Susan WonderStone's Blog


Black Salve, wool socks or plain old fear?

Go back to yesterday’s post to see some of the pictures I took on my Gothic Basin hike. Now, I’ll tell you about the spaces in between the photos. About a mile away from home, I realized my headlamp was in the backpack I took to Lake 22, two weeks ago. Jack and I decided we would make sure to be back at the car before it got dark. Being 4th of July weekend, we expected a lot of people to be on the trail. When we arrived, there were a lot of cars on the side of the road and in the parking lot across the street. I’ve always seen a lot of cars there and thought it was a crowded trail. As we got our things together and changed into our hiking layers, I realized the top of my hiking boots rubbed the tumor on my leg. I only walked in them for a minute before knowing I couldn’t hike in them. I’m thankful I had worn my low hiking boots in the car.

We only saw a few people on the first mile of gravel road that starts both the Gothic Basin and the Monte Cristo trails. They were all taking the Monte Cristo trail. We discovered later that most of the cars belonged to people on the Monte Cristo trail.  The gravel road ends, because the land slide took it out and dumped it and the hillside into the river. There are knocked down trees, gravel, rocks and boulders in places they weren’t before. (I know, having a preposition at the end of a sentence is grammatically incorrect, but that ‘s how I talk and that’s how I write.) I headed up the alternate route with three other hikers, while Jack climbed down the debris and took the shorter route thru the slide.

July 7th 2007, I broke my back in a skydiving accident. It was an L-1 burst fracture. My neurosurgeon said he had never seen an accident like mine without paralysis. I’m glad he didn’t tell me that until I was already walking again, unlike the nurses in the emergency room. He installed screws in T-12 and L-2 and flexible plastic rods to go around the burst fracture and allow me full range of motion. He had only used them one other time and had no idea how long they’d last or what kind of impact could break them. Anything that looks sketchy, I try to avoid, because I know if I break the rods, I’m not walking away from it. We met up with Jack on the other side of the slide. When we got to the Weeden Creek cut off that goes to Gothic Basin, we wished the other hikers well and started up the trail. About 30 minutes in, 2 women we had seen going to the trail from the parking lot were coming down the trail. They had asked us where the Monte Cristo trail was, but they turned when they should’ve gone straight. Monte Cristo has almost no elevation gain, but Gothic Basin goes up to 5,200 feet. Just a slight difference.

There was a lot of snow this year, so there are many creeks, rivers, waterfalls and snow still on the trail. I was wearing my waterproof Gore-tex surround La Sportiva low hiking boots, so walking thru small streams is easier than trying to jump across them. The roots and rocks on the trail were similar to most of the other trails we’ve hiked. When we got to the first waterfall and water crossing, I was intimidated. There were rocks in the water that looked like they could move. Before going down to the water, I looked for the trail on the other side. I saw it, but from where I was, couldn’t figure out how we’d get to it. I was watching my steps and missed watching Jack cross the rushing water and make his way to the trail on the other side. Sometimes watching someone do what I’m afraid to do is all I need to push myself to do it. I was more cautious than most. I thought about the rods in my back and if I slipped, how they could break. Knowing that an air lift and rescue out of there would be about $100,000 more than I currently have, I always do my best to avoid getting hurt.

About 5 years ago, I took a call from a man who was with his fiance on this mountain. He was calm, but his voice was shaking and he was sniffing. It sounded like he was crying. Cell service is usually non existent there, but he kept trying and got the call to go thru. They were snowshoeing and several feet of snow completely gave away and took her off the side of the cliff with it. He knew she was dead. I wondered if she felt like where she was at was a bad idea before she went over the edge.

The water was too deep to walk thru it without getting water over the top of my boots. Hiking in wet socks and boots sucks. I made it safely across the water, then realized the trail was about 6 feet higher than I was. There was no trail to get there from where I stood. Had I been by myself, this is where I would have turned around. I was scared. Climbing was the only way up. Jack reminded me how strong I am and helped me figure out where to put my hands and feet to get up. I was excited I did it! I had no idea this was the first of about a dozen similar crossings.

