Colleen Flowers: Panic To Peace — Declining Chemotherapy
In the pressured 5 weeks after a mastectomy, fertility expert Colleen Flowers went deep, slowed down, took a deep breath, did her research, and decided to decline chemotherapy. Instead, she chose holistic treatments in Germany that have her living a healthy life with a normal PET scan. Here's her journey.
Listen to her interview, read interview highlights, see her holistic cancer living list, hear her healing music playlist, donate to her crowdfunder. Connect.
LISTEN TO THE INTERVIEW
Diagnosis: Shit Gets Real
I was raised in a very natural, crunchy home. I knew from the beginning a lot about cancer, how it works, how it operates, various treatment forms. Friends of mine always knew, "If Colleen ever gets diagnosed with cancer she's hopping on a plane to Mexico." I always thought that would be like in my 50s or 60s or something, or never. When it happened when I was 35, shit got real.
When I say it's not my cancer, I think about a few things in particular. The external or environmental factors include me being taught that my heart and my soul aren't inherently bad because of sin. A blow to my right breast when I was a whitewater raft guide ten years ago, and living in a chemically toxic environment. That's mixed with my 23andme genetic testing results that showed DNA mutations that may not allow my body to rid itself of these toxins.
I decided 3 weeks after the diagnosis to have a mastectomy even though all of the doctors recommended chemo prior to a mastectomy. I asked really good questions like, "Does doing chemo prior to mastectomy increase my mortality?" Which is my length of life. The answer is no, "No, it's the same." I'm like, "Good, great. Let's do mastectomy." I had lots of peace about that. Let's put in a port, so all of my options are open. I had 5 weeks after the mastectomy to start chemo or not. During those 5 weeks I found my path, which was going to an alternative cancer clinic in Germany, which for me was just a better fit than the clinics I was looking at in Mexico.
Nuclear factor: Three Mile Island and Rocky Flats
I know that Three Mile Island had a partial meltdown when my mom was pregnant with me in 1979 and that may have been why my heavy metal levels were so high. Or I knew like, the water we drink and bathe in in Colorado has old mines leaking into it. But I didn't really know anything about Rocky Flats. So good thing I'm moving to Germany at the New Year!
I've asked myself, why doesn't everyone from my high school have breast cancer if Three Mile Island were such a big deal? And I concluded that all of us are different and their genetic detoxification pathways may work a whole lot better than mine. And I take credit for the internal factors that may have contributed to the cancer, such as worrying like a boss. I was the queen of fear and the worst-case scenario thinking and anxiety. And in fact I was praised and rewarded for this. But the price I paid was creating an internal environment with toxic thoughts and emotions that led to an acidic environment where cancer can thrive.
Visualizing Choice: Atomic Bomb Vs. Green House
For one entire day, I lived as though, yes, I was receiving chemo. We would go in, I would get the chemo, I would watch the weeks happen and things happen to my body. I'd live that whole day like I was taking chemo. Then I lived a whole other day as though I was doing alternative. At that point, I didn't know exactly what the alternative path was going to look like, but I just knew it was alternative. It was going to be immune boosting and supporting and things like that.
The big visualization I had was on the right side I looked down the path of chemo and it was a grey sidewalk, like where an atomic bomb had just gone off. It was gray dust. The earth was gray. The sky, the hills out in the distance were all gray. I was like, come on, there's got to be some light there. Some dandelion has to pop through crack of the sidewalk. Come on. But I could never ever find life over there. I was like, ugh.
Alternative Treatments, Happiness Included
The mastectomy and physically removing the cancer was the first big treatment. I would say the second big treatment was the two times that I've spent in Germany receiving the alternative cancer treatments that they do for the body there, which includes fever therapy or fever push, hyperthermia, which is different than anything that's offered in the United States. Lots of homeopathic IVs and different vitamin supplements, and shots in my butt every day for various vitamins and immune stimulants.
There, that's where I learned that I could be happy. I was allowed to smile and laugh after being given a cancer diagnosis, because that's the way that I felt— it was here that I felt I needed to panic. If I didn't panic enough, that meant I wasn't taking it "seriously" enough, and this is a very serious thing. You have to be very responsible. There is no fun. There are no games.
Cancer's Just A Juicy Baby
The cancer was not there to harm me. It said over and over, "I'm just a juicy baby. I prefer if you don't call me cancer. I prefer you call me something benign, like tadpole. Yes, please call me tadpole. My message is you have to pay attention to me. You have to pay attention to me."
One of the things I walked away from that with was an exercise I did for two weeks where I created a baby in our house. I took a blanket and wrapped a crystal around it. I treated this like a baby. I would say to it multiple times throughout the day, "I see you. You have my attention. You cannot cling to me." I would burp this baby, blanket and rock it and put it down for naps. For two weeks, I did that. At the end of two weeks, I was like, "This is all done. We're putting everything back." That was my initial relationship to the cancer. I see you. You have my attention. You cannot cling to me. Over and over and over, I would go back to that.
