Practical advice and personal wisdom from a four-time cancer survivor.

FullSizeRender (3)

This is me before a life-saving colonoscopy last week – covered by my Obamacare. My doctors are also trying to determine why I can’t eat solid foods.

I didn’t want to write this post. I really didn’t. I’m old-school and believe voting is personal business. But I’m petrified this year. This election, my fate hangs in the balance. This time, I’m fragile, vulnerable and dependent on the government for the first time in my life. I’ve had 4 unrelated cancers by age 42 and many, many complications that prevent me from working. I have a genetic disorder called Lynch Syndrome that makes me at risk for EIGHT more cancers.

This is the hardest sentence I’ve ever had to write:

My name is Julie Negrin and I AM A DISABLED AMERICAN.

This election will directly impact my life and my HEALTH. I am terrified I will lose my health insurance. If I can’t get to specialists…well I don’t like to think about it. I’m scared I will lose my disability hearing next year. Controversial government social services are now my lifeline.

This election could literally be life or death for me.

For the past 20+ years, I didn’t work in corporate and set aside a small fortune. Instead, I dedicated my career to educating children and families how to eat healthier. Long before it was “hip,” I became a food educator and activist. According to Social Security, I’ve been paying into the system since the 1980s, when I started working in a law firm while still in high school. I worked my ass off over the years, getting a master’s degree, writing a cookbook, lobbying for kids. I’ve had so many jobs, I’ve lost count. I’ve paid my taxes diligently every single year. And now, I’m stuck in a body that doesn’t function correctly and I’m living with my folks. I work SOOOO hard to get healthy. Every. Single. Day.

Many people think people like me are looking for “hand outs” when nothing could be further from the truth. I want to work so bad. So bad. Get back to helping people. I’m that strange breed that LOVES working (just looked at my work history online!). But I can’t. I can barely get to all my doctor appointments each week.

I have 8 appointments this week alone: gastro at Swedish, GI expert at UW today and tomorrow, GI Oncologist at Fred Hutch, plus my weekly “regulars” which include two days of IV fluids, acupuncture, visceral massage and therapy. All covered by my Obamacare for a very reasonable amount each month.

I can’t survive without my Obamacare coverage.

Also, it’s safer for ALL OF US. It sucks to think about but cancer rates are rising, a LOT. These programs are in place for you and your loved ones, just in case….. If it can happen to me, it can happen to anyone. People need to understand how important it is to keep these programs in place.

This is not something I want to share publicly. I’m ashamed of having to ask the government for help – I used to be the one working in non-profit helping other people!!

I have to get over that shame. I feel it’s my obligation to speak up. To remind people that the Congress races – and Presidential races – are still tight. Your vote can make a difference for ME. And 20 millions other people on Obamacare.

Your vote could HELP me. Or HURT me.

One party is dedicated to keeping me insured. One is not.

Please just consider this before filling out your ballot. Think hard about the choices you’re making, not just for yourself but for all of us.

This post may come too late for a lot of people but perhaps it will impact a few voters – I didn’t have the balls to share until now.

I’ve dedicated my entire life to helping others get healthy. And now I’m the one who needs help.

MY LIFE IS IN YOUR HANDS.

Much love, Jules 

Please feel free to share this post.

  • Cancer Teacher
    Hi there, my name is Julie. I’m a nutritionist that’s had four cancers: melanoma, ovarian, colon, and endometrial cancer — the last 3 all at once due to a genetic disorder called Lynch Syndrome. Cancer can be horrific, painful, life-stealing. It can also be transformative, mind-opening and life-affirming. I’m working hard to get strong and find the silver lining lessons during this shit storm experience. Stay tuned to find out what I've learned, and continue to learn, from Cancer Teacher.

    Much love,

    Julie Negrin

    About Julie & Cancer Teacher

  • Everything I do to heal_medium

    This is my belly during acupuncture which I get for digestion and back pain. Dr. Wang adds electrodes to the needles for extra activation.

    I’ve watched all of the Bourne movies at least 50 times. My favorite thing about Jason Bourne is that he is never a victim. Even when they try to assassinate him, he doesn’t run away. He confidently heads TOWARD the shooter. He doesn’t hide. He doesn’t wallow. He doesn’t cower in fear. He confidently flips the situation to his advantage.

    Dorky, I know but movies like this help my mental state. It’s so easy to get down these days. SO EASY. 

