My New Life
Mary Pat Palmer-Taylor
I grew up in Carmel, California, but when I married, I moved East; first to Vermont for ten years and then Boston for 25 years. I worked as an herbalist and psychotherapist, and thatís how I lived my life until two and a half years ago, when I attended a workshop on facial diagnosis taught by the late William LeSassier.
On the second day of the class, William walked up to me and said, ďYou have something seriously wrong with your large intestine, and you have to get it checked immediately.Ē
In colon cancer and other serious colon disturbances, there will be small or not-so-small pouches on either side of the mouth. Thatís what he saw.
As soon as I got home, I went for a checkup. The doctors didnít find anything in the first exam or in my stool, but they took a blood test and saw that I was severely anemic. I was bleeding to death internally without knowing it.
They scheduled an immediate colonoscopy. The colonoscopist said he had never seen such a clean colon -- it was perfect except for a two-inch tumor. I attribute the cleanliness of my colon to years of herbal therapies, and I attribute the tumor to a lot of early childhood trauma and, more recently, several years of physical and emotional stress.
In surgery, one foot of my ascending colon was removed, and they told me I would die without chemotherapy. I was supposed to take 18 chemo sessions, but I had a lot of questions, and the first chemo treatment convinced me that it would be insane to continue. It was a terrible, terrible attack on my entire body. So I refused further chemotherapy.
I got a lot of wonderful advice from fellow herbalists, and that was a big help. David Winston was the first to respond, and he emphasized the importance of choosing someone near me to work with.
I chose Margi Flint in Marblehead, Massachusetts. Margi mixed up Chris Hobbsí mushroom mix for me and gave me a lot of very sound advice.
I also started to see Master Bo In Lee at the New Life Health Center in Jamaica Plain, Mass., where I lived and worked. By an amazing coincidence, Bo In Lee is a cancer specialist as well as an acupuncturist and herbalist. I started out seeing him five days a week and gradually tapered down to once a week, then once every two weeks.
I also bought a rebounder (miniature trampoline) and bounced on it several times a day for improved lymph circulation.
The combination of herbal treatments, acupuncture, improved diet, rebounding, and yoga made a big difference. I also rested a lot. I thought about what I wanted to do with my life. I realized that not only did I not want to die in Boston, I didnít want to live there, either. I was terribly homesick for my redwoods, California Quail and the Pacific Ocean.
So I came to California on an exploratory trip. That was a pivotal decision. I realized I needed to be back where I grew up, in the region I thought of as my true home. Fortunately, my husband and I were able to do that. We sold our house in Boston at a great profit, and that allowed us to make the move.
I really stuck to the straight and narrow for two years. The second anniversary of my surgery was last May 22. Iíve been told that two years is a major landmark or turning point. If you make it to the two-year mark, especially if you do so in improved health, thatís a very good sign.
So for two years, I really watched my Ps and Qs. I also took two products that I truly believe in, a high-VSP Coriolus versicolor extract in capsules and a reishi (Ganoderma lucidum) extract, both from JHS Natural Products (PO Box 50398, Eugene OR 97504, phone 1-888-330-4691 or 541-344-1396).
I took those every day for two years. Interestingly enough, after two years I got a rash which I suspect was a Candida albicans infection related to these medicinal mushrooms, so I stopped taking these extracts for two weeks. The rash went away and I resumed the mushrooms.
Now I see an acupuncturist and herbalist here in California, Dr. Grace Liu, who has to be in her eighties. Sheís absolutely phenomenal. I see her every other week.
When I consider everything that happened, I know I made the right choice. From my front window I can see our beautiful, big garden with raised beds, herbs and flowers on one side, vegetables on the other. We have 16 acres, 13 of which are redwoods.
In many ways, I realize that cancer was a gift. It made me reassess my life, my priorities, and what I really wanted. Once I got my wakeup call, I realized that I wanted to be near my redwoods, my family, and my kids, all of whom are here in the West.
Simply freeing myself from the responsibilities that defined my life in Boston was so liberating. Itís true that I have less financial security now, but thatís OK.