The trail seemed steeper than the trail report says it is. Probably  because I was scared, the tumor on my leg started throbbing. Occasionally, when I’d step on a rock a certain way, the tumor I thought was done and came out of the bottom of my foot 2 weeks ago, would send shooting pain up my leg, body and into my shoulder. Every time it happened, I wondered if continuing was a good idea. The trail report also says there are several rock scrambles. I’ve been on rock scrambles, but usually they’re a short portions of a hike. This was a lot more! Going up is a lot easier for me than going down, because of my creaky knees. Going up though, put my feet in positions they don’t normally go. Since my left foot and leg were letting me know they were unhappy with a significant amount of pain, I was putting my right foot into more undesirable positions and most of the impacts.

By the time we got to the widest water crossing, both feet were hurting a lot! My heavier boots probably would have been worse because they don’t bend enough for the scrambles. The crossing was about 20 feet wide. On the right, was a raging waterfall coming toward us. On the left, was probably a 1000 foot drop off about 5 feet from where I stood. There were 2 large boulders mostly out of the water and smaller rocks that were barely under the water. I was concerned the smaller rocks would move. Quick visions of falling in the water, twisting my ankle, smashing my face and falling over the waterfall flashed thru my head. I heard the crying man from the phone call. I wondered if his fiance felt the way I was feeling before she fell. I stood there, trying to figure out the safest way across. Nothing felt right. I made it across to the first boulder. Jack was on the other side, trying to convince me that I could do it. He came across to me and went back and forth a few times, showing me how easy it was. It was about 4 feet to the next boulder. I was trying to figure out if pushing off with my right foot and landing on my left foot, or the opposite was going to give me positive results without hurting my feet more than they already were. A man was coming down the trail. When I said hi to him, Jack went back across to get out of the way. The man crossed, then his 2 large dogs and next, his girlfriend. When she got to the boulder I was frozen on, I asked “Why am I so fucking scared to go across the water?! I jump out of airplanes and I’m too fucking scared to move!” I was almost in tears. She jumped back to the other boulder, reached out her hand and said “Grab my hand and I’ll help you.” I grabbed her hand and jumped as she pulled me over. With tears streaming down my face, I thanked her. She skipped across the rock and down the path they went. The next section was shallow and I knew if the rock path slipped, my feet would stay dry anyway.  I think the mental and emotional stress added to the physical pain in my feet and legs. On the good side, the throbbing in my left armpit that always escalated on hikes, has been completely gone since mid April, about a month after my explant surgery. At my appointment 2 weeks ago, I didn’t specifically ask my plastic surgeon what activities were okay for me. I’m not sure what she said, but I think she said “Don’t overdo it.” What does that mean anyway? In 1997, at my 6 week post op appointment for the removal of an abdominal ectopic pregnancy that was killing me (I was bleeding out from the blood vessels that had formed among all my abdominal organs up to my diaphragm.) my doctor said the same thing. I had a c-section incision that was still healing.  I asked her for clarification regarding weight lifting. She said if I could do 20 repetitions, I should be fine. My next workout, both my husband and my training partner saw me at the same time and both yelled across the gym “What are you doing?” I was on the leg press with 4 plates on each side. They both thought 360 pounds was too much too soon, but I was easily getting 20 reps, so I decided it was okay. That might have something to do with today’s creaky knees.

The trail was really tough for me. Jack said I looked like I was walking in slow motion. He called me a sloth. I laughed, but I was giving it everything I had. I felt like the energizer bunny just before the batteries die. I had looked at the time and based on when we got there, we needed to turn around by 6 pm in order to get back to the car before dark. Around 5:30, I told Jack to go on without me. I would either make it in time or turn around at 6 and he could catch up. He was carrying my water bottle, my ASEA and my Sunflower Milk, so he was kinda like the carrot with me being the donkey. Not an ass, a donkey. At the next water crossing, I thought about my first static line skydive. I froze in the door and couldn’t or wouldn’t grab the strut. My instructor pulled me back in the airplane and told me I had one more chance. I had missed my spot and wouldn’t have been able to get to the field I was supposed to land in. He said when it was time, I would have 3 seconds to make the decision and get out. If I didn’t, I would land with the pilot in the airplane and he would get out without me. After the pilot circled around, I got out when he said to. Now, I was staring at the rushing water and thought “You’re going to miss your spot” and carefully jumped to the boulder in the water. From then on, I would tell myself, every second counts, and quickly take action.

