Fundraising Countdown

The support and fundraising that has happened on my behalf has touched my heart and has made alternative cancer treatment a possibility for me. Donations continue to be my primary funding for healthy food, supplements, living expenses and medical bills. If you feel moved to give to my Health and Wellness Fund, please follow the Paypal "Donate" button below. To avoid Paypal's 3% fee, checks or cash can be sent to Zachariah Walker, 1003 Chipeta Ave, Grand Junction, CO 81501. Blessings!


Donate to Zachariah's Health & Wellness Fund

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

A New Journey

Oct. 20, 1975-April 10, 2013 GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. – Zachariah Lawrence Walker died Wednesday, April 10, 2013, at age 37. He left us the way he lived: gently and peacefully, surrounded by love. Though Z’s life was cut short by the complexities of leukemia and Crohn’s disease, he lived deeply and joyfully. A lifetime of health challenges did not diminish his spirit and zest for life. He was a teacher, adventurer, traveler, writer, poet, DJ, yogi, healer, mystic and mentor.
Born Oct. 20, 1975, in Missoula, Zack completed his primary and secondary education, graduating from Hellgate High School in 1994. He attended the University of Montana, and – interspersing his classroom experience with periods of work, travel and livin’ life – he completed a degree in education. Several years later he became a certified yoga instructor and healing arts practitioner.
Despite childhood diagnoses of ulcerative colitis and a red blood cell disorder, followed by numerous surgeries and hospitalizations, Zachariah always emerged determined to get back into the sunshine and on the trail to pursue his next adventure. He was an avid backpacker, mountain biker, whitewater rafter and sun worshipper. In his early 20s he worked in Antarctica and backpacked throughout New Zealand. Several years later he undertook a two-month solo tour of southern Europe. At that time he started a blog and resumed it in 2012 to share his final challenge during the past year.
Zachariah devoted his professional life to service. He worked for the Vermont Youth Conservation Corps and taught children’s ski lessons at Stowe; he was a classroom teacher of math, science, social studies and outdoor education in Delta and Grand Junction schools for several years; he was a community organizer for the Colorado Environmental Coalition; he taught yoga and wellness at Yoga West Collective and Crossroads Fitness Center; he sponsored an inspirational film series at Yoga West; and he volunteered with KAFM community radio of Grand Junction.
For more than 20 years Zachariah was actively involved with The Youth Rally, an annual camp for youth ages 11-17 with bowel and bladder dysfunction. He served as a counselor, adviser, inspirational speaker and mentor to young adults with ostomies and autoimmune diagnoses.
Zachariah is survived by his beloved Larkin Beaman of Grand Junction; his parents, Annette and John Walker of Missoula; his sister Loralei Walker (Bridget Korman) of Olympia, Wash.; grandfather Lawrence Walker of Meredith, N.H., as well as several aunts, uncles, cousins, a vast community of friends and loved ones, and his dog, Beacon.
A private service was held April 12 at the Hospice Care Center in Grand Junction. Two celebrations of Zachariah’s life are planned: in Grand Junction on May 18 and in Missoula on June 15. Details will follow. Zachariah’s ashes will be scattered in the mountains of Montana and Colorado.
The family suggests memorial donations to The Youth Rally by visiting, click Donate Now, under Program select “Camper Registration Fee,” in memory of Zachariah Walker; or to Hospice of Western Colorado, 3090 N. 12th St., Grand Junction, CO 81506 or visit and select “Give a Gift.”

Death of a Loved One

(This post originally appeared in the Grand Junction Free Press on April 24, 2013)  

            My best friend Zachariah Walker died one week ago this past Wednesday.  I have written four previous Free Press articles about his struggle with leukemia, and now suddenly there it is, on the page in front of me, looking back at me like some kind of silent observer waiting to see how I respond.  I see the words as they dare me to fully embrace the emotions that stir up, unfettered.  The truth is, I feel agonized and sad.  He was and is such a catalyst for me, that I now feel a tremendous void in my life.  There are many who must be feeling this void, evidenced by the outpouring of appreciation and love coming forth.  And so I look back at my first words, feeling again the disbelief that he is gone from physical existence on this planet.  I feel the defense of denial and I find myself wondering, what is it that others who knew him are feeling?  How are they grieving the passage of this loved one?  And how are you the reader dealing with losses in your own life?  While I acknowledge that this article is in part a personal catharsis, it is also a ripe opportunity for you to explore your own experience in the most sacred and feared of realms, the process of death and dying. 

