my Breast Cancer blog

2004, age 34 — this is my story

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More and More Life

“The obsession with running is really an obsession with the potential for more and more life.” —George Sheehan

EXACTLY.

And because my running obsession has been thwarted by a hip injury, I am finding a new groove, which is turning into an obsession with walking (+ little bits of running here and there) and a new love for Bob Harper and his boot-camp and yoga DVDs.

I want more and more life.

Fight Cancer With Fitness (GUEST POST)

By: David Haas

Whether you have just been diagnosed with cancer, are undergoing treatments, or are in remission, the benefits of keeping fit cannot be understated. Exercise keeps the body healthy and functioning at its highest capacity, and for bodies fighting a rigorous chronic disease like cancer, exercise can make a tremendous positive difference.

When my doctor first told me I had mesothelioma, I felt like there was nothing I could do, but he encouraged me to get off my sofa and start exercising, even for a short time daily, so I could make a positive change. Conventionally, healthcare professionals have encouraged cancer patients and survivors to ‘take it easy,’ but Ciaran Devane, chief executive officer (CEO) of Macmillan Cancer Support, stated in an article posted by CBS News that patients would be shocked to know the benefits of physical activity on their recovery and long-term health.

Decreased Risk of Recurrence

Studies indicate that for those who have beat cancer, exercise can help keep the disease from coming back. In a recent article posted by webMD, Kerry Courneya, professor from Canada and research chair at the Physical Activity and Cancer organization in Edmonton, Canada, stated that not only did exercise reduce the risk of recurrence, but it also ensured a longer survival after diagnosis.

Elevated Energy Levels

Exercise is known to reduce fatigue and increase overall energy levels. It also increases stamina. Cancer treatment can be rigorous, and exercise helps build the muscle and stamina needed to better withstand its effects on the body.

Improved Quality of Life

Exercise reduces the risk of other chronic illnesses, like cardiovascular disease and diabetes, while decreasing the risk of other health issues, like osteoporosis and depression. It also enhances mood by releasing serotonin, a ‘feel-good’ chemical in the brain, and produces an overall positive feeling of well-being.

Even a little effort at fitness can go a long way while living with or beyond cancer. It doesn’t need to be anything too strenuous. Small choices like taking the stairs instead of the elevator, gardening instead of watching television, or walking the dog instead of playing a computer game make a tremendous overall positive impact on living.

Thank you, David, for this reminder that exercise is powerful medicine!

5K Every Day — Didn’t Go My Way

My 5K challenge (5K a day for two weeks) got cut short by something like, oh, nine days. It wasn’t a lack of motivation or stamina or anything glamorous (like a warrior-like injury while sprinting) that took me out of the game. Nope, it was a pair of size 2 little-boy Skechers, placed strategically right where I stepped down last Sunday from kitchen to garage. Those darn velcro shoes caused my entire foot to turn on itself. We’ll just call it a sprain, because I never did get an X-ray (one expert said I probably couldn’t walk so well if it was a break), and we’ll just hope it’s on the mend. It should be — the bad bruise is pretty much gone, so is the swelling, I’ve been icing a lot, and while I am not actually sitting still and elevating it (can moms really do that?), I do sense I’m making comeback.

I was hoping to show up at my Monday oncology check-up having run 43 miles over the course of 14 days, but, well, that’s not gonna happen, so I’ll just continue healing and set out on a new challenge once my hobble turns back into a walk and that sharp sticking pain goes away. No biggie, I guess. I mean, there are worse things that can happen, right? Like cancer.

Big shout-out to my college roommate Ericha, who is one day from completing — actually, crushing — the challenge. (The girl ran 4, 5, 6+ miles on some days.) Way to run, my friend!

5K Every Day

I don’t know what made me commit to running a 5K every day for two weeks, but I think it has something to do with the oncology follow-up I have 14 days from now. I’ve known for a while I need to get my butt in a better gear (because slow and slackin’ haven’t been producing the results I like), and I tend to motivate better when I have a goal. A clear stop date is important, too. So, my next visit with my favorite doctor on March 21 will mark the end of my personal challenge. It will also hopefully be the day I hear I’m still cancer free, and then, maybe — just maybe — I’ll be fired up enough to run some more!

Still Running From Cancer

I’ve been running from cancer for a while now. It’s because I keep thinking about all that research showing that five vigorous hours of exercise per week can cut my chance of recurrence by something close to 50%. I just can’t ignore such a compelling statistic, so I try my  best to keep pounding the pavement. Sometimes, the task is easy. Sometimes, it’s a chore. Today, I was feeling it, and so I ran, and ran, and ran. The end result? See below.

www.jogtracker.com

To chart your fitness feats on an Android phone (that’s what I’m doing) check out JogTracker.

I Fell Down

cupcake-200-jd081310

Photo: jamieanne, Flickr

After cancer, I made some big changes in my life. It all started because I wanted to lose the 10 pounds treatment had forced upon me, and because I wanted to rid my body of the toxins that had been suffocating it for a year and half.

The changes (no alcohol, no sweets, no red meat, no really fatty foods, lots of fruits and veggies, lots of exercise), well, they worked. I lost 15 pounds, got in shape, scored a great resting heart rate and super cholesterol levels, and I became healthier than ever.

Yes, it was tough at times to refuse the brownies and pass on birthday cake, but I became so happy in my skin that the few seconds it would take to stuff down a sweet treat just didn’t seem worth it anymore.

My willpower lasted for three years.

Three. Whole. Years.

And then something horrible happened.

Halloween 2009 arrived.

And I fell down.

One little bite of one little Tootsie Roll from my kids’ stash, and that was it. The sugary flood gates opened, and I just couldn’t get them closed. For nearly 10 months.

