It goes without saying that having breast cancer sucks!!! That being said, there just may be another way to look at it.
While receiving a cancer diagnosis brings with it a long list of
obvious negatives, positive things really can come from it. Speaking to other cancer survivors, I have come
to understand that, even while facing the most difficult time in their
lives, people can learn valuable lessons and experience wonderful
things. This means different things for different people, but for me,
it was a realization that I could bring breast cancer survivors the
message about the importance of exercise and healthy eating. Trite as
it sounds, this post is my version of “making lemonade out of
It wasn't immediately obvious to me that the period of time during
which I was undergoing surgery and treatment was a time when I could
focus on fitness. However, early on in my treatment process, I met a
woman in the waiting room of my oncologist's office who was three
years past her own diagnosis and treatment. I was anxious about what
lay ahead for me, and she perceptively recognized my anxiety. During
our conversation, she said something that I thought odd at the time,
but upon reflection, it now makes a lot of sense to me. In many ways it
helped to form my own perspective about how to view and handle the
many months of treatment in store for me, in a positive way.
The woman in the waiting room with me explained that, when she
looked back at the year in which she had undergone surgery and chemo,
she was almost wistful. It was not that she missed the fear, pain and
accompanying side effects of treatment; rather, she missed all of the
time she had to focus on - and indeed take of - herself. She went on
to say that, for the first time in her adult life, she had time to
devote to herself. She read books and magazines, made dates to see
old friends, and treated herself to spa treatments and other little
niceties, all without feeling guilty. Although I did not realize it
at the time, this is where the beginnings of my own approach were
As women, we are often focused on the others in our lives, and put
their well-being before our own. A breast cancer diagnosis switches
the focus from jobs, husbands, children, etc., to ourselves. We are
forced to prioritize and must put our effort to defeat this disease
at the very top of our to-do lists.
After addressing all of my medical needs, I began to think of how
I could best utilize the “extra” time I now had in my day.
Health and fitness had always been a priority for me, but, as a
working mother of three, I found that there certainly were times when it was hard
to keep to a schedule that included my own workouts. Healthy eating
also sometimes took a back seat to preparing foods that my children
and husband preferred. With schedules that included sports
practices, music lessons, school activities and the like, meals were
often grabbed on the go, and were not as nutritious as they should
Keeping the comments of the woman from my oncologist's office in
mind, I realized that I could use the time following my diagnosis to
restore myself to a level of fitness with which I could be happy.
Despite the havoc wreaked upon my body from surgeries, chemo and
hormone therapy, I decided that I would make consistent efforts to
exercise and focus on eating a clean and nutritious diet (with the
occasional exception for animal crackers, for which I had developed
an unexpected craving).
As soon as I was given medical clearance after each surgical
procedure, I would return to the gym and slowly (beginning by walking
at a slow pace on a treadmill 20 to 30 minutes daily) work towards
improving my stamina. Using light weights and some yoga for
flexibility, I had to alter my former workout routine to accommodate
my new body and its limitations. There was some trial and error in
my method, but eventually I was able to design a workout that allowed
me to progressively increase my endurance, strength and flexibility.
There were certainly times (especially during chemo) during which
I was not as energetic and enthused about exercising, but I always
knew that, if I continued to push myself, there would be dividends in
the end. I focused on what my body could do, not what it couldn't.
Being able to set and achieve small goals (e.g., walking five minutes
longer, graduating to a spin bike, lifting slightly heavier weights,
etc.) reminded me that my body was healing and functioning. I am
happy to say that now, approximately 18 months after my diagnosis, I
feel exceptionally well and am satisfied with the level of fitness I
have achieved. I am certain that I could not have said that, had I
not been dedicated to the exercise and nutrition program that I followed throughout
the course of my journey.
Along the way, I was lucky to meet some incredible people (both
patients and medical professionals) who encouraged me to pursue
helping other women with breast cancer to feel well throughout their
own journeys. To this end, I have designed my in-home Journey to
Wellness exercise studio, where I can help women on a one-on-one
basis, and have also been teaching an exercise class for cancer
survivors twice a week at a local community center. I continue to
look for ways to bring health and wellness to others and hope to
inspire people to stay fit and strong, even as they face the
challenges of cancer and cancer treatment.
If you keep an open mind about exercise and nutrition as you recover, you may be surprised to find how much you can empower yourself and enhance your feeling of well-being during these difficult times.
Welcome to all of the beautiful women fighting (and beating) breast cancer! Journey to Wellness LLC is the culmination of my imaginings during the past 18 months following my own diagnosis. This website is created so that we can share experiences, insights and information regarding fitness, nutrition and ways to continue to feel and look well throughout our journeys with breast cancer.