Part 2: Caring for an Elder with a Cancer Diagnosis

Rose at table opt.jpg

5:45 AM. It’s been 21 days since Rose received a rectal cancer diagnosis. I just received a text message from Rose's daughter Amy that she and Rose have arrived safely in Las Vegas, where Rose would stay for the next month with Amy's daughter, Toni. The night drive from LA was a response to the weather turning against us—by noon it would hit 106 F in Las Vegas. Today, Rose is on day 16 of her detox. What started as a 10-day detox became a 21-day detox. And if there’s anything you don’t want to experience while detoxing, it’s dehydration. Driving in the day in the heat was too risky. So Amy and Rose left in the middle of the night to make the drive. 

21 Day-Detox

Rose’s decision to continue the detox for 21 days felt pretty uneventful. It was more like a physical process than a mental decision. By day 6, the daily routine of the detox was becoming habitual and fading into the background. Rose made it to day 10 easily, and was feeling and looking so much better. On day 4, Rose had her first IV ozone therapy. But on day 6, she started daily rectal ozone insufflation, which really boosted her energy level. She started jumping on my rebounder several times a day, once I put my massage table next to it so she felt more stable. She slept with an Earthing mat in her bed. In addition, with a combination of aloe vera juice, cabbage juice, and sipping instead of gulping, Rose had also learned to ease her stomach pain, gas, burping and indigestion that had gotten worse before it got noticeably better after she did a xylitol flush on day 9 to knock down the candida fungus in her gut and on her tongue, typical after rounds of antibiotics. With fearless determination and absolute discipline about the daily detox routine, with its 7 hydrating and nutrient-saturating detox drinks and coffee enemas, Rose was making progress.  

So when day 10 came, and Rose’s daughter Amy was coming in 4 days on the weekend to take Rose home for a couple days to collect herself before heading to Las Vegas, it was easy for Rose to decide to continue her detox routine until day 14, allowing her to continue with her daily rectal ozone insufflations (up to 4 a day), do one more xylitol candida flush on day 12, and scheduling one more IV ozone session on day 14. All of that kept us pretty busy, because Rose was also sunbathing every day, and herding us to take her for walks on the beach early in the morning. Rose was getting results. She had dropped 7 lbs of food waste, metabolic waste, fecal matter and stale toxic lymph, and then her weight stabilized. Her bloated belly had noticeably diminished. And thank God that horrible burping and indigestion faded away, because that had us the most worried after the rectal tumor itself. It took courage, but she stayed on the detox path, and Rose drank lots of aloe vera juice and many bottles of cabbage juice, took up to 3 shots of fulvic minerals a day, and did the two xylitol flushes, until the indigestion and gas faded away. By day 14 when Amy came for Rose, Rose seriously looked like a different person than the deathly pale, frightened, vulnerable woman who appeared on my doorstep just two weeks prior, not only with a rectal tumor, but constipated and with chronic indigestion, burping, gas and stomach pain. 

So once she made it to day 14, it was easy for Rose to decide to add one more week, and make her detox 21 days. 

If you’ve never detoxed for 21 days, just the thought of it might feel scary to you. You might wonder how it could be that a person could go 21 days without eating solid cooked food, and survive. But the truth is, it’s quite easy to continue the Superfeel Detox to 21 days after you make it to day 14. The reason is because all the nutrients you need are provided in the raw juices, the superfood drinks loaded with vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients sourced from land and sea plants and fresh water algae, the potassium broth served with flaxseed oil, the coconut water and the spicy lemonade. Plus Rose was supplementing with Vitamin D with K, liposomal vitamin C, iodine, aloe vera juice, fulvic minerals, prebiotics, and probiotics.

In reality, it’s easy to imagine a 21-day detox once you’re in a detox, because the daily detox routine doesn’t change. Once you master it, you can do it on remote control. It takes very little energy to maintain if someone helps you source all your ingredients. Furthermore, people who are ill, who suffer from poor nutrition and poor digestion, absorption and elimination, and who are chronically full of toxic food waste and fecal matter—those people are going to get more bioavailable nutrients from the liquids on the detox than they were getting off it. So by staying on the detox, they can actually feed themselves better than by eating hard-to-digest and dehydrating cooked food when their gut is still struggling and needs more time to heal. Especially if that food is not organic—laden with pesticides, herbicides and fungicides. People can also eliminate waste and toxins much, much faster by detoxing than they could if they were eating, digesting, absorbing and eliminating cooked foods. And in Rose’s case, with a cancerous tumor in her rectum, easy and fast waste removal is a priority. So if you’re feeling better, but know you’re not completely cleansed of toxic waste, and need more time to heal your gut, it’s very easy and quite natural to envision a 21-day detox. Three weeks. Time to change. Time to heal.

