melanoma is belligerent and it’s not uncommon for healing to occur gradually over many years. What a thrill, I thought, it would have been to receive a number and not be in the high risk category.

I waited for three long weeks for the results until the resolve of my wife’s patience was broken and she contacted the lab for the results.

I was at the office when I received her phone call.

“Are you sitting down?” she asked.

“Well, I don’t normally work at my desk while standing, so yes, I’m sitting down.”

“I talked to the lab and they gave me your number.”

A wave of stress swept over me, my hands were instantly sweaty and my stomach tensed. “What is it?”

“Four.”

I screamed like an adolescent girl.

*****

To find out more about the TK test and determine if it can help you assess your cancer risk factors visit their website:  www.reddrop.com


Unexpected Side-Effects

The adrenaline pumping chaos that ensues each morning as our family endeavors to depart the house punctually leaves little leeway for idle conversation. After my wife hits the snooze button too many times (I am the snooze button), we stumble over each other and hurriedly shower, prep food, juice vegetables, feed growling stomachs, diaper the naked two year old, pack lunches, stuff backpacks, clothe both adults and children then leave, Lord willing, on time.  One morning, however, as I stood in front of the bathroom sink and I swished water between my cheeks to rid myself of the toothpaste residue I noticed my wife had paused in the midst of the bedlam and was checking me out. She leaned casually against the countertop, toothbrush paused mid-stroke and stared at my arms.

“Huh,” she said.

“What?”

She leaned over and touched my bicep.

“What is it?”

“I think your muscles are getting bigger.”

“Whatever,” I said.

Are they really bigger? I thought.

“No. I’m serious. Your muscles are definitely bigger.”

I stood in front of the mirror and flexed.

I think she’s right. Look at those guns. Definitely bigger. How about the triceps? Yep, looking good.

“I don’t know,” I said. “Maybe a little.”

“No maybe. You’re muscles are definitely bigger.”

“If you say so.”

“Come on, you can’t see it?”

Oh yeah, Bruce, you’re looking buff.

“I suppose they’re maybe a little bit bigger.”

“That makes me sick,” she said.

“What? Why?”

“You haven’t been to the gym in a year and your muscles get bigger without even trying. I wish I could make my muscles grow on command.”

“Hold on a second,” I said and waited a few seconds, “I think they just grew some more.”

This physiological change was noticeable because during the first few months after my diagnosis I lost seventy pounds and much of that weight loss was muscle mass.  As a man who had spent nearly two decades lifting and pressing heavy pieces of iron around the weight room, that erosion was difficult to witness. A metamorphosis took place, seemingly overnight, and my bulky frame withered. Clothes hung like rags across my slender shoulders and the reflection in the mirror appeared to be somebody else.

The joke in our house was about my magical muscles which grew without any concentrated effort on my part. We marveled at the results of my diet and Teri wondered when her muscles would start to get bigger.

“I’m one of God’s favorites,” I joked.

One evening about a week later I returned home from the office and found Teri sitting in front of the computer, tears welling up in her eyes.

“Are you okay? What’s going on?” I asked.

“I’ve been reading a book by Dr. William Kelly.”

“Oh right. One Answer to Cancer. I’ve read part of it.”

“Did you know he has helped over 33,000 people fight cancer using nutritional therapies?”

“Wow, that’s a lot.”

“Let me read you what he wrote,

 

In almost every case of cancer, particularly those cases of long standing, the protein from the muscles has been used to maintain life. In other words protein metabolism has been so poor that the body had to take protein from the muscles and, to a very great degree, the muscles have been consumed.

After the cancer is destroyed, the muscles begin to rebuild.

My mouth dropped open, eyes widened and I threw my arms to the air in a victory pose.  Teri jumped out of her chair and wrapped her arms around me. Soon tears of joy were falling, dropping from my cheeks onto the top of her head.

Could this explain, at least in part, the physical changes that had transformed my body? Had my body been so starved of nutrients it “ate” my muscles? Does the growth of my muscles signify the healing process is working?

We agreed this was not an official diagnosis merely observations about physiological changes I am undergoing paired with a statement from a book. These words can’t tell us if the tumor that showed on the scans are still there, smaller or gone. They do, however, give us great reason to be optimistic.

