My Story: Part Nine: That A.C. Life

Since my MRI in September 2019, I’ve continued to get better and better. Since I got off all pain meds in Oct. 2019 including the CBD/THC oil, I have continued to be completely pain-free.

Sometimes I think of my life divided into two eras: BC (before cancer) and AC (after cancer) because my AC life is so different from my BC life.

By the way, you can use the same acronym with for Covid since for many of us, our BC (before-Covid) lives were so different than our AC (after-COVID) lives, though it’s far from being over. Just like COVID came in and completely uprooted our entire lives, cancer did the same. I’ve also heard a lot of parents talk about their BK (before kids) life versus their AK (after kids) life. We look back and see a completely different person in a completely different life.

Though I still have a tumor, I no longer consider myself as someone with cancer. At least I choose not to see myself that way. For me, cancer is a thing of the past, something that once greatly affected my life, but no longer does. When COVID hit, I chose not to see myself as high-risk, but rather as someone with perfect health with a strong and capable immune system.

Me 38 Healed from cancer
Me on my 38th birthday (December 2020)

My A.C. Life

I am surfing (back to my B.C. skill level), traveling, cycling and doing pretty much everything I was able to do prior to my diagnosis except for running/jumping. I just don’t want to put that strain on my pelvis at this point.

I’m currently gathering the courage to get back to snowboarding and even try skateboarding, though most of my doctors warn me not to, that I risk fracturing my pelvis. But as usual, I’ll take their advice with a grain of salt and go my own way, deciding what my body can and cannot do.

In February of 2021, I took a six-week surf trip to celebrate how far I’ve come. I went to El Salvador, Costa Rica and Cancun.

Me surfing
Surfing in El Salvador (March 2021)

Just this week (March 2021) I was doing 85-pound deadlifts in the gym thanks to my trainer Vishal at Pumpz Fitness, who’s helping me to get my strength back and drop those last ten pounds so I can get back to my BC weight. I’m pretty sure 135-pound deadlifts would give most of my doctors a heart attack, but I feel like I thrive off of proving people wrong, doctors especially.

I currently get MRI’s every six months and will have to get MRI’s for the rest of my life, however long that may be. The last few MRI’s have continued to show shrinkage, though the shrinkage has been much less dramatic, much more slight: a centimeter here, a half-centimeter there. I’ll admit that I was majorly disappointed that it hadn’t shrunk more. I wanted this thing to just disappear already.

The Tumor: Friend or Foe?

But my radio-oncologist, who thinks that I’ve had amazing results, has informed me that I don’t want this thing to disappear completely because then I would have a whole in my sacrum and a fractured pelvis, which would require me to have some type of surgery. I would probably not be able to surf, ride a bike or do all the things I’m doing now.

He informed me that the tumor is necrotic (dead tissue) that is providing me with pelvic stability. Over time, it will turn into scar tissue, and remain there, forever providing that pelvic stability which enables me to surf, ride a bike, go for long hikes, 85-pound deadlifts, etc.

Hearing that was quite a shock. I had visualized over and over again the tumor completely disappearing only to realize that the tumor was giving me stability, providing me with the best solution for my body.

I am 100% pain-free, able to surf and do all the things I love, so why does it have to disappear? Especially if the disappearance would lead to a broken pelvis? That knowledge completely changed my perspective toward this tumor. It was no longer something to fear. It is something I now accept as part of my body and even feel grateful for. Especially if that’s what’s keeping me surfing and doing all the things that I love to do, pain-free.

Surfing in El Salvador
Heading out for a morning surf in El Salvador

What I Miss about My B.C. Life

Sometimes I miss being able to go for a jog, or snowboarding without worrying about falling the wrong way. Sometimes I feel just a little more fragile. I don’t love getting MRI’s. They still cause me anxiety no matter how Zen I try to get with meditation. I don’t live in fear, but I do have a little voice in the back of my head that pops up from time to time asking the question: What if it comes back? What if it starts growing again?

That notion of cancer returning is both a curse and a gift. It both haunts and motivates any cancer survivor. BC life was a bit more carefree because there was no rush to live my life, and I felt like I had all the time in the world to carry out my dreams. AC life is full of angst and rushing to get things done because…what if? In some ways, death or the increased propensity for it motivates us to take that leap, to get things done, to focus on what’s important. And that’s the gift.

My priorities are a bit different. I no longer push myself to make money doing work that doesn’t fulfill me. I no longer stress myself out over having to do things perfectly. Illusions of success and happiness fade away. People-pleasing and saying “yes” when I really want to say “no” are a thing of the past. Desires of the heart take over. Who I am at my core and what I truly want become clearer.

My AC Life
(In Philadelphia 2019) My friends wanted to do a jumping pic, but I choose not to because I risk injury when I do. #AC Life

A Huge Heartbreak

In Feb. 2020, in the midst of thriving and getting my life back together, my family and I suffered a major loss, the death of my older sister, April, in a car accident. Only 39 years old with four children, my sister was a beautiful person who lit up the room with her sense of humor.

She was also a major part of my healing. Besides being at my side constantly during my lowest lows, I remember her bringing me alkaline healing water, hiring a chef to make vegan meals for me, taking me to my naturopathic doctors appointments an hour away (even though she had a suspended driver’s license), emptying my dad’s chocolate fridge so that I didn’t have to stress about the overabundance of sugar in the house. She also yelled at anyone who accidentally bumped into me. She was a fierce mama-bear protector.