Emotional Detox

While Rose's decision to continue the detox to 21 days was uneventful and just seemed to naturally happen, the decision to take Rose from LA to Las Vegas to stay with her granddaughter Toni, was quite a rollercoaster of emotions. Rose experienced daily emotional detoxes starting on day 6, and intensifying through day 10. It started with the question: where would Rose go after detoxing with me? Going home alone wouldn’t work right now. Her situation had changed with her diagnosis. While Rose’s daughter Amy lived close by in LA, she was already care-taking for both the parents of her partner in their home. There wasn’t room for them and Rose. And while Rose had just gotten a cancer diagnosis, Amy’s in-laws were having health struggles of their own with advancing diabetes and the kidney/bladder problems that go with it. If Rose stayed in her apt in LA, Amy could stop by every day after work. That was it. And over time, Amy would become exhausted. And Rose would need more help.

During the process of problem-solving the situation, which culminated in Toni stepping forward to take her grandma Rose for a time, and Amy overseeing the transition from LA to Toni in Vegas, Rose went through a cascade of emotional expressions that often looked very old, very patterned, and very young. It started with fear. The thought of having nowhere to go where she could be with family, and be cared for by family, after she left my place scared Rose. It upset her. Hurt feelings were coming up that her daughter Amy wasn’t making room for her, even though she knew Amy already had her hands full with her partner’s parents. Maybe Rose felt jealous. Or unloved. Rose’s emotional detoxes often happened at the kitchen table and lasted for a good 20 minutes until they passed. We call them somatic-emotional releases in emotional bodywork, and they aren't rational. Never mind that Rose was never going to end up going home alone, just the thought of going back home alone scared Rose. It brought up fear for her. Fear of being alone and sick. Fear of not being able to take care of herself. Fear of being uncared for. Fear of her own vulnerability. Fear of death.

From Fear to Faith

Fear is a very, well, scary emotion. The fear of a chronically ill elder is different from the fear of a younger person afraid of rejection, say, or performance challenges at work. It’s primal fear of not being able to keep up. Of not being able to take care of oneself. Of being unloved. Of being abandoned. Of being left behind to die. Fear of dying. And with a cancer diagnosis, add fear of cancer to the list of fears. Fear of it growing or spreading. Of pain and suffering. Fear of one’s body failing you. 

Fear causes the bodymind to release adrenalin and cortisol. And Rose’s emotional detoxes arrived with a surge of adrenalin. But cortisol damages the intestinal lining. If it goes on too long, it can cause leaky gut and the autoimmune flare-ups and rampant inflammation that go with leaky gut. Fear can’t be avoided though, and anyway, there’s no reason to avoid any emotion that rises up from the bodymind under stress, because all the emotions, even fear, are natural responses our bodies have to our experiences in the world. If there’s a fire in your house or a tiger at your heels, fear can be mobilizing. It can get us up and going. It can save our lives. It can turn into the feeling to rush, to hurry up, to do something, run away, or fight for your life. But fear can also be paralyzing. And if you feel frozen and paralyzed for too long, it can be traumatizing. 

The other side of fear on the continuum of the emotions is faith. The more faith you have, the less fear. Rose had faith. She prayed and had friends and family praying with her. But she also read voraciously, and watched Youtube videos on her iPad. She had faith in her own capacity to gather information and, most importantly, she believed that she could positively impact her health. The more Rose informed herself about detoxing and cancer, the more faith she had in her own capacity to heal, the less fear she felt. So while Rose seemed to fall into the depths of some intense emotional ordeal at some point during each day from days 6-10, expressing what sometimes looked and sounded like childish helpless despair, sometimes fear or anger, and sometimes bitter resentment, each somatic-emotional release left her feeling lighter, more fearless, and more calm. And each day that she felt lighter and looked better gave her more courage to keep going.

Fear is rushing. And rushing can be a maladaptive response if the thing you’re running away from isn’t the thing you should really be fearful of. The opposite of fear is we stop. We slow down. We come to stillness. We listen. We stand back and choose a path before taking action. If you’re hardwired for rushing out of fear, for getting out of bed or through your day on adrenaline, and for making life decisions based on fear, it can take you a while to reset. Rose had to face her fears, all of them, and during the detox it was all coming out. And may I add, Filipinos can be dramatic!