In the battle with cancer, however, moments of rejoicing are often too short lived and are quickly overcome by fear and anxiety. Tears of joy succumb to the pressure of the mind to worry about what outrageous “what if” my imagination conjures.  As I near the one year mark from the date of diagnosis I grow increasingly apprehensive about what is lurking behind every sensation that trickles across my skin. Over the course of the past several weeks I’ve experienced constant detox symptoms, which has led to a parade of thoughts marching through my brain.

     “What if the doctors were right and I really did only have twelve months to live? That only gives me a few weeks left.”

     “What if the cancer is silently, and without symptoms, growing?”

     “What if the scratch on my head isn’t just a scratch?”

     “What if the growl in my stomach at noon isn’t just hunger pains?”

     “What if the Dallas Cowboys actually made the playoffs this year?”

Physically I am doing well but the toll of the emotional weight of carrying this fear became obvious to at least two people. Last Thursday, in the span of 24 hours, both my wife and a co-worker pulled me aside to ask me if was doing alright. “You just haven’t been yourself,” they said.

“No, I’m not okay,” I confessed, then fell to pieces.

Fear, it turns out, is perhaps the most vicious side-effect of cancer.

This week marks the one-year anniversary of my thirteen day stay in the hospital and the start of my journey with cancer.  Each day I find myself thinking about what I was doing on that day last year. One year ago Tuesday, the 15th, I learned I was anemic, drove myself to the ER, received a blood transfusion and was checked into the hospital. The next three days I spent enduring tests designed to figure out the source of internal bleeding.  One-year ago this Saturday, the 19th, I was told I had a softball size tumor intersecting my intestines (which caused the anemia) then promptly wheeled into surgery. A few days later test results confirmed what I suspected. Melanoma. The life expectancy of someone with stage IV melanoma, according to the doctors, is eight to twelve months from the date of diagnosis.

Despite all evidence to the contrary that my body is healing (I have the biceps to prove it), my mind is so quickly overcome by fear. I am writing all of this down so that one year from now I can reflect on how silly it was to be afraid. For those who have read my previous updates, you know that I am eternally filled with hope and confidence.

The following passage from Psalm 116 has brought comfort and peace during these past weeks.  Thank you for your continued prayers.

     I love the Lord, for he heard my voice;

     He heard my cry for mercy.

     Because he turned his ear to me,

     I will call on him as long as I live.

     The cords of death entangled me,

     The anguish of the grave came over me;

     I was overcome by distress and sorrow.

     Then I called on the name of the Lord;

     “Lord save me!”

     The Lord is gracious and righteous;

     Our God is full of compassion.

     The Lord protects the unwary;

     When I was brought low, he saved me.

     Return to your rest my soul,

     For the Lord has been good to you.

 


Operation Hummus

“Sir, is this your bag?”

“Yes.”

“I’m going to have to search it.”

The Transportation Security Administration agent stood over my carry-on, an insulated food storage apparatus, and unzipped its compartments.  His thorough inspection uncovered ice packs, apples and paper towels, none of which posed any danger. While suspect, his scrutiny of the broccoli, cauliflower, cucumber and red pepper revealed no security breaches. In the final pocket, however, he uncovered a serious threat to airline security: an unopened container of hummus.

He spun the devious substance slowly in his gloved fingers and analyzed with a foreboding glare. A look of grave concern crossed his face as he read the list of ingredients.

“I’m not certain I can let you through with this,” he said.

“It’s hummus,” I said, hoping the simple description of the contents would quickly resolve the confusion. His expression didn’t change so I added, “It’s not a liquid.”

“But in the form of a paste it is classified with gels like toothpaste.”

“I’m not going to use it to brush my teeth, I’m going to eat it with the vegetables in that bag.”

“We can’t allow gels through security,” he said, unfazed by my impeccable logic. “Peanut butter is similar and we can’t let it through either. If it were frozen it wouldn’t be a problem,” he rapped the lid with his knuckles, “but since it’s not, we’re going to have to confiscate it.”