At 5:45, a couple was coming down the path. They told me they saw Jack. They saw how defeated I felt. They encouraged me to keep going. They said I only had to cross the 3 snow fields we could see and I’d be at the basin. I kept going. The first snow field had boot tracks in 2 different places. I took the higher route, hoping if I fell, I’d at least be able to stop myself from sliding down the hill in the boot steps of the lower track. There’s water flowing under the snow field, so the edges are more melty than the rest. I made it across two of the snow fields without incident. The third one went up, not across. On my second step, I slipped. I didn’t slide far, but clawed at the snow with my hands. I stayed there for several seconds, deciding on my next move. I gently, but quickly moved back to the side. Since I had been scrambling over rocks for the previous two hours, scrambling up the side seemed a lot more safe than attempting to climb up the snow. I made it! The jagged rocks lined the bowl named Gothic Basin. It was beautiful! I was so happy I made it to the top!

I found Jack and since it was 6:15, we started back down the trail. The wind blowing off of the snow was too cold for me.  I think it was purposely pushing, telling us it was time to head back. When I calculated our turnaround time, I didn’t take into account how difficult it would be for me to scramble down. Once we got away from the wind, I quickly changed into dry clothes and stuffed the sweaty ones in my pack. I drank most of my Sunflower Milk for energy on the way down. Very few pictures were taken. We knew we’d be hiking part of the trail in the dark. The crossings were easier with my quicker decisions and for whatever reason, I wasn’t afraid like I was on the way up. Could have been that magic cookie I ate that I found in my pack from last season.

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On the way down, I was brave enough to climb up for the picture

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Jack always seems to sneak in a butt picture I find once I get home.

Jack had a headlamp, but since I didn’t, he didn’t use his. It was quite dark for the last hour. I also forgot to calculate that we were walking under 100 foot trees and it would be darker than the same time at home. We made it to the gravel road at about 10:20pm. I was exhausted.

There were times on the way up that I was hard on myself, calling myself a wimp, a pussy and when the tears showed up, a fucking crybaby. I was frustrated that I thought everything would be perfect after my explant surgery. I thought my health would be perfect immediately after. It wasn’t. My lungs were having a hard time, my joints hurt, my back never went into spasm, but was more painful than it’s been in a long time and of course the tumor pain in my leg and foot and the pain in the right foot from the added work. With my eyes on the amazing sights, I realized the only way to get there was on foot. I wasn’t any of the names I had called myself. I was 3 1/2 months after a surgery with two – 7 inch scars. I was told 9 years ago I would never walk again after I broke my back. I was told I probably wouldn’t make it thru the summer when the melanoma spread to my liver and lymphatic system in 2004. I had an open active tumor on my leg and several that have come out of my skin and are healing since my surgery. There are so many people who will never attempt a hike like Gothic Basin. I definitely overdid it, but everything turned out okay. I’m taking care of myself, still doing my treatments and praising my accomplishments.

I don’t regret being hard on myself. It makes it easier to see the contrast.

 

 

The aftermath of Gothic Basin

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More “stuff” came out of the hole during the hike. The gauze was saturated with sweat and ooze, leaving a cleaner hole than Jan 1 picture. There still appears to be more in there.

 

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July 4. Swelling from the rash was worse. Hike day, I had gauze and tegaderm covering the owie. The line about an inch above the current bandage is where the bandage stopped and the rash began on the top. Around the owie itself, which was under the bandage, is more rash. There was no rash on my right leg, so it doesn’t make sense that it was the wool socks like someone suggested.

 

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4th of July evening after work, while the masses watched and set off explosions, I sat on the couch. I was blaring music in an attempt to calm 2 big dogs and 2 cuddly cats (who are never all in the same room together), while cooking my left leg and right foot under the far infrared heat lamp.

Where are you? Where do you want to be? What are you willing to sacrifice to get there? What are you waiting for? Take your first step today. You’ll be glad you did!

Love, gratitude and blessings

~Susan

 

 



Gothic Basin – 2 weeks and 2 days after black salve. I wouldn’t recommend it!

