thriving beyond the diagnosis
“Getting a cancer diagnosis these days doesn’t have to be a death sentence. As long as you have breath, there is hope.” (1)
I was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer in December 2013.
By the grace of God, I’m here to talk about it, share from my experiences, and help others. It was a major wake-up call when I became proactive and learned what to do differently moving forward.
Prior to this diagnosis, I thought I was eating right, carrying my water bottle everywhere and doing all I could to be the healthiest I knew how to be. As I learned, my reality wasn’t accurate. My daily choices led me to this diagnosis.
Have you had a cancer diagnosis, or some other health crisis? Either way, it’s not too late for you to learn how to “feed” your body. (2) You can learn how to take care of yourself.
Even if you haven’t had a health crisis, you can benefit from lifestyle changes and work towards prevention.
In this article I offer suggestions that were helpful on my journey. It’s really about taking an integrative whole-body, mind and spirit approach to health and wellness, as what we do to one part affects the rest.
Let’s face it, we are exposed to many things every day that affect our health—simply breathing air for one! Some we have control over, others we don’t. For those we can control, let’s exercise our informed choice and choose healthy.
We all have tweaks and changes we want to make, myself included. It’s really a journey (and not an event) to living your best life.
Recently, after overcoming months of procrastination and negative self-talk, I expanded my workout routine. I’d been thinking about it for a while, and I finally got tired of hearing myself say, “I should do something about that!” and “I don’t have time for that now.”
I decided to stop talking about it, went into action and incorporated my arm weight routine into my daily schedule. I have friends that keep me accountable. We check in with each other daily to make sure we are doing what we each said we would do.
Accountability has made all the difference
Accountability has made all the difference for me because on days that I may be dragging and thinking “not today.” One of them reaching out and asking “how are you doing with your arm weights?” has been exactly the push I needed.
Find someone in your circle of friends or family. Find out what they need accountability on to accomplish a goal. You can keep each other accountable.
Despite these being relatively small steps, I have realized some surprising benefits. This new routine has freed up my mind. I was spending more time and energy every day making excuses as to why I couldn’t get it done than it actually takes to do it! It’s been two weeks now and I continue to go strong. If I can get it done, so can you!
What are you tired of hearing yourself talk about doing?
What change(s) are you ready to make? On your current path, what will your health look like in a year? How about in 5 years? What will it look like if you make a change?
Following the cancer diagnosis, my first step was to take ownership of how I was caring for my body. I needed to make self-care a priority, just as I did with fitting in my arm weight routine. I don’t know about you, but I have so much on my list of what I want to get done on any given day. Putting self-care on the priority list is the only way to fit it in. You have to schedule self-care on your daily calendar.
Self-care is not a matter of relying on outside sources, as one might with an internist or another specialist. Sometimes we need our doctors—but it’s not up to them what choices you make and how you treat your body. You have control over your own health behaviors and the many choices you make every day. Once you identify these choices and take action to change them, you’ll be on your own path to wellness.
A DVD docuseries I recommend to all my clients, whether they’ve had a cancer diagnosis or not, is called “The Truth About Cancer.” (1) It speaks about whole body and integrative health and wellness so thoroughly that it should be called “The Truth About Healthy Living.” There is so much information packed into this series. You can hear from 40+ medical doctors from around the world that are helping both men and women heal their bodies. These doctors talk about how the body will heal itself when cared for properly. (1) I believe God created it to do just that.
Personally, I didn’t realize how ineffectively I was caring for myself until I researched everything that touched my body—inside and out—and discovered there was so much that needed changing. The more I learned, the more I knew what I had to do. The more I changed, the better I felt.
We can’t change and take ownership of what we don’t know.
I can honestly say that I have never felt more energized and healthier in my lifetime. I don’t say that to brag, rather to encourage you that if I can get to this point, you absolutely can too! I’m far from perfection but I’ve changed enough to notice the differences in and benefits to my body.
I’ll share a sampling of suggestions for you to start incorporating into your daily life. As to not overwhelm, remember that these can be done one small step and change at a time. Once I realized how my body was affected by these changes, they became non-negotiable for me.
Foods to Eat
When purchasing prepared foods, I choose products that have 5 to 7 identifiable ingredients at most. If I don’t know what the ingredient is, my body won’t either. (3) Believe it or not, there are tasty, nutritious whole food options out there.
Eat more fruits and vegetables! Vegetables are filled with powerhouse nutrition. Eat the rainbow, as our bodies take different phytonutrients from each color. (4)
Basically, these nutrients help keep plants healthy as they grow and they do the same for your body. They are anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer and anti-disease. Your body takes different nutrition from different colored fruits and vegetables. (5)
In the Kitchen & Around Your Home
As a health coach, I help clients sort through what’s healthy in their homes, and what’s not. Here is a place for you to begin, if you’re not already making these choices.
Remove Teflon pans from your kitchen.
These commonly used nonstick, treated pan surfaces release PFOAs and PFOS... aka PFCs (6, 7). PFCs are a “family of chemicals that are widely used to make water-, grease-and stain-repellent coatings and for other purposes in a vast array of consumer goods and industrial applications.” (8) When heated, they release toxic chemicals that negatively affect the whole body.
“WHAT HEALTH PROBLEMS ARE LINKED TO PFCS? Exposure to PFCs has been associated with kidney and testicular cancer, high cholesterol, abnormal thyroid hormone levels, pregnancy-induced hypertension and preeclampsia, obesity, and low birth weight – all good reasons to reduce your exposure.
