Chapter 10 - Dancing Beyond Cancer - Treating Improvement

Chater 10 -------- Treating Improvement

After several weeks of being at home, we started to see gradual improvement. The process was slow and rigorous for Danielle. She was not healing near as fast as she was expecting. The doctor said it should take two weeks to heal after the surgery, but at a month and a half, we were beginning to see the improvement we both so desperately wanted. Improvement was a constant judge of the progress we were making against the disease. All the new treatments had us convinced Danielle was going to beat the Cancer. I did not doubt in my mind that we would lose the battle.

Danielle’s doses of curcumin intravenously through her port produced immediate results. While it wasn’t quite the results we expected, it did show us that it was doing some serious work in her body. The IV’s were far more intense than we initially expected. The side effects varied depending on where it entered the body. Itching and slight burning were common side effects but typically when administered into the arms. Since we were using the port to administer the IV, we expected the irritation and itching would be less severe.

The biggest issue we faced was the reactions to the IV itself. The first week went by without a hitch. After a week, we started seeing more results, and these were very unexpected results. Danielle would explain it to me that it felt like her insides were burning, especially where the disease was. She also noticed that she would get pain in her gall bladder because of all the die-off from the treatment. From what I read in the supporting material, it was great at cleaning out the body, and sometimes the gall bladder would become overwhelmed. The ND explained it was something similar to gall stones but not quite as painful. Danielle felt the pain and having endured both agreed with the doctor.

I felt so bad for Danielle for having to go through such an intense treatment. The thought of even trying something more toxic or problematic seemed ludicrous. I knew that we might have been facing more dire problems during a chemotherapy regimen. Despite the potential comparison, we still were facing a powerful treatment. The intensity would wear Danielle out, and the nights after a treatment would be particularly rough.

Danielle found sleep rather difficult because of near constant discomfort. She would occasionally nap during the day, but mostly, she would try to stay up and sleep at night with me. Obviously, because of her pain, she often stayed awake while I slept. However, I would instantly wake up if she needed me. Most of the time, we would wake up several times a night to use the bathroom. The surgery had made her less regular with bathroom breaks.

It never bothered me being with her in the bathroom. It was more important to make sure she was safe versus worry about silly cultural taboos. She usually needed a little assistance to the bathroom, especially at night when she was often much weaker. Truthfully it was a great time to talk since the distraction helped with the discomfort. Some might have thought it was a shitty situation, but I enjoyed every minute with my wife. Thankfully, for her sake, she was becoming increasingly more independent with every passing day.

Danielle started taking short walks up and down the street. She was constantly trying to move to help with the rehabilitation. She felt so helpless because of her condition and what it prevented her from doing. The limitations pushed Danielle to accelerate her rehabilitation. The doctors had told us that walking regularly and keeping the body moving would assist in the healing process. So Danielle, even immediately after the surgery, was up and trying to walk around. After a month and a half, she was becoming far more self-reliant. I no longer needed to provide constant support, and she could easily walk a couple of hundred yards before exhaustion. I was so impressed.

The progress wasn’t without setbacks. Two separate instances had shown how important it was, for Danielle, not to push herself without assistance. Both accidents occurred while she was trying to take a solo walk. It was almost disastrous as she fell both times injuring herself. The added stress of making the injured journey home was likely more damaging. Danielle became increasingly cautious after the second incident, but that never stopped her from moving forward.

It would fill Danielle with great joy every time she showed improvement. Walking further day after day filled her with a great sense of accomplishment. Danielle appreciated and recognized the small improvements. Then she constantly tested her boundaries as she felt more and more capable. Typically we would do two to three hikes down the street every day, assuming the weather was cooperating. The cold weather was not Danielle’s friend. Her body couldn’t handle the shock of being cold, nor could it deal with the stress caused by prolonged exposure. Even properly dressing for the cold weather became a hardship. Despite the challenges Danielle gave her recovery every bit of strength she could muster.

As her physical strength began to return, so did her desire to help around the house. Even though I would discourage her from doing household chores, she still would find time while I was working. She knew I would never let her strain herself while I was home. Even though I knew it wasn’t the best thing for her to be doing, I could also tell that it made her happy to be a contributing member to our marriage. It always made her sad that she was unable to be of service. Danielle was truly an independent woman and a driven go-getter when I met her. I couldn’t imagine the struggle she faced with having that independence stripped away in such a traumatic series of events.

