Occasionally, someone will ask me how I "beat" Stage 4 Melanoma. First of all, I don't think of it that way. I don't think I will ever say those words because one, it can always come back ANYTIME, and two, when it's all said and done, God is in control of my life, not me.
BUT, there are some things or "tools" that I believe helped me get to remission and I call them my "tool belt". I think my tool belt helped increase my odds in having success.
They consist of (and in no particular order):
1. Having the right doctor. I did a lot of research when I was first diagnosed with Stage 4. I sought out opinions from some of the best melanoma experts in the country. I eventually went with a doctor in S.F. I chose him because one, my parents live in the Bay area, and two, he had been treating melanoma for over 20 years and had many SURVIVORS. I figured he was doing something right! I feel I made the best decision for ME, and I trust my doctor with my life (and that's saying a lot)!
2. Choosing the right treatment. There isn't one sure-all treatment plan that works for everyone (unfortunately). We are all unique in our genetics, lifestyle, diagnosis, etc. When I was choosing a treatment plan, I really researched it, studied it out, listened and contemplated on ALL of the opinions I received from doctors (and even patients I had met), and then went with the plan that made the most sense to me, gave me the best chance of remission and success, and seemed like the best FIRST step in kicking melanoma to the curb. This plan also included a couple of back-up plans (also important, I believe).
3. An amazing support network. This is probably one of the most helpful "tools" in my tool belt. There is no way I would've made it through treatment physcially, emotionally, and spiritually without my family, friends, church, community, and even strangers rallying behind me. I can honestly say I wouldn't be here today without my "peeps"! :)
4. The right mind-frame. Another necessary "tool" to carry. I think in order to "beat the odds" (especially when you aren't given very good odds), you have to ignore the statistics, have hope and faith in a miracle, be determined to come out on top, keep your "eye on the prize", and remain optimistic throughout the entire journey.
5. A healthy lifestyle. I was lucky, I think, to already have a healthy lifestyle before beginning treatment or even before I was diagnosed. I have been physically active my WHOLE LIFE and have always tried my best to eat healthy, nutritious whole foods. When I was diagnosed and then started treatment, I made more changes though. I incorporated more yoga to my exercise routine (a big one for stress relief, anxiety, and the mind-body connection), I ate more leafy greens (by drinking green smoothies daily), I juiced vegetables and fruit, I cut out sugar almost completely, and I refrained from drinking any soda of any kind (not that I drank a lot of that before hand anyways). In general, I adopted more a plant-based diet, taking in more than 50% of my diet in form of fruits and vegetables (and mostly in their raw form). I even cut down on animal protein, rarely eating red meat, and even eating vegetarian a couple times a week. I think all of those things made a HUGE difference and aided in my recovery and boosting my immune system.
6. To go along with the healthy lifestyle, I also researched and incorporated a few "supplements" into my diet/lifestyle. I started taking some really comprehesive whole food supplements designed to regenerate cellular vitality, enhance the immune system, strengthen the digestive and nervous system, and detoxify my organs. I also started using essential oils and found incredible results. Since using essential oils, I have yet to get a cold (and that was more than a year ago), my allergy symptoms are lessened, I sleep better, I deal with anxiety better, the list goes on...
7. Having an acupuncturist and hynotherapist. While undergoing treatment, I had regular hynotherapy and acupuncture sessions. Those helped with stress and anxiety, sleep issues, detoxifying my liver/kidneys, tolerating the side effects of treatments, and harnassing the power of the subconcious mind by utilizing postive self-guided imagery. I credit both of these practices with tolerating the treatments better than the average patient and staying positive throughout everything. I think the people who are open to "alternative" forms of healthcare often do better. For me, it just made sense to do everything I can, and "beat" cancer from all different angles. I wasn't going to put all my eggs in one basket.
8. Prayer, prayer, and more prayer. The power of prayer is truly, in my mind, the most powerful force on the planet. And I'm not speaking of only my own prayers. Knowing that literally hundreds of people are praying for you everyday is one of the greatest blessings I could have ever experienced. I know it is the power of prayer, and through the Lord's hands, that I was healed.
9. An incredible caregiver. One does not simply get through cancer without a great caregiver(s). I was lucky to have a few. My parents for one, who were with me for every doctor visit, scan, treatment, and hospital stay. They would even sleep in a cot next to me when I was doing treatment for 5 days at a time. Talk about selfless! My parents would run "food" errands and get anything I was craving (and would eat), rub lotion on my back, brush my hair, and keep my mind distracted with happier things. I simply couldn't have gotten through treatment without them beside me. My husband was also a great caregiver. When I was home, he made sure I ate well, got enough sleep, and took care of the kids, all so that I wouldn't have to worry about any of it when I was home (or away for that matter). He arranged meals, got the kids off to school or friends' houses, grocery shopped, cleaned the house, and did the laundry. I have one amazing husband and I'm so grateful that he stuck by my side and remained such a "rock" throughout.
10. Did I mention, GOD?! Of all my "tools" in my toolbelt, God was definitley the most important tool. If it weren't for Him, the other tools wouldn't have made a difference. They wouldn't have mattered without God. I fully recognize that God provided me ALL of these tools to heal and get better. He blessed with me the power, the knowledge, the people, and the attitude to do what I needed to do to get better. Ultimately, it was His almighty power that provided the miracle that I see today--my life. I am so grateful to God for overseeing my journey and for answering all of my prayers. Relying and trusting on Him has helped me see His hand in all things, and that is a true gift.