These photos are taken by Luben, Anne Wheeler’s partner.
All Right. It’s time for a blog entry. I can tell because on this end things have shifted again. It’s been three weeks here. It seems like forever, though…the days just blend into each other much like the way the tropical breezes tear down through the river’s corridor and blast everything away that was still and stagnant…
It is uncommonly beautiful here in Kerala. The growth is lush and green and rich. Almond trees and nutmeg trees line the property… even a cashew tree or two… tall, broad leafed they dance in the breeze. Periodically a small canoe-like boat with one or two guys works its way down the river for a pile of dirt from somewhere. Idyllic. Women washing laundry at the bridge, and men washing their prized cows.
Anne has moved into my room. The men are finished with their treatments and are moving into a guest house down the road from us on Monday, so she will stay with me and keep going with her treatments, and I have started my treatments in earnest now that I’ve stopped vomiting and seem to be able to handle the meds. I have a mysterious pulsing in my chest… left breast area and left lung… that is causing me some concern. It’s not a new feeling, but last night it was profound enough to keep me awake most of the night resulting in very poor sleep and the need to take pain meds from home. I’m keeping a close eye on all of that.
The men are having “vasti” for the next two days. This is the part of the treatment where they clean you out at the very end. A vasti is like a colonic of sorts. You fast on rice soup and periodically a tube is inserted into your anus and lower intestines that flushes out any waste that has accumulated there over the course of treatment. My understanding is that the stomach swells up and then release comes and it’s apparently wonderfully cathartic. Anne will start her vasti next week…and I will have mine in three weeks.
I was reading in the afternoon yesterday and I drifted off into a dreamlike trance. I woke chewing and salivating. Seems I was dreaming of two soft boiled eggs and toast and butter. It was so delicious. When I woke up and realized it was a dream I was so disappointed! It’s the first thing I’ll eat when I get home. Yum.
I think something is happening here. I am feeling more energy and that things are moving thru me. Once the pulsing in my chest settles down I will not be concerned. I am still convinced that this was the thing to do. The West can offer me nothing but chemo. I’ve got to give this a try. The stories that come out of this place are amazing. I was just told today about a boy across the river who fell out of a coconut tree and became paralyzed from the neck down. He was taken to the hospital and had major surgery, but after months of misery and no real improvement his mother brought him here. VasuDevan worked with him for months with herbal concoctions and treatments. Today he is walking with braces, and VD says that if he’d gotten to him before the surgery, he is convinced the boy would be fine today.
The feeling here at Sreedhari is definitely one of healing. Vasudevan and Seena are the real deal… as is every one of the staff here. The people who are here that are returning to this place for the third and fourth time swear by it. I could not be in a better situation.
I love you all so much. I miss you terribly and long to return home to you healthy and healed. Thank you for standing strong with me. I am forever grateful.
Seena came running into my room this afternoon to tell me about a guy who was here for four weeks and left the week before we arrived. He has cancer…a large tumour in the center of his chest. He was given three months of meds to take back with him, and has been religiously following the regime. The plan was for him to return home and begin chemo and radiation treatment. He was given a scan last week after being back for a few weeks, taking his meds, and preparing for chemo. The oncologist is floored. The tumour is gone. Gone! He refuses to believe it’s the Ayruvedic treatments and wants to go ahead with chemo and radiation, but the guy is saying no to this…and they will take another scan in a month to validate the findings. He is confident that the tumour will still be gone.
I have to say that this story could not have come at a better time for me. I have had another awful day: after vomiting again last night, and feeling, generally, like I start over every day. Seena came to me with this just as I was finished eating what I was able to of lunch and while I struggled to keep it all down. I went to treatment right after that somewhat buoyed by this information.