    I want to head towards cancer and the havoc it caused my body.

    I want to challenge it. 

    CONQUER IT.

    More than anything, I want to prove the doctors wrong.

    I love proving doctors wrong.

    When I asked the gastroenterologist how to prevent bowel obstructions last summer after my hospitalization, he said “there isn’t anything you can do, with the amount of surgery you’ve had, you WILL have more obstructions and end up in the hospital again.”

    Never saw that dude again.

    Since I’ll be covering how I’m trying to fix my battered body – and prevent more cancer – I thought I’d share an overview on everything I do to heal.

    THIS IS NOT MEDICAL ADVICE! I work very closely with a nutritionist, naturopathic doctor, oncologists, medical doctors, massage specialists and acupuncturists to make decisions regarding my case.

    Also, everyone is so different. Healing requires many, many science experiments. I try to change only one variable at a time so I can accurately assess the results. People think alternative medicine is “woo-woo.” Quite the contrary. I evaluate progress using special functional medicine labs and my detailed lab notes. I create formulas X (diet) + Y (supplements + Z (treatments) = outcome.

    You can do this too. We’ll get to that later though. For now, my Healing List:

    1) Weekly acupuncture :: It helped a lot during chemo and currently, I get it for digestion, sleep, hormone issues, anxiety (yes, you can get needles for that!) and back pain. They believe I’ll get better which is important for my mindset.

    2) Visceral massage :: A relaxing belly massage with a highly trained specialist helps prevent bowel obstructions. I took two weeks off in July and a couple months off last winter and I was in pain and partially obstructed both times – all the proof I need.

    3) IV fluids :: I get IV fluids twice per week because I can’t stay hydrated on my own. This causes fatigue, back pain and bowel obstructions. We theorize this is due to lack of colon and adrenal fatigue. The hot, dry weather in San Diego didn’t help. 

    3) Supplementation :: I take over 20 supplements per day. I have a highly qualified naturopathic doctor and nutritionist closely monitoring my cellular levels of minerals and vitamins using a special lab called Spectracell. Nothing I take is random.

    4) Special diet :: After a LOT of trial, error, and pain, my “safe” diet includes chicken broth, eggs, avocado, fish, sweet potato and coconut based products – a moist/mashed diet to prevent bowel obstructions. Losing 4 organs caused a lot of scar tissue – and I’ve always had a sensitive gut.  

    5) Herbal tea :: A Seattle shop called The Herbalist sells a wonderful loose-leaf tea called Tummy-Ease Tea which I drink every night. It contains: peppermint leaf, flax seed, marshmallow root, slippery elm bark, orange peel, fennel seed and ginger root. 

    6) Stretching :: I have to stretch every night to help with pain and digestion.

    7) Meds :: I take daily thyroid meds. My sister and dad who have had cancer due to Lynch Syndrome are also on these meds. Not sure if it’s related but it’s interesting to consider.

    8) Hormone replacements :: I was nowhere near menopause when they removed my ovaries at age 42. Currently, I take 1.5mg synthetic estrogen, .5 bio-identical estrogen, 100mg progesterone. I’m still tweaking bio-identical testosterone. 

    BULLSHIT ALERT: it’s b.s. how menopausal symptoms are blown off. Even though I went through it instantaneously, I still had to hunt down the data on hormone replacement beyond estrogen. I’m pretty sure dudes also don’t get info as their hormones change with age. Sex hormones impact way more than libido. They regulate our energy, sleep, muscle tone, skin, etc. A lot of “you’re just aging” symptoms can be addressed safely and cheaply with hormone replacements. More to come on this. 

    Healing of this magnitude is a full-time job.

    I have to work 300% (500%? 700%?) harder than the average person to maintain 40-50% normal bodily function. Without these interventions…well, I don’t like to think about it. Plus, I know all of this prevents more cancer – my body needs every chance possible.

    I’m working on seeing more practitioners in upcoming months. I feel lucky to live in Seattle and have a background in nutrition and alternative medicine.

    That’s why I’m sharing here. Everyone deserves this information. Mainstream medicine often (not always) expects us to sit back and be passive participants.

    I refuse to sit back and wonder what’s going to happen.

    I try to evoke Jason Bourne. Chase down that which is trying to conquer me.

    Instead, I will conquer it.

