I am a breast cancer survivor. I was diagnosed in April 2008. It was early stage and I was very lucky. It was found on a mammogram. I have had the best medical treatment and support possible. I’m doing great. Last time visit my doctor humorously pronounced me TWF for “Totally Without Flaw.” I said with a diagnosis like that I was coming back! I’m doing my best to stay healthy, exercising daily, taking my medicine, and eating much healthier than before. I’m feeling energetic and having a great time.
It has been an amazing and mostly positive ride, but I want as few of you as possible to have to follow in these particular footsteps. So I would like to pass along a few tips that I hope will REDUCE your likelihood of having to deal with this disease:
- Women, especially women at and approaching menopause, need to PRIORITIZE themselves. Yes, you! If you have trouble putting yourself first, just think of all the people who depend on you being there for them!
- Work with your doctor to assess your risk for breast cancer. If you are overweight you are at higher risk for certain types of breast cancer. The good news is that small weight loss, consistent modest exercise, and eating better food can make a world of difference. You’ll feel better, too. If you have a doctor that minimizes your concerns, find another doctor. This is a fast-changing part of health care, with new research coming out nearly daily. You want a doctor that is up-to-speed on the latest medicine for women. Make your appointment TODAY. I wish I would have done this much earlier! No one will call you to say, “Now’s the time for your peri-menopause workup.” You’ll have to insist on this, and it is very important.
- DON’T BE AFRAID. The silliest (and deadliest) thing you can do is to use fear as an excuse to delay mammograms, doctor appointments, or treatments. The people who work in all aspects of breast cancer are uniformly lovely. Some weeks the best part was going in for treatment because of the wonderful people! Treatment sucks. It’s true. But that’s NO reason to avoid detection.
- Cancer is sneaky and opportunistic. No one knows the reason it taps certain people on the shoulder. But in retrospect, my body wasn’t in great shape to fight it off. The best thing to fight cancer and lots of other chronic diseases is to be as healthy as you can be. Eat well, sleep well, laugh with your friends, be physical every single day, and find out with your doctor what supplements your unique body needs. (I found out I was way off on Thyroid, Vitamin D and triglycerides, all of which can be adjusted with medicine.) Outsmart cancer, get ahead of it, NOW.
- You must be your own advocate. As much as some doctors hate it, there is a lot of good solid information available online. Be organized at your appointments. Write down your questions, but also listen to your doctor. One rule of thumb I’ve developed: If anyone pats you on the hand and says “Don’t worry, dear, we’ll take care of it, ” I say run for the hills! Look for people who say “I understand your concern, now here’s the thinking behind this…. What would you like to do?”
- Enjoy your life every moment of every day. Stop right now….take a deep breath all the way down to your toes. Doesn’t that feel nice?