REVIEW: Dose of Nature CBD Oil

DONOil

Right now I’m sure everyone is familiar with the continuing legalization of medicinal marijuana in the US. As a cancer patient, I have utilized medicinal high CBD oil for pain management of neuropathy post-chemotherapy. I genuinely feel (and so does the medical community as well mostly) that there are so many potential benefits in marijuana and that is it wrongly scheduled as a schedule 1 (Of NO medicinal value) drug. I find it insane that people would prefer a patient stay on opiates like morphine or dilaudid for long term pain management instead of taking advantage of a medicine that has low risk for abuse and is not physiologically addictive.

After chemotherapy, I couldn’t even walk the pain in my legs was so bad. It’s gotten better since, but I chose to stop morphine/dilaudid a few months after my last infusion and instead manage my pain with this product. What I like about DON high CBD oil is that it is non-psychoactive. You can administer the recommended dosage under your tongue or mix it into salad dressing or a smoothie. The carrier oil is hemp oil so it has a nutty flavor. I found it a little too oily tasting to put under my tongue, so I highly recommend the idea of mixing it into salad dressing or a smoothie.

At Dose of Nature they have developed cutting-edge technologies to provide the best bioavailability to the powerful healing properties of their breakthrough CBD products. Their oil and glycerine-based products are fully legal and available over the counter in all 50 states and in 40 countries around the world. Dose of Nature is revolutionizing the market with all-natural, water soluble, rapidly bioavailable and great tasting CBD oil that help your body’s recovery from a large number of  chronic and life-threatening diseases.

Utah-based Dose of Nature launched a state-of-the-art CBD (Cannabidiol) product line in 2014, applying proprietary technologies to create the first nano CBD and water-soluble CBD products in the market. CBD or Cannabidiol has been at the forefront of the news lately in its application to treat pediatric epilepsy, autism, cancer, pain, PTSD, brain injuries, anxiety, and various neurological conditions.  With their Hydrosome™ technology, CBD is broken down into molecules that are extremely small, guaranteeing the max amount of delivery to the system in the smallest amount of time. While the traditional pastes and oils are only fractionally absorbed and take hours to reach peak absorption, you can literally feel the Dose of Nature water-soluble nano CBD take effect in minutes.  It tastes great, and is nearly 100% absorbed into the system.

The nice thing I like about this product is it won’t get you “high”. When I tried it, I felt it had a slightly uplifting effect – like drinking a cup of coffee in the morning – but there was absolutely no psychoactive or mind altering effects. It would be suitable for a day time product without any problem.

If you’re interested in trying Dose of Nature high CBD oil, you can find their products here : www.doseofnature.com.

Million Dollar Views of Death

goodbyeI have a confession to make – I have depression. Like a lot of people with depression, I tend to hide it a little too well. Mostly people know me by my upbeat albeit loud, big personality. They see the helpful nature. The smiling visage. My service to hospice and to our military veterans.

What they don’t see is when I come home on some days and just can’t deal with the world around me. When I’m crying in the bathtub with a straight razor on the side and contemplating slicing my wrists. They don’t see I’m afraid to reach out for fear of being labeled “attention seeking” or even worse…mentally unsound which could lead to losing my job.

I’ve been in and out of therapy most of my life. The worst of it was in my 20’s. It got significantly better after cancer and for a long time I thought something magical happened because I didn’t feel the overwhelming sadness or preoccupation with death. Having come so close to losing my life for a long time gave me a renewed sense of wanting to live. I do still mostly feel that.

I’m also incredibly introspective and know myself and my habits very well. I know that I am not suicidal and my therapist agrees with me on that. A month ago I had to switch to evening appts with my therapist and I am still waiting on a night slot. She was the one person I felt I could tell my challenges to and knew how to handle it. I haven’t gotten a lot of positive experiences with sharing this side of me with people before so now I feel I cannot reach out to people who are not trained mental health professionals. In my experience people mostly want to tell you to “just stop it” in one form or another (“Stop being so negative.” “You have so many things to be thankful for” etc.) or they want to talk more than listen. For anyone with depression and especially suicidal ideation, you always want to get them talking and listen. So often have I thought while I was trying to reach out to well meaning friends and acquaintances “I am not having a positive experience” and would just wrap up the conversation, smile and go on pretending nothing’s wrong.

The suicide of Robin Williams affected me deeply last year. He was never someone I thought of on a daily basis, but I have always enjoyed his work. Especially his drama’s like the Fisher King and Awakenings. I understood immediately how he could fool the entire world with his bombastic personality and yet feel so alone. The world is not a safe place for these kinds of feelings to be aired. When you’re already so sensitive and already feel like nobody really cares.