Although grief is a fundamentally solitary experience, there is fascinating wisdom in watching grief play out.  It is in becoming the observer, in witnessing the throes of grief in myself that I am revealed the beginnings of transformation.  In watching people mourn, with some I am resonating deeply.  In others, I am simply viewing their grief process in a distant, compassionate way.  And beyond the disbelief of this moment, I have been feeling not only the whitewater of rage, anxiety, and agony, but also the calm eddies of relief, humor, peace, joy, celebration and more.  What a wondrous, agonizing, divine and terrible experience, all at once.  I can see that I am so deeply in this grief process that my objectivity is skewed and my perceptions of reality altered.  There is no logic to the emotions present.  I have experienced minutes oozing by, often determining with difficulty when recent events occurred.  It is an ongoing flow of altered time and space, now verifying what I have heard others describe when a great departure comes.  It is a deeply fascinating process, of how I am “hanging” with grief. 

            Loss is a unique experience

So what happens when you lose a loved one?  Is it a soul mate, a partner or even a cat, dog or horse, more dearly felt than any human in your life?  Studies have shown that everyone grieves differently, as uniquely as each of our lives.  People follow (or don’t) a course of illogical, irrational and emotional experience that unfurls of its own accord.  The text On Death and Dying comes to mind, Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’ pinnacle achievement which helps to explain some of the normal and common processes that comes with loss; namely, the stages of Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance, experienced in no particular order or completeness.  We may experience denial that the person has departed as a survival mechanism, feel anger at the abandonment, attempt to bargain that things would have been different “if only,” or feel flat out depressed at the injury.  Since people sometimes report even more convoluted and wild journeys of grief, just remember that your voyage is distinctly your own.  

            I participate in an on-line forum at and, skillfully facilitated by local licensed therapists Donna and Stephen BE.  It is an incredible resource that I highly recommend.  If you need help in understanding your emotional process, which at least 99% of us do, please investigate these rich resources.  It is in my personal sessions with Donna that I have learned one tremendous and very valuable lesson; that there is a difference between the process of dying, and the event of death.  No matter how much I prepared for Zachariah’s departure, it was (and is) a big shock.  The mental process that is the preparation for loss is nothing like the tremendous and deeply emotional event that has so decisively affirmed his mortality.  Wow, what an experience, and what a teacher it is becoming. 

            Good Grief, Charlie Brown.

            The great author and teacher of Plant Spirit Medicine, Eliot Cowan, returned into my life yesterday at the wonderful Water Comes First seminar held at the Radio Room.  There he revealed that grief itself is the healer.  In a poignant moment, he taught that the unrestrained, boundless and welcomed throes of letting it all fall apart become deep medicine for us.  I know that it is not only important to let this process unfold, but also that it is dangerous to attempt to restrain it.  Perhaps the Lutheran minister conducting my uncles’ funeral said it best by saying “Now remember to grieve, otherwise it will come out crooked.”

            There is no doubt that the loss of anything of importance in our lives comes with a natural process of hurt and pain.  It is also a course of evolution, of which I am just beginning to understand.  The effect on my own life and others is so mysterious as to nearly escape description or capture into these words.  For this unfolding growth, I am deeply grateful.  I miss you, my friend.  For those of you who are grieving, I am with you.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

An Improbable Return

“I knew that this suffering…this desperate uncertainty were the unmistakable signs of the blessing of being alive.  The ‘other world’ had shown me that there was a spiritual payment for the privilege to suffer.  Suffering was not the price of living, but a part of the gift of being alive.  Not a big deal, but a part of the deal.  I could see how the breath of life did not come from people, but came into people from another place far away from human knowledge, thus bestowing life as a gift, not as an inalienable prerogative.  This deliciousness, this pain, the befuddlement, the mystery, and wonder, are generously handed to us by a hungry Deity force who wants our full, uninsulated participation in life as a down payment, beginning a lifelong series of ritual feeding into its starved belly.  Instinctively I knew I’d been recruited to serve what had served me, and they would hold it over my head until I came through for them as a reciprocation from me for my improbable return to life.”
-from yesterday’s reading in Secrets of the Talking Jaguar by Martín Prechtel

Dumbfounded perhaps is the best word I can use to describe my feeling towards recent events.  How does a physical body function and survive when 95% of its blood is populated with malignant, supposedly improperly functioning cells?  Yes, for at least three days blood tests showed a 95% blast count in my periphery blood.  In addition, the overall cells in my bloodstream were 14 times higher than the maximum range for the amount of healthy circulating white blood cells.  This coagulation or roadblock of cells had doctors worried about clotting and the potential for stroke.  My CBCs showed “critical” numbers for my WBC, my absolute neutrophils, my hemoglobin and my platelet counts.  All of this was following nearly a week at Angeles Hospital dealing with a heart rate between 90 and 110, fevers and chills, and my body’s reaction to the port they placed for systemic cancer treatments.  A localized infection developed, which they quickly got under control, which depleted me of strength and again opened the doors for a leukemia outbreak.  Under the suspicion of a developing pneumonia in my lungs we opted to be transferred to San Diego for care.  Two ambulance rides later I arrived at the Scripps Chula Vista emergency room.

