When I was younger, preparation for bikini/wedding/holidays or frankly any season, inevitably meant a new workout regimen. Endless hours were spent scouring magazines for the hottest new fitness fad, hoping it would get me beach-ready. Unfortunately, because of this silly commitment, I became the proud owner of Jane Fonda videos, the Thigh Master, the Bowflex and the Shake Weight. Bring on summer of 2014, then 2015 and now 2016 where my focus is flipped from looking pretty to being well. And now my clothes fit without all the gizmos. How have I done it? Give a round of applause for a plant-based diet, a little yoga and a lot of walking.
We all have the power of choice. As hard as it might be at times, we can choose to wake up in the morning and be in a good mood. Despite bad weather, a burnt breakfast or any other seemingly annoying thing, we can choose to not let it bring down our day.
I thought I knew how to choose joy. After all, I did it in the hardest moments of my life. Throughout my first and second diagnosis with breast cancer, I smiled and handled myself with grace. I found a way to focus on fun despite the hardship. And I learned it from a wonder woman of positive spirit, Mary Ann. On one of my toughest days, just hours after being diagnosed as a 31-year old breast cancer patient, Mary Ann came to me. A kind-hearted and super-souled woman, she guided me through those first six months, helping me understand the intense physical and emotional toll of cancer. She assured me that even as a newlywed cancer patient, I could be happy. I listened. And I was.
I was a horrible child athlete, the second to worst player on my elementary school softball team. During a 6th grade basketball game, I think I made a basket for the other team, too. Despite my lack of talent with hand-eye coordination, I was an active child. I spent many years participating in track-and-field and dance lessons. Though decades have passed since my childhood, I’m still excited to run races and take dance classes. Knowing that kids today are often immersed in video games and constantly connected to gadgets, I hope to instill my life-long love of fitness to my son. Being a role model is key, so I do my best to create family fun and fit opportunities throughout the year. Also, a wonderful way to reinforce a world filled with personal interaction and teamwork is by surrounding him with stories of exercise, activities and team sports so that he can make his own connections. Below is my list of children’s books with a focus on an active lifestyle. I’ve read most of these and received recommendations for the others from my favorite local librarian.
I wasn’t scared of the painful side effects from surgery.
I wasn’t scared of fatigue and emotional drain from a packed schedule of cancer doctor appointments.
I wasn’t scared of humongous machines filled with radiation.
And I wasn’t scared of chemotherapy … I was petrified.
When I was first diagnosed, I only knew a few people who went through cancer treatment. And I didn’t know much about their experiences, so I really had no idea what to expect. I feared the worst when I was told I needed chemo; my stomach sank and anxiety filled my chest. I imaged myself regularly hugging a toilet, unable to leave the house and participate in life for 16 weeks of treatment. But this wasn’t my experience at all. In fact, my first chemo treatment was just me, my husband, two nurses and an IV.
Today marks 10 years since my first-ever surgery, a bilateral mastectomy. Fox CT interviewed me to celebrate this milestone and highlight how others can look to handle a similar situation (video above). Being initially diagnosed young, I learned how to navigate through diagnosis and treatment while finding a few laughs a long the way. Below are some quick links to cancer resources. Cancer survivors and their caregivers can use these ideas as a guide to help navigate the diagnosis, treatment and hopefully be comfortable with being their own patient advocate.
Recent Diagnosis – Patient:
Everyone is different, know there is not one right way to act or feel. These suggestions worked for me in an effort to stay relatively sane while evaluating various cancer treatments.
Support – From Friends and Family:
When people mention they don’t know what to say to someone who has been diagnosed with cancer, I just tell them to know their audience. Treat a friend/family member in a similar manner, with perhaps a little bit more kindness, in an effort to make them feel some normalcy.
- Be proactive with support: suggest a few ideas how you can help from this list of 50 thoughtful ideas and gestures for a friend in need.
Support – Financial, Emotional for Patients and Caregivers:
The first few weeks after being diagnosed are filled with many new obstacles, including excessive stress and potential financial burdens. There are many ways to combat these issues, including finding support organizations and using mindfulness techniques.
- CancerCare – This organization provides counseling, support groups, education and financial assistance for both patients and caregivers.
- Finding time for exercise and mindfulness activities is helpful: benefits of yoga, acupuncture and walking for cancer patients.
Hope and Inspiration:
Being diagnosed at 31, many of my peers had not faced this disease before. Regardless, facing cancer is life altering, and I wanted to have hope. So I found it incredibly helpful when people shared global survival stories. Here are some quick links where you can find hope, inspiration and motivation from others experiencing hardships.
- Kris Carr – Author and inspirational speaker known for the Crazy Sexy Cancer brand outlines her journey toward wellness while living with a rare form of cancer.
- Gotta Make Lemonade – Public figure Samantha Harris and her husband have created a platform to inspire others to overcome life’s challenges. These include cancer and injury as well as professional adversity. My story was featured here, as well.
For more relevant information about my cancer journey and supportive resources, check out our cancer resources page.
Have you been touched by cancer? Please share your story or recommendations for other patients or caregivers.
As the hours set in after my initial cancer diagnosis, I went from feeling disbelief to craving information. I wanted to know more. So rather than jump on the internet, since I was warned to stay away, my husband and I drove to the nearest Barnes & Noble bookstore. I purchased a few “you have cancer” books and quickly learned that any piece of literature, story, infographic or even a soundbite could bring me to tears if I wasn’t ready. Since unfortunately others have been and will be touched by cancer, below is a short list of books that provided me information without scary statistics and overwhelming tales. These delivered inspiration to move forward and take care of myself, while I let my medical and support team take care of me.