  • Cancer Teacher
    Hi there, my name is Julie. I’m a nutritionist that’s had four cancers: melanoma, ovarian, colon, and endometrial cancer — the last 3 all at once due to a genetic disorder called Lynch Syndrome. Cancer can be horrific, painful, life-stealing. It can also be transformative, mind-opening and life-affirming. I’m working hard to get strong and find the silver lining lessons during this shit storm experience. Stay tuned to find out what I've learned, and continue to learn, from Cancer Teacher.

    Much love,

    Julie Negrin

    About Julie & Cancer Teacher

  • FullSizeRender (5)I’m surrounded by “stuff” right now. Things I’ve packed into suitcases and shlepped from San Diego to Seattle.

    One of the reasons I’ve led a gypsy lifestyle is because I love change, the excuse to purge, start fresh somewhere new. It feels cleansing, emotionally, spiritually – the feng shui magic tidying of it all.

    When I moved in the past, I’d imagine my new life during the purging process. When I was packing in New York for San Diego, I’d decide what belonged in my new life: black clothing (no) bathing suits (yes). It was fairly easy to decide what to keep. I always had a vision for my new life, wherever it was.

    When I look through my closet now, I see the jacket meant for running outside, the shirts and pants purchased for office work, the cookbooks full of recipes I can’t eat.

    I’ve been very emotional regarding the move from San Diego to Seattle and now I’m beginning to understand why. It’s not only going to be physically taxing. And psychologically jarring to leave the cocoon of my current apartment. And awkward transitioning to living with my folks. Those three things are enough to warrant apprehension.

    The real doozy is that I don’t know what’s next. I have no idea if my old skirts will still be in style by the time I rejoin the world. I don’t know if I’ll ever have the energy or a healthy enough tummy to run outside again. I don’t know if I will eat normally again. 

    I have no fucking clue what the next chapter of my life will be about – or if I will even get more chapters.

    Why will I need nice shirts if my life revolves around getting IV fluids twice a week? What good are cute shoes if I’m getting undressed for visceral manipulation and acupuncture every week? Cooking my meals from scratch? Laying in bed several days per week? I’m only half way through life and all I need are sweat pants every day – which would be fine if it was temporary – but IS IT? I find myself giving things away. Why keep what I may never use?

    Right now, my “stuff” is taunting me. Reminding me of a life I can’t have, that I may never get back again.

    People try to reassure me – which I appreciate. I much prefer people try to say something than not say anything at all.

    But what’s happened to me is so mind-boggling fucked up that no one knows what’s next. Even my therapist, who is very, very good, stumbled when we came across this one. She told me that people that need kidney dialysis or become paralyzed have to make peace with their situation. Which is true. But all that did was make me cry harder.

    The truth is my case is so unique, there is no predicting how any of this will pan out.

    And now, my world is about to shrink even more than it already has – to a bedroom, a kitchen, an infusion center, doctors offices, and fortunately, soon, hanging out with my family.

    Everyone complains about how much stuff they have but that’s because YOU HAVE A LIFE. Mementos from trips, athletic gear, holiday decorations, clothes for lots of activities, tools, crap your kids brought home.

    Is it such a bad thing? If you feel like “stuff” is filling a gaping void in your life or you’re trying to keep up with the Joneses, then yes. But if it’s because you have a busy, full life and don’t have time to unload often, then probably no.

    Because trust me, you don’t want to be looking through your house and thinking “will I need this if something bad happens to me in a year?” “will I need this if I have no energy for another 2 years?” “will I need this if I’m not able to work in an office for a long time?” – or worse, “will I need this if my life is cut short?” 

    These aren’t questions you want to ask yourself. 

    A couple of weeks ago, I saw one of my “clinic buddies,” Eddie, where I get fluids. He was near the end, dying of cancer – he passed away a few days later. I drove home knowing I’d never see him again, trying to process watching someone literally die in front of me.  I ended up behind an expensive, convertible for several blocks. I watched the driver preen as we crawled along the busy downtown streets. And I thought of Eddie – who was about to leave his body and couldn’t take a damn thing with him. I stared not in judgment but in fascination. 

    It’s a funny thing about “stuff.” We want it so badly. We grow so attached to it. We’re broken hearted if we lose it. We spend so much time searching for it. And even more money buying it.

    In the end, though, except for keeping you dry, warm and fed, “stuff” doesn’t solve a damn thing. I’d trade my few belongings and everything I could possibly own for the rest of my life for a functioning body. 