The scene late Saturday in the ER was both shocking and terrifying.  From the placid halls of Angeles I had arrived on the set of a Zombie terror movie, except it was real.  I shit you not!  On my elevated gurney I assessed the sights and sounds as I attempted to curl deeper and deeper into the invisible shell of my protective egg.  Folding chairs placed in the walkways awkwardly propped suffering patients.  It looked as if the adhesive holding them up was giving way on a hot day.  Every curtained off bed held a medicated vacant looking specimen.  Dreading an ongoing wait, I was miraculously wheeled through the mess into a quarantined room.  My ambulance medics had relayed the circumstances of my compromised immunity and even they were surprised at how rapidly I was moved.  Hearing now only the muffled hollering of a delusional and uncooperative man-ghost I was quickly distracted by a young doctor and two nurses.  I relayed the first of many tellings of my health history, leukemia diagnosis and current circumstances, specifically the weakness, light-headedness and shortness of breath.  Multiple labs and cultures were taken and I was left to wait attached to the most precious of resources, oxygen.  Multiple medications, two units of blood and one allergic reaction later I was transferred to the ICU.  It was 2:30 in the morning. 

For the next four days I was attached to a jumble of wires and tubes transferring my vitals to screens and monitors.  In return I received oxygen and an array of IV juices, minus the antibiotic Cefepime, the apparent culprit of my momentary ER panic resolved by Benadryl.  The oral contingency of meds included Hydroxyrea, a low dose chemotherapy pill.  My stay in the ICU managed to somewhat balance out my critical blood values (other than my neutrophil count), restore my lung capacity and oxygen intake, and calm my marathon paced heart rate.  My care there was wonderful, especially by my main day and night nurses, both of which shared tears with me and were apparently inspired by my story.  My last day at Scripps was spent on the oncology ward, a return to nightmarish hospital conditions.  An all day wait for a unit of platelets to send me home was a tedious end to the ordeal.  Throughout, my radiant mother held me up with love and support and an extra ray of light was shared by my past roomie and friend Steven.  He and his lovely girlfriend Carrie visited, sanitized my room (both of them nurses), and brought me scrumptious African food from Ocean Beach’s market and street fair.  What a blessing.

Mom and I had booked plane tickets for the following day.  However, a consult with Dr. Perez that afternoon swayed our decision.  I had $10,000 worth of cell therapy waiting in the freezer at Angeles and circumstances were right to deliver them.  After a night’s retreat with relatives Conrad and Judy (who so graciously took care of mom while I was at Scripps) a shuttle carried us back across the border.  I was reluctant to leave the most glorious morning I’d experienced in months and disappointed not to be returning to the comforts of home.  It was crystal clear though the options in front of me…  I now sit, three Dendritic cell treatment later, awaiting the fourth, feeling as good as I have in some time.  Miraculously, my blood work from Friday looks amazing.  Especially the crucial cells in my immune system, those little neutrophils I’ve been studying for the past year.  They measured in at 32% of my WBC, a percentage I haven’t seen since before I needed all these damn blood tests.  My head spins at this turn around.  I have learned not to put too much stock in the values from one CBC, but I’ll take it.  And I will gratefully take in the fact that mom and I will be home tomorrow.  This return, so long awaited and uncertain at times this past few weeks.

I certainly can’t say I’m coming home in better shape than I left.  My bowels are irritated and inflamed, likely from the Hydroxyrea I continue to take in low doses.  My right shoulder feels crippled from muscle tension and possible nerve damage, another symptom from the port fiasco.  Muscle relaxants are the only thing allowing me to sleep, put on and take off shirts, and eat with my right hand.  The evident bones and veins protruding from my hands and feet illustrate the need for 30 or so pounds of weight gain, as do my sunken eyes.  And I still can’t help but being perplexed.  With so many opportunities to depart this body and drift to the Great Beyond how do I continue to manage to return?  As my dad said, I am one tough (something-er-other).  I know the Walker genetics are a force to be reckoned with.  My grandpa is 98 and sharp as a tack and my dad is strong as an ox after plenty of adversity of his own.  But in my mystical ways I wonder, I can’t help but wonder.  Am I here for a fully “uninsulated participation in life…recruited to serve what has served me…a reciprocation from me for my improbable return to life.”

