October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. On August 23, 2013, I received a diagnosis of ductal carcinoma in situ. This is my story.
Lesson 1 – Advocate for Myself
Within a week of my diagnosis, my husband and I met with a breast surgeon who came highly recommended by an oncologist we knew. She was very nice, but I realized early on that I would need to advocate for myself throughout this process.
Although we caught the cancer early on, my doctor told us it was peppered throughout my right breast like sand granules. She recommended a mastectomy.
I told her that I would also like to have the left breast removed, so I wouldn’t have to worry and wonder about the other breast. She said, “We don’t normally take healthy breast tissue.”
Nevertheless, I asked her to make sure the tissue was healthy. A week later, an MRI revealed the same type of cancerous cells on the left side.
The doctor said that I would be just fine after the double mastectomy and called my diagnosis the “garden variety cancer.” Although I know her comment was meant to soothe my fears, it felt like a punch to the gut. This was still Cancer. My life felt upended. The future felt uncertain and anything but “garden variety.” Looking back at my journey, I now understand what she meant. While I had to have a double mastectomy, fortunately, I didn’t need chemo or radiation therapy.
I’m thankful I advocated for myself by asking for that second MRI. It helped me avoid a prolonged health crisis.
Lesson 2 – Appreciate the Small Things
My health scare forced me to stop and look around at all I have in my life. I was (and still am) so grateful to have supportive, loving family and friends in my corner, and a community I could lean on. I never took any of these amazing and caring individuals for granted.
I learned to appreciate small things, like driving myself places! Due to the medications I was on, I was unable to to drive for 3 or 4 weeks. When I got behind the wheel again for the first time, I remember driving down the highway with my sunroof open, blasting my radio to my favorite 80’s tunes. It was sweet freedom!
That fall, I found myself studying and appreciating the beautiful progression of colorful changes in the leaves of the trees. I took mental photographs of each stage, so I’d remember the transformation in the winter.
Lesson 3 – My Health is in My Hands
My breast cancer was not hereditary, and I don’t think I did anything in particular to cause this problem, but I wouldn’t say I was the healthiest version of myself either.
Since my diagnosis seven years ago, I have overhauled my lifestyle to give myself the best chance for continued good health.
I exercise regularly, eat whole, real foods, get 7 – 8 hours of sleep each night, and calm my nervous system through breathing and meditation techniques.
My healthier way of living didn’t happen overnight. It took small, do-able, consistent habit changes. I continue to work on my habits each day. Some days are better than others, but I don’t give up! And I’ve never felt better!
Due to my own personal health crisis and the positive effect the simple changes I made had on my overall wellbeing, I’m inspired every day to help others live their best lives.
By taking control of our health, we can have the energy and vitality to spend time with those we love and doing all of the things that bring us the most joy. Because isn’t that what life is really all about?
What lessons has a health crisis taught you? Comment below and let me know! Need help? Begin transforming your health today. I provide valuable tips, guidance and accountability to help you move forward faster and with more ease. Your life is waiting. Contact me today.