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Could He Be Pregnant?

I pasted a photo of my husband’s belly into an email and hit send. “That felt odd,” I said.

Gary’s belly was the shape of an overripe watermelon, and in the weird light of late afternoon, it had taken on an orange tone, as if he’d sneaked into my self tanning lotion and used way too much. My hope was that Dr. Isaac Eliaz, a doctor I just met, would have a new idea about how to treat it. Gary’s been miserable.

Back when I was in chemotherapy, about four years ago, I decided to freeze my head to save my hair. The theory behind this “technology” is that when the scalp is frozen, chemo meds can’t circulate there, so hair doesn’t fall out.

Many hospitals now have FDA-approved machines that help patients with this process, but I was one year too early to use them. When I tried it, I had to bring four massive coolers full of dry ice and a 16-pack of helmut-shaped gel bags into the infusion room. With special gloves, Gary would snag a helmut from a cooler, and we would wrangle it onto my head, synching it tight with velcro. Every thirty minutes, we replaced it with a fresh one to ensure my scalp stayed good and frozen. Yes, it was miserable. No, for me it didn’t work. My hair fell out anyway.

But this is a story about Gary’s belly.

In the process of handling all that dry ice, Gary got a few lungfuls too many of the fumes that the ice emits. We had to transport it in our car, and even though it was stored in sealed coolers, the air in that vehicle was dense with CO2. Then, over the course of the seven hours of my infusions, he got fresh whiffs of those fumes every time he opened and closed a cooler. Ultimately, it made him sick.

“It’s anxiety,” one doctor told him. He prescribed anti-anxiety medication and told Gary to see a therapist.

“You’re having a fight-or-flight experience,” the therapist told him, and he recommended breathing exercises.

“You need a scope,” a third expert said, and we scheduled the procedure.

“You have H Pylori,” another physician told us. “SIBO too.” These diseases are serious stomach conditions that are tricky to heal. Gary wound up taking a 10-day course of antibiotics that wiped him out. Since I was in chemo at the time and our daughter was only ten, things weren’t that fun around our house.

For a while, Gary’s belly issues got better. But then they got worse again. This miserable cycle has been repeating itself for four years, and I sometimes wonder if it will go away on its own when I finally hit my 5-year-mark, that elusive date when my cancer risk plummets. But last month, a specialist prescribed antibiotics again.

That’s where Dr. Eliaz comes in.

He’s an holistic physician who specializes in integrative oncology unlike any I’ve ever met, an east-meets-west guy who believes in the power of mindfulness and a holistic approach to healing. A licensed acupuncturist and a serious student of Tibetan Buddhism, Dr. Eliaz meditates daily and has developed products that reflect his philosophy of the body’s natural abilities to heal. His flagship product is PectaSol-C modified citrus pectin.

“There’s no inside the box or outside the box,” he said when we talked. “There’s no box. Everybody’s different.”

As an entrepreneur, I’ve lived by this philosophy for the past twenty years. It’s the mindset that allowed me to quit my cushy job doing international strategic planning in New York so I could open a laundromat in California. Yes, my wardrobe took a hit during that transition, but my lifestyle improved immensely. That decision put my life on a much happier trajectory.

Although many people talk about thinking outside the box, very few people actually do it. And while I remain profoundly grateful for the expertise that saved my life, I suspect sometimes that medical professionals could benefit from a little more creativity.

Dr. Eliaz had my attention, and I determined I’d make an appointment to see him. But since Gary happened to be in Northern California where the doctor is based, he got to see him first.

And as I hoped, this this doctor and healer is taking a different approach to helping my husband heal.

Cancer is an octopus stretching its long arms in every direction and muddying up the water with dark squirts of ink. Somehow, it snared my husband’s belly in its orbit of influence, and I want him to feel better. But within this same orbit, I’ve met all sorts of remarkable people and I’ve seen miracles that light up my life.

Trailblazers like Dr. Eliaz are among them.

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