    Every. Single. Item.  

    I have no idea how I’m going to get through this move…but I can do this.

  • Cancer Teacher
    Hi there, my name is Julie. I’m a nutritionist that’s had four cancers: melanoma, ovarian, colon, and endometrial cancer — the last 3 all at once due to a genetic disorder called Lynch Syndrome. Cancer can be horrific, painful, life-stealing. It can also be transformative, mind-opening and life-affirming. I’m working hard to get strong and find the silver lining lessons during this shit storm experience. Stay tuned to find out what I've learned, and continue to learn, from Cancer Teacher.

    Much love,

    Julie Negrin

    About Julie & Cancer Teacher

  • FullSizeRender (3)I walked through the grocery stores and wanted to cry. This week was especially hard for some reason. Many days, I can handle it. I don’t think about the food I’m missing or the life I had before. I see this diet like an athlete views hardcore training. It’s about the long game, getting the body to an optimal state.

    But this week sucked. I wanted to stuff EVERY-THING in my face. I usually give myself one 24-hour treat day per month – nothing that will cause immediate pain but things I normally avoid like chocolate, wheat, sugar.

    Instead of a treat day in February, however, I felt a bowel obstruction brewing. I went on a clear liquid diet, then liquids, and then mashed, moist food. I recently learned this trick to stopping the constriction from getting worse. I’m grateful to have it in my back pocket but it’s made me realize how at risk I still am. And that I must persevere and be very, very careful about what I eat. 

    The back story

    I’ve been off raw/high-fiber foods since my surgery when I lost most of my colon, ovaries, uterus and appendix two years ago.  I started the low-inflammation, no-grain/bean diet last summer, a few weeks after the June bowel obstruction. And I’ve been on the candida diet since October, 2015.  It’s REALLY REALLY HARD and takes tons of discipline. I try to focus on the goal: feeling good, improving digestion, increasing energy, and traveling the world one day again.

    Let’s start with what I’m NOT eating – and why – first:

    No inflammatory foods – no dairy/sugar/grains/legumes/booze/nightshades including peppers, potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant. The less inflamed my gut, the less likely I’ll have another bowel obstruction, grow more colon polyps, or develop more cancer anywhere in my body due to Lynch Syndrome. I follow the low-inflammation diet developed by my colleague, Beve Kindblade

    No raw/fibrous foods – they gather too much water and bulk up – could cause another bowel obstruction. Plus I have short tummy now and don’t relish going to the bathroom any more than I already do. 

    Minimal dry foods – I realized recently I can only fudge this when I’m very hydrated. Lesson learned.

    Candida-causing foods –  no nuts, chocolate, vinegar all the good stuff. I follow Dr. Humison’s candida diet which is not like typical candida diets – he believes it’s fermented foods and high-fungal crops that feed candida. I was very skeptical about this diet until Day 4 when I slept better than I had in 2 years. Immediate convert. I’ll do anything to sleep better. And it’s helping my digestion a lot.

    What’s left? If you count ingredients like salt and lemon juice, my list climbs to 15 or so. But these are the Core 10 that fill my belly:

    Sweet potato
    Squashes
    Wild salmon
    Eggs
    Avocado
    Seeds (except hemp)
    Garlic
    Ginger
    Coconut (all things coconut!)
    Chicken broth

    Safe ingredients I use frequently: lime/lemon juice, fresh herbs, salt, olive/coconut/avocado oil, minimal dried herbs (since many have fungus that feeds the candida).

    My splurges are ghee and a little coconut sugar and agave. I eat goat cheese, dates, and blueberries once or twice a week. I just made pureed carrot ginger soup and tolerated it well. When my tummy is ok, over-cooked broccoli/cauliflower works well as long as I don’t devour the entire pan all at once (I love me some cruciferous vegetables). 

    I eat only scratch cooking, mostly organic – I’ll be sharing recipes here soon. Occasionally I eat outside the house which is a lovely treat – maybe a couple times per month – and I savor every second of it.

    Why am I eating so few foods?

