I have been asked to write an article for the Atlanta Cancer Care Foundation’s newsletter, regarding Breast Cancer Awareness Month, discussing any topics I feel important to share with women about breast health. So I thought that I’d share what I wrote with all of you!
October is here and it’s time to remind you of the importance of breast health. Time to establish healthy habits for life. For starters, it’s time to establish (or reestablish) the habit of regular breast self-checks. By the way, it’s a very good idea to get your adolescent daughters in on this healthy habit. Triple negative breast cancer is an aggressive form of cancer that often affects younger women–often women in their early twenties, and sometimes even younger. To illustrate the importance of establishing these habits early, many years ago–we won’t think about exactly how many–I lost a friend to breast cancer; she was a senior in high school and had just celebrated her eighteenth birthday. My point is, it’s never too early to begin healthy, proactive habits of any kind, and self-checks are both healthy and proactive.
Another healthy habit we should establish once we reach our 40s, is that of having regular mammograms. I know, they are uncomfortable, and they take time, and…and…and… You can give me all the excuses, but I am living proof that mammograms do save lives. Three years ago my cancer was discovered through a mammogram, because the primary tumor was so small and deep that it could not be felt; and the second, larger tumor was actually in a lymph node in my armpit…not an area that anyone ever told me to check. So I’m telling you–check your armpits! After surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, I am now cancer-free and loving life. Had it not been for my doctor’s nagging reminders, I would not be cancer-free or loving life–in fact, I might not even be living life.
Another habit that can help keep breast cancer at arm’s length–and for overall good health–is exercise. I know, I know, it’s boring, ya-da, ya-da; but it doesn’t have to be. Before my diagnosis, I was the “couch potato-extraordinaire,” and thoroughly enjoyed my sedentary activities–watching TV, reading, computer work, scrapbooking. I still enjoy these things, but now I balance them with at least 30 minutes of moderate activity five days a week. To motivate myself, I got a workout buddy. We hold each other accountable and have a blast “sweatin’ to the oldies,” as they say. We walk, we do Pilates, we blast the fat with a kettle-bell workout. We change it up and keep it exciting and fresh–and I’ve managed to lose 40 pounds in the bargain! Choose any activity that you enjoy, whatever works for you. Just get moving! Beware, this habit is quite addicting, and you may actually enjoy yourself!
While I’m hammering you about habits, let’s not forget diet. No, I don’t mean crash dieting. This is about healthy habits, not fads. Simply add lots of fresh veggies and fruits to a lower-fat, higher whole grain diet, while limiting your portion-sizes; and not only will you have more energy to start that new exercise routine, but you’ll possibly scare aware cancer cells, too.
One more healthy habit I learned through my cancer battle, that I would like to share with you–this one is possibly the most important. Enjoy yourself; enjoy your life. We are only given one lifetime; enjoy the journey. Every moment of every day is yours to be savored, treasured, enjoyed to its fullest extent…the good, the bad, the extraordinary and the mundane. Enjoy them all. This is your life…this is your one life…ENJOY!