I donít know how other people in this situation feel, but if the cancer comes back, I probably wonít fight it. I donít think itís going to come back, and neither does anyone else, but this whole process has made me unafraid of death. I was fairly accepting of death before, but now I see it as just another process, similar to the life-changing process I went through when I was first diagnosed. When my life in this incarnation is finished, Iíll go on to the next one.
Iím working full-time with people with disabilities as a substance abuse specialist. Part of it is counseling and part of it is social work. I would love to counsel cancer patients; thatís one of my goals.
I would love to share with people the natural options to conventional cancer therapy, and also to remind people to make their own decisions. Deciding what to do with your life is a sacred process.
This is the process of thinking about where we want to be and what we want to do. Iím very drawn to the Buddhist concepts of compassion and helping. All of my work as a counselor, whether it involves substance abuse, incest, or cancer, involves helping, sharing experiences, and encouraging people.
I know that as an incest survivor, Iíve helped a lot of incest survivors move forward in terms of healing, and I would love to do that with cancer patients as well.
I donít think that my choice of treatment is a right or a wrong choice for others, but itís an option that most people donít know they have.
Not only do people have choices, but all of the decisions are theirs to make. This includes decisions about what treatments to accept and what treatments to refuse, but it also includes decisions about everyday matters, like when to get up, or what to eat.
In my case, Iíve stayed flexible about my sweet tooth.
All through this, Susun Weed has said, ďBe careful that youíre not too good,Ē and I think thatís excellent advice.
I didnít want to change my life so drastically that I wouldnít have any little pleasures to enjoy. I canít say my diet is perfect, but itís very good, and Iím happy with it.
In general, I feel exceedingly healthy. The two-year landmark was a turning point in terms of feeling better. My energy came back. It took a hit when I started working full-time, but after a few weeks, I adjusted to the new routine, and now I feel terrific.
When you get your pipes rearranged, as I did, it takes a while to recover, so I needed time for physical healing. But now in addition to feeling physically healed, I have an inner strength that I didnít have before.
This has been an exciting path. Itís still a wonder to me, and I feel amazingly blessed. I feel blessed by Williamís diagnosis, truly a miracle, and blessed by everyone in the herbal community who helped by sending information, recommendations, advice, and encouragement.
Very special thanks to my herbal group; Madelon, Jane, Nancy, Lesley and Gretchen; to Rosemary for her ongoing love and support, and to C.J. who sent so many wonderful articles and information for me to choose from.
I attribute my healing as much to my community as to the treatments I chose and everything else. I miss everyone in NEHA terribly, but I still feel connected through our vibrant organization. We may be on opposite coasts now, but weíre still attached. I hope all of you know how much you mean to me and how much you carried me through all this. Much of my recovery came from the sheer love and kindness I received from the herbal community.
Here at my new address, I landed on both feet. I had a vision that I would teach yoga out here, and sure enough, I got here and thatís what people wanted.
In fact, I started teaching yoga within two months of moving here. The advantage to teaching twice a week is that it keeps me doing it. Yoga has been part of my life since I was 17 and took lessons from the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.
My usual workout is about an hour and a half. Even when I was recovering from surgery, I tried to do at least 20 minutes of yoga several times a week in modified positions. When my abdominal muscles recovered, it got easier.
I also got Yarrow, a Beagle, who pulls at the leash. Iím convinced that the best exercise for my stomach muscles was taking hour-long walks in Franklin Park with Yarrow. I had to hold onto him, and he supplied just the right amount of resistance.
The other way in which yoga helped is that at the end of every yoga session, I am overwhelmed with feelings of love. Thereís this welling up of well-being, and it spills over into the feelings I have for my children, the land around me, and everything else in my life.
If I were a churchgoer, the same experience might happen then. Whatís important is taking the time on a daily basis to really see and appreciate whatís around you. Whatever you can do to generate feelings of pure joy is worth doing.
So here I am, three thousand miles from my NEHA friends but with all of you in spirit, feeling better than I have in years, in a new phase of my life, and full of appreciation for all of the wisdom, knowledge, affection, generosity, and sharing that has come from our herbal network.
LINK to Mary Pat Palmer-Taylor's
Video posted June 2010
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