“My cancer journey was not about facing death. It was about being truthful about my life. What had fallen apart? Who had I become? What was I holding onto? Did I have the safety, support, and security to face life after cancer? Did I want to face life without it?”
That’s a quote from our guest blogger, Rae Carter.
Rae Carter is an empowerment advocate, writer, facilitator, and public speaker committed to helping heal our Earth and the life she sustains. Her transformational healing journey of body, mind, soul, and spirit is helping her find wholeness and truth. Rae is currently free of cancer and is managing her other health ailments and working to prevent cancer’s return with holistic health modalities and lifestyle change.
Rae serves on the Board of Directors for Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility (VBSR), is a practicing member of the Vermont Reiki Association, and is an ordained minister. Her 20-year career in marketing and communications included serving as communications director at the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund (2013-2018), where she was instrumental in efforts to implement Vermont’s Farm to Plate food system plan. She also owned and operated Rachel Carter PR, a public relations firm from 2006-2013. Rae is currently seeking professional opportunities to apply her organizational development, business growth, and holistic marketing skills to reframe situations and solve problems that advance humanity, strengthen human connectivity, and promote the empowerment of women to care for our planet and ourselves.
An intuitive creatrix honing her talents as an herbalist and musician, Rae lives in Plainfield, Vermont with her partner and animals where they are developing a healing sanctuary and manage Hygge Den—a downtempo music project.
The following is a Maggie’s Brightside guest post. Members of the Maggie’s Brightside community hold a variety of view points and experiences. The views expressed below are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Maggie’s Brightside.
My Cancer Diagnosis
I was diagnosed with DCIS (ductal carcinoma in situ), a stage zero, non-invasive breast cancer in January 2018 when I was 41. The diagnosis came at a time when I was already struggling with dis-ease, having just been diagnosed with adenomyosis, and told I would need a hysterectomy, as well as degenerative arthritis, making it painful to walk up hills or stairs. Additionally I was struggling with anxiety and depression at the realization of the failed American dream, financial insecurity, and acute work stress. I had spent the past two years living in a permanent state of fight, flight or freeze, so learning I had breast cancer, while shocking, served as verification of disease in my entire being.
At first, it didn’t sound so scary—stage zero, non-invasive. I was even told when diagnosed that “this was the best cancer to have.” I would be “in and out.” Therefore, I was completely caught off guard when my first appointment was with a surgeon. I thought an oncologist was a cancer doctor who would review all aspects of the dis-ease and all of the options. Instead, I was rushed into a fear based, one-size-fits-all approach treating my cancer the same as a higher stage, invasive cancer. There was no mention of nutrition, supplements, alternative therapy, or other lifestyle changes connected to what could have caused the cancer, especially considering I did not have the BRCA gene.
Fear took hold of my entire body, worsening the fight, flight, or freeze state from which I already suffered. There was so much else going on, I couldn’t even think about the cancer. I was in pain due to the adenomyosis and arthritis, and mental anguish regarding how I could continue working in a high stress environment when I knew deep down the role stress was playing in all of my health issues. My partner is a teacher and we were living pay check to pay check, challenged with student loan debt and the disproportionate income to cost-of-living ratio in Vermont. While we are blessed to have health insurance, it does not cover any of the nutrition changes, supplements, holistic medicine, or alternative therapy I knew I would need. My intuition was also telling me the only way I could focus on getting healthy and manage all of my diagnoses was to take a serious break from my career and re-evaluate my entire life. Our energy turned to running a Go Fund Me and we are very fortunate and grateful the campaign was successful. It was also deeply humiliating to publicly beg for money for months on end, but it was necessary for our survival and I no longer had space in my life for worrying about what other people thought of me.
Connecting with Maggie’s Brightside
It was around this time when I got a message from MaggiesBrightside on Instagram. Maggie, while dealing with all that she was going through, said to me, “I don’t know your story, but it seems like things might not be going according to plan. Let me know if you want to get together and talk with someone who has been there.” This started a correspondence with Maggie that lasted through the spring and into the summer. I signed up for the Maggie Card and she and I attempted to try to get together on a few occasions, but they never came to fruition given what we were both going through. I was deeply touched by her generosity and began following her story, which served as a catalyst to how I gradually began to change my perspective on life.
