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!
*CRITICAL ANGELES HOSPITAL VISIT: CURRENT ESTIMATED COST = $25,000. AHHH! PLUS UNEXPECTED CRISIS CONTROL AND 4 DAYS IN ICU*
Tuesday, February 26, 2013
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
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
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
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.