After I posted “Black Salve Results at 2 weeks” on July 1, a friend commented on the Facebook photo “That looks Brutal!” It was!

I responded “It’s making me sweaty and nauseous. When things get brutal, I show them what brutal is. Gothic Basin, here I come!” I’m not sure what I was thinking. I’ve been home 48 hours and I’m too tired to write. For now, enjoy the scenery. I’ll tell you all about it soon.  It’s not all rainbows and unicorns as the pictures might show. 



Explant Surgery – Breast Implant Removal

I did it!  Thank you all who donated to my GoFundMe campaign! I still need cancer treatments and to pay living expenses, but I know I will be taken care of!

So many aspects of the surgery, recovery and finding my new spot in the world.

Several people asked me what my breasts would look like after the surgery.  My answer without pain meds was “Who cares?!!” I’ve got a list of things I said as I was coming out of anesthesia and after. Not using a filter is a great way to live! It sometimes hurts feelings, is often funny and ultimately leads to transparency, vulnerability and connection. I’m loving watching my new, beautiful life unfold.

I rarely share my raw, low points. Even with all the tumor pictures I’ve shared and the stories, I don’t think the depth of the issues come out with the intensity I’m living them. We all have our own pain tolerance and nobody can know for sure what another person is feeling.

Warning!!! Video shows yucky stuff in the drain tube and I inject myself with a blood thinner. Only non-drugged people who have done it will understand the pain and burning of the blood thinner. I had to do it after I broke my back, but I was high on oxycodone and barely felt it. This time around, I didn’t take any percocet. I have however, used my own pain remedies that worked beautifully – except with the injections. I feel another book coming on! So much to write about!

 

I’m currently drinking a bottle of ASEA every day and slathering RENU28 on my breasts. I had no idea I would have boobs after my surgery! When my doctor took the compression bra off to check my progress, I saw myself in the mirror.

“What the FUCK?!!! I have boobs!” They look a little sad, but I’m hoping the skin tightens up. There’s a whole book on the reasons why I originally got the implants, the changes in my life and relationships, and…life after explant.

The drains came out yesterday. Today, I made a coffee, sea salt, coconut oil and honey scrub and a ylang ylang moisturizer for after my shower.
I just emptied the hot water tank, scrubbing, shaving my legs and washing and conditioning my hair. I felt so good. THEN…Like all my showers, I finished with cold water. WOOHOO!!!! My previously sad looking nipples reacted and stood out farther than I ever remember! I’m ecstatic my nipples are happy!!!

Is your body happy you live in it?

Love, gratitude and blessings

~Susan



Black Salve ~Day 14

Day 14. The hard lump is in the center of what appears to be a rash. This one reacted similarly last January and last April. It didn’t form a “core”, like most of the others, but looks more like a swollen rash, that hurts like hell! I was noticing though, my traps are still swollen and that looks cool 🙂 The pain started yesterday; partially from the owie and partially from the allergic reaction to the adhesive. They seem to stop surfacing when they dry out.  I’ve been applying RENU28 and spraying ASEA on it every few hours, more often while I’m at home. Water from the shower hurts. I have a shower filter, so it shouldn’t be because of anything in the water. It’s amazing to me how soothing ASEA, RENU28 and Wiener Friendly soap are when the water stings as much as it does. Tomorrow is a big day! Time to bandage this and dream beautiful dreams!

Love, gratitude and blessings

~Susan

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Black Salve~Day 7

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It’s been 7 days since I applied Bloodroot Black Salve to the lump on my neck, I’ve been keeping up with my normal protocol, but I’ve been drinking a bottle of ASEA every day and slathering the owie with RENU 28 whenever I have the bandage off. Just now, I soaked gauze in ASEA, then covered with a thin layer of RENU 28. It feels SO good! I’m still using tegaderm to hold the gauze on and sometimes I think the allergic reaction to the bandage hurts worse than the owie. I’ve tried every type of medical tape I’ve found and tegaderm causes the least problems.

It doesn’t seem to be reacting like most of the ones in the past have. The lump seems softer that it was 2 days ago, but the same size. It looks and feels like the Bloodroot Black Salve only reacted with the skin and not the lump underneath. I’ll keep you posted!

