Yo no Quiero Tener Cancer

The title of this blog entry (translated as… I don´t want to have cancer) is pretty self-explanatory.  I have chosen the title as it is also the title of the book my therapist wrote in which she explains how to best fight against cancer.  A bit of an obvious title if you ask me, but you can´t really argue with the truth of the statement.  I have only been to one therapy session so far, and I am still a little unsure if therapy is really going to help me. Although the woman was extremely nice and easy to talk to,  I´m just not sure if I agree with her whole philosophy about cancer, in general.  Right now I am supposed to be drawing a picture of my “innocent self” before cancer in preparation for my second therapy session where we try to figure out what happened to that “innocent self”, but since I pretty much think that´s a bunch of BS, I am doing some therapy of my own: watching Mamma Mia and blogging about therapy.   What could be more therapeutic than watching Meryl dance around and make a fool of herself while listening to Pierce Brosnan attempt to sing???

     My therapy session last week was basically the first time I had ever been to a psychologist.  After introducing myself and explaining basically why I was there, the first question she asked me was, “Why do you think you have cancer?”  Shocked, I replied…“Um, well… my grandmother had breast cancer and so did my aunt, so pretty sure that´s why I have cancer…. Is there really any another option to consider?”

  She replied by stating that really only about 12% of cancers are actually hereditary, and that, actually, cancer is usually caused by stress and unhealthy living.  I´m not entirely sure how she is privy to this apparently definitive information as to the cause of cancer, especially since pretty much every cancer doctor in the world would disagree with this, but oh well.  I understand why some people would prefer to believe cancer is caused by stress since I guess it also implies that if you get rid of your stress you can technically cure yourself of your cancer.  And while I would have a really hard time believing that I caused my own cancer because I was stressed, eating meat, and partying on weekends, I can also admit that the last three years haven´t been the healthiest, mentally or physically.  And truthfully, it wouldn´t really hurt to talk about some of the things that have caused me stress in my life, although it seems pretty idealistic to believe that people can actually live in a world devoid of stress.  The therapist is also an advocate that diet, yoga, and meditation are helpful in the battle against cancer.  While I´m also not completely sold on this non-medical, alternative approach to fighting cancer, I guess it also couldn´t hurt to live healthier or become more spiritual.  Don´t worry- even if I decide to buy into this mentality, I´m pretty sure that you will never find me sitting quietly for hours, deep into a meditative trance.  That´s just really not who I am… BUT you might find me walking around a park, listening to music, alone with my thoughts.  I will give the therapist the benefit of the doubt and give her another chance before I completely give up on her ideas.   And maybe I´ll ask you readers to weigh in on the topic of therapy: helpful or not?  You tell me…

     Although I am still questioning how helpful telling my deepest, darkest secrets to a complete stranger is going to be, since returning from the United States I have been doing many things that have been pretty healing and relaxing for me.  I have tried not to worry about the future so much and I think that is really helping me to feel less stressed and focus on recovery.  One thing my therapist said that I do agree with is that my goal should be to be healthy, first and foremost.  If I am healthy then it doesn´t matter so much whether I have a job or no job, whether I live in Chile or the United States, or if I am single or in a relationship….  If I´m not healthy, then really there is nothing to talk about, right?  So yes, she reaffirmed my belief that I need to be focusing on myself and my battle against this disease, before worrying about all the other stuff. 

   Speaking of the medical battle…. I met with Dr. M yesterday in order to discuss the rest of my medical treatment.  Upon entering the conference room he started with, “So, I´ve decided that this is a really good time for surgery for you.” 

Shocked, I responded with, “What about the ninth round of chemo you spoke about in the hospital? And the Pet Scans?  Don´t I need those?”

“Well, MD Anderson said 2-3 rounds of chemo and since there really isn´t much difference between 8 or 9 rounds of chemo, I think we will go ahead and stop at eight.  Oh and also, we didn´t order the Perjeta (the chemo drug that has to be imported from the states), so yeah… let´s go ahead and do the surgery.”

    Jon and I agreed that was pretty much the worst reason for doing eight sessions of chemo instead of nine, but since the extra rounds of chemo were only protocol and not a necessity I am okay with it.  Plus… it means I AM DONE WITH CHEMO!!!!  This news was delivered in probably the most unceremonious way possible, but it was still a relief.  I left the office with a sparkle in my eye, a bounce in my step, and a huge grin plastered on my face.  A teacher at my school told me that in the states when a person finishes chemo they get to hit a gong installed on the hospital ward for that very purpose.  Clinica Alemana could definitely benefit from such a gong…  I think hitting something very hard that makes a loud noise would indeed be very helpful for cancer patients finishing their treatment.  I guess I will have to find my own gong and have my own ceremony. 