I went walking across the bridge to Sausalito this weekend to give myself the gift of a beautiful day. I would like to state I did NOT go walking across the Golden Gate Bridge because I was suicidal. I was not. But everyone knows this bridge has a tendency to draw people who are suicidal from all over the world. As I walked across it I thought to myself about this. How in the very affluent bay area these views are “million dollar views”. How depressed persons can be in such a beautiful place and kill themselves. IMG_1122

On the bridge there are many signs and even phones for people to call for help. Suicide and death are things we don’t discuss in our culture. I needed an outlet to express what I was feeling internally. I have a hard time verbalizing these feelings so my photos from this day are really my attempt at expressing some of the things I feel inside. This is my art. This is my perspective. I hope it sparks a conversation. I hope it moves people. I want the viewpoint of the patient to be expressed. So often we either demonize the dead or lament what we could have done when the cause of death is suicide. We empathize with the family who survives them but not really the people who killed themselves. We label them as “selfish”. I want to empathize. To let everyone out there who feels like I do sometimes that it’s ok to feel that way. That you’re not “crazy”. That it is ok to trust a mental health worker. That it is ok to seek help. These are things I wish I heard.

Overall in analyzing my photography I’ve learned some things about myself. You can see how disconnected from others I feel in my lack of photographing actual humans. When I take self-portraits, I typically avoid intimacy with the viewer by looking away. I photograph objects in a loving way because I can connect with them. I find people incredibly difficult to photograph so I typically photograph the remnants of them. Things they’ve scrawled on the side of a bridge. Things they’ve made (the bridge itself).

This day actually turned out to be a really wonderful day. I ran into a friend and spent the rest of the day with her and the her friends having fun. The invitation to join them was exactly what I needed.

BelieveIf you’re feeling suicidal, please reach out for help. The national suicide prevention hotline is 1-800-273-8255. Their website is www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org. They have people taking calls 24/7.

Religion of the Rocks

rockwall

Now that I’ve regained use of my hands (for some reason my forearms were pretty much paralyzed last night after climbing. Trying to ride a bike home was….interesting.) I’d like to share all my thoughts about climbing last night…

So, I joined a climbing gym.

Since I went to Moab, UT in September to climb with first descents I haven’t climbed. When I got back from my VERY emotional week, I told my parents I probably wouldn’t climb again. At the time it felt too emotional and I was pretty much a wreck and I couldn’t understand why. You can read about it here.

Last night, I was afraid.

Afraid because I didn’t have the insular, protective unit that was First Descents and their expert guides. Afraid I might have another breakdown or do something embarrassing in front of a gym full of strangers (Which I did, but whatevs). Afraid I wouldn’t know anyone and wouldnt have anyone to climb with.

One thing I learned is it’s never as bad as we think it’s going to be.

Last night as I climbed again, I dealt with a multitude of insecurities all of which I quieted. My therapist has been trying to get me to be more social and do more meditative, spiritual practices and I thought that rock climbing would be perfect for my goals.

Rock Climbing as a spiritual practice?

Yes! To me it makes perfect sense. What is the main tenent of religion? Faith. I have to have faith that my belay partner will catch me when I fall, faith that I can reach the top, faith that I won’t fall and die, faith that my equipment won’t break. It’s a practice in trust and working with a partner. It also forces me to make new friends and push my own boundaries with socializing (In environments I’m not comfortable I get a little quiet and stay to myself. I also feel less comfortable in mostly male dominated spaces like climbing gyms). It forces me to believe in myself and to push myself to accomplish my goals. To endure. To figure out HOW to accomplish this goal.

After taking a beginning instruction from a teacher there, they put out the call for a partner for me over the loudspeaker. Within seconds, I had a partner. One of the things that prevented me from joining touchstone since Moab was my insecurity finding a partner. When it comes to socializing and meeting new people, It’s challenging for me. My life has been built around me being independent and not needing anyone. I also did not think they would help me find one. That was a really cool perk.

My partner didn’t care that I was new, inexperienced, attractive, cool, thin etc – all things I typically feel self conscious of at gyms. At the gym I felt older than everyone else, heavier, not as hip or cool and inexperienced. I also didn’t have the emotional support that I got at FD – people from down below cheering you on and high fiving when you get down. There was a point I screamed at the top of my lungs when I slipped and fell halfway up a 5.11 climb. As I swung back and forth over the crowd clinging to the rope I saw everyone looking up at me and my face flushed red. I got lowered down and almost cried. I took a few deep breaths and tried again.