    Some people think this is craaaazzzzy pants. But they’re usually people that don’t know my long history with tummy problems – and that I’ve been studying how to heal the gut for 25 years. I’m still getting the hang of cancer and learning about Lynch Syndrome. But gut issues? That’s my wheelhouse. It’s how I healed a severe case of Ulcerative Colitis which I had for 9 years. Since much of the immune system resides in our gut: healthy gut = healthy body. So, I’m determined to give my digestive system – and my body – the best possible environment for healing. So I can eat (some) raw foods again. So I can travel. So I can be free.

    The only way to get there, however, is to swing the pendulum way over to the opposite side of illness. Once I’ve lived there awhile, my body will tolerate a wider variety of food. For now, it’s in lock-down. Just me and my 10 foods….PLUS my treat days.

    I realized this week how crucial my Treat Day is for my psychological well-being. Yesterday, when my student brought in my crack…I mean, homemade yellow cake, I stuffed a few pieces in my face. And it was DIVINE. Perfect timing, really. Of course the rush of white sugar and flour makes me feel crappy afterwards. But I felt satisfied in my mind. And that’s how I know I can get through this. Clean most days. And a little bit of fun once in awhile.

    Healing is excruciatingly slow. But. I can do this. 

  • Cancer Teacher
    Hi there, my name is Julie. I’m a nutritionist that’s had four cancers: melanoma, ovarian, colon, and endometrial cancer — the last 3 all at once due to a genetic disorder called Lynch Syndrome. Cancer can be horrific, painful, life-stealing. It can also be transformative, mind-opening and life-affirming. I’m working hard to get strong and find the silver lining lessons during this shit storm experience. Stay tuned to find out what I've learned, and continue to learn, from Cancer Teacher.

    Much love,

    Julie Negrin

    About Julie & Cancer Teacher

  • FullSizeRender (1)

    When I started painting for this post, I ended up with my theoretical children: 1 girl, 2 boys. Or is that me with 2 boys? Hmmm…I guess a part of me still wonders what they would be like…

    I wrote this Facebook post after casually mentioning in a previous one that I was “okay not having kids.”  This is the follow up.

    I realized in my last post, I glossed over the “I’m ok not having kids” topic without giving context. The reason I haven’t discussed losing the ability to give birth is because a) I am still processing it b) it’s SUCH a delicate topic. Some people get upset (offline) when I discuss certain topics, especially regarding kids/families. They feel I’m minimizing their experience when I share mine. I NEVER intend to hurt anyone when I express myself. If anything, I hope others realize they aren’t alone in their pain. I simply need to share my truth. It’s kept me sane throughout this entire experience. If a topic appears too painful, I completely understand if you can’t read it. I support you in doing what YOU need to do in order to stay sane!

    Giving birth or not giving birth – so many deeply painful experiences regarding this extremely personal issue. The truth is I’ve been ambivalent about it for years. I imagine some of it is due to the fact that I helped raised six young children when I was still a kid myself. There are four kids in my family and my four young cousins lived across the street. I had a baby on my hip for much of my childhood. Or, maybe it’s because I developed a chronic disease when I was 17 and have had serious health issues on and off my entire life. How could I knowingly pass my genes on? Or, maybe it’s because I’m an extremist – I would either be a total hippie mama with a bunch of kids running around while I garden or I throw myself 100% into my work, my writing, my art. I don’t know. It’s clear from my writing and painting that I’m still working it out.

    People say I can still adopt, which is true. Most agencies would probably have a hard time overlooking my “poor prognosis” (which is bullshit, of course, I’m not going anywhere). I think it would be tremendously unfair to burden children with the possibility that I may not be well enough to care for them. If I end up inheriting kids by way of a relationship – that’s different. There are two healthy individuals who are in charge of their well-being. For everyone’s sanity, I need to stay in a secondary position like Fun Auntie. Plus, I’m no spring chicken anymore. If others are cool with being older parents, go for it. I’ve been wiping baby butts since I was six years old. I’m good.

    I wish I’d been more cognizant of this internal struggle – which is why I need to write about it now. I remember feeling a lot of struggle, guilt, and worry that I kept walking past Door A. But without much conscious thought, I kept choosing Door B instead of the one expected of me. As a Jewish woman from Spanish descent, the pressure to procreate is epic. I didn’t comprehend the enormous pressure I felt until the decision was made for me.

