My Inner Physician

My Inner Physician

From Chicken Soup for the Soul 20th Anniversary Edition

My Inner Physician

We have all a better guide in ourselves, if we would attend to it, than any other person can be.

~Jane Austen

My wake-up call came on February 14, 2003. “Happy Valentine’s Day, you have canSer” — spelled wrong to take my power back. At the time I was a thirty-one-year-old actress and photographer living in New York City, trying to get my life together and make something of myself. Sometimes I thrived; other times I could barely put the fast food on the table.

On my personal D-Day, I found myself lying on a cold exam table while a nurse named Mildred passed an ultrasound scanner across my belly. Piercing abdominal cramps and shortness of breath had forced me back to my primary care doctor. It was the same pain I had felt for three years, only magnified.

The nurse’s distressed look forced me to ask her what she saw. “I can’t tell you that,” she sternly replied. “You’ll have to speak with the doctor.” Okay, I could wait a few more minutes. In walked the doctor. “The surface of your liver is covered with about a dozen lesions,” he said. I had no idea what that meant. I thought lesions meant cuts and I wondered how I’d cut my liver. Yes, I regularly enjoyed a few cocktails and other recreational substances, but wasn’t this an extreme result of a few indiscretions?

Then he clarified things for me. The lesions were tumors, a twelve-pack of terror that made the ultrasound images of my liver look like Swiss cheese. But that wasn’t all; about ten more tumors were in my lungs. And get this, the cancer (a rare sarcoma) was completely inoperable, no surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, and — here’s the knockout punch — no known cure. Pass the Chardonnay!

In an instant I went from being a young woman with her whole life ahead of her, to being a young sick woman who didn’t know how long she had to live or if her life would ever be normal again.

Second and third opinions, along with endless hours at the University of Google, followed. I quickly learned that illness was a business, and if I wanted to successfully navigate Hurricane Cancer, I needed to learn how to step up to the plate and advocate for myself. Goodbye Broadway. Hello CEO of Save My Ass Technologies, Inc.! I was suddenly the CEO of my health, and the doctors worked for me.

There were a few qualified applicants, as well as a bunch of duds. The doctor who suggested a triple organ transplant was rejected immediately. I mean, how rude! The one who gave me ten years to live didn’t get the job either. Though my disease was advanced, it generally presents in three different ways: aggressive from the start, slow growing (I prayed for that version) and slow growing that becomes aggressive over time. Because I didn’t know which version I had, pulling out organs, blasting my body with chemicals, or dying seemed a bit premature.

I traveled everywhere searching for my second in command and finally found him. Honestly, if it weren’t for my oncologist, I might not be here today. And guess what he confirmed? The cancer was slow moving, so in essence I had the one thing all cancer patients long for — time. This great news allowed me to choose a radical course of treatment: Do nothing. My oncologist agreed. “We’ll take a watch-and-wait approach,” he said. “Let cancer make the first move.”

Great! But how about a watch-and-LIVE approach? And what if I made the first move? If I couldn’t be cured, could I still be healthy? Could I redefine wellness to include someone like me? Perhaps instead of calling it cancer, I would call it an imbalance. And what if

I could find the source of the imbalance? Maybe, just maybe, I could help my body by participating in health rather than contributing to disease. Clearly, I had a lot to learn, but I started to breathe again. The joy came back, and curiosity started bubbling.

This wouldn’t be my battle: It would be the greatest adventure of my life.

Through deep exploration and experimentation, I met my Inner Physician. She’s very smart and highly intuitive (just like yours). The prescription she offered was quite simple. “Gently renovate your life, kiddo. Learn to take self-care seriously. You’re worth it. It’s time to rest, replenish and renew. You have the power to create a life beyond your wildest dreams — even with cancer. Trust me, let’s go.” God I love her! Don’t you?

Whole Foods literally became my new pharmacy. Did I know what I was doing when I first started? No way! I would race around the store frantically filling shopping carts with books, videos, supplements, powders, potions, and every piece of organic produce I could get my hands on. Kale? Okay! It was dark green and leafy, so it must be good for me. Yet in the back of my mind I wondered what the heck I’d do with this scary looking weed. If the cancer didn’t kill me, this plant certainly might.

Over time I got the hang of it and fell in love with the kitchen. Like many people, I had no idea that this anti-inflammatory way of eating — filled with endless vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, antioxidants and more — could be so very delicious. Caring for myself became a spiritual pursuit, rather than a pesky drag. Practices like meditation helped me deal with the wild animals in my head. Regular exercise became my stress release valve. And sleep transformed into a holy, non-negotiable, practice.

Did I mention that I quit my acting career? The new me craved something greater. I had spent too many years pretending to be someone I wasn’t, getting endless rejection and beating myself up for not being good enough. When I learned to value my health, I realized that I had outgrown my career. It just wasn’t right for my rhythm. Something better would come if I got out of the way and did the soul work.

Ten years later, I’ve been blessed to be able to reach thousands of health seekers through my books, film and website. Helping people all over the world has filled my life with both meaning and gratitude — the best medicine. While I still have cancer, it continues to be stable. That may change one day, but I don’t focus on “one day.” Today is what matters and today I feel better than ever before. Best of all, I’m happy.

We all have something in our lives that we wish we could change. And we each get to decide whether or not we will allow that something to hold us down. Let your obstacle become your mentor. Let your pain become your opportunity. Some form of suffering is inevitable. It’s how we deal with the suffering that matters. Will you let it devour you or will you ride it straight into the brightness?

No one will give you permission to live. Change now. Love now. Live like you really mean it right now. That permission is your birthright, hot stuff; grab it!

~Kris Carr

Adapted by the author from her book Crazy Sexy Diet by Kris Carr. Copyright © 2011 by Kris Carr.

Used by permission of skirt!, an imprint of Globe Pequot Press.

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