Losing her was a major blow and just writing about her over a year later still causes me to tear up. I don’t think I’ll ever be finished grieving for this loss, because we never really get over a loss like that. But I will say that I bounced back more quickly than I thought I would. I noticed I possessed an emotional resiliency that I wouldn’t have if I hadn’t gone through all that I went through.

I know she’s with me. I feel her presence often, and I bring her along with me at every MRI appointment.

My sister and I
My sister April and I (May 2018, just a few weeks after I was diagnosed)

Are You in Remission?

A lot of people ask me this question. Technically, I am not in remission because I still have remnants of cancer in my body. Remission is a term used for patients whose tumors have completely disappeared or have been removed via surgery and haven’t returned. I have what doctors would call “stable disease.” The tumor is there, forever dead or perhaps simply dormant, but not growing.

Stage four cancer survivor and author Anita Moorijani says “remission is just a reminder to remember your mission.” I had read her book Dying to Be Me (which I highly recommend for anyone with cancer) before I was diagnosed and that was one of many life-altering books that “randomly” fell into my lap for a reason.

In her book, she tells of her experience crossing over to the other side when she died in hospice before coming back into her body and healing completely from her tumor-ridden body. Tumors all throughout her body disappeared within three days and her doctors were all flabbergasted to say the least.

What’s Your Mission?

So even thought I’m not technically in remission, I am focused on remembering my mission. I believe we all come here for a divine purpose and I feel that part of my mission is telling my story and helping others heal through what I have learned and discovered. I plan to write a book because I still have so much more to say about what I discovered along my healing journey, but I’m not there yet, so for now, I figured this blog would be a great place to start.

Also, because meditation was such a powerful part of my healing journey, I feel it’s part of my mission to teach others about meditation. I plan on writing more posts on this topic and what I’ve learned, maybe even teaching meditation at some point.

I look back on my cancer journey, and although I would never wish it on anyone, I appreciate what I’ve gained from it: strength, resilience, a sense of clarity and empowerment, the knowledge to help others.

Thank you for reading my story! Please comment, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please share, especially if you know someone who has struggled with cancer. And subscribe if you want to stay tuned for updates on my upcoming book or want to be notified for new posts.

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10 Responses

  1. Cory says:

    Incredible story, Crystal! I’m happy you are still with us and focused on your mission. May your story be a wake up call to us all. Live today not tomorrow! Much love 💕

  2. sonia says:

    felicidades Crystal!!!, que suerte haber estado en un curso con Joe, me encantaría. También he sanado y he cambiado gracias a el y otras enseñanzas. Un abrazo

  3. Kathy says:

    Crystal, Your story moves me deeply, and I’m so grateful you have shared it! My husband just recovered from a grueling head/neck cancer, and then a small bout w/ a lung tumor that they zapped quickly. But, your early story sounds just like what we were searching when he was first diagnosed in 2019 – as many alternatives as was humanly possible for us to do within our means (we weren’t able to go to Mexico though, and now in hindsight having met a few others with the same cancer he had, it may have been futile anyway).

    But, my real reason for writing is to send you love and heartfelt thanks for putting your story about meditation! I LOVE Joe Dispenza and his work, and have decided for my own health to make it more of a daily habit. I’m also grateful that you wrote about your own experience on the weeklong retreat, because I’ve wondered about whether or not it’s worth my investment – and I can imagine that I, too would really feel disappointed if I didn’t have a big mystical experience! 🙂 I also just watched a Dr. Joe video talking about how people don’t HAVE to go to a retreat in order to heal (which I kind of needed to hear right now).

    I have probably about 6 of his meditations now, and was actually just going to get his updated Blessing of the Energy Centers (although I haven’t been able to figure out yet what the big difference is in the updated version).

    Would you be comfortable sharing the names of the meditations you found to be the most helpful? For example, some people really resonate with “Blessing of the Energy Centers,” and others find “Reconditioning The Body to a New Mind” etc.

    What have your favorite, daily, “go-to” meditations been? Which ones do you feel may have had the most impact for you?

    Once again, thank you so much for sharing! Here’s to your continued wonderful and healthy life! <3
    Love,
    Kathy

    • ccarothers says:

      Kathy, thanks for your comment! I’m glad you’re also a fan of Dr. Joe’s work. The meditations that I have used the most are “Tuning into New Potentials” and “Blessing of the Energy Centers.” I really like Tuning into new potentials because that was where I really got into the visualization aspect. Best wishes for you and your husband.

      • Kathy says:

        Awesome! Thank you so much Crystal! I have both those, so I’ll concentrate a bit more on those two (still deciding whether or not to get the “updated” BOTEC). I very much appreciate your response, and will move forward. 🙂

  4. Judy Wigand says:

    Hi Crystal, Your journey with your cancer and your full discovery of how you kept discovering what led to where you are today are very, very inspiring and I know you will help many others who suffer cancer and other diseases. God had led you to this point in time and I know you will benefit many in your life. I look at you as being a very brave young lady and an even better person than before your cancer experience. I am proud of you, only in a good way, that God will use you greatly in your years to come. Much Love, Grandma

    • ccarothers says:

      Thank you, Grandma! I appreciate the comment and I will always remember your encouraging letters/cards and support. 🙂

  1. March 29, 2021

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