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Downward Spiral

For those that may not be on Facebook and due to the lack of desire or energy to write anything creative I've posted my FB updates from the past two weeks.  I was last off to Angeles Hospital on Valentine's Day for cancer treatment as my Crohn's crisis wore me down enough to allow my marrow to push leukemia cells into my periphery blood.  My trip started with good energy and much optimism, however, the turn of events has been a downward one.  I am currently in Sand Diego at Scripps Hospital in ICU getting stable enough to travel home.  It has been another tough go and I've got some big decisions to make.  What a crazy trip...

Looks like Day 1 is going to be big. Fasting from 10pm on, in the morning I get an IV and then off to the OR for a port placement in my chest. An x-ray will verify its placement and then I get blood drawn for the hematologist so she can start multiplying my NK and Dendritic cells. The port is specifically for systemic hyperthermia and systemic ozone therapy. New experiences for the human guinea pig! I'll fill in the details once the worst of it is over. Happy the traveling is done for now and sleep is a shower and stretch away.
Day 1 at Angeles Hospital, I am being well taken care of. It truly is amazing, mom and I were talking about what misconceptions we have about healthcare outside of the country. It is amazing here. I am well fed with organic food, the nurses and doctors are amazing, my accommodations are comfortable, and it is quiet in my room. I've been loopy today and in a bit of pain from my procedure this morning but my port is in and ready for use. Other than how skinny I've gotten, things are good. Buenas noches!
Angeles Hospital Update: It has been a rough day for the Z-man. After getting the port placed Friday morning I was having a lot of referred pain in my shoulder. I've only had about 20% mobility of my right arm. I started presenting mild fevers yesterday that persisted through the night. Today things got bad, lots of chills and fever hit 102.7. Major infection concerns. The internist here was on it. She ended up pulling my port and putting me on IV antibiotics. After pulling the port my shoulder almost immediately felt better and I can use my arm again. I am happy to report too that my fever has dropped back to normal tonight and I feel much better. They're running cultures to test for infection but I'm wondering if I had an immune reaction to the port. Very strange setback. I have to give credit to the team here, nurses were on top of things and doctors came in on their day off. My oncologist, Dr. Gustamante, was a two hour drive away and three hours from his car (he's a triathlete) when he got a call. He got here around dinner to see me, I totally didn't expect it. Assuming I've stabilized we'll continue with the cell therapy, but I'm thinking the systemic ozone and hyperthermia are out the window. Will know more tomorrow. Had to really deal with some fear and frustrations today and the whole ordeal has taken it out of me. Off to bed...
Angeles Update: After laying down for bed last night my fever and chills miserably spiked again. Fortunately, after about 3 hours they subsided and I managed to get some sleep. It's kind of crazy to be shaking with chills and desire warmth, but covering the body in ice is what brings relief. Feeling dazed today. Awaiting the arrival of my mom and we'll have to make decisions about getting treatment in San Diego. I sooo want to stay here but all the additional costs could get unmanageable. Waiting for estimates and discussion with my folks. The blood cultures need a few more days but so far show no signs of systemic infection. There is obviously one locally as my port sight is red and swollen, but looks better than yesterday. Meanwhile, wondering what's happening with the cancer process and delayed treatment. Trying to stay positive and venting some sadness. Please keep visualizing healthy immune cells and healthy strong Z backpacking in the wilds. Love and blessings!