I was given the diagnosis of Q fever, a rare bacterial infection in 2011 or so. That journey taught me really good self-care. Radical self-care. I cancel plans. I'm not flaky, but if I need to take a nap, I take a nap, because if I don't take a nap then I'm wrecked for the next week or so, and it's totally not worth it. That journey taught me radical self-care.
This past year, I embarked on a journey of self-love.... When I would go for my walk around the lake by my house, I’d say, "My heart is good. My soul is good. I love myself," different things like that. I just realized about 3 months ago that I wasn't loving myself this last year.
There was a day in May of this year where I had reached a point where self-hatred had stopped. Now I could start doing self-love. When you talk about self-care—yeah, I've been doing that for a long time. Not really much has changed. I still take my naps. I still eat amazing. I meditate every day.
Now, it's the self-love. It's the caring about the heart and the soul inside of me. That for me was the undoing and the unbecoming of the spiritual religious background that I was raised in, with original sin being born, like already covered in Adam's sin and already bad. Now, I’m saying, "No, I am the divine image of God, period." There is no divine image of God with sin. It's just the divine image of God and living from that.
I was given the diagnosis in June 2015. Six months later, in December 2015, I got a PET scan. It was all clear. Yay! That was the time, during the PET scan, when I started being able to hear my body speak to me. It was in the area above my right shoulder. I was in the PET scan machine, feeling just negative—fear, worries, spiraling, oh my gosh. Then I heard very clearly information in my right ear. Since that time I've been able to cultivate that voice and just tap in and say, "Can you tell me what's going on? or what needs to happen, and different things like that." Of course that's what not what I was expecting during the PET scan! But that's what happened, and I honored it.
Since the diagnosis, every 3 months I get blood work to look at everything. I do know what it is. I can't say exactly, "It is ...," but more like to keep an eye on that. With my oncologist, we've decided that the best course of action for monitoring my left breast is to do every 6 months either an ultrasound or a thermogram. I know a lot of people would freak and say, "You need to have mammograms." Right, I'm 36. I don't want decades worth of radiation on my left breast!
What's interesting is there's someone I know that in the year 2000 was given 4 months to live with cancer. It's now 2016. 16 years later, still smiling and alive. They recently got a letter saying, "You have received over 30 CAT scans and PET scans. You're now at an increased risk for cancer!" I don't know if this is a standard letter that they give. I don't know if it's just this hospital or whatever. But I was like, right. If I'm 35 and I'm going to live 3 or 4 decades, you can't be PET scanning me every 6 months, people. We need to settle down.
Panic to peace came about when my husband and I were taking a train trip in Germany last year. Our connection between the two trains was 2 minutes. I thought, "Oh my gosh, how are we going to make this connection? It's only 2 minutes and our train is 8 minutes late. Oh my gosh." I go up to the conductor, and I say this to him, and he looks at me with big eyes, and he said, "No panic." I was like, how dare you? You don't understand! It's in 2 minutes, and we're 8 minutes behind ... I can panic! He said to me again, "No panic." I thought, all right. I sat in my seat. When we got to train station to switch, I realized this happens all the time. It's in the middle of nowhere. The other train always waits for this train, and you just get on the next train and it's no big deal.
I was like, right, panic, because that's what the doctors in America kept looking at my face saying, "Panic, panic, panic. Why aren't you panicking?"
Find what brings you peace
My parting words would be to find out what brings you peace. For me, it's the meditation, the singing, the laying on the ground. But that's not for everybody. They may go crazy with meditation. For them, it's running or it's going to concerts with friends or it's other things that bring them that deep peace that allows them to enjoy life. In March, I was in a car accident. A guy was texting and ran a red light and t-boned me in my door. I could have died that day.
If I was given the diagnosis and 8 months later died from a car crash, what did I do in those 8 months? Was I freaking out? Crying? "Woe is me" all of the time? Or did I have some great life? Anything can happen at any time.
COLLEEN'S HOLISTIC CANCER LIVING LIST
A leading voice in natural cancer prevention. An amazing educational resource.
This German alternative medicine clinic provides primarily a biological therapy to enhance the immune system of cancer patients, patients with other chronic diseases, and people at a higher risk of contracting cancer who need truly preventative therapy.
Kelly Turner’s NY Times bestselling book, Radical Remission, shows that it is possible to triumph over cancer, even in situations that seem hopeless.
Sue Monk Kidd tells her very personal story of the fear, anger, healing, freedom, and empowerment she experienced on the path toward the wholeness that many women have lost within faith traditions.
COLLEEN'S HEALING SOUNTRACKS
DONATE TO COLLEEN'S BE CANCER-FREE CROWDFUNDER
Colleen's YouCaring crowdfunder will assist Colleen and and her husband Josh during this time of healing to pay for medical bills, medical items and other procedures not covered by insurance. She will also use her CaringBridge page to update supporters about her healing journey. Over and over, Colleen says she wants everyone's prayers more than anything. So while her crowdfunding page is set up for financial donations, she also wants to communicate that your prayers are most important to her.