Janice Willis Janice's Integrative Path

First post: May 21, 2016 Latest post: Jul 11, 2016
May 21, 2016: Hi everyone: thank you so much for your care, concern and friendship. I'm calling this Caring Bridge site "Janice's Integrative Path" as it's a 10 year passion of hers to share her integrative approach to cancer. She's clear it's not everyone's approach and she has no desire to force it upon anyone. Rather, she sees it as another way to approach cancer outside the conventional "War on Cancer" metaphors as they just don't resonate with her.

FIRST SOME PRACTICAL DETAILS: For the last month, Janice has been experiencing debilitating pain in her back. She assumed it was due to her kundalini yoga training as that was the only thing she had been doing differently and she wondered if she'd pushed herself too hard. 

This week, she went to the ER for the third time in a month and they did an MRI because the intense pain was showing no signs of subsiding. They found tumors on her spine and she was told there was metastatic cancer in her bones. She had been diagnosed with breast cancer 10 years ago this month and we had just been talking of how she was 10 years cancer free.

She was transferred to the Joint and Spine Center at Christ Hospital in Cincinnati where she was told she would have spinal surgery to remove the tumors. After further tests, it was determined surgery would be dangerous as the tumors have infiltrated the spine and surgery would likely result in life long immobility. Instead, they would use radiation and chemo to shrink the tumors. 

Yesterday (Friday), they created a mold of her body in order to protect it during radiation and also to carefully target the tumors during each treatment. She had her first radiation treatment and she will be having her second treatment today. She was very tired last night and was glad they were finished poking and prodding. In her Janice-ness, she told them their would be NO bath as she didn't care if her clothes stood by themselves in the corner, she didn't want one more person moving her body! (Yes, we can have some modicum of autonomy in a hospital setting and my sister can teach you a thing or two about naming your preferences). Most likely, she will go home this evening or tomorrow. We will keep you posted. 

Her spirits have been better due to hospital pain management and she was loving all the texts and checkins from you all! 

With that said, once she goes home, pain management is not quite as satisfactory so this will be an ongoing issue that will have to be addressed. 

VISITS FROM FRIENDS AND FAMILY: As anyone who has dealt with cancer knows, there are good days and bad days. If it is a good day and you want to plan a visit, check in with her via text. She'll be home soon so you can have a cuppa with her in her beautiful home. If she doesn't respond, it's most likely not the time to visit.

HOW YOU CAN HELP:  We'll keep you posted as things unfold as relates to any practical help she and Mike might need. Janice will be reading this Caring Bridge site so do check in!  But how do you get beyond the "My thoughts and prayers are with you" or "Sending healing light?"  
Janice loves to laugh particularly if it's something ridiculous like seeing certain people fall down haplessly or people taking themselves way less seriously. She loves a little inspiration. She's a Turner Classic Movie buff (Sassy Betty Davis is one of her favorites and being a good Flood, she's a sucker for Bing Crosby and anything Irish).  

She's going to be laid up for awhile so she may go a little cray-cray (as our friend Laurie says). This means you can provide a little entertainment through the Wild West of the internet because the Caring Bridge site allows you to upload links, YouTube videos and photos.

Share music, movie clips, ridiculous humor, garden photos, delish healthy cooking recipes, dance, inspiration or whatever feels right for you. Show up as your full and wonderful self as that's why you're in Janice's life. No need to try to be eloquent or perfect as Janice has no interest in perfection or carefully crafted "I have to say just the right thing" or what if I mess up?" posts. Be real in whatever way that is for you. 

There are a couple of clear boundaries she'd like to set: 

This is not about death. This doesn't mean Janice is terrified of dying. She's not. She knows cancer has its own agenda and as she said the other day, "I may live 10 days, may live 20 years." We've no idea. But the present moment is what is most real. Catastrophizing about what the future holds is a huge energy drain and for now, she's fully alive. Her biggest fear is physical pain and the toll this takes on the people who love her so much they could pop. 

This is not a war or a fight and she does not see herself as particularly brave. She's a woman who happens to have cancer and recognizes EVERY other family is touched by painful things they must deal with. 

Janice is a peacenik at heart. She doesn't want to "fight cancer." It doesn't mean she doesn't get completely pissed off that she got cancer. She does. It can have a random and painful trajectory. She's not a cardboard saint and she'll be the first to tell you this. Yet she sees herself as deeply human which means bad stuff happens and she is walking with cancer as a part of her life journey. It's her unwanted companion and teacher. Compassion and empathy are her foundational values so the "War on Cancer" metaphors don't speak to her. 

She's not a religious purist but she's deeply spiritual and respects divergent paths. So no need for religious correctness. If you are Christian and Jesus is your co-pilot, by all means send her Jesus prayers as she's a big fan of Jesus. If you're a Catholic Christian, novenas and lighting of candles will be ever so appreciated. If you're a good Jew, send some mazel tov and Jewish blessings. If you're Buddhist or a yogi, Namaste and Om to our Oneness and our shared humanity. If you're spiritual-but-not-religious, send healing light and positive energy. If you're not spiritual at all then feel free to post something that speaks to the fullest parts of our humanity and yes, this means humor, music, dance, nature and reflection.

She lives wholeheartedly. As she says often, she spent most of her life being guarded in order to protect her vulnerability, until at some point, she realized that compromised wholehearted living. (If you want to know a little about wholeheartedness as a way of living, click here for an awesome video (https://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability?language=en) that gives you a sense of what that might look like). She sees we have a limited amount of energy units on any given day and she is very clear about what are energy drains and energy boosters. Kindness, even when it's really hard, is her homing beacon. 

This also means she's not terrified to talk about things many people avoid. She's irreverent and funny. She doesn't want to waste precious life energy trying to convey she's some impossible saintly version of perfection as she navigates her way through cancer as an ordinary human being. Nor is she into draining her energy by hiding behind smiles and reminders to cheer up if she's not having a smiley day. So, it's mostly about being real and just meeting her where she is on any given day. Kind of a relief, isn't it?

TEXTS, EMAILS and FACEBOOK MESSAGES: Given the day, she may or may not answer your text or email. It's all about energy management. It has nothing to do with her level of appreciation for your thoughtfulness so bring it on. 

I hope this helps and I hope it invites you to connect with Janice. 

Thanks everyone! 
Leslie (Janice's sister)

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