This past December a doctor said something to me that I thought was very insightful and wise. He said, “Patients don’t die of cancer, they die of complications from the cancer because their bodies can’t mentally, physically or nutritionally handle the treatments.”
As you know, I am someone who always wants to do as much as I can to help partner with my disease. I liked what he said because it gave me some sort of ownership over how I could maximize my health throughout this journey.
At the time I was in a tough place with my disease. I had undergone an unsuccessful abdominal surgery and was put on an aggressive form of chemotherapy two weeks post operation which was very challenging. My tumors were growing at a rapid pace and, as a result, my body was retaining a lot of water and I was very swollen. My husband had to dress me in the morning and working out or eating healthy were dreams of the past. I ate whatever I could tolerate. Needless to say I was also pretty stressed out (physically and mentally) about my situation.
I was extremely fortunate in that I got through that tough time and we did find a chemotherapy regimen that worked temporarily. However now, I find myself in this tough place again.
I realize that I have to use the knowledge I learned in the past to inform my future. The good news is that I am smarter and wiser now. I have the doctor’s words hung on my “inspiration wall” on my desk and I force myself every day, no matter how difficult it may be, to nourish myself mentally, physically and nutritionally.
- Mentally: I found some great companies that offer meditation, breathing and relaxation DVD’s that you can download directly from their websites for under $10. They range in time from a quick 5 minute session to up to an hour so you can find an option that completely fits into your schedule. I put them on my iPhone and listen to them whenever I can… on the subway, waiting for a doctor’s appointment or in the comfort of my home. But I don’t let a day go by when I don’t spend even a few minutes managing my stress levels and my mental balance.
- Physically – I have learned to become a lot more open-minded about what constitutes exercise. It used to be that if I didn’t run five miles or take an intense 60 minute spinning class, it didn’t count. That has changed. Now, every day, I force myself to take a water aerobics class or ride for 20 minutes on a low resistance on my indoor bike. If the weather is nice, I take a walk. And I always do some weight training. Although my 12 pound weights have now been replaced by 5 pound weights, I still know it’s important to help prevent muscle atrophy.
- Nutritionally: I won’t turn down ice-cream or a brownie if I really want it, but I realize now that since I don’t have a large appetite, it’s critical that I am more cognizant of the “fuel” I put into my body. I try to eat a lot of protein and healthy carbohydrates (needed when your body is fighting so much against the disease). And I work around my food challenges. Given all of my surgeries, it’s hard for me to eat raw vegetables. So, I will cook or roast my vegetables
For those of you who are having a tough time with your treatments, I realize that asking you to focus on prioritizing these 3 things daily might be overwhelming. However, from my experience, I would say that it’s truly a necessity in order to keep your body strong enough to handle the treatments. Start with baby steps and encourage your care-givers to be your partners on this mission.