“Is this your first time?” My partner asked me after my almost melt down. I told him yes and he showed me where some easier climbs were and told me everyone starts there. I climbed a 5.2 and it built up my confidence more.

I’ve decided that this gym is going to be my play time. As a kid we get recess. I’m treating the gym as my recess. I’ve decided I’m going to ask myself each day “What fun thing do you want to do today?”. Since I have rock climbing, TRX, Yoga and Cross fit to choose from I have options for how I’m feeling.

I think I’ve been converted to the religion of the rocks :)

The Angel of Death

shachath

Anyone who reads my blog will probably recognize I have sort of a preoccupation with death. In our western, American society death is considered taboo to discuss and for most, to even comprehend. Because I’ve lain on my death bed, I have what feels like a very intimate connection with death.

As a teenager, my one place of refuge was an old cemetery that nobody ever visited anymore in the small town I grew up in. It was always quiet and I was always the only living human being there, yet I never was alone. I sometimes would read or draw, but mostly I found solace in reading the headstones and imaging the lives of the people. Death was my friend in some form.

As an adult I’ve done hospice work. At 25 I was trained to be a patient counselor and I sat with the dying. I’m currently rereading a lot of material on death and grieving for the volunteer hospice work I’ll be embarking on again. One thing I agree with Elizabeth Kubler-Ross with is that it’s harder for us to comprehend death and therefore to deal with it because we deny it.

Death is never possible in regard to ourselves. It is inconceivable for our unconscious to imagine an actual ending of our own life. -Elizabeth Kubler-Ross

I’ve done a lot of work around my own personal fears of death and recognition that it will come to me. When I was diagnosed with cancer I made a vow to go into death with no fear. I wanted death to be just like the angel of death from American Horror Story – a benevolent figure who brings peace and ends suffering to those who are in pain. I am more skilled on coping directly with death and with those who are dying than dealing with the aftermath of death. It is one reason I wish to die before those I love. So I don’t have to deal with grief. Perhaps my work with death is done. Perhaps now I start the task of dealing with the grieving and how best to serve those in mourning to grow myself.

In knowing a lot of people with cancer one thing I’ve found is a general fear of death. We talk of it rarely because we are scared of it. Some of us don’t talk about it and for those people I usually worry. The people who feel a need to deny death I want to comfort the most usually. One of my goals in working with hospice patients is to bring peace and help end suffering. I think if they have someone who they can discuss death with who isn’t afraid and who can do so joyously, that has to be worth something, right? I tend to think of myself as the angel of death sometimes – one who brings peace and comfort to the pained. I think back to a story Kubler-Ross shares about dying of a farmer in the local village in which she grew up…

The story exemplified how at the end of his life this farmer was allowed to stay home and die. He was allowed to have sips of his favorite wine in lieu of pain medications and smell his wife cooking savory food that motivated him to eat a little instead of a saline drip. How he was able to call his friends over and say goodbye. He was able to speak with his children and divide his properties up. To sort out his affairs. To be buried on his own property by his own loved ones. Not being made up like some doll and preserved with embalming fluid.

It saddens me that how we deal with death in our modern society is basically to be removed from it. About 1.5 years ago there was a small movement to have dinner parties with ones friends to specifically discuss death and how we viewed it. I always wanted to have one of those dinner parties. I feel if we discuss it, deal with it and make it a normal part of life, we can reduce it’s power over us. We can remove fear. We can have honest interactions with our loved ones when the time comes and with ourselves.

I’m still reflecting on these feelings and they are indeed dynamic. But I would welcome any discourse on this topic.

3 Years Ago Today

For the last two Christmas’ I’ve blogged on this day. This day holds significance because it was today that I was wheeled into the ER and later admitted to the hospital. Tomorrow, they will have found the cancer.

I like to reflect back and see how I’ve changed and grown. This year has been no exception for either change or growth.

One of the surprising finds this year brought was that I feel less like a cancer patient than ever. I actually feel relatively normal again. I wondered when this feeling would come, and it has indeed come back. I no longer finding myself worrying that the cancer will recur. I logically know it could and if it does, I’ll deal with it then. But for right now I don’t find myself all that different than my urban hipster peers who’ve had perfect health.

I started participating again in a community I used to be very active in, but have been away from for many years. It has felt really good remembering that part of who I was and why it was important. Meeting people who normalized my feelings and made me feel a little less like a misfit.