*Somehow a week drug by with much time in bed covered in ice packs and getting dosed full of drugs.  Fevers and chills and exhaustion with short spells of desiring to get out of bed.  Appetite was miserable for the most part as well.  Mom's presence has been a life saver.  I could feel new symptoms showing up in my body and was very concerned about what was happening with the cancer process... 
Feb 26th:  Well, I hate to say that no news is not good news. My journey to Mexico for treatment has resulted in a downward spiral of events. I last posted about the local infection that we were dealing with at Angeles Hospital. It was getting under control, however, the toll on my body has seemed to again open the floodgates for a leukemia surge in my body. I was presenting more difficulty breathing, light headed-ness and exhaustion and a chest xray showed concerns of possible pneumonia. On Saturday we opted to transfer to Scripps hospital in San Diego for critical care. I've been in the ER and ICU since. My WBC was through the roof and my "healthy" blood counts at critical lows. The good news is, doesn't seem to be infection, just symptoms of aggressive leukemia (not that that's good new). I've been on oral chemo pills to drop the proliferation of cells, which has been successful, and I've had 4 units of blood to get my H&H and RBC up. I'm hooked up to all kinds of wires and tubes, though am no longer needing oxygen by day. The plan is to get me stable enough to get back home and I'm consulting with my doctors in Mexico as they have my cell therapy ready and waiting if it's appropriate. Needless to say, this is the most serious situation I've faced since this whole ordeal started last year. I've got big decisions to make but am finally feeling more at peace than I have since the start of this "trip." Part of me hesitates to make this post as I do not want fear or worry directed my way. Please know that does not serve me. I know you are all so wonderful at shining love and light my direction, that is uplifting. Know that I feel fine with whatever direction things go and I am looking sooooo forward to getting home. With love, Z

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Finding Zachariah

Last Friday night I experienced a great gathering of community for my showing of “Finding Joe.”  The documentary centered on the story of “the hero’s journey,” a pattern hidden in the stories of all world mythologies according to Joseph Campbell.  The timing for this movie was remarkable as it resonated so deeply with the journey I’ve been on.  And really, the beauty of the message is, it is one we can all relate to in our own way.  The buzz in the studio was wonderful.  At intermission and afterwards people connected through conversation and shared their own inspirations (see pics).  It was truly a magical event.  (“Finding Joe” on Youtube)

The journey of the hero is marked by three phases: Departure, Initiation, and Return.  I could relate to all aspects as they were illustrated, but what most struck me was in the Return of the Hero.  The greatest gift the Hero returns with is not treasure, fortune, or any other material possession.  The gift is the story.  The story is what is offered and what remains long after the Hero is gone.  That story impacts, influences and guides others on their own journeys in ways that will never be measured.  I felt a great satisfaction at the end of the evening knowing that was exactly what I was doing.  It was also clear that the Hero’s Journey is not a completion but a continuation.  The cycles of departure, initiation and return are ongoing.  I imagine it as an upward spiral; we will face the same obstacles over and over, each time reaching new depths.  And though the journey may appear as an outward one, the true journey and initiation comes from within.

Hollywood and ancient mythologies portray the Hero’s Journey in so many different ways.  It is evident to me that each hero is not merely going on a wild adventure; they are on a path of personal healing, of finding who they truly are.  I call this the Higher Self or Authentic Self.  Take Luke Skywalker for example.  He experiences the trauma of his adoptive parents being slain by the bad guys and is forced to depart what he knows, his comforts.  His adventures are an initiation of moving beyond his fears and embracing his own power.  And though his story may be fictitious in our eyes, it is still inspiring. 

The notion of “slaying dragons” is an important one for me to relate.  We, as humans, so easily see our obstacles and fears as something outside of us.  The truth is, what we see externally is merely a reflection of what is happening internally.  Our journey is one into our own psyche, of understanding what it is within us that holds us back.  It is a process of learning and gathering tools, not to kill the dragons within, but to tame them, accept them, and love them.  That is where we find peace, and in turn, our own power.  One of my latest personal revelations is about a deep seeded Fear of the World.  I have worked through so many layers of this fear.  Friends who know me now don’t believe I was a quiet, blend-in, scared to talk to girls kid going through school and childhood.  Throughout life I’ve journeyed into my depths to let go, resolve, accept… but the layers are deep.  Even recently I have been awed by uncovering a new depth, and in letting go, a new lightness within.  I ended my last blog with the Intention that has come out of it.  “I AM Safe and Powerful in the World.”  Result = new level of Empowerment. 

Back to “the Story.”  Or I should say, My Story.  I’ve already related the aftermath of my Crohn’s crisis and hospitalization.  Cancer blasts have again shown up in my blood.  From one crisis to another…  It seems that the wearing down of my body and immune system opened the floodgates between my marrow and blood.  As strange as it is that flood happened in a day’s time, between my CBC on Jan 23rd and 24th.  That first blast count read 45% according to the machine count.  A week and a half later, after my retreat to Ouray (see Shaman’s Death blog), my count was 29%, a mysterious drop after some serious self-care.  One week later (this past Monday), after a full week of balancing self care with busy-ness, my blast count read 50% with a three times increase in actual numbers and drops in my H&H and platelets.  Urgency and anxiety have joined the flood, I can feel them in my blood.  I’m calmer today as I write this, thanks especially to my amazing Larkin who has been going through significant transformations of her own.  Her perspectives have been calming and grounding.  However, we are in serious action plan mode.

