That time I almost had cancer...twice, and why I went plant based...for good.
*Warning, this post may trigger some. It uses strong language and strong opinions on animal welfare.
I got a call from my OBGYN who called every year since my initial exam from when I was 16 to remind me about my annual appointment. I want to say right here and now that that Gynecologist might just be the best doctor in the entire world (at least to me). The fact that this office called me every year for 9 years, and I had never called back to reschedule an appointment is miracle number 1. Miracle two, I had a pap smear in treatment (for drug and alcohol addiction) about 6 months prior and my results were negative for abnormal cells so I would normally wait a year to schedule another annual exam, but the thought came to mind that I should just “reestablish the relationship with her,” so I booked the appointment. When I went in for the appointment nothing miraculous took place, but I was honest with her about being in recovery and in a committed relationship. She called with my results when they came in a few days later and asked me to come in as the results were abnormal. She sounded fairly concerned on the phone, and I did not understand why this was a bad thing at the time. When I came in she told me “You are considered a stage 0 for cancer, but we need to remove the abnormal cells right away via a LEEP procedure.” My eyes glazed over, and I think I left my body for a little while as she explained the procedure and asked me to change into my gown. I was alone for the appointment. I had looked up the procedure prior to coming in, but it was hard to understand exactly the nature of the problem or the severity. She did explain to me that there are several strains of HPV that can cause cervical cancer and they can lay dormant for any amount of time, so there is no way to know when or where I may have gotten them along the way. No way to point fingers to a specific partner. She also said there was not really any determinate cause for the cancer cells to begin to grow other than major life changes in a person's life that they knew of at the time. I guess when my body came back to life after treatment, it set them off. The LEEP procedure did not get rid of the extent of the fledgling cancer growth and I would have to have a cone biopsy immediately. This is where they remove a conical shaped piece of your cervix, as the cancer grows up into the uterus, to “get ahead of it” to remove it all, while still hopefully preserving one’s ability to conceive and carry a pregnancy later. The procedure was a success. I had to have a pap smear every 3 months for the first year and then every 6 months for my second year to make sure no regrowth occurred. At my last appointment I told that doctor, “I don’t know if I said anything before, but thank you for saving my life…” She responded playfully, “no you didn’t, and you’re welcome. You had the fastest growing form of cervical cancer. If you had not come in, you would have been dead in 6 months.” I stood there, dumbfounded. I never asked what strain I had. I never sensed from her how serious it was. Had the intuition to “reestablish the relationship” not come across my mind, or had I just dismissed it and waited, I would have died. I was saved twice. Once by the treatment center I went to (and the interventionist, my ex-boyfriend, and my friends), and once by this awesome doctor. This same OBGYN sent me to a Gastroenterologist 5 years later, where they discovered huge polyps blocking my intestines that were in the beginning stages of becoming colon cancer! At 29! I wanted a second opinion as my Primary Care doctor had said blood in my stool was normal as a runner, and it was probably just internal hemorrhoids. It had been going on for over a year so I thought it best to talk to my doctor. She was appalled and tried to restrain her anger at his dismissal. This woman was amazing. I had those polyps removed and quit smoking soon after.