    By the time I heard “you have two huge masses in your ovaries,” my response was “get them out.” Door A slammed shut. For the last two years, I’ve processed each loss when I felt up to it. I kept tiptoeing around this one wondering if a tidal wave of regret was going to wash over me. I waited. I waited. And finally, I realized, it wasn’t coming. If anything, I feel relieved. I’m relieved I didn’t pass on my genes. I’m relieved I can rest when I need to rest. I’m relieved I can use my spare energy with my wonderful nieces and nephews. I’m relieved I can care for my folks as they get older. Most of all, I’m relieved that I’m relieved.

    I know that there are many, many women who would not feel relieved in my shoes. Or, don’t have a bunch of nieces and nephews to get their kid-fix from. Or don’t want to adopt or have the means to do so. Nobody wants to have this choice stolen from them. Nobody. To call it heartbreaking is an understatement.

    My heart goes out to anyone that is struggling with this right now.

    You are not alone.

    Love, Jule

  • Cancer Teacher
    Hi there, my name is Julie. I’m a nutritionist that’s had four cancers: melanoma, ovarian, colon, and endometrial cancer — the last 3 all at once due to a genetic disorder called Lynch Syndrome. Cancer can be horrific, painful, life-stealing. It can also be transformative, mind-opening and life-affirming. I’m working hard to get strong and find the silver lining lessons during this shit storm experience. Stay tuned to find out what I've learned, and continue to learn, from Cancer Teacher.

    Much love,

    Julie Negrin

    About Julie & Cancer Teacher

  • I wake up with my arms wrapped around my belly. There are weird lights shining above my head. My head feels so fuzzy. Where am I?

    I’m drugged. I’m in a hospital bed, my hands protectively covering my stomach. As if I could stop the creepy nightmare I just woke from, where people were slicing me, stitching me up.

    IMG_5077

    This is NOT what my scar looked like right away! This is from July ’14.

    Except this isn’t  a bad dream. This is real. They DID cut me open. They did remove organs, several of them. I start whimpering. The drugs, the hospital lights, the surreal realization that I’ve been butchered. It feels like my psyche, some deep part of me remembered the surgery and the only thing my brain can relate to is a Frankenstein movie. They made a hole in my belly, lifted out my baby making organs and my precious colon. Left me with a 7-inch scar. I cry out for my Auntie Janet. But she is no longer sleeping at the hospital. It is my first night alone after surgery.

    My roommate on the other side of the curtain hears me moaning in pain, crying, confused from the multiple narcotics creating sludge in my mind. She is an older black woman who had a brain tumor removed a few days earlier. She is healing quickly and gave me hope. She starts to coo, “it’s okay, baby, you’re okay, you’re safe. You’re all right” over and over again until I calm down. My family wanted me to have a private room. But I’m so grateful she is with me during this awful night.

    LOOKING BACK

    I write this nearly two years later. Twenty-two months exactly and conjuring up this memory leaves me sobbing, I can barely see the words I’m typing. They cut me open. And took pieces of me. They snatched away parts of me that I can never have back.

    My surgery was in March 2014 at UCSD. It’s a teaching school. My room was constantly visited by hordes of medical residents. They all wanted a look at my scar. “Oh, it looks so good!” they’d exclaim. As if I was some specimen that had been opened and stitched up according to their teaching manual in anatomy class. I was too subdued from the drugs to yell “I’m a person here! This scar your talking about is MINE. I had to suffer through it and now I have to live with it and everything it represents, the loss of my ovaries, my womb, my ability to digest properly. It may look P-R-E-T-T-Y to you but it’s horrifying to me. So please stop talking about it like it’s some work of art.”

    At that time, the scar frightened me – it made me so fragile. I couldn’t walk upright for weeks and had to protect it when I carefully rolled out of bed. But as it healed and the horror of the operation faded, it began to fascinate me. It’s weird little shape and clean pink line.

    Many months later, it started to look like art to me. An unintentional magenta tattoo. So much of being a cancer patient leaves us feeling powerless. Any time I can take ownership over something that has happened TO me and transform it into something powerFUL and positive, it helps me heal a little more from the trauma. If this was going to be anyone’s art project, it would be MINE.

    Screen Shot 2016-01-14 at 3.19.05 PM

    This image came to me one day, laying in bed resting as usual. I sketched the drawing on a post-it and showed it to a designer friend. She took it and ran with it – making it MUCH better than my little drawing!

    And that’s how my logo came into existence. That little line that signifies so much. My stomach, my body, my torso would never be the same. I would never be the same.

    The scar is the line drawn in the sand. Like many cancer patients, it’s the line that divides my life into two chapters: Before and After.

