What’s on your mind this week? Spring Break? Easter? Passover? Baseball season? On our mind and in this edition of our Health & Wellness News & Info Recap, dietitians discuss clean eating, GNC announces new quality control protocols and an inspirational post tells us about reframing thoughts, actions and attitudes.
While last week’s stories in the Health & Wellness News & Info recap spoke about non-GMO candy, this roundup includes plant-based foods in the U.S. Dietary Guidelines proposal. In addition, there’s been talk about how cholesterol may not be such a big health issue, as well as how the rise of iPhone and individual devices may be causing hearing risks.
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.
Ten years ago yesterday, I was first told that I had invasive ductal carcinoma, aka cancer. As I look back, I wonder what would my life be like if I didn’t have cancer.
Where would I be? Would I’ve been a stay-at-home mom with four kids? Or possibly a business woman traveling cross-country while my husband stayed home and managed family life?
Do I even begin to play that game, dreaming about what could’ve been before cancer changed my plans? How do I know that even without cancer, life could have been better? Maybe something more daunting would’ve appeared, and I surely don’t want to think about that.
So, when I’m down or feeling a little sorry for myself, I try to think of what I’ve gained from my cancer experience or (insert horrible situation here.) I’m not suggesting we all rewrite a modern version of “My Favorite Things” from The Sound of Music. I just think finding positivity clears the mind of the stress and angst of a tragic life event.
These are a Few of My Favorite Things – After Cancer Came to Town
You hear it all the time, cancer brings about a special bond. Those who understand the frightful conversations dealing with a life-threatening diagnosis can provide relevant advice or tough love. I’m grateful for these cancer friends, otherwise known as my angels, who have taught me about cancer, strength and grace. Some guided me tremendously during the early moments. Others have grown with me beyond cancer and continue to be a shining force in my life. In fact, I’ve played both roles, as well, mentoring, motivating and educating those about the “big C.” Treatments debated and tears often shed, but many times we commiserated about the silly stuff.
It’s also worth noting, that other relationships intensify because cancer brings them to a life-altering other level. My husband and I dealt with frightening decisions in a short amount of time. This taught us how to not only communicate but also work well together under such duress.
I often stressed over the wrong things in childhood. I took every self-help magazine quiz to improve my teenage self-esteem. While I was a confident kid, I had my moments, which trickled through my early 20’s. Beating cancer and thriving with it at 31 catapulted me into a different mental state. With every intense work project, fearful presentation or uncomfortable life situation, I drew upon my cancer survivor skills and thrived. Take that, cancer … you made me better.
Adapting to Change and Evolving with It
It’s one thing to adapt to change, but completely different to evolve with it. Being thrown this curve ball at age 31, when I was just asserting my adulthood taught me how to play ball successfully. If one strategy works for years, it doesn’t mean it will in the future. So when my cancer life began, my old life had to be adapted. It wasn’t (and still isn’t) easy, but I’ve learned to grieve any loss and move forward.
New Boobs and Bod
Ok, so here’s the silly, yet surreal part. While I would never wish the surgeries, IV cocktails, shots and scans on anyone, my body looks better. I had bigger boobs, but I never loved them. My post bilateral mastectomy ones fit well in clothes and I don’t even have to wear a bra. Even more exciting, the past year eating clean, sleeping more and practicing yoga has tightened my body and improved my energy level tremendously. I wish I would have embraced a clean lifestyle way back when, instead of counting calories for all those years.
Timing Means Everything
My husband and I wanted to be pregnant within the year after we were married. Our plan had to be altered because I was diagnosed just three months after our wedding. I would have never wanted to wait four years to have a baby. But, thankfully, I did. Kyle is our everything. Since every second/minute/year carries different possible outcomes, had we not waited four years, our baby would not be our precious, silly, thoughtful, caring and creative, Kyle.
Have you or someone you love experienced any life altering moments that redefined your life?
I’m thrilled to be a recipient of the 2014 Pink Power Mom award.
The Kids II Foundation’s, Pink Power Mom network is a nonprofit organization that honors eight women annually who have used their breast cancer battle as a catalyst to make a difference in the community. I’m honored that I was selected because of my efforts with Pretty Wellness. As a winner, I will receive a sizable donation for my charities of choice, so that I can continue to advocate for meaningful breast cancer treatments and resources.
My 2015 donation will be awarded to The V Foundation for Cancer Research. As a former Disney/ESPN employee, I have fond memories of supporting the V Foundation. I participated in many fundraisers and sat on a departmental committee to help build awareness and raise funds to support their mission: curing cancer. On the day I was diagnosed with stage IV disease, one of the executives reminded me that I am not a case study and recited the wise words of coach Jim Valvano, “Don’t give up…Don’t ever give up.” It uplifted me and was the reminder I needed to embrace my positive spirit in the face of hardship.
Another charity that is near and dear to my heart is The Get in Touch Foundation, founded in my hometown by fellow cancer survivor, 2010 Pink Power Mom, author, and friend, Mary Ann Wasil. The foundation’s goal is to provide initiatives to educate girls and boys about early detection. Their Girls’ Program/Daisy Wheel tool has been implemented in 26 countries and teaches children about how to do their own breast self-exams. I sat on the board in the early stages, now years later I’m amazed at the progress and global reach of their efforts.
Here is the official press release for more information on Kids II, Inc. and the Pink Power Mom recipients.
I’m excited to join the sisterhood of this amazing group of breast cancer survivors and can’t wait to meet them at the award ceremony in early 2015.
I was proud to be a laser-focused workaholic.
I used to boast about my multi-tasking skills. I even went so far as to connect my work computer to my elliptical with a bungee cord so I could read emails and trade publications while exercising.
I remember bragging to a top-executive that I only slept three hours a night, so that I could exceed everyone’s expectations as a new mother and superstar employee.
I skimmed books, listened to podcasts and networked with many women about finding a way to “have it all.” Even when I changed my career to focus on my family values, I was still conditioned to live a harried life. I scheduled my day from early morning to late evening and multi-tasked through much of it. Additionally, I felt like every item on my to-do list should be achieved with high merit.
I thought I was thriving because I was “successful” with a promising career and beautiful family. Oh, how I wish Arianna Huffington’s Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder would’ve been written 20 years ago when I started my first job and had to balance work and taking care of myself. Perhaps, I would’ve learned better habits to not just tackle life, but to truly enjoy it at every step a long the way.