This evening I came back from my third session of Chemotherapy. I got diagnosed with breast cancer last autumn and our life has been like a roller coaster ever since.
I underwent surgery and found out that I also needed three months of chemotherapy and a second drug for the whole year to get rid of a protein that makes recurrence and fast growth more likely.
I have made many choices that were against the grain (my kids education, the way we live, etc.) but this thing felt way too big and scary. I just wanted someone to take my hand and tell me exactly what to do to stay alive.
So I’ve been going through surgery and then started chemotherapy three weeks ago. Even though there are many rough days or moments I’m happy to say that I’m able to cope most of the time. And the side effects haven’t been as bad as I feared yet. Of course that can still change but I’m taking one day, one hour at a time. Step by step.
Which is all you can ever do anyway.
I’ve thought many times that this whole experience isn’t only bad. During my good moments I can see the opportunity for growth, learning how to become more resilient to anything that life throws at me. I’m finding it easier to focus on self care, to really take the time for daily walks, making good food to nourish my body that has to go through so much at the moment, listen to uplifting or relaxing meditations, writing morning pages and gratitude lists, making time for playful creativity. I find it easier to give myself permission to crawl into a hole for a few days when needed and not talk or reply to the world outside our family bubble. At the same time when I’m open to it I enjoy human contacts on a much deeper level than before.
There are other things that are good and bad at the same time. Everything is more intense.
Today I spoke with my oncologist again during a health checkup and I asked another question about this protein, how likely it was to come back after my treatment. The answer was scary and exhilarating at the same time. The chances of recurrence are most likely in the first few years after treatment and get less with time. 5 years is the magic number for statistics. That gives me something to work with. A specific goal. I want to do everything to stay cancer free for the next 5 years (and beyond).
I found this book called “Radical Remission: Surviving Cancer Against All Odds” by Kelly A. Turner, PhD and started reading it this evening.
It’s about all these people who were able to beat cancer against all odds through certain lifestyle changes. The author basically talked to lots of cancer survivors, doctors and alternative health practitioners, and researched for many years how to best help cancer patients survive even terminal conditions. She compiled her findings in 9 chapters which contain the nine lifestyle changes which came up again and again in the stories of these survivors.
Here is a screenshot of the nine areas that are covered (you can read the first one in the free sample of the book):
Cancer can make you feel helpless. Having an action plan, something to focus on and give it your best shot can turn this helplessness into feeling empowered, even excited. At least that’s what it does for me.
I’ve decided to become one of these annoying health freaks that had cancer and now spend their days drinking freshly squeezed vegetable juices and meditating at sunrise. Haha, or something like this.
I’m going to start focusing on the first area “Radically changing your diet”.
I think I had a fairly good diet before my diagnosis and I believe that it helped me to get through surgery without major complications. Maybe it helps me going through chemo too. So I’ve learned a lot about nutrition over the last decade and made many healthy changes but there is still room for improvement.
I ate less meat, dairy and sugar but often slipped back to old ways or just didn’t find it important enough to make bigger changes. Now I’m motivated to try a more radical approach, at least over the next few months, and see how it makes me feel.
This is the plan:
NO SWEETS, NO MEAT, NO DAIRY, NO REFINED FOODSTurner PhD, Kelly A.. Radical Remission (p. 15). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.
- No Sweets – should be easy enough if I’m mindful of it. I’m going to write a list of snack alternatives to make it easier when I feel peckish.
- No Meat – should be okay too. We’re not eating too much meat anyway but I might leave it off completely for a few months.
- No Dairy – I already do that most of the time. I use almond or oat milk instead and got used to drinking my coffee black (just to make this clear, I’m not ready yet to give up coffee!).
- No Refined Foods – white pasta, white flour, white potatoes and white rice.
But instead of just focusing what NOT to eat I want to increase the intake of all the good stuff even more: organic vegetables, fruit, whole grains, nuts, seeds, olive oil, spices and fermented foods.