If there’s something I’ve learned about my relationship with sweets over the years, it’s this: One cookie isn’t enough. One slice of pie won’t do it. One mini Halloween treat — you get the idea, right?

So, what started with one indulgence back in October led to a feast in November, a baking frenzy in December, a free-for-all in January and February (I was training for a 1/2 marathon, and I became ravenous), and, well, there are no excuses for March, April, May, June, or July. I just ate the sweets I wanted, when I wanted, and while I really didn’t like that my scale had jumped 5 pounds and my middle felt uncomfortably soft, I couldn’t find the drive to get back on track.

Until a few weeks ago, when the tides turned.

I’m not sure how, or why, but just as hard as I fell, I got back up, and now, I seem to have my footing again. I can’t promise I’ll keep it, but for the moment, the sweets are off limits. I’m tightening up the reigns on my favorite crackers and nuts and carb-y snacks, too, and I’ve never let go of my commitment to no alcohol, no red meat, lots of fruits and veggies, and regular exercise, which means the scale is back on track, my middle is firming up, and I’m feeling a whole lot better about the skin I’m in.

Finally.

It’s been said that falling down is not what matters most. It’s the getting back up again that counts.

I agree.

Still, I hope I don’t fall again, because, really, it’s not all that fun.

Slash Breast Cancer Stats: Eat Less, Exericse More

Up to a third of breast cancer cases in Western countries could be avoided if women ate less and exercised more.

Photo: ppdigital, Flickr

Photo: ppdigital, morgueFile

Breast cancer may be a mystery in many ways — why did I get it, for example? — but it’s becoming more and more evident that eating too much, exercising too little and packing on the pounds can spike your risk of developing the disease that already gets 1 in 8 women.

This news, which isn’t really all that new, was sprawled across the front page of the Gainesville Sun this morning, reminding me once again that nixing the packaged goods (I know, it’s so hard) and moving my muscles is the smart way to motor through life. It’s why I’m renewing my vows with all things healthy — starting. right. now.

Here’s one way to think about it: there is so much about cancer we cannot control. But what we put in our mouths and how we move our bodies — totally up to us! Now, that doesn’t mean you can’t have moments of indulgence (I’ve been having a moment since Halloween). It just means that mostly, we need to monitor our input and ramp up our output, because, well, our lives depend on it.

Happy World Cancer Day!

Photo: istock.com

Photo: istock.com

It might not seem very happy that there must be a World Cancer Day, but if we use the day for good, well, then, it can be a happy February 4. Set the dismal stats aside (without intervention, an estimated 84 million people will die of cancer between 2005 and 2015, uugh!), and instead, do something that ensures the disease will one day fade into the shadows. Some ideas: stop smoking, limit alcohol consumption (yea, that too), eat right and exercise well, get your recommended screenings (like mammograms and skin check-ups) and ditch the stress.

Another idea: honor those in your life who have done battle with cancer, because you know what? They are the ones who pave the way for the progress we do see in the fight against such a crappy disease.

Today, I thank all the women who went before me and volunteered their bodies to test the wonder drug Herceptin, which happened to become available just when I needed it. It might just reduce my chance of recurrence by something like 50 percent, and that, well, that makes me very happy.

Happy World Cancer Day!

DIY Breast Cancer Prevention

Olive Oil

foodistablog, Flickr

Extra-virgin olive oil could suppress a breast-cancer promoting gene if used as your primary kitchen oil, says the team at Family Circle magazine (October 1, 2009).

That’s not the only do-it-yourself tip FC offers. Apparently, apples can help too (phenolics in the fruit may combat malignant tumors) and vitamin D can aid in the prevention of cell division and the activation of a tumor-suppressing protein.

And the one I love the most: Reducing calorie intake and exercising regularly can slow tumor growth and lower the amount of leptin (a fat-released protein linked to the disease) in the bloodstream.

Got any DIY tips for keeping cancer away?

Visiting MizFit

I am visiting today over at MizFit’s blog, talking about why I exercise and what the heck it has to do with cancer. Readers are commenting, and they are saying the nicest things. Makes me happy. Check it all out right here.

Weighing on my mind

I admit it, I’m concerned about my weight. Not worried about it, just concerned about in a way that makes me work at keeping it right where it is. But I don’t exercise and eat right (yesterday doesn’t count) for weight reasons alone. I also do it for my overall health, which really is a bigger concern for me than the numbers that stare up at me from my scale each day.

A healthy lifestyle as it relates to cancer prevention gets a lot of press. It’s pretty much a fact nowadays that by eating certain foods, ditching all the junk and working up a good sweat most days of the week, we can ward off all sorts of disease. Simple stuff. Also pretty high pressure.

Now that I’ve had cancer, I know that the way I live my life can quite possibly keep me from getting it again. So I do my best. But when I cheat and eat that plate of chicken nachos or skip a day (or week or month) on the workout circuit, I feel guilty, as if I’m rejecting the medicine that can keep me well. It’s a weird mix of motivation and burden. Knowing I have the key to a long, healthy life makes me want to eat veggies for all of time. But knowing I have the key to a long, healthy life makes me feel like I’m doing myself a major disservice when I steal fries of my kids’ dinner plates.

I know, I’m human, and I can’t be perfect all that time. Still, it weighs on my mind. Which is why today, I walked for 3.5 miles, and tomorrow, I plan to lift a few weights. A fruit salad is on the menu for breakfast this morning, and I’m recommitting to a ban on most packaged foods. It’s the least I can do to ensure I’m here for the long haul.

Photo courtesy of Pink Sherbet Photography on flickr