Just moments ago I got off the phone with my local oncologist’s team.  My CBC from this morning shows slight increases in my good numbers and overall stable or not increasing blasts.  This simply means I’ll skip a transfusion and head to Angeles Hospital in Mexico ASAP.  So, it looks like I’m off on my next Hero’s Journey.  The other day I wept at the reality of the ongoing, of facing the next crisis.  I so deeply long to be home, be with my friends and community, and simply do my thing.  My next “departure” looks like it’s tomorrow and because of the immediacy; it will be a solo journey.  I truly believe that all of this is part of a huge personal healing process.  Much has been discussed and debated and going to Angeles, I feel, is what will support me through it.  The “dragons” that come up are much smaller than before.  I have faith I will continually be supported physically, emotionally, spiritually and financially.  I fail in describing how BIG things really are in my, and our, reality.  However, I do know this.  Whether I live or die through this immense healing process I know I have experienced a beautiful new depth of my Authentic Self and I am sharing my greatest gift, My Story. 

Friday, February 8, 2013

Magic in the Madness

January was likely the hardest month I’ve experienced since the fall of 2005.  Memories from that time recollect almost four weeks in the hospital while doctors scratched heads and I withered away surviving only on IV fluids and TPN.  My recovery, in my under-construction Palisade house, consisted of staring at sheet rock with days where a trip to the mailbox was the highlight.  Thankfully, that has not been topped (or I should say bottomed).  I guess I gauge the severity of the experience by the “unknown” factor.  Chemotherapy was far from fun, but I knew the symptoms were temporary.  I worked through the various sheddings of self and my hair re-grew in its new unmanageable form.  Despite the questions of long-term side effects, I came back to myself.  This summer I ached through relative enjoyment, as I was able to travel to Montana despite the arthritic joints that continually cracked and made getting out of bed and sitting in a car an undertaking.  I, in fact, was just reminiscing the highlight of that trip to my homeland (click here for a series of sweet river photos!).  Last fall, after my second trip to Angeles Hospital, I started an at home cell factor therapy that was expected to create an immune response, and in turn, “mild” flu-like symptoms.  My immune response ended up being extreme and for weeks I repetitively got slammed with severe flu symptoms spending days in bed.  Once I was certain it was a reaction I knew there would be an end.  I also knew the response was stimulating an attack on the cancer in my marrow.  As those symptoms subsided I found myself shifting into a Crohn’s flare-up.  Back to where things started…  The Crohn’s, an autoimmune disease, began to slowly wear away my body as my immune system worked against it, responding to the inflammation and potential infection going on in my intestines.  As hard as I tried to remedy it with strict diet, specific supplements, and pharmacy grade probiotics, I couldn’t get ahead, and fell far far behind.  I fell so far behind I lost myself to the Great Mystery, and I didn’t know if I’d come back.  Apparently, on Raven’s wings, I am returning with a change of consciousness.  Talk about one hell of a ride.

This return from “the Great Mystery” is a return from the unknown, the void between life and death.  That is where I have been floating.  My trip to the hospital signified a hitting bottom and while there I found some new depth of will.  It was truly bizarre how that fiasco of a hospital visit turned something within me.  I certainly can’t credit the care I received while there.  I checked in dehydrated and suffering.  I sat in my room for six and a half hours before receiving an IV and it was eight hours before I got any pain medication.  I received the results of my CAT scan the next day, which showed nothing notable.  I sat confined in my room hiding from the worst place an immune compromised person should be, the hospital.  More than one doctor mentioned that.  At home I slowly improved, working my way back to a “normal” diet, though as I described in my last blog, a lot of weird things were going on in my body.  My doctor visit this past Monday perhaps shed a bit of light on that.  This is the biggest latest news…

