I’ve had cancer for over a decade. While there has been many roller coasters along the way, the first few weeks after a diagnosis were the most stressful and mentally draining. Through my cancer journey, like my business career, having role models and mentors were critical. I had many people look out for me and so I believe in doing the same. While I never wanted to be “Caryn with Cancer,” if my stories and learnings can help someone else find a little ease with this disease, then I want to share them all. When it comes to the initial diagnosis, unfortunately you can’t bury your head in the sand for long. You have to make several decisions in a short amount of time. Below are some tips that worked for me when it came to handling those first few weeks.
As a recovering work-obsessed multi-tasker, I spent most days analyzing work and life situations while also writing emails, listening to conference calls in the car driving, or reading industry information during exercise sessions. The idea of “doing it all” energized me. But truthfully, I was always exhausted and stressed. I took yoga a few times to “de-stress,” but found limiting my thoughts to be impossible. In addition, I felt foolish because I thought everyone around me was “better at stretching.” So I gave up before I really even began. Despite my lackluster first experiences with it, I ran to yoga after my second breast cancer diagnosis and haven’t turned back since.
Sometimes I forget I had cancer.
Sometimes I forget I have cancer.
Sometimes I forget how very lucky I am to be living in an age where we have information at our finger tips. It’s frightening and often overwhelming to skim the daunting prognosis stats, hear the triumphant stories and research every ache. Whether it’s right or wrong to self diagnose, initiate treatments or push doctors for more, at least we have it. So many people don’t. So many did not.
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.