    And now it’s also become a path. A path that’s not a straight line but somehow still leading me to help others. I’m taking the experience that caused me so much pain and transforming it into something that, hopefully, will help others get through theirs.

    I can do this.

     

     

    BIG HUGE THANK YOUS to Kim Gilory for donating my beautiful banner design and Ruthie Edelson for taking the fantastic photo. Check out their phenomenal services on their sites.

  • Cancer Teacher
    Hi there, my name is Julie. I’m a nutritionist that’s had four cancers: melanoma, ovarian, colon, and endometrial cancer — the last 3 all at once due to a genetic disorder called Lynch Syndrome. Cancer can be horrific, painful, life-stealing. It can also be transformative, mind-opening and life-affirming. I’m working hard to get strong and find the silver lining lessons during this shit storm experience. Stay tuned to find out what I've learned, and continue to learn, from Cancer Teacher.

    Much love,

    Julie Negrin

    About Julie & Cancer Teacher

  • IMG_5818

    Been awhile since I posted. So much has happened in the last month, it’s hard to wrap my brain around it let alone write about it.

    I’ve been told that the post-chemo experience is a head trip. I didn’t understand how it could be as difficult as going through chemo but now, I get it. You’re stuck in this weird reality – what I call CancerLand – for so many months that you acclimate to it. You’re in survival mode. You do what needs to be done. And then you’re shoved back into the RealWorld as suddenly as you were dragged out. You feel exposed – literally bare-headed and a vulnerable immune system like a newborn baby. I’m not the same person as I was before – and I don’t know who this new person is quite yet. Other cancer patients say it feels like a rebirth which is wonderful and frightening at the same time. I feel happy that I’m done with chemo but scared of my next scans and reports. I feel relieved I get to start “real” life again but nervous I won’t have the energy to handle it. I feel excited to embrace life but petrified I’ll be told bad news again. I feel a lot of things.

    If you know anyone else going through cancer – I hope you don’t but let’s get real – know that the post-chemo time is very fragile for them. They are physically beaten down, scared to meet with doctors, nervous to socialize and work again. It takes so much energy for us to engage in normal situations because our reserves are low. And our reality was focused on medical crap for so many months, that it takes awhile to adjust to small talk and silly conversations. I can’t wait until cancer doesn’t come up ONCE in a conversation. Joy!

    All in all, I’m doing okay physically although I tire very easily. I keep having to adjust how much I do. If I go overboard, I can’t get out of bed the next day. It’s very difficult for me to hold myself back from going full steam ahead. But from what I understand, I’m in much better shape than most at this point. Fingers are slowly improving, hair/eyebrows/eyelashes are coming back! Like little flowers bursting out of the ground after a long winter. Never thought I’d be so happy to see eyelashes. Never cared for make-up before but now I can’t wait to wear mascara – simply because I CAN.

    The hardest part is realizing that I’m not like the rest of the world anymore. Not even like other cancer patients due to this lame Lynch gene. I was at a workshop this weekend and one of the speakers happened to be from the organization, Nine Girls Ask? which was started by a woman who had ovarian cancer. Before the founder spoke, they showed a video with scary a*& stats, stuff I didn’t know. Things I wish I didn’t have to know. I don’t want to share them with you because they are pretty horrific. Of course, I was so thrown off guard that I started crying. Wondering again if I’m ready for the “real” world. Of course, people were so understanding. And the founder was thrilled that I had been given the chemo comfort bag that her organization creates. But I was a wreck afterwards. You can only imagine what it would be like to learn all these disheartening facts just weeks after ending chemo.

    All this is heavy on the heart and the mind. But then I think about how the doctors told me I’d never heal ulcerative colitis – but I did anyway. Those numbers are just numbers, that’s it. Dying young just isn’t my style anyway. I’ve always seen myself becoming a feisty, old lady. I just need to hang onto that vision, the same way I held onto being healthy when I was sick in my twenties. I just pictured it, over and over and OVER again. Until it became true. I defied their predictions before, and I can do it again.

    Fuck statistics. I’m not going anywhere for a REALLY long time. I can do this.

    This was originally posted on 10/20/14.

    p.s. That is me being smushed by reality at the bottom of the painting.