At this same time, my mother had to change her diet because she had become pre-diabetic and was recommended the book “Eat to Live” by Dr. Joel Fuhrman. I told her I would read it with her in solidarity and discovered the vast health benefits of cutting out animal products and limiting meat consumption to a few times a month. I experimented for a few years between vegetarian, pescatarian, and flexitarian(mostly vegan, but being flexible when out to eat or with friends and family and indulging in non-vegan foods), and eventually went fully plant based about 5 years ago after a snorkeling trip to the Florida Keys. I could not deny the disconnect of how I felt seeing all the beautiful fish in nature and then turning around and eating them later. A little about the discomfort I see from others when I talk about being plant-based…Subconsciously, I think people associate certain foods and traditions with love. To them, when I say “no thank you” to a dish, especially a holiday or family dish, they equate it (subconsciously) with me taking away or threatening their love of home. They equate it with a rejection of them. Even though I love many people who eat meat, I do not equate food with a person’s lovability. This is just simply not happening. We are so entrenched in the foods of our family culture; we do not see that the food and the person are separate; the food and the love of our friends and family is separate. Along my journey I watched a lot of heartbreaking documentary footage of factory farm killing and even “humane” killing of animals, and both were too much for me. I am an empath, I was born an empath, and for me, I cannot handle the killing of animals for food when I know, in this modern world it is wholly unnecessary for me to live and thrive without them on my plate. I have always loved animals and we grew up with a lot of pets. I would no sooner eat an animal today (or use its excretions) than I would one of my house pets. I understand many people are okay with the mass killing of animals and fish for food, and I cannot tell you how to live, I only want to tell what happened for me. I have been caught unaware and alarmed at times, how violently people will defend their food choices to me, when I am simply about nonviolence towards all beings and when I simply tell them I do not eat animal products. I find the violent reactions of others have more to do with their own conscience that they are battling, and they are projecting them on to me. The darkness and the light cannot coexist. My non-eating of meat shines light on their eating of meat. Most people claim to be perfectly okay with exploiting and killing animals for food, yet their violent reactions to my not eating animals, say otherwise. It is always deeper than what is on the surface. I was the same way (that's how I know). My father owns a barbeque restaurant, so I am by no means white as snow. I defended meat, and the livelihood of my upbringing vehemently. I have had, and enjoyed my fair share of meat etc. In fact, I probably had more than the average person because of its abundance in our lives growing up. When people tell me, they could not possibly give up cheese, or say that non-dairy creamer just does not taste the same, I often think…I did not quit eating cheese or meat because I did not enjoy the flavor or feel deep sadness letting them go. I quit because it was the right thing to do for my health and the health of the planet, and my desire to have the food was not paramount to the life I was taking by eating it. Also, almonds are not dairy, they are different products, so YES, they will taste different because they are (again) different products. Just like acquiring any new taste, it can be done, it is not exceedingly difficult either. I am not one of those ignorance-is-bliss people any longer. When I decided to grow, spiritually and emotionally, this included expanding my consciousness and learning the truth about my life and the world around me. I now know, because it was irresponsible to turn a blind eye, that the happy cow on the back of the milk delivery truck, and that has been on my milk carton since elementary school, is a lie. It is marketing, and it is a grievous lie. Cows are not happy to be artificially (and sometimes violently) inseminated, carry a baby, and then have their babies ripped from them (and yes, they scream and cry for their babies), only to be hooked up to a machine that steals their baby's milk, and if that baby is a boy, will most likely be killed to use as veal, then mother cow is hooked up to a machine, inside, fed GMO corn (another huge problem to address another day, hello deforestation), standing on concrete, until she is no longer useful, and then killed. No, every dairy farm isn't this gruesome. Some may live in a pasture some of the time. Some may be treated better, but I can guarantee you they are continually impregnated and their babies still taken from them, which they feel at every heartbreaking level. What a life. Can you imagine? Can you still support dairy farms? What if you were that cow? What if your child were that cow? Your mother? Stop right now, and go watch a baby cow being taken from its mother, and try to deny their pain. There is no God or Religion that should ever condone that. End of story. I investigate my food. I like to know if I am contributing to the peace and wellbeing of the world or its destruction. I do not turn a blind eye. I do not pay someone to kill (or torture) animals for me. I want to try to make it better. I am a mother, and I want to have a solid answer when my kids asked me what I did to leave the world better for them. I do not want to be closed to evolution or on the wrong side of history. I know my children will teach me; I know we will grow together, and I hope they are better and stronger than I ever was. That is why I am writing this. I want others to find their bravery, their sacredness as early as possible, and let that mfker shine.