I was in a bar a week or so before Christmas. I knew quite a lot of people there. I was talking to one guy, I think he worked at Canadian Medical Care, or rather he was talking to me.
“This Christmastime is really madness,” he was saying, “I’m trying to buy gifts for my family and the crowds, the people.” He splayed his hands, “Madness.”
He paused for a moment and gave a short laugh.
“I really hope I survive until the New Year.”
I gave him a pat on the shoulder.
“Me too,” I said, “Me too.”
17 December, 2016, Prague (Facebook post to my family)
Hi, saw the Oncologist. First the not so good news, cancer is stage 4, advanced, in metastasis though luckily it hasn't spread, but it has affected the lymph nodes. They can't operate, or do radiology. But don't hand out the shovels yet. It is treatable, and people with the same stage etc have recovered fully. The doctor said the prognosis is good, so that is something. They are going to put me in a trial for a new treatment which is more effective than chemo and with less side effects but they have to do another biopsy before that is finalized, however even if I am in the trial I may still just receive normal chemo. Participants are randomly divided into the new drug (Cost 10,000 US dollars per single dose!) and traditional chemo. So I will have a fifty percent chance of getting this new drug. Lastly, I am still feeling fine, physically and mentally. The doctor also said smokers respond twice as well to treatment as non-smokers, which is rather amusing. Treatment should start next week or the week after. Thats all I got for now, thanks for your thoughts and wishes. :-)
I bought a mixer and I started mixing raw vegetables and drinking them every day. The first few batches were gag inducing. They tasted how I imagined a compost heap would taste if you whizzed it up in a fine pulpy mash. I drank every drop. I imagined its vitamins and nutrients coursing through me, cleansing me, strengthening me.
I didn’t stop eating meat, or drinking coffee, though I did cut it down. My diet wasn’t so unhealthy to begin with so it really came down to me simply adding more healthy foods to it. When I say healthy foods I mean specifically vegetables. To make them taste better I added fruit juice. Don’t do that. It took me a while to figure out it was my attempts to sweeten it which made it worse. At first I was making six or so odd bottles of the juice. Each bottle was 750 mls. There is nothing significant in that size bottle; it was just that I had several of those bottles handy. I drank one each day, and remember, the key is consistency. Do it every day and eventually your body will reach a comfortable constant in which it never needs the nutrients because they are always there.
At the beginning I crammed every vegetable I could in there save potatoes. Now I stick with variations of beetroot, spinach, broccoli, carrot, ginger, kiwi fruit, and kale. I don’t know what kale is but it makes spinach taste like ambrosia dropped from heaven. I throw some dark berries in there if I’m feeling crazy. Recently I started adding a teaspoon of turmeric mixed with black pepper.
I carpet-bombed my body daily with vitamins I dissolved in water. I carried the bottle about with me, sipping from it as I went through the day. This drink had Vitamin C and Zinc, Magnesium, Calcium and D3, B complex, a multi-mineral tablet, and a multi-vitamin tablet.
I squeezed fresh lemon juice and added half a teaspoon of baking soda. I was taking it to balance out the PH factor in my body. Cancer likes an acidic environment. When the body is balanced properly it is slightly more alkaline than acidic. Most modern food, especially drinks like coke and so forth, make the body overly acidic. I needed an alkaline body, the cancer would gradually starve, in theory.
My friend Martin gave me Tibetan mushrooms. Fifteen years ago his father, diagnosed with stage 4 lung Cancer, was given a year to live. He tried a few other doctors but they basically said they couldn’t help him. One suggested he try taking a small white mushroom which is soaked in milk for a couple of days. After a day or two the mushrooms are strained and put in fresh milk and the sour milk is then drunk. Martin had some of these mushrooms in the fridge and he quickly showed me how to prepare and take care of them.
“They mustn’t touch anything metal,” He held one up, “Here, eat it.”
He put a few of the small spongy mushrooms in my hand. They looked like popcorn. They were tasteless.
The mushrooms would grow and multiply in a month or so, in the meantime I divided what Martin gave to me into two separate amounts and put each in milk.
“Bio milk is better, and best is goat’s milk,” He said. “Goats eat almost 400 plants, cows only 200.”
I thought about cows on a modern industrial farm, fed antibiotics and growth hormone and who knows what else. Down at Na Plavka, along the Vltava, every Saturday there is a farmer’s market. I would usually go here and buy two bottles of goat’s milk. It made the already sharp taste of the milk after the mushrooms had been soaked in it even more bitter with goat’s milk, but there was barely half a cup to get down. There’s no need to drink a lot of this milk, again the potency comes in consistently drinking it, cleaning the mushrooms, putting them into fresh milk. Discipline, this is paramount.