One and a half weeks after being discharged from the hospital I was casually informed by my internist that the lab work from the hospital showed cancer in my periphery blood, measured by a “blast count.”  This bad news, delivered in the latest version of doctor bedside manner, as you can imagine, flipped my lid.  “Stop,” I said, “I need to catch my breath.”  The news shifted an otherwise “normal” day into a big reality shake-up.  Much has been on my mind in the aftermath.  For one, going back to the hospital fiasco, how did I get discharged without being informed of my lab results?  It took a week and a half to learn some really f***ing significant news?  Upon studying the labs new questions are raised.  In the blast column on my blood work it shows: 1/22- nothing, 1/23- nothing, 1/24- 45% blasts.  Is it possible for that to happen overnight?  At the beginning of January I specifically quizzed my doctor and phlebotomists to be sure my CBCs would show a blast count.  I needed confirmation of this for next steps with my Mexico treatment.  I was assured, though I questioned the confidence behind it.  I now am left to wonder if the blast count is a specific order that has not been being checked.  I still don’t know the answer to this though I have inquired (just apparently not in the right places).  If so, another big question in my care looms.  Why would a patient diagnosed with AML not have lab orders specifically checking for cancer in the blood?  All of this info has me a bit beside myself pondering the latest awe of my healthcare.  The saving grace of the situation is my lab results from my visit to the internist were on par with the prior results.  Apparently, the 45% blast count from the 24th was a machine count and after a smear by the lab tech a more accurate count was 30%.  I don’t understand the discrepancy, however, my smear from February 4th was a 29%.  This is good news considering the acute nature of AML as there is a fear that it will proliferate quickly. 

So where does this leave me?  Oddly enough, though I certainly travel all over the mental map, I have settled into a new state of empowerment.  I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to put this current experience into words, but there is magic happening.  Larkin and my relationship has shifted into a new level of co-creative and proactive energy.  Our house feels more like a sanctuary every day.  My man Christopher (Dr. Lepisto) is right alongside and the three of us are cooking up some big plans.  Dr. Perez in Mexico is on board, as he continues to be in his remarkable way.  I am waiting to hear from him after he consults with his team.  I have also been doing some amazing and powerful work with practitioners on an emotional and spiritual level and my personal practices of yoga, energy work, visualizations and meditation have been taken to a new level.  As my doubts increase with how my local doctors can handle my complex case, my confidence grows with my own abilities to forge a healing path.  Big moves are in the forecast as I continue to learn about healing on multi-dimensional levels.  As always, I appreciate and ask for as much support from my communities, friends and family.  Through this BIG, challenging and daunting journey I am feeling more and more how it is guiding me to fully embrace my Highest Authentic Self.  I AM Powerful and Safe in the World.  That is significant as I “Shaman-on.”   

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Shaman's Death

I’ve realized my uncertainty, the strange shift in my being,
the darkness and beauty I’ve witnessed. 
Lost in suffering through the floating haze,
In the blur, I sensed the sagacious gaze of eyes. 
Death, in no describable form, watching, counting time.

I comprehend this in the aftermath of my hospital visit last week.  The strangeness and indescribability of what was happening in my body and my being; the floating, the haze, the hole I had fallen in.  There was some energy present, in retrospect; I realized was in the uncertainty of living.  To will through the space of wanting to drift eternally, to leave the pain, requires resources I don’t really know where to find.  Somehow they show up and I manage to reach for them.  Thankfully I am blessed with an extensive family of angels in form.  From Seattle landed my brother from another mother, Jeff, to hoist a rope into my depths and pull me out.  To be by my bedside and fill our kitchen with food and the smell of savory.  The tears on his departure visit me again as I write this.  And he was gone, the weekend I rested and continued my recovery through the week.  The need for personal retreat pushed me to plan and pack.  And off to heal.

By departure it had hit again.  What are these strange sensations in my body?  There are so many possible causes, trying to understand is unreasonable.  I begin to float in some out-of-body form, watching myself moving through the motions.  I arrive at the Wiesbaden in Ouray and will my way from check-in, to room, to the pool.  The melting begins submerged in the Lorelei pool, my private oasis, blessed with the name of my sister.  There is extra love here, and history.  I share the healing waters of the ancestors and chiefs.  Before bed I venture to the cave, Earth’s womb, and tone with her resonance.  As I lay in bed floating above my body, feeling it’s throbbing pulse, pressure pouncing from one organ to another, moving marrow and space where there is solid, I wonder.  I truly wonder if it will all shut down overnight. 

From the cave flies Bat and the story of the Shaman’s Death.  The ritualistic initiation to breakdown the notions of personal identity, of self, and reemerge ego-less, reborn to become your future.  I wake, I am reborn from the dark night.  The light shines bright that day and I soak it up, creativity begins to flow.  I have turned a corner, there is relief, that which was clutching is losing its grip.  I turn to the elements, soak in the fire water, breathe the air, hug the stone and tell it I’m grateful.  I burn sage, laugh and play, recollect my times of past.  I am finding ground and I am someone else…         

And here is the creative outcome from the rest of my personal retreat.  A video production to calm the concerned.  A metaphorical representation of being taken to the next level.  A celebration and a sharing of ceremony.