It’s important to understand that expressing suppressed emotions is healing—no matter how negative they are—so they can unwind and get out of the bodymind. And during detox, they can come out really fast. The sediment of the past gets stirred up and things start moving to the surface to get pushed out. I think of emotional detox like pooping, farting or burping. It wants to come out! And if you are care-taking for someone experiencing a somatic-emotional release, stay out of the way! Being there, being supportive and being an empathetic witness doesn’t mean getting caught up in the drama. 

It’s the same as when someone’s about to throw up; you get them a towel, but if you don’t want to get vomited on, don’t stand between them and the bathroom! Having done somatic-emotional release work for 15 years, if there’s one thing I know, it’s how to hold someone’s hair for them when they vomit toxic emotions without getting in the way of the vomit. Somatic-emotional therapy is the art of being there and not being there. It’s the art of dodging the crap while being really present with someone who's emotionally detoxing, tuning into the vibrations of the moment, empathizing with the person healing, and even touching the holographic dimensions of their healing journey with them, with memories flashing by, and suddenly finding yourself standing in a moment frozen in time that’s loaded with meaning for that person. You see all of it laid out like a tableau, and you intuitively "get it.” You feel it. You start to see what it was that caused the illness in the first place. And what it is that needs to heal. All the way down to the roots of the illness that wind into the ground of the past. During detox, each one of these roots begins to come alive and slough off dead parts that aren’t needed anymore for life.

In the middle of all this emotional processing, Rose had one close friend who became fearful the cancer would spread if Rose didn’t rush into surgery to cut out the tumor right away. And that fear got more intense when Rose decided to continue the detox to day 14. When Rose did the math and decided to add another week, setting her target on 21 days of detox, Rose’s friend got worried. Her worry is a common fear. It keeps many people from even trying to take personal responsibility for reducing toxins, cleaning up their waste and tending to their core nutrition and hydration to improve their situation. Even Amy asked the dreaded question after arriving to pick Rose up from me on day 14. Would the cancer in the tumor spread while Rose was detoxing? Luckily, she already knew in her heart what the answer was, because she’d done the detox with me for 10 days a couple years before, and because as soon as she saw Rose she blurted out, “Wow, you look great! How is it that you get a cancer diagnosis, and 2 weeks later, you look better!” Probably from that moment when she saw Rose looking better, Amy’s fear that had fermented in the car on the drive over—that the tumor was growing and could spread—became deflated and half-hearted. It lasted about 3 minutes before she moved on to taking notes about what her mother would need to continue the detox until they got to Las Vegas, and beyond to day 21. It was clear just looking and talking to Rose that the risk of Rose’s body growing more cancerous tumors had gone down, not up. The change was fast and dramatic. But Rose’s friend talking to her on the phone couldn’t see that Rose was looking better.

Rose knew she wasn’t going to convince her friend by talking. She knew intuitively that you have to experience detox to believe it. I felt her step back a bit from her friend, because when the biggest thing you have to fear is fear itself, we naturally gravitate toward people who are positive with faith and trust in self-care during a time of healing. Because healing starts with the belief that you can heal. People who are sick often retreat for a time to do their healing work. Because healing comes from within, not from outside, you have to get really connected with your self. You have to face your fears and may not have time or energy for other people’s fears. You have to listen and feel what’s happening, and what the body wants, and what the heart wants, and what the mind needs to let go of, and what it needs to learn to adapt and make healthy changes. Because healing is all about making changes. And when you get a cancer diagnosis, you know it's time to change.

Family Healing

While Rose was facing her fears as her family figured out where to send her for the next step of her healing journey, Rose was busy processing a slew of body stories that were rising up and releasing, memories of events she now regretted, things she had done, particularly with her daughter Amy, that hurt people, or repeated patterns that she learned from her father, like being so strict and controlling. She hated that as a child, she suffered from it, and later she had turned around and done the same thing to her own daughter. And now, in this moment in her life at 82, she was facing a stage 1 cancerous tumor, with wisdom and life experience. Rose knew things now she didn’t know in the past, she had insights, and so she had some regrets. And at the same time, she had hurts. So many hurts. So many hurt feelings. So many stinging memories of moments when she felt unloved or uncared for, or when she couldn’t find home emotionally, felt pain and unhappiness, with the people she loved. 