I lie on a hard table with my head on a pillow, naked, except for a loin cloth. There are three women in attendance: one on either side of me and one heating oil at my feet. A contraption containing cold buttermilk mixed with oil and herbs is hung above my head. It is like a bowl with a hole in the bottom. The buttermilk drips on my forehead and down my hair for an hour while the two women massage me on either side in large amounts of herbal-based oil. This treatment is for the central nervous system…and I am slowly starting to feel the effects of it… I’m just slightly more awake and alert… my stomach, despite the discomfort, is functioning a little better than before. Hopefully, they believe, I will stop vomiting and be able to do some of the more therapeutic treatments… the ones I came here to do…. the ones for cancer.
So, even though this has been a rather slow and difficult day, I am somewhat hopeful that things are shifting.
Muggie and Luben went to Cochin today to get the computer fixed. Having film equipment and other delicate things here in this dust and humidity is really dicey. They are in a cab for three hours either way. There are two lanes of traffic going either way, but no one honours that…people drive all over the road and horns are honking constantly. The exhaust fumes are ridiculous…it’s quite stressful. I really wanted to go but was not allowed. I may end up being in India and seeing nothing except the inside of this clinic and the one-horse town down the road. That would really be strange…but, then…this whole thing is strange.
Ok!! I think the tide is turning. I’m still vomiting, but we are slowly going ahead with subtle treatment and medications. Slowly…in that specifically Ayruvedic way. Yesterday was actually all right. I didn’t vomit until evening and I was able to drink a long, cold glass of buttermilk at lunchtime that soothed my stomach and actually stayed down. I am skinny skinny right now. The ten lbs or so that I conscientiously gained before I left flew off my bones by the third or fourth day I was here. I’m a little concerned, but if I can get some stuff down in the next few days I should be all right.
The night fears and terrors that I experienced are fading as well. This could mean that toxins are leaving my body…but also I have Anne Wheeler here and she is so awesome…so totally generous and kind that she has moved into my room for the long nights and when I wake up in the dark she is there to calm me down. I could not do this without her…and I have made a new friend for life. She is such a wonderful and wise human being. I am so lucky to have her here with me.
Ray and Luben, too. Everyone here is rooting for me and hoping that soon this starts to make sense.
I miss home…all of you. It feels like I’ve been gone forever…but it occurred to me today that it is not even a month since XMAS…so, clearly, one’s perception of time is altered in these kinds of situations. It is very different here…so very different than home…and yet, people are the same everywhere. The weather is hot and humid…it’s sub tropical. I am not that far from the equator. The other day Anne and I made the mistake of walking to a small village nearby in the heat of day. We were dripping by the time we got home…and completely crazy to have made the attempt. What is it they say about mad dogs and Englishmen? So, obviously, the weather is affecting us…but the sense that we are far away is always prevalent as well. Last night was a big new year’s celebration in the tiny village and they set off fireworks and drummed deep into the night. The sounds were so foreign and strange to us, wafting out over the river. I became aware of how very far away from home we are.
I will know in the next few days whether or not this is the right treatment for me. Sometimes I am still unsure. If I am still vomiting I will have to question the wisdom of continuing here. However, there is huge benefit to me in the herbs and potions that they have used so far. My legs were so swollen when I first arrived that we spoke of taking me to hospital, but after a week or so of treatment they are back to normal. I will let you all know what transpires.
Right now a fierce breeze has come up and I can smell the coconut husks and shells that they are using in the kitchen to stoke the fire. The air is swirling with a pungent smoke and the palm trees are rustling. It is very beautiful here, as you will see from the photos we bring back. I’d like to email them to the blog, but this computer cannot handle the download…so you’ll have to wait.
Please take care, all of you, and stay well. Health is wealth and that ain’t no lie.
I am really in the shits now. It’s been many days now coming down from jet lag and a really horrendous journey, as well as the beginning of treatments and a virtual wave of toxins passing thru me as I begin to cleanse. It was so bad that I was ready to come home.
Here’s the deal: We are awakened at 6am with medicine. At 7:30am they bring us tea, and at 9 we eat a breakfast of rice cakes and chutney. Mmmmmm. I’ve been waking up in the middle of the night with the most horrible and uncontrollable fear… it’s finally breaking. The doctor thinks it is chemo coming out of me. I certainly hope so. If this was the way I had to feel while here, I wouldn’t make it. The paranoia and fear has been truly awful. Thank god for Anne Wheeler who stands by me and never judges even though I’ve been a real pain in the ass.