Every few weeks take a week off, there can be too much of a good thing, and we want the body balanced, no extreme is ever good.
I also made tea from an herb called Graviola my sister in Perth recommended I take.
Lastly, I took Phoenix Tears.
Phoenix Tears is a poetic name for marijuana oil. Back at the start I immediately thought about obtaining some, but I really had no idea where to find it. If I was in New Zealand I would find a drug dealer. I remember from long ago they used to sell it in plastic caps of the kind you find in the pharmacy. I can’t imagine how much it costs now, but back when the internet had only just reared its ugly head and I had no grey in my beard, it was pretty expensive. It hadn’t occurred to me then to simply ask my Oncologist, He wasn’t only aware of it, he actively supported people in my situation taking it. Mind you, at that time I had a lot on my mind, Cancer isn’t all sunshine and lollipops.
A few hours later I got a message from a friend of mine, Alvaro. We hadn’t seen each other in six months and he said we should catch up for a beer. At the time I wasn’t feeling particularly social, but I still had my hair, so leaving a beanie on indoors didn’t raise an eyebrow. I’ll come back to the concept of losing your hair later, because right now I have to say personally I haven’t met any nation which smokes weed like the Spanish. I haven’t been to Spain though, so I’m only speaking for those I’ve met here.
I decided I would get some off him. I might need it if I was sick or in pain from the chemotherapy. It was better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it.
I was sitting on his couch and he had just put the bag down in front of me. “By the way,” Alvaro said, “My friend makes this stuff called Phoenix Tears. Have you heard of it?”
My jaw dropped like an anvil in a Roadrunner cartoon. He went over to the cupboard and came back with a syringe full of black oil.
“Even a little on your skin,” Alvaro laughed and shook his head, “You are gone,” he kept shaking his head, “Gone, gone, gone.”
“Can you get some more?” I asked.
“I’ll give you his number,” Alvaro said. “His name’s Pavel, he works in a cafe downtown.”
As I walked up towards Prazskeho Povistani metro station my heart was hammering in my chest. A few hours before I had asked where I could possibly find Phoenix Tears and literally it had dropped right down into my lap. I felt an eerie sense that something was guiding events to help me. Thomeroyova hospital where I was to be treated had an excellent Oncologist and one of the best lung cancer departments in Europe. It was three bus stops away. I moved there shortly before I was diagnosed. The small amount of blood I coughed up was my body warning me. No doubt it had been trying to tell me in other ways, but it had failed spectacularly. As I mentioned before, I had no symptoms. I imagine my brain and my body calling an emergency meeting and figuring out how they were going to give me the news. They discuss it endlessly.
“For God’s sake, I’ll tell him.” Lung finally says.
When they diagnosed me I underwent a rather severe shift of consciousness. I can’t say exactly when it happened, but it was at the beginning. I might die in a year, I told myself with Zen like detachment, I can live with that (ho ho). I’ve had a good life. I travelled the world, I have had wonderful relationships. We all die, who is to say if it is easier to let go at eighty than at forty? I wasn’t going to leave behind a wife and child so I didn’t have to go all Breaking Bad. I could relax, and enjoy my life, and possibly my death. Whatever the outcome it was irrelevant. The only thing that mattered was how I conducted myself here and now.
My brain tried to cheer me up by saying, “Even if they tell you it is terminal you might get hit by a tram the day after. “
“Yes Brain, you’re quite right, however the converse is also true. Imagine if I undergo one of those miracle recoveries you hear about, the one in several hundred kind where hope and prayer and meditation cure cancer. And I get hit by a tram.”
Cancer changed me in a wonderful way. It got my constituent parts, mind, body, spirit, emotion, and who can say how many other facets, talking to each other. I started listening, truly listening, firstly to my body, and afterwards to the world around me.
For the first time in my life the atoms that formed me flowed in the same direction, like a school of fish, angular and darting, we moved as one through the current of life, our purpose clear, heal or die.
26 December, 2016, Prague (Facebook post to my family)
Hi everyone, just a quick note to say I am fine, physically and mentally. Work goes on normally, Im quite exhausted by day's end but it is just mental exhaustion and I am grateful for my physical health. When you have been told you have cancer, everything else loses its power over you. Strangely and terrifyingly liberating. A good thing, so that is something. Its not all bad. I'll keep you posted. Thank you for your thoughts and prayers, I'm thinking of you all too. Lastly, it's bloody cold here.
I have lived and worked in Prague for eight years as an English teacher, including for Canadian Medical.