Love, gratitude and blessings

~Susan



Black Salve ~Day 5

This picture was taken 8 hours after yesterday’s. Immediately after taking the picture, I sprayed ASEA on it. After it dried, I applied RENU28. My blog posts also show up on Facebook. Like many times in the past, someone said it looks like shingles. My oncologists at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance and my primary care physician, did several viral cultures on lesions in the past. All viral and bacterial cultures have come back negative.  I stopped letting them do them in 2008. It didn’t make sense to pay for something I already know the answer to. I got really nasty with 3 oncologists when one of them suggested it was shingles, within minutes of telling me the viral culture was negative. Shingles is a virus. That story is in the book I’m not finished writing and possibly somewhere in the archives of this blog. I sprayed ASEA and applied more RENU28 before I went to bed. It was a rough night sleeping. The pain from the reaction to the bandage was more painful than the owie itself.

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8 hours after last picture. After applying ASEA and RENU28, most of the redness from reacting to bandage has diminished.

As you can see, most of the allergic reaction diminished, except for where it’s more like a cut. The whiter part in the center is where I actually applied the black salve. It isn’t on the surface of the skin, but I can feel the lump underneath. I can feel it on the inside when I roll my neck, or on the outside when I feel around with my fingers. It feels like the size and hardness of half an avocado pit. It has only felt this hard and solid for the last 2 weeks. Before, it felt significantly larger in diameter, but softer.

It didn’t react like the others have. It seems to just have a few surface lesions. The lump itself feels much deeper than the spots feel. I still feel twinges of pain, going down my back and around my neck. Whatever it is, I hope it lets go and allows me to move on. Life is good!

Love, gratitude and blessings

~Susan



Black Salve ~ Day 4

After my first Gerson coffee yesterday, the pain of the owie greatly diminished. After the second one, I only noticed it if I bumped it. I had 3 separate “healing” sessions, starting about an hour later. I hung out with a friend until around 11 pm and came home. I was only feeling a little pain.  I used an anti inflammatory suppository I made and went to bed. I woke up this morning, also pain free. I’ve been drinking ASEA, spraying it on my owies and applying RENU28 to them. I know it’s made a big difference, but there’s really no way to know what percentage each of the things I’m doing is helping.

I took the bandage off for my shower. I lathered up my hands with Wiener Friendly Soap and reached back and gently washed the back of my neck. It didn’t hurt. The water didn’t even sting. Since I can’t see it and I’m home alone, I decided to leave the bandage off for the day. I could tell by feeling it that it wasn’t open, like it did the last time. I have 2 hot/cold showers most days to get my blood flowing. I’ll describe those details another time 🙂 When I got under the warm shower for the second time, it burned like I had poured scalding water on it! WTF?? Yes, I said it out loud. Nobody was here to hear it. I breathed through it. The owie is producing so much heat, it felt as if the water was being blocked directly over it when I turned the water all the way cold.  No mistaking that I felt how cold it was every where else it touched!

I got the hand mirror out to double back and look in the bathroom mirror. The owie has reacted, but nowhere near as big as it has the last two times I treated it. The majority of shower pain, came from what appears to be an allergic reaction to the tegaderm bandage I used to hold the gauze on. I know I need to cover it, but OUCH, it f’n hurts!

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It feels like a cut at the top of where the bandage was 2 days ago. It hurts worse than it looks! 

This picture was taken 10 hours after removing the bandage. I couldn’t get far enough away to show you, but my traps are swollen too. I forgot how much I loved and miss my big traps. I smiled. I grabbed some dumbbells and did some lateral raises and smiled even more. I’ll spray more ASEA and apply more RENU28 before I go to sleep and hope I can bandage it tomorrow.

Like I’ve said before, I believe the pain of black salve and healing process is easier for me, than allowing a doctor to attempt to fix me with a knife. I’ve had to repeat the process, but so have they. I also believe my healing sessions alleviated a significant amount of pain. I’ll tell you about it sometime.

I’m hoping this is my LAST black salve adventure!  Thank you bloodroot, galangal root, sheep sorrel and red clover. Thank you owies for everything you’ve taught me.

Love, gratitude and blessings

~Susan