PFCs pollute water, are persistent in the environment, and remain in the body for years. Leading manufacturers of PFCs have agreed to phase out some of these chemicals by the end of 2015, including PFOA, the most notorious, which used to be a key ingredient in making Teﬂon. Unfortunately, there’s no evidence that the chemicals that have replaced PFOA are much safer.” (8)
I don’t know about you, but this information was enough for me to say, “nope, not for this body!” There are a variety of options including cast iron, ceramic-coated cast iron, and stainless steel. If you’d like to read more specifics about recommendations I make, head to my article entitled “Aluminum Foil/Trays: What’s All the Fuss? Inexpensive and Healthy Cooking Options.”
Are you using Teflon and concerned about what’s leaching into your food? If so, most people can’t afford to replace their full cookware at once. Start slow. Whatever option you choose, start with your most used pots and/or pans. As your budget allows, switch out another one or two.
Eliminate personal care and cleaning products that contain toxic chemicals.
This was BIG in my case. My belief was that “if it was not Clorox clean, it wasn’t clean!” Anyone else relate?
It wasn’t until I removed such toxic products that I realized I was holding my breath and opening windows while cleaning. The things we do out of instinct and without realizing it! This habit was my normal.
Whether a product cleans your home or you use it on your body, check the ingredients. There are more than 85,000 chemicals in personal care products alone, and only a small number of them are tested for safety. (9)
“The EPA’s ability to obtain safety information and set regulatory standards as outlined under the Toxic Substances Control Act has fallen far short of expectations. This is due to a combination of limitations in the statute and a series of events over the past thirty-five years, including reductions in the EPA’s budget in the 1980s, changing political leadership and shifting agency priorities, limited oversight by Congress, and successful challenges by the chemical industry to limit the EPA’s authority.” (9)
Unfortunately, more chemicals enter household and beauty products every year, and consumers are left to navigate this overwhelming list of ingredients. The proof is not in the marketing—it’s in the ingredients label. Take fragrance as an example. Chemical fragrance can trigger respiratory issues like asthma and are also known endocrine disruptors. (10)
The endocrine system affects how your whole body functions by regulating your hormones, thyroid, heart rate, blood pressure, metabolism, appetite, sleep cycles, etc. (11).
When people ask for help navigating what’s in their personal care products, I first look at what is used for fragrance and preservatives. How manufacturers handle these two ingredients tells me a lot about whether they are truly clean. They will have a long list of toxic ingredients either on the product label or on their website. Many state they aren’t using certain ingredients such as parabens, formaldehyde and sodium lauryl sulfates. They include other harmful ingredients though, like fragrance, where they can legally hide hundreds of phthalates which have been linked to birth defects, breast cancer, diabetes, autism and the list goes on and on. (12) Such synthetic ingredients are less costly to produce versus using essential oils.
It’s such a misunderstood issue. For a window into my frustration while navigating personal care and cleaning products, read my article “Can You Relate to My Struggle?” Here I share specifics about an organic shampoo I was using at the time.
Just as chemicals have an effect on our bodies, they have an effect on all living creatures.
In my coaching practice, I help my clients that are interested gain a greater understanding about what’s in their products, how the chemical ingredients affect the body, and help them find acceptable solutions.
Water: quality matters
What’s in your water supply? Water quality is pretty important as we (should) drink so much of it.
A good daily goal is to drink half your body weight in ounces, and even more if you exercise, drink coffee, tea, or alcohol. Since we are to drink so much water, having a good filtering system is a must.
In his book Detox for Life, Dr. Dan Nuzum of Vitality for Life has over 20 years of clinical practice experience and recommends two water filtering options:
RO is usually more expensive and not always portable. The Berkey, on the other hand, is a system that can easily travel. They even offer a carry bag for each sized unit depending on your water intake needs. It’s a matter of deciding what’s best for you.
What can i Do Today?
As I mentioned, this is not an all-inclusive list but it’s a great place to begin. Making changes can seem overwhelming. If you’re ready to start, find a coach to help you navigate your journey.
I promise you can get ahead of the information and your personal health can change. I would encourage you to begin just one small step at a time.
Choose one of the categories above and make a list of what you need to change. Prioritize that list and start checking the items off as you reach your goals. Then, move onto another area. Choose changes that work for you and your family. What feels most important to you? Is there an area that speaks loudest?
As an educator, continuously learning and researching is one of my passions. This journey of research takes time and has led me to acquire a lot of information. I can’t help but share with others.
What you do to your body has a tremendous impact on disease, prevention, and your whole body wellness. It can make all the difference in your energy level and how you feel getting through your day.
Your steps may look different from what I mentioned above. Your priorities are what’s most important for you. Coaches are here to support you every step on your personalized journey. I’d love to help you on your journey, meeting you right where you are, without judgment.
Every day we are given a new day to start again!
For a partner in your health and wellness goals, connect with one of our national board certified coaches.
To learn more about Rhonda, visit her website or check out her VHC profile.
7/19/2020 04:19:30 pm
What an amazing article, Rhonda! Your diagnosis was one no one wants, but you took control of what you could control, and that was a lot. You've given me a lot to think about and share with my family, friends and clients.
7/20/2020 01:10:21 pm
Thanks Kathy for reading my article. It certainly is a diagnosis that no one wants. Initially, hearing that C word is devastating for anyone. Yes, that's really what it is about, focusing on what is within one's control. So much we can control, right? People don't realize they have options. What we do each day makes a difference. I'd be happy to talk with anyone that's walking through such a diagnosis, or even those interested in prevention. Thanks for reaching out Kathy and I'm here to help you any way I can.
7/31/2020 05:24:40 am
I love how you rose up and took control of what you could control about your health! An inspiring journey and so many helpful tips!
8/6/2020 10:56:12 am
Thanks so much Marcie! The cancer diagnosis initially was really scary. Then it was time to get proactive and figure out what I needed to do differently. What I had done brought me to this diagnosis and I chose not to continue on the same path. As a result, changes had to be made! I wanted to LIVE! :)
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