Prioritizing My Health After Cancer

I wouldn’t say that I’m glad I had cancer, because… well, to be quite honest, it sucked.  But along with the bad, there is always good to be found.  I believe in learning from the tribulations life hands us along the way.  I realize now, more than ever, that I’m very lucky to be alive & each day on this earth is truly a gift.  Since my diagnosis in March last year, I’ve made so many friends also fighting cancer.  In just over a year, cancer has taken some of those friends from this world & in turn taken a small piece of my heart.

Sometimes, it takes a swift kick in the ass to realize that change is overdue. In my case, that kick came in the form of two household cancer diagnosis’ & ongoing treatments.  Before cancer came my way, I was basically going through the motions of life, eating whatever was convenient & fast, always intending to work out but rarely found the time.  Being a busy mom while working full time, I was always my last priority.  With a husband & two children to care for, taking care of myself was of course last on the list.  Cancer forced me to reassess & my own health became my new focus.  Not only for my sake, but for my family who need me.  It finally occurred to me that if I don’t take care of myself, I may not be around to take care of them.

Going into treatment, I really thought it was more like… well you go through treatment & then boom, you beat it & you’re done with cancer.  But that really couldn’t be farther from the truth.  Once you’ve had cancer, it can come back & you need to be monitored for that… a lot.  It’s stressful & scary to be reminded of the potential for recurrence so regularly.  Not only that but, I’ve seen it happen to countless friends, it happened to my own husband, so it happens, I know this… I try not to, but I fear this.

Not only that, breast cancer commonly includes 5-10 years of hormone therapy following everything else & it’s no picnic. Compared to surgery, chemo & radiation sure it’s an improvement, but there are side effects to deal with, as with any treatment. Some of these side effects even include potential for other cancers… what?

So here I am, having beaten breast cancer, feeling like I’ve put my body through hell & back to do it.  I don’t want to spend my time worrying about it coming back… Stress & worry can also contribute to the growth of cancer cells, we just can’t win, can we?  So now what?  This is where the changes comes into play.

As soon as I completed radiation I began forcing myself to hit the treadmill each night. When there isn’t time to be found, I make time, even if it’s not until 9 or 10pm.  I began slow & have increased my tempo & distance over time, now knocking out at least three miles each night.  Most times I’m of course tired in the beginning, but it feels amazing once I get going & I love that my body allows me to run.  I feel healthy when I run & most importantly, I feel cancer free.

Aside from running I love to throw in some yoga a few times a week. I’m amazed that my body has allowed me to practice yoga again.  I love yoga, I think it’s such a brilliant way to work out.  I become so focused on the stretch that I forget I’ve been lunging for like two minutes, an excellent form of trickery in my book!  I also think it’s so important to maintain flexibility as we age & yoga is an excellent way to do that.

Yoga Mind & Body with Ali Macgraw is an oldie but goodie, my absolute favorite yoga video

Aside from the physical benefits of yoga, it provides me peace of mind. I love nothing more, after a long hard day, than to get lost in my favorite yoga DVD.  I have an entire ritual required to achieve full peace of mind & body.  First & foremost, the kids need to be out of the house, napping or tucked into bed for the night so that there’s quiet, no distractions.  My yoga space must be spotless, clutter distracts me.  I turn on the electric fireplace for ambiance, sans the heat in the summer of course & light a nice scented candle.  Final step, lay down my mat & boom, ready for the ultimate yoga experience.  It’s quite literally a vacation for my mind with the added benefit of stretching & some toning along the way.

I’m now so much more aware of what I’m putting into my body as well.  I’ve learned that I had been blindly filling my body with toxins & promoting cancer growth for years.  I love food, so there are still plenty of splurges, but for the most part I’m eating all natural, organic foods.  I’ve reduced my intake of processed sugars & flours immensely.  I purchase only grass fed organic meats & dairy products from grass fed animals.  I’m still learning, I have a long way to go & continue to make changes, but feel confident that I’m on the right path.

A book that’s inspired a lot of change in my diet. Written by a physician who was diagnosed with cancer himself, David Servan Schreiber, MD, PhD. Anti Cancer, a New Way of Life

None of these changes guarantee me a cancer free life, but I’m making an effort to do what I can to improve my odds.  I feel like I have to do something to proactively prevent recurrence, so this is what I’m doing.  At the end of the day, I’m working to become a much healthier version of me & above all else, I’m able to find peace of mind in that.


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