What was supposed to be a partial lumpectomy, turned into a second lumpectomy and then caused a pinched nerve through my neck and arm leaving me in acute pain and unable to function physically or mentally. I couldn’t even read a book or color in any of the beautiful coloring books people had sent my way because the pain to move my neck was unbearable. More cancer was detected in another part of my breast and the margins from the second surgery were still not clear. At this point but I halted all appointments with conventional medicine, and turned completely to researching and treating the root causes of my dis-ease—physically, mentally, and spiritually.
I built a team of healing practitioners, including several who offer discounts with the Maggie Card. I was able to uncover deep emotional trauma through Shamanic healing work at Lucid Path Wellness, while also benefiting from the calming effects of sound and light therapy in the energy genesis machine. I began working with Tessera Therapeutic Massage for lymphatic drainage and oncology massage and learned self-care techniques for understanding and helping my lymph system. I discovered the power of acupuncture with Joshua Singer, which has turned into one of the most critical healing modalities I work with as it’s helped me embrace my own intuition to listen to and love my body. I also sent my dog to the Four Paws Inn when my partner and I needed to be away from home.
I ended up having a mastectomy in what was my third surgery this past September. It was too late to do the “watch and wait” method holistic cancer practitioners recommend for DCIS because after two surgeries and two biopsies, the pathways had opened for the cancer to spread. This was something I learned through my own research, rather than having been informed by conventional doctors. The time for “watch and wait” would have been before the first surgery, but according to conventional medicine, this is not an option. I also learned there is no medical evidence that DCIS leads to more invasive breast cancers because it has always been treated as an invasive cancer, even though in Canada and much of Europe stage zero, non-invasive DCIS is not considered cancer at all. I learned DCIS is a very controversial diagnosis in the United States because with an almost non-existent mortality rate, the “watch and wait” method—or better yet—treating the root cause of the cancer, leads to a much better quality of life than the physical, mental, and financial suffering many women go through for a “stage zero, non-invasive cancer.”
Part of what makes breast cancer so confusing are the numerous types and stages that make each diagnosis different from another (e.g. there are also invasive types and stages of DCIS). Every woman’s body is unique and just as I do not believe cancer treatment should be a one size fits all solution, I also believe women should have a choice about how they heal their bodies. I was treated as if there was something wrong with me because I questioned the fear-based approach to conventional medicine. A mental health component accompanies most cancer diagnoses and instilling more fear into patients by derailing research inquiries or tone policing perspectives diminishes a patient’s sense of agency, which perpetuates mental anguish. However, fear drives many medical decisions and I have since researched the cancer industry in the United States and the financial repercussions the industry would take if conventional medicine promoted treating root causes in addition to symptoms with surgeries and drugs. You can read more in the article I wrote, published recently in VT Digger: No Profit in Cancer Prevention.
As I was researching the causes of my dis-ease and how to bring balance into my body, one of the last times I corresponded with Maggie she said, “your patience and research into what you and your body needs and your decision making process is inspiring.” Maggie’s words were far more validating than anything I heard from conventional doctors.
I have since learned that the best advice comes from other patients. If I could offer advice to people receiving a non-life threatening cancer diagnosis, try to find others who have gone through a similar cancer to yours so you may be able to learn from them. I also encourage trying to create the space to research your dis-ease beyond what information is provided by conventional doctors, ideally before you start conventional treatment. I very much wish I had done both of these earlier in my diagnosis as I feel it would have more positively affected my journey so I could have approached my dis-ease with less fear and more empowerment.
It took me a long time to accept that I must advocate for myself through our current medical system and it’s really, really hard, but completely necessary. I learned it’s not called being a pain in the ass, but actually has a name—participatory medicine—where the patient researches, questions, listens to intuition, and speaks up for what is best for their body and life circumstance. This was something Maggie seemed to do well and I thank her for helping me move from a victim mindset to one of empowerment.
Thank you Maggie.