Being in C: A Midyear Pause and Recalibration

Last week I realized that I am half way through this year long celebration of Terry Riley’s “In C” and I want to take stock of where I am. In the beginning I talked of this as a boat launching out into a vast expanse of unknown water. Being in the midst of this piece of music feels more like white water rafting at times, but I am enjoying the journey. I haven’t played it publicly as much as I thought I would, nor worked with other musicians as much as I thought I would, but it all feels OK. I am still envisioning an all night version in the Fall, but the details have not yet materialized.

As the year has progressed, the blog has come to represent something else as well. When I titled the blog in January, the thought crossed my mind that “C” often stands for cancer. In which case we needed a different title than “My Year ‘In C'” Then I got real with myself and called the blog what I wanted and didn’t give it another thought. As it turned out there was a bit of prescience happening, because cancer has made an entrance into my life. The first tap-tap-tap came when I got called back for a follow-up mammogram and was told I have a suspicious mass, schedule a biopsy, and “nice to meet you, sorry it is under these circumstances.” Well, that got my attention! What circumstances? At this point, we really do not know anything. Even though that comment did arouse some suspicion in me, I went ahead and scheduled the biopsy. The nurse accompanied me out the backdoor, making small talk and scanning me for a potential breakdown. When I hit the fresh air, I pondered my experience.

I thought that it was interesting that this young radiologist had already marked out the path my life would take from that moment onward because it looks like I might have “breast cancer.” He knows the varied ways this journey can unfold and he is the usher for the first step on the path. I am very grateful to him for overplaying his part, tipping his hand and prompting me to look a bit more closely at “these circumstances.”

As it turns out, there is alot of shifting going on in the whole cancer screening industry. While I know in my heart that the intention behind cancer screenings is a helpful one, cancer treatment itself has become a product and, as consumers, we are encouraged to buy in. So, while the technology for screening evolves faster than our understanding of what we are seeing, an industry has been built around cancer prevention and treatment. And once things get institutionalized, new information has a harder time getting in. This is especially true if the new information indicates some problems with accepted protocol and/or goes against the mission.

In my research, I found that breast screenings are now searching for “Stage Zero” cancer in the form of Ductal Carcinoma In Situ (DCIS). In 2012, the National Cancer Institute issued a paper stating that DCIS is not an actual cancer. Now this information, based on an overview of studies and measurement outcomes from the 1970s through the present, is not making its way into the minds of those who do screenings. The main reason for that is that they are in the “business of preventing breast cancer.” That is their mission and they go at it tenaciously with surgery, chemo and radiation. This was the path the young radiologist envisioned as my new “circumstances.” The business of cancer prevention is thriving, and it is efficient and effective. And research that suggests anything else is not given much credence. Look, this is how we do it, and that doesn’t fit what we believe to be true, which is what we are basing what we do on.

My brother, Paul Casseday, gave me the idea of technology evolving faster than our ability to understand what we are seeing. Some of the most recent scientific thought has been focused on actually trying to see and understand cancer. What exactly is it? Most people know cancer as an “invader.” There is this sense of a hostile takeover of the body. Our current understanding creates mistrust between mind and body, as if there isn’t enough of that already. I understand cancer to be our own sweet body’s cells, doing what they do, but way over doing it. They can only keep going and they have forgotten how to die. A tumor is a proliferation of cells. So- not an invader- just our bodies trying very hard to maintain their existence. And there is evidence that cancer cells can begin to form and then go into spontaneous remission. Why are the cells reacting in this way?

One theory that is just beginning to be investigated is that the cells are having a primal response to a hostile environment in the body. The body processes have gotten so out of balance that the cells go into an atavistic reaction mode and just reproduce. It is like all the smaller creatures that create lots of babies for survival of the species. The cells are on overdrive because they feel threatened with extinction. And, of course, there are all kinds of theories as to what might trigger this reaction. Environmental toxins, processed food, bound emotions, and Monsanto products all are key figures in creating the toxic soup that feels threatening to our bodies.

Another theory that dovetails with the one above, is that cancer is an autoimmune response. This is the Functional/Integrative Medicine approach to cancer. So the toxic outer environment triggers an aggressive immune response which creates backlogs of mucus, acids, fungus and changes in cells. Detailed blood sample panels can indicate imbalances in the body. These imbalances can be successfully treated with diet, exercise and minimal supplementation. Here I must point out the one component that few people give much credence to, but it is the linchpin in all disease – thoughts and emotions. Guilt, anger, contempt, grief, anxiety and fear can lodge in the body as a variety of illnesses including cancer. I believe cancer in particular to be an emotionally driven disease. So I cancelled the biopsy, and am working with a Functional Medicine practitioner to make changes in my diet, taking certain supplements, and using journaling, Emotional Freedom Technique and meditation to help me process emotions to a free and clear space. So my path has brought me brilliantly to here.

While I was reviewing my situation, a good friend was going through the exact same thing (even the same breast) but she had the biopsy. I accompanied her to meet with an exceptional oncological surgeon who seems to honor the idea that there might be more options than the one offered by the cancer-prevention community. While my friend’s biopsy indicated DCIS, the fact that it did not show up on an MRI was good enough to warrant a “wait and see” approval from the doc. Oh, yes, and this doctor said that statistics indicate that DCIS has a 30% to 40% chance of developing into “invasive cancer” (an oxymoron to me.) So I flipped those stats to see that there is a 60% to 70% chance that DCIS will not develop further, which my gambling gene says are pretty darn good odds.

Then a woman with whom I have a relationship that I can not even describe in words was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. She and I have not communicated in over twenty years (although I have paid attention to her various moves and achievements and we are Facebook friends) but I felt an immediate rushing back in of our loving friendship. She is blogging about her experience and I eagerly read and reread her eloquent expressions of herself and her daily experience. I comment sometimes, but mostly I am a loving witness to her process.

So “My Year ‘In C'” has resonated into the realm I had momentarily acknowledged in the beginning. But you know what? By setting aside my fear and naming the blog as I wanted, I am seeing this as an expansion of the adventure of this amazing year. I am even more interested in sound/vibrational healing and making connections between the harmonics of “In C” and healing the body.

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