In addition all this family healing going on, Rose had to process her own fear of giving up the ozone generator that a friend had lent us so Rose could do daily rectal ozone insufflation at home. Rose didn’t want to lose her access to ozone. That was really clear. The ozone made Rose feel hopeful. Without it, a wave of fear was rising up again. The principle of worthy inquiry worked for us. As Rose began to talk about her desire to own her own ozone generator, we began to search online and talk to my friend who had lent us his old backup system. His new ozone system cost $3,200, and that seemed a far reach for Rose and her family. But as we continued to inquire he helped us piece together a product list where we ordered the components separately and assembled our own system. With his recommendation for an ozone generator that was far cheaper but still capable of delivering ozone at a therapeutic concentration, we brought the price down to $749 plus shipping. Amy ordered everything online, including a diffusion stone to ozonate water for Rose to start drinking, and had it shipped to Toni in Las Vegas. 

Now I want to talk about family healing. Remember when someone falls ill, the whole family of that person is invited to join the healing journey to change dysfunctional bodymindsets that led to chronic ill health in the first place. The whole intergenerational family dynamic has an opportunity to heal—to change and adapt to be more functional. To cut to the chase, let me assure you that Rose was not the only one detoxing toxic emotions during Rose’s cleanse! 

But whatever was going on, most of all we were all feeling gratitude for Rose's willingness and commitment to help herself with our help. Many families would be driving back and forth to the hospital already, dealing with an elder with post-surgery recovery and rehab, possible complications, medical bills, insurance documents, and possibly one side-effect after another, or one treatment after another, with their elder losing more and more physical and mental function. Thanks to Rose's positive attitude and understanding of natural healing, and her motivation (because a cancer diagnosis is a kick in the butt motivationally), we all got the opportunity to have a healing experience in our homes which is more peaceful and calm, at minimum cost and risk compared to invasive surgeries and hospitalization with possible side-effects that might include fecal incontinence. We felt grateful that Rose’s diagnosis wasn’t worse than it was. Gratitude is the other side of grief on the scale of the emotions. Gratitude is incredibly healing. And gratitude was circling around—gratitude for Rose, gratitude for me, gratitude for Amy, gratitude for Toni, even gratitude for Ocean, Toni’s son who would help look after his great grandmother when she arrived in Las Vegas.

Loving and Living

Rose's cancer diagnosis was also an opportunity to reexamine what it means to care for loved ones. Amy had just had a costly lesson about what can happen if you accept every invasive medical treatment offered by a doctor, after a drama had recently played out with her dog and the vet, landing her $14k out of pocket and her dog died anyway. The lesson we all learned from that experience was—instead of chase invasive expensive treatments, tend to the basics first, support the natural healing process, and accept that death is always a possibility. Healing is not throwing costly and invasive medical treatments at a dying dog, or person. Life is not a game to cheat death a few weeks, or even months. To think this way, we all had to accept that it was possible that Rose, like Amy's dog, was actually preparing to drop her body soon.

On the other hand, Rose, who is about to turn 82, may recover from the challenge of this cancer diagnosis and continue to live another decade. Or more! That she has a positive attitude and curiosity about life, and the determination to take action, makes it a real possibility. So we don't really know the final outcome, and it doesn't really matter, does it? Surely, the path will rise up to meet us, as the Irish say. But whatever was in store for us ahead, we were all there to make the journey as healing as possible—me, Amy, Toni and Rose. As a result of our shared belief that the healing path would take us wherever we needed to go, all of us felt suddenly more alive, because we were paying attention to every single moment, as if it might soon be our last. And isn’t that the way to live?

As a family, this was where we were when Toni stepped forward to say she would take in her grandmother Rose for the next month to oversee the last week of detox, the transition back to raw vegan foods, followed by the transition backed to cooked vegan or vegetarian food. Rose going to Toni’s was perfect, because Toni is a wellbeing life coach who has done the detox many times, and she loves her grandma Rose like a second mom. We knew Rose was in good hands with Toni for whatever healing journey awaited her.

So when Toni texted to say Amy and Rose had arrived safely in Las Vegas, we all sighed a big sigh of relief. Even under stress of an elder’s cancer diagnosis, we were at peace. We had chosen a path that felt comfortable, doable, and responsible. We had taken a deep breath. We had found a way to care for Rose and take care of everyone's needs enough to make it work. We didn’t know the final outcome. I’m not sure if we ever really do, do we? But somehow we all knew we had turned a corner, and that we were healing something important, not just for Rose, but for all of us.