     Anyway, so next week I am going to meet with Buhler in order to discuss when the surgery is going to take place.  Apparently no more petscans are needed right now since they can use the results of the last one….plus, it´s probably not good for a person to receive that much radiation unless it is completely necessary.  If during surgery they find that the original tumor is still there then I will probably need radiation afterwards.  If the tumor isn´t there, then it means I will be in complete remission (CRAZY!!!) and might not need the radiation.  I´m going to guess that I will probably have to do some radiation, but I guess we´ll cross that bridge when it comes.  I´ll let you know when the surgery is scheduled. 

   In the meantime I am going to continue doing my own version of therapy.  I have joined weight watchers and am trying to eat healthier and exercise more.  I´ve made some changes about the way that I eat and I´ve been walking or bike riding for at least an hour every day.  It´s been really great to feel like I´m doing something healthy again!  And I think week one has been pretty successful since I´ve already lost two pounds.  Slow going, but if I keep it up, the weight will be off in no time.  I´ve also been making a digital scrapbook of our explorations throughout Chile.  I love being creative while reminiscing about all the beautiful places we´ve been to down here.  This weekend is Easter break and we plan on adding some beautiful pictures to the book from our long weekend getaway.  We are headed to Coyhaique in northern Patagonia with two friends.  While there, we are going to hike and drink in the scenery.  The highlight of the trip, however,  is an all day boat ride through the Chilean fjords to the San Rafael glacier, which is one of the largest and most impressive in Patagonia.  I know that getting out and about and seeing beautiful things will definitely help with my healing as well.  Until next time! 


So you can be appropriately jealous about my upcoming trip, here is a link to some images of the glacier that we will be visiting this weekend.



Add Yours
  1. Kate Elortegui

    Have a wonderful time in Patagonia, Eli!!! I’ll be thinking of (and appropriately jealous of!) you!

    And thank you for keeping up the beautiful writing and the inspiring courage–it’s a gift to all of us. xxoo


  2. Fender


    I believe in therapy, if only because it provides you a third party to unload on who doesn’t have to worry about offending you with their response; and whose judgment you don’t have to take personally. I was nudged into therapy after enough people became concerned by the downward spiral I was in following my split with the ex-wife. While it didn’t stop my destructive tendencies then and there, it did allow me to recognize what I was doing to myself and to gain some clarity about why I was doing it. That dialogue and the resulting self-awareness and self-affirmation ultimately helped me get my ship back on course.

    I also think it only “helps” if you can establish a rapport with your therapist. If you really aren’t buying what this chick is selling, or if you think she isn’t listening to you, then I don’t know that she will do you much good. Another therapist might, however; say, one who doesn’t think that cancer is caused by stress monsters. (You might point out to her that Bob Marley had cancer.)

    Pulling for you always.



    • Sarah

      I agree with Fender. I believe in therapy, but think that you need to find a therapist who you click with. Thinking of you often.



  3. Difusa

    Eli, hi!
    I am also a strong believer in therapy. It allows us to vent, be honest about the ugly things we don’t like to see or have our loved ones see and gets us thinking about issues (i.e. stress & cancer) that otherwise we wouldn’t have contemplated. I am not so sure a rapport with the therapist is a must, but what I do need is to have credibility. I actually think that they don’t want to establish a rapport but rather a relationship in which they pose or impose an angle on things we have overlooked or just isn’t in our internal wiring to consider. Whatever may be the case, I think your therapist has been highly successful in getting you thinking, writing and questioning. Just like what we would like our students to do.
    Enjoy Patagonia, enjoy life and the best now and as always.


  4. Jane Chesney

    In my experience, being able to share problems with another person (therapist, friend, anyone and everyone who will listen) is very, very beneficial. Of course, you are already baring your soul on the blog. Fresh air, exercise and eating right should continue to boost your spirits and improve your overall health. Keep up the good work!


  5. Sissy

    We will maybe have to find a place to meet for my thirtieth where there is a big gong. We will bang it twice for each reaching big milestones! I love you and hope that the therapy has positive results. I believe an outsiders perspective will be very helpful. 🙂


  6. Alejandra

    Eli going to therapy doesnt mean you will be cured of cancer or the therapist is always right.That is a myth. I went to therapy after my dad past away from cancer and it did help simply to talk about how i felt, what i wanted to know about the disease, my doubts and other issues. Actually I am a strong believer in therapists. I am actually going to one in Dalian ISOS because of other issues i can tell you later. The point is , that it is a time for you to open up, cry, laugh, scream, bang and hit the pillows int he therapist office to release all you are feeling. this way noone that you love will get hurt by your anger, fristration, sadness. The therapist will help you find ways to calm yourself, breath, relax and live positively. I also believe thatmeditation helps quiet the mind. You don´t have tosit for hours. Believe me I canñt do that , but simply 25, 25 minutes is enought in the mornings it helps you start the day with energy and optimism and at night it helps relaxed and set aside the day´s issues.

    You are a strong woman and one that I admire. You are couragoues and optimistic. Keep writing as it has been a tremendous therapy for you. Miss our latin zumba daus with Paulita and the wine nights!!!


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