We are in the middle of a small village, bordering a river that runs lazily down to the ocean. It is lush jungle… lots of bugs… very, humid and not very fancy. There are huge spaces of time where nothing happens. Nothing. We sit. Bedtime is at 7:30 or 8pm. No wonder I wake up at 3am! The palm trees sway in the breeze and it is jaw-dropping gorgeous. There is a distinct feeling that India is “out there” somewhere teeming with life, but here it is very quiet and remote. I’ve had a lot of problem with my legs swelling and just today we finally got them down and it looks like it’s under control. There is such a different style to the medicine here. My legs were wrapped in a special mud and elevated twice daily, then I was given a milk bath with twelve different root herbs infused in the milk and honestly when it was over my legs were half the size from when we began. Three gorgeous and committed women work on your body at one time. They are listening to music and singing and their hands are so loving and caring, your legs would stop swelling, too.
I found a spider the size of my head last night in my bathroom. Luben got rid of it and called me a big baby head. Yeah.
The people here are amazing. Dr. Seena is a beautiful young ayruvedic doctor that runs this clinic with her father-in-law, Vasu Devan. VD looks like Frank Sinatra. Seena is so elegant and wonderful. She’s really skilled and I feel safe and confident in her care. I’ve been vomiting up some of the medications and it’s not always easy to deal with the way things smell here–even the food–which is prepared according to treatment, so it ain’t exactly delicious. For some reason I’ve just kind of become sensitive to smell here and so I’ve been losing my cookies quite regularly. It will pass. I think most of the negative stuff is passing as I write this, actually. I dunno… there’s just something about the dead of night… pitch black… and you’re in India and it’s so different and so strange and sometimes I just wanna come home. Of course… to what? To chemo? I mean… I’ve got to give this a chance. It’s just that it’s hard. The treatments are difficult too… very rigorous… not at all peaceful… except the milk bath was kinda soft.
I miss you all so much. I so appreciate my home and my family and friends. You have no idea how I cherish you all. I will try to get to the computer at least twice a week. I feel like I am very far away and it is not easy to let it all go and let it all be. I want to know what is going on with all of you so email me and keep me in your thoughts.
I love you.
The trek from Vancouver to London to Mumbai to Kochi gives me shivers to just think about. Honestly, it was like a pilgrimage. Somehow, we all held on to our sanity and all of a sudden we were here. It was probably 38 degrees when we landed in Kochi and the taxis picked us up to take us to Sreedhari. At that point my legs were already so swollen from the airplane hours that it hardly mattered anymore. People all along the way were kind and accommodating and we were constantly being approached and aided in our attempts to find the proper gate for takeoff and bathrooms and these are not easy things to find when there is no signage and the airport is miles long. Anyway… we arrived and are here and are settling nicely into the routine.
It is very rustic… a little like girl scout camp. The food is basic, but clean. It took a few days for all of us to get the mattresses we needed and the rooms that worked out best for each of us, but we are getting the hang of it now.
I met with a specialist that the clinic brought in to advise them in treating me, and spent one half day at a clinic in a neighboring village…. a filthy and daunting experience… getting tests that this specialist felt he needed to assess my situation. It felt gratuitous to me, but I guess he needed to see x-rays and ultra sounds to know what he was dealing with. I didn’t like that part very much.
I am finally, though, beginning to have treatments and taking the medications that they are prescribing to me. They are mostly mixtures of muddy combinations of herbs that I swallow and gag back five or six times a day. They are hesitant to begin the massage treatments on me while I am still swelling, as things get dicey and can get worse.
OK…this is going to happen alot. I will be typing and suddenly have to sign off because a line for the computer begins to form and I’ll be under pressure to finish up and share. So. I will continue as soon as I can get back here to type some more.
I love you all. I miss home terribly, but the horrible fear and panic I was feeling has disapated and I know where I am. India. The continent. Hmmmmmmmmmmm.