Danielle’s internal struggles were a constant stressor. I could see and hear the pain when she would talk about the things she wished she could be doing. She clearly missed all her students the most. She missed the dance, and because of that would completely avoid listening to music, something she did very regularly before the Cancer. Even texts from students would remind her of how much she wanted to teach. So many parts of her life reminded her of the things she had lost.

I even reminded her of everything she wished she could do as a wife. We were technically still newlyweds, and her health had prevented a proper consummation. There was so much she wished she could do for me, even though I didn’t need anything from her. The truth is that I had zero problems stepping up to the plate to be the person my wife needed. The satisfaction received from doing the right thing and the gratitude I received was all I needed to keep me going. I didn’t think much about the things we didn’t have because I fully expected we would have a lifetime to indulge in the physical pleasures.

I did everything I could to make sure that she didn’t feel inadequate. Danielle had never allowed herself to be so dependent on someone. So it was not an easy transition for her to let me fill those roles. There were many roles that she never thought I would have to fill. I don’t think either of us expected our relationship to evolve into a caregiver/patient union. However, when it came to the kitchen, I learned it was best to keep Danielle out, healthy or not.

I learned very early in our relationship that Danielle couldn’t cook, especially after eating my first boiled steak. So, it wasn’t a problem for me to prepare all the meals that Danielle needed. Her diet had greatly simplified, with overall guidelines being organic, non-GMO, and Gluten-Free. She also avoided sugars like the plague. I had no idea how much food has sugar added until I had to start reading every label. Where I could go, shopping was limited to Natural Grocers or the Local Health Market. Danielle ate loads of superfoods, smoothies, and super grains. Another staple in Danielle’s diet was gluten-free muffins and Free Range Organic Local Eggs. It was simple but rather expensive.

Thankfully due to the additional financial support, we were able to afford the best of the best when it came to food. I know how important diet is, and Danielle was even more vigilant in making sure everything she ate was up to her standards. I would often have to clear any new food with her, and even temporary food replacements needed approval. The ND was a vital part of making sure we had the best food for Danielle also. There were many products she recommended for us that I believe helped. Due to the surgery, Danielle had become hypersensitive to many different foods.

Dietary restrictions were one of the biggest challenges we faced with making sure that the food I purchased wouldn’t make her sick. A big challenge was to make sure her sensitive digestive system didn’t take in anything that would cause a negative reaction. Too much oil would cause digestive problems causing additional pain in her gall bladder. We practically removed all oils except for a little raw coconut oil. Most things were baked or steamed to preserve the nutrients. I did my best to meet or exceed all of Danielle’s requirements.

Gluten was obviously a big no-no in her diet. The smallest amount would cause extended abdominal pain. I also made sure that anything I prepared was free of onions, garlic, and spicy peppers. These were all of Danielle’s previous diet restrictions before the surgery. The only exception was a very nutritious Bone Broth made with garlic and onions. If we veered off the path, Danielle would experience more pain, more discomfort, and further bowel issues. Digestion was one of Danielle’s biggest concerns.

To keep the digestive concerns under control, we kept a strict diet. Most mornings would start with a completely plain gluten-free waffle from the restaurant we first met. I would also procure several internationally famous raw chocolates from their chocolate bar. I would usually call in the order so I could drive down the street and return within ten minutes. I never wanted to be away from Danielle a minute longer than needed. Upon my return, she would usually eat the first half of her waffle then put the rest in the fridge. Simple and small meals were common.

Other mornings included buckwheat oatmeal with three soft boiled eggs. I perfected the amount of time it would take to make a perfect soft-boiled egg because they were Danielle’s favorite. If she didn’t have oatmeal, she would often accompany the eggs with half a gluten-free English muffin. There were very few companies that made an English Muffin that was tolerable to my wife. An issue that was constantly an issue when shopping, thankfully, we isolated the problem ingredients and avoided them no matter what.

As she healed, she tried to consume more and more food. It was very difficult for her to eat because of the nausea that she constantly felt. The curcumin treatment made it even worse, and Medical Marijuana only reduced the symptoms. We faced a constant struggle with making sure that the nausea was never more than she could handle. Danielle knew her body so well and knew its limits and would only eat as much as she felt strong enough to eat. Many times she would have to put the rest of her meal in the fridge for later. She would always make sure to finish it when she felt capable, so food rarely went to waste.