“He has specific dietary restrictions and we’re not able to buy food from just anywhere. That’s why we had to pack up all our food and bring it with us,” my wife said. She was fired up and ready to fight for our right to bear hummus.

He looked me up and down as if to determine the veracity of the statement. “Let me see what my supervisor says.”

The supervisor was beckoned and with him arrived two other TSA agents, interested to witness the capture of a dreaded hummus smuggler. The container was passed to the supervisor who imitated the inspection of the first agent then declared this highly suspicious mixture of organic garbanzo beans, olive oil and garlic unable to pass the security checkpoint into the sanctuary of the airport.

“He has a medical condition that requires he eat a special diet that we’re not able to buy inside the airport or on the plane.” My wife was on a roll now.

The supervisor looked at me and asked, “Do you have a doctor’s note for this hummus?”

“A doctor’s note? For hummus?”

* * * * *

Besides being irresistibly cute, my wife has an abundance of strengths that complete my weaknesses. The retort to the TSA agent is an example of how her mind whirls at amazing speeds during a confrontation and promulgates rapid and rational responses when a personal injustice is being perpetuated. In the midst of stressful situations it’s her, not me, you want to help dig you out of it quickly. I only bring a couple of assets to the marriage and fast thinking when confronted by an authority figure isn’t one of them.

Her tenacity is also powering our fight for life. Even before I left the hospital she spent hours researching the best ways to confront my situation. The investigation revealed cancer is a symptom, a warning light indicating my immune system was no longer working correctly. The healthiest way to repair what is broken, not merely destroy tumors but fix the underlying problem, is to overdose on nutrition.

Human physiology is majestically designed and, given the right fuel, can fight off an array of illnesses. Research has shown the best source of nutrition needed for the body to repair itself comes from plants. Chlorophyll, found in green vegetables, possesses a cellular structure nearly identical to that of blood. Filling my diet with kale, spinach, broccoli and Brussels sprouts (to name a few) provides nutrients and enzymes that can be readily used.

Plants are also highly alkaline, meaning they raise my pH levels. My body is in constant battle for neutrality. Testing pH is like a seventh-grade science experiment (yes, my dad, the retired seventh-grade science teacher, is proud).  Each day I use litmus paper to measure how diet impacts my alkalinity. The results serve as a kind of thermometer for how my body responds to what I put in my stomach.  Red coloring on the litmus paper designates acidity and a dark green tint indicates I’m neutral. If I don’t eat food that will preserve balance my body becomes acidic and pulls the nutrients it needs from reserves found in bones, organs, muscles and tissues to make up the difference. A vegetable rich diet provides the right ingredients to maintain a neutral level which in turn empowers my immune system to fight off the cancer.

Healing the body of cancer is a long process but eleven months after my diagnosis I feel great and energy abounds. Nutrition is saving my life. While I am thankful to be doing so well, each day brings moments when a peculiar sensation, news story or conversation reminds me of the stakes and the uncertainty of the future. It is the continued encouragement poured out from family and friends through emails, phone calls, cards in the mail and prayers that serve to buttress me and my family as we continue to rebuild my health.

* * * * *

“A doctor’s note? For hummus?” she asked.

“Yes.” He was taking his job seriously.

“No, he doesn’t, but his treatments require organic food which isn’t available in the airport.”

“What’s your condition?” he asked me.

“I have cancer.”

The supervisor’s eyes bulged at the mention of cancer. There was a legitimate and serious reason for my hummus and he suddenly wanted to escape. He realized he wasn’t merely dealing with a problematic traveler who wants security to look the other way while they slip their contraband by their checkpoint. One final time he shook the container of hummus then handed it back to the original TSA agent.

“Test it,” he said. “If it’s negative let it through.”

The lid and freshness seal were pried off. A strip of paper over the gelatinous paste and drops of a chemical applied to the paper before it was inserted into testing machine which would determine the fate of our vegetable dip.  After a few tense seconds the machine beeped and gave the results: negative. The hummus was safe.

Having safely escorted the hummus through the security line the next stop was the pat down where, I hoped, they wouldn’t find the zucchini hidden beneath my shirt.