I’ve discovered that I really like working in health care. That I’m also good at it. I like leveraging my strengths for the betterment of others. Work feels effortless in part because it doesn’t feel like work. I enjoy every day that I am there. It’s also made me shift my career aspirations a bit and realize there are communities I’ve been a part of my whole life that I’ve chosen to never participate in. That there are more people who could benefit from my experience that I’m not offering. It’s opened my eyes that people who have an illness that I’ve always had and regarded as being not that bad really suffer. Some suffer as much as I feel the cancer inflicted upon me.

I’m also filled with gratitude. I’m grateful for the friends who checked up on me today or invited me to gatherings. I’m thankful for my family standing by my side supporting me. I’m thankful for my health. For my dog who loves me. That I have a roof over my head. For all the new experiences I’ve had this year. For getting to do work I love.

I find it interesting how we change and grow. I still remember Christmas of 2012, when I was still early on my in remission and wondering how long it would take to come back and kill me. Back then, I was convinced my days were numbered. It felt like I couldn’t really celebrate the remission because it was so temporary. My body still was wracked with physical and emotional pain and I could barely walk. Today, I am nearly pain free – save for some weird neuropathic pain in my left arm and my legs when it gets cold.

I can honestly say I look forward to what the rest of my life holds. I wonder who I’ll be next year and what adventures lie in store for 2015.

Happy Holidays everyone.

A Long December

A long December and there’s reason to believe
Maybe this year will be better than the last

This month has been rough. This month marks the third Christmas I’ll have survived since my initial diagnosis in 2011. The first half of 2012 was about saying goodbye to a lot of things and being surrounded by love. I and many of those who knew me I don’t think expected me to live past that year. While I’m glad to be alive, there is a lot I am also sad for.
I can’t remember the last thing that you said as you were leavin’, Now the days go by so fast
   I recently experienced a break-up. Even though it was me that did the official breaking up, I’m sure I’m not the only one who felt that relationship was over. What pains me about break-ups is not so much the loss of the romantic affection, it’s the loss of a friend. All the breakup’s I’ve been through that is what hurts the most for me. Over the 3 months we dated, I spoke to her mother who is a cancer survivor quite a bit – even skyping in with their family for Thanksgiving at her mother’s behest. The kindness of that gesture was not lost on me as I was alone for that Holiday. Today, I noticed her mother defriended me on facebook. I understand why, but it hurt me. It hurt me because in an instant I am no longer likeable. I am no longer a human being who also went through cancer that shared some things in common. Perhaps now I’m the horrible person who hurt her daughter. Now, I’m the villain. Now, I’m no longer even considered a friend. Now, they don’t care how much pain it will cause me to be alone during Christmas. Now, there are no invitations.
And it’s one more day up in the canyons
And it’s one more night in Hollywood
If you think that I could be forgiven I wish you would
   Whenever I feel this kind of intense pain, I always go back to the relationship that pains me the greatest : my marriage. I don’t regret leaving that marriage, it was the right thing to do. I wish he would forgive me for doing so. When I was going through cancer treatment and was pretty sure I was going to die, I had my mother find my ex-husband and write him a letter asking him to please call me. Then I wrote him telling him I was dying, hoped he was well, but badly wanted closure before I died and to please call me. That I did not want to upset his life or any of his relationships. He never called. I have recurring dreams still begging him for forgiveness…almost a decade later. In my loneliness, I remember when we loved each other. How we would spoil each other during the holidays. How we would make tamales together and eat them. How we would drive up from Los Angeles to Sacramento to visit my family listening to When Soul Meets Body, by Death Cab for Cutie when Death Cab was brand new.
The smell of hospitals in winter
And the feeling that it’s all a lot of oysters, but no pearls
   The scary thing about this type of melancholy is I’ve gotten very good at hiding it. I still go to work at the hospital with smiles on my face and am productive. I’ve paid particular attention to the suicide prevention emails that have gone out recognizing that this time of year is difficult for many of our patients. I wonder when or if anyone will notice it is also a difficult time for me. I think of suicide often. But I don’t talk about it with my friends or family. I don’t reach out. I find it incredibly difficult to ask for help. Firstly, I know I will not actually commit suicide. I don’t want to scare people or have people think I’m threatening suicide to gain attention. I discuss my feelings with my therapist because she’s really the only person I trust to know what to do and what to say. Friends are well meaning but typically friends and family want to tell me how to change it instead of just listening and asking questions. These types of topics are uncomfortable for friends and family. I also don’t feel I’ve been a good enough friend to ask for help. I never call them to ask them how they’re doing – why should I expect them to give to me when I’ve not given anything? I think to myself “It’s not their responsibility, it’s my own.” These are the thoughts which drive me further into my prison of isolation. I’ve genuinely tried to do a lot of good work in these 2.5 years since I’ve gotten better. Right now, it feels like it’s all been in vain. Now matter how good of a person I try to be I will never be loved by people.
I can’t remember all the times I tried to tell my myself
To hold on to these moments as they pass
   Since my divorce in 2006, I tend to be hyper present during moments I want to cherish and hold onto as they are happening. This line from the song resonates with me deeply. Especially concerning people. When I’m around someone I care about I’m trying to hold onto them while they’re still in front of me. I study the lines in their faces, how it feels to have them in my arms, the smells associated with them. Because I know there will be a time that comes when I can no longer see them. I remember doing that with Britni. It’s one more year without her. One more year without a lot of people I’ve cared for in my life.
   I wish I could make this a more upbeat post. In the early days of this blog, I was very real about my experiences. I intimately detailed my fears, my sorrows and my joys. Now, as I’ve turned this page into a space for advocacy, It’s become a little less personal. A little more polished. There are so many people who suffer through depression silently. I can’t do it anymore. With the death of Robin Williams (Which affected me deeply), I can’t keep silent anymore. This is my experience and I need to honor it. I know it will slowly get better, but right now it’s awfully difficult just to get through the minutes.
I hope this Christmas will be better for all of you out there.