  • Cancer Teacher
    Hi there, my name is Julie. I’m a nutritionist that’s had four cancers: melanoma, ovarian, colon, and endometrial cancer — the last 3 all at once due to a genetic disorder called Lynch Syndrome. Cancer can be horrific, painful, life-stealing. It can also be transformative, mind-opening and life-affirming. I’m working hard to get strong and find the silver lining lessons during this shit storm experience. Stay tuned to find out what I've learned, and continue to learn, from Cancer Teacher.

    Much love,

    Julie Negrin

    About Julie & Cancer Teacher

  • IMG_5826

    The last couple of weeks have been both difficult and good. The anxiety of waiting on my dad’s surgery was super stressful, especially from afar. Thankfully, he is doing fantastic and does not need chemo! Huge relief. I skipped chemo last week because my brother and nephews were in town. What a wondrous feeling it was to have an entire week off and spend time with family! My fingers started to heal, my digestion improved, and my fatigue lifted. Best of all, I got sweet kisses from the boys. Certainly the best thing that has come out of this experience is how pure and lovely normal moments are. For certain.

    The downside of taking a week off was having to go BACK. Maybe it was because my wonderful brother was here for me all week or maybe I just needed to let down, but there was a lot of crying and wishing I could quit chemo. It’s like taking a glorious shower after being dirty for months and then having to jump back into the mud. Blerg. I will continue, of course, but oh so tempting….

    Many people have told me how much they have learned about cancer from these posts and I’m glad to share what it’s like. Lesson learned: the end of chemo is the worst. The anxiety at the beginning sucks balls, no doubt. But it’s at the end when the chemo builds up, that’s tough. Your body feels beaten down along with your spirit. I get tired out of the blue, so tired my body feels like lead. I fell asleep in the middle of a UCSD cooking class (geared towards patients – I was not teaching it!) I get dizzy. My nails are tender and a funky brown. I’ve fended off the painful neuropathy in my fingers but dread it’s return. Before my week off, it was affecting my toes too which makes it uncomfortable to walk. Starting to get chemo eyes (usually dark brown circles but mine are red). Itchy, dry eyes, metallic taste in my mouth, no appetite. All the crap you hear you about but never think you’ll actually experience. But one shining light, I still have eyebrows and quite a few eyelashes. Stubborn Jewish hair finally comes in handy!!

    I realize this is not a beauty contest. But it’s still hard for me to catch myself in the mirror while in public and realize that’s ME. This is happening to ME. For some reason, it’s been hitting me harder this past week than before. I have CANCER. I’m getting CHEMO. They don’t know if it will COME BACK. I’m a PATIENT ALL the time. My Rite Aid pharmacists call me by NAME. For Pete’s sake, I have my oncologist under FAVORITES on my phone. How much does that suck? I can’t wait to move THAT back to my general contacts list.

    I had a couple of weeks where I didn’t cry but this past week, I couldn’t stop. I just want to quit the chemo so bad!

    I really, really try to remain upbeat. I try to focus on the many positives in my life. But I confess, I’m envious seeing the happy summer vacation photos posted (please keep posting them because it does make me happy to see everyone having a good time!! Helps me visualize MY happy photos coming soon…just being honest about the twinge of envy). I’m jealous of people that have their health intact, hair on their head, laughing with drink in hand. I know all those posts are just glimpses into a much larger story – nobody posts the huge fight about lost luggage or the boredom after dinner. But I’m jealous of even those moments. Why? Because they are everyday life. If you’re fighting about luggage, then you’re not fighting for your life. And I envy that. I want it back so badly. I don’t care how badly my fingers or toes hurt, I will crawl my way back to good health. I will go on vacation without a care in the world very, very soon. I will sit on the beach and drink too many margaritas and jump in the ocean, laughing. And I will fight about luggage again one day…. I can do this.

     

    This was written on August 15, 2014 – I had one month of four treatments left at this point.

  • Cancer Teacher
    Hi there, my name is Julie. I’m a nutritionist that’s had four cancers: melanoma, ovarian, colon, and endometrial cancer — the last 3 all at once due to a genetic disorder called Lynch Syndrome. Cancer can be horrific, painful, life-stealing. It can also be transformative, mind-opening and life-affirming. I’m working hard to get strong and find the silver lining lessons during this shit storm experience. Stay tuned to find out what I've learned, and continue to learn, from Cancer Teacher.

    Much love,

    Julie Negrin

    About Julie & Cancer Teacher