Hi. My name is Denise Gray. I am a 52 year old grandmother with 2 beautiful grandsons, Nikolaus and Nathan and I am a breast cancer survivor. I was first diagnosed in August of 2001. My daughter Robyn, thought it could be beneficial if I shared a little bit of my story with you. So here it is.
For about a year I had been feeling fatigued, more than usual. I saw my doctor on a couple of different occasions thinking I might be low on iron or maybe I was anemic. After a couple of exams and blood tests, the results showed everything was normal and my doctor just attributed my feelings of low energy to my active lifestyle and very full schedule. At the time I was a checker for Vons and a mother of two school-aged children, Robyn, 16 and Justin, 14, and bookkeeper for my husband, Jimmy, who is an independent contractor in construction. I also enjoyed going to the gym, surfing and walking and getting together with friends, took Bible study at friends homes and computer classes at the local college. Life was busy but good. One evening, in the middle of the night, I got up to use the bathroom and something told me, (I believe it was divine intervention) to check my right breast. This was unusual because I had never done self-breast exams before. I felt a lump that just didn’t feel normal to me. It seemed small and insignificant but I talked about it with my husband and he encouraged me to see my doctor just to be safe. I had had a mammogram only a few months prior so I was apprehensive. I didn’t want to make too much of it. I remembered a doctor who was a homeopath that shopped at the store where I worked had come through my checkout and told me I looked tired. He felt my immune system was working overtime for whatever reason and asked me to come see him.
I made an appointment with my primary doctor. After examining me, he immediately scheduled a diagnostic mammogram and ultrasound. They, showed irregularities and from there my doctor advised me to see a specialists and get a biopsy. I saw the specialists, had the biopsy and it was concluded that I had cancer. I then had a second surgery, a sentinel node auxiliary dissection where the lymph node closest to the lump or tumor was removed to determine if the cancer had spread. It had. A third surgery was then necessary where twelve more lymph nodes were removed of which three of these had cancer. The next step was a CAT scan and Bone scan to see if the cancer had spread to my organs or bones. Thank God, it had not. My cancer was at stage 2. I was to be treated with chemotherapy and radiation. I also opted to be treated by a Naturopath, which my health insurance did not cover but became a very favorable decision. While undergoing chemo, the naturopathic treatment helped immensely by counteracting the side effects and kept my white blood cell count up. Only once had my count dipped. The oncologist nurse asked me what I was doing that kept me relatively strong during all of this. I told her I’d been seeing a Naturopath, Dr. Melissa Metcalfe, at the same time, and was giving her all of my lab reports where she was able to ascertain the right supplements and nutrition with each round of chemo. The nurse then proceeded to ask me for some of her business cards to hand out to her other cancer patients. The naturopathic supplemental treatment was extremely advantageous with the nausea and during the radiation as well.
I never stopped surfing and walking with a great friend, Sally, who was so supportive and gave me her friendship, unconditionally and never let me feel sorry for myself. I also continued Bible study with more great friends Sylvia, Linda O. and Linda R. who prayed for me and with me and lifted me up spiritually. I could never have gotten through this without the outpouring of love from my family and friends and the comfort provided me by my faith in God who was by my side every step of the way!
My children and husband were very supportive and motivated me to get well. It especially moved me when my daughter asked me to accompany her on Spring Break. How many mothers get to share that time with their daughters? This was truly a message of love from her. Our son would always check to see if I was alright when I was sick from the chemo and could cheer me up with his fun sense of humor. That was his way of showing and giving his love. My husband generously and without hesitation financed all the treatment not covered by our health insurance. He did not concern himself with the cost. My recovery was what mattered and was more important. That was his way of contributing and loving me.
After the chemo and radiation was completed, I felt quite exhausted and just wanted to feel as normal as possible again. I had met a Homeopathic doctor through my chiropractor and started treatment with her. This also was not covered under our health insurance. I had committed to a year with her and she was worth every penny. She convinced me to change my position at work as checker, because after 28 years of that, I was pretty burned out and I moved into the produce department which I love. This was a much needed lifestyle change that really brought me pleasure. She also treated me with clearing remedies that helped rid my body of some of the toxins that resulted from the chemo and radiation. By the end of that year, I was feeling more like me again.
I have been in remission for about seven years now. I am healthy, active, happy and beyond grateful! What I have learned from all of this, first and foremost, is how much I am loved, by my family, friends and God, and how important it is to be your own health care advocate. Everything in our lives plays a part in our health, physically, mentally and spiritually. I urge everyone to pay attention to their bodies and intuition. In order for our doctors to treat us properly, this is vital! Never take anything for granted. Life is so precious and I feel so blessed to be able to share my story and pray that it touches someone in a profound way as others lives have inspired me. I believe that this is part of our purpose and what we are meant to do.
I am one of the lucky ones because my cancer was caught early and I was blessed to have good health insurance. This believe it or not, is the condensed version of my story. My life, as crazy as it sounds, has been blessed by this whole experience. It awakened and illuminated my spirit in a way I never could have imagined and it helped me to grow as a person to be a better human being. I was surrounded by so many good people that I will always be eternally grateful for, like Leslie who would bring me Miso soup and a ginger concoction along with her friendship and compassion. There was Ted who would pray with me before going out to surf and who had videotaped me surfing then shared it with Scott and Colleen who made a photo from it, hand-crafted a beautiful frame and backed it with a lovely Hawaiian prayer. I can’t tell you how that touched my heart beyond measure. I can’t forget Leeny who grew Hawaiian white ginger, not an easy feat. She nurtured and treasured that beautiful flower, then picked it and gave it to me. I couldn’t believe it. The sweet fragrance filled our home and gave us such joy!
I know that each day, every breath is a blessing, a gift from God above and I could never begin to express the gratitude that I feel in my heart. God is so good.
I pray good health to all and God’s blessings…
Denise C. G.