November Survivor of the Month: Kristen

kristendrress

I first met Kristen back in April at a swank party in the Palms hotel 55 floors up above the neon lights at the OMG conference being held in Las Vegas. She was a New Yorker and we spoke for a while about our cancers. I remember her honesty in discussing her cancer and admiring her for her openness and honesty with a virtual stranger.

Kristen’s journey began in February, 2013 when she was diagnosed with stage IV colorectal cancer. It’s scary as hell to ever hear the words “You have cancer”, but to have them followed up with “late stage” is unimaginable. But Kristen has not let that stop her. She still worked, went through her treatments, flew across the country to dance on an invisible floor 55 stories above Las Vegas and more. I feel Kristen really embodies the spirit of what it is to truly live. In her blog Kristen speaks candidly about her experience. I highly recommend reading it.

Here’s what she had to say about receiving the Britni bag from Cancer Babes:

After the week I have had, to come home to such an incredibly thoughtful, practical gift brought tears to my eyes. From cancerbabes, my friend Sarena's organization. This package came with a beautiful card with a picture and story of a young girl who has passed- her name is Britni. Reading her story in the card....just what I needed to remind myself I have a responsibility to those we have lost to get my ass back up and fight this disease with strength and hope. Thank you Sarena- I couldn't imagine something I needed more today than this.

After the week I have had, to come home to such an incredibly thoughtful, practical gift brought tears to my eyes. From cancerbabes, my friend Sarena’s organization. This package came with a beautiful card with a picture and story of a young girl who has passed- her name is Britni. Reading her story in the card….just what I needed to remind myself I have a responsibility to those we have lost to get my ass back up and fight this disease with strength and hope. Thank you Sarena- I couldn’t imagine something I needed more today than this.

kristenshirt

She expressed feeling moved by Britni’s story and I am so glad it helped to make her feel better after going through a rough week. I consider her a friend, an ally, and an insaneful brave human being. In her spare time she volunteers for organizations such as Stupid Cancer in New York City.

If someone you know or yourself could benefit from a Britni bag, please send us your story or the story of the person you would like to nominate to sarenaperez@gmail.com. Bag criterion: the person must be a young woman diagnosed with any stage and type of cancer between the ages of 18-39 actively engaged in treatment. Individual also must consent to being featured as a survivor of the month on this blog and having their likeness shared on social media.

October Survivor of the Month: Rose

rose

I know this is very late, but better late than never – right?

This is Rose. Rose has stage IIIc ovarian cancer. As someone who was diagnosed with late stage ovarian cancer, her story really hit home for me. She was told her had cancer earlier this year at the age of 37. She’s embodied the spirit of what it means to be a cancer fighter and I am so happy a bag found it’s way to her.

Her best friend Heather nominated her and I sent her the bag to give to Rose. Here are some photos from the surprise Britni bagging:

roseandheather rosebag rosebag2

Rose is currently going through chemotherapy and has had surgery. If you’d like to contribute to her Give forward fund please go here.

If you’d like to nominate someone to receive a Britni bag please email me at sarenaperez@gmail.com.

All nominees must be between ages 18-39, female, and have been diagnosed with any form of cancer. If chosen to receive a bag they must consent to be featured as the survivor of the month and remit photos of themselves with the bag. All bags are free. Survivors may nominate themselves or friends/family of survivors may nominate as well.