Tuesday, August 19, 2014

A Gift From a Friend

This week I am in Kansas City visiting my cousin Hoddy.  It's been a great trip for many reasons, one being that my best friend since kindergarten also happens to live here, so I've been able to have fun with both of them although I admitted to them that I felt a little torn between two lovers, wanting to see both of them as much as possible - what a nice dilemma to have!   But the main reason I came at this time was to visit Hoddy and her family.

Hoddy is fifteen years younger than I, and grew up in San Francisco, CA.  I moved to the Bay area when she was eight, and she and her family are very special to me as they were very much supportive and loving during a time when I literally had no friends or money or idea of what the heck I was doing out in the world.  Over six feet tall, smart, fun and beautiful, Hoddy is a powerhouse of positive energy.  When I first moved to California, she spend a lot of time turning cartwheels in the living room of her flat and perfecting her considerable dance moves.  She then went on to play volleyball at William and Mary, attend law school, marry her college sweetheart, land a job at a top law firm in SF, have three children, and then move to Kansas and start two businesses (the BAR Method exercise studios - look it up, it's fabulous) here in Kansas.  In the space of three years, her businesses are not only successful, they are a lovely gathering place with an upbeat, energetic and caring atmosphere where (I can tell) true friendships and bonds are being formed.  That's because the Bar Method is her bliss - and it shows!  Not only does she give it her love, attention, and energy, she gets so much out of it as well.

And at the moment, Hoddy really needs every ounce of energy she can get, because she is using up a lot of her enormous well of it to battle cancer.  She was diagnosed with Stage IV lymphoma in February.   I came to Kansas to visit, give moral support, and help Hoddy, but I feel I've come away with far more than I have given and I want to share some of the things I've learned from my fabulous cousin.  She is attacking the evil disease on every possible front and I for one, really believe there is no possible chance it has against her aggressive and really, quite creative methods of fighting it.

First of all, she is taking the conventional approach.  She has just finished her sixth (and I believe her last) round of chemo.   I look at her and I am frankly, amazed at that fact.  I mean,  I know she has been through chemo because I sat with her through her last appointment, but she sure doesn't look or act like anyone I've ever seen on chemo.  Her color is great, her energy (while it is lower than she likes and is frustrating to her) is far higher than plenty of people who have never even taken chemo, and yes, she may be bald, but she's still lovely.

And I think I know why.  You see, when Hoddy found out she had serious cancer, she began to research.  The first area she looked into was food  She doesn't eat any inflammatory foods (such as dairy).  She does eat a lot of alkaline foods like kim chee and sauerkraut and she takes a spoonful of apple cider vinegar a couple of days a week.  She also eats no, absolutely no sugar (because cancer likes sugar).  She drinks green tea, she takes oil of cannabis, she eats a ton of antioxidant rich foods, and she is 100 percent organic (although she was already mostly organic for the last few years before the diagnosis, I must admit).  She also takes herbs that really help her with her blood counts, and drinks a ton of water (some of it infused with chlorophyll and lemon for their alkalizing properties).  She also fasts for 24 hours before and the entire day of her chemos, because the rate of absorption of the medicines is much higher when the cancer cells are hungry.  (When people ask her how she can do that, she says "I'm highly motivated.")

The next thing she does is acupuncture.  Not just for the effects of the chemo, but also to help her body be strong and fight the disease.  She does an infrared sauna a few days a week.   She works out and takes walks, even when she is tired, because it makes her feel better.  She spends time with her children - yesterday she took them swimming after school and she gets up early every morning so she and her husband get them a good healthy breakfast and a good start to their day.  In other words, she lives her daily life as much as she possibly can.

Hoddy does rest of course; she has to let the chemo do the work. But let's face it, chemotherapy is hardly therapeutic - it's entire purpose is to poison a person within a hairsbreadth of their life - she has to rest whether she wants to or not.  So sometimes she rests.

Another front she does battle on is addressing the emotional issues associated with being diagnosed with cancer at age thirty-three.  She sees a therapist, she meditates, she's just started going to an energy worker (similar to acupuncture but a little more spiritual).  When she's feeling down, she'll get a facial or a massage or pedicure - something that makes her feel relaxed.  She spends time with her friends when she can, and she lets them help her - something that is not easy for her to do, but she knows she would want to do the same for them and she knows she needs them right now.  She's scared, no doubt, but she is trying really hard to live in the moment, to do what she can do and let go of the rest.  It's possibly the hardest of all the battles, accepting that this is real and dealing with the unknowns, but Hoddy is valiantly staying the course, communicating, asking and receiving.

As I've said, I'd be hard-pressed to imagine anyone who is fighting harder or doing more to beat cancer than Hoddy.  And her energy and moxie and her creative, eclectic approach to this disease is inspiring to me in countless ways.  She is the epitome of giving life one's all.  I hope with all my being that I have been able to give her some comfort and love and joy on this trip but this I know: I will go home forever changed and inspired by what my brave and beautiful cousin has given me.

  So -  thanks from every part of my being for being, Hoddy Potter.  And Namaste, baby.  Namaste.