Monday, January 28, 2013

I Have Aged

I have aged again, some new energy has moved through me.  I am closer to dying or I am closer to healing, it’s hard to tell which.  The feelings in my body, so strange at times.  Is that my kidneys aching?  The swells of blood that occasional flush through my body, from the sacrum up through the ribs and shoulders, and down through the feet.  Is that magic, or is that a mess?  The months of pain in my guts is subsiding and I am grateful.  Slowly back-stepping out of crisis, the pangs lessen each day, the appetite improves.  And food is so good!  And the side effects I try not to dwell: steroids, anti-napalm-biotics, protonix.  Suppressing my suppressed immune system, swelling my joints to ache, they snap like seasoned piñon.  I reflect on last summer’s hobbling on these meds, but clearly the detriment of my symptoms was worse.  The suffering had to stop, I had lost track, I have been floating.  I am still floating, though my feet walk more each day and my face, for a moment, has felt the sun.  Perhaps I will find the ground again.

I have aged again, I feel more love and have grown more unattached.  Each day is somehow different yet I’ve grown fond of that which is constant.  I don’t care that it’s winter, I like the short days.  I’ve never said that before.  I may only fully realize the absence of sun once its warmth has returned.  This morning’s sloppy gray streets and skies such a metaphor for my guts.  I woke at three in the morning, tight, turning, turbulent.  Consciousness remained through some strange exhausted buzz behind my eyes, and now, as morning has turned to afternoon, I stare in a daze at monotonous space.  The drugs, my sterile insides insight mild nausea though food keeps creeping through, sensations of assimilation.  This aging is strange, am I wiser or more disenfranchised?  I visualize the strong-calved peak bagger I once was.  Full suspension climbs up technical single-track and the joy of the downhill earned.  Now just the fatiguing thought of gearing up for an adventure is daunting.  I visualize however, see myself strong in the shadows, feet dangling in Dominguez Creek.  I see white blood cells swimming through my waters, numbers growing, teaching each other the difference between the utilitarian and the malignant.  Outside my window in the drab, I am a dove nestled in branches, observing in silence.  There is something boundless.  There is something beautiful.   

My face, for a moment, has felt the sun.
Jan 27th, Colorado River

Friday, January 25, 2013


I have a complex situation.  I guess I already knew that, but that perspective from one of the hospitalists I was recently visiting in St. Mary’s Hospital struck a new chord.  Add the fact that I had fallen so far into suffering that I lost track of where I was.  I also had to laugh to myself because his perspective was based solely on the physical ramifications of my scenario.  With a glance at the mental, emotional and spiritual, complex becomes a drastic understatement.  Weave in the philosophic polarity between holistic and allopathic treatment, and the fact that my health decisions are completely self-guided choices, and just the search for a synonym that adequately describes this “complex” situation becomes a daunting task.  It all calls for a long walk in the woods.  And, unfortunately, my energy, mobility, the horrific air quality and 20-degree weather really nix that as being a reasonable and prudent remedy.  So, I turn to writing.  Here, I attempt to purge the stagnation of thoughts and feelings that have not been flowing.  I attempt to make some sense of the insane.  I search for clarity and guidance on icy slopes under the dim light of hard winter.  I look for distractions from the daydream of an endless float down the dammed Colorado River.  I seek visions of a future worth working so hard to live for, and I simply muse the words “working so hard.”  Do I need to find a reason to dig myself out of another deep hole?

I certainly feel much more philosophical than practical in my mind this morning.  After a good 12 hours of much needed sleep following two miserable nights at the hospital I feel some relative level of calm.  I might have the post haze of hydrocodone and cannabis but am currently drug and pain free.  Confined freedom, getting to leave my cell to walk the fenced yard.  I would breath in the sun if it offered itself.  Instead I appreciate the comfort of soft fleece and down.  And I am amazed.  I have spent my life developing, whether I like it or not, a relationship with irritable bowels.  Call it Ulcerative Colitis, call it Crohn’s, call it six major surgeries, three missing organs and a poop bag to boot.  Call it what I like, I’ve never known it like I know it now.  And before now, as I have related to some friends, its lifetime tribulations have made a year with Leukemia seem like a walk in the park.  Leukemia, especially acute, is a freak the fuck out, not a walk in the park.  So what is it all together?  As far as I know, I’m the only one that knows.  I guess I’ll sit on that for a while…