I’ve been a cancer survivor for three and a half years. I know, I know. In retrospect, that’s really not a lot of time. But let me tell you, those three and a half years have been earned – just like those that are 15, 20, or 35 years out from their cancer diagnosis. I put in my time and effort to see that my years earned continue to rise.
There are seven things I do (and a couple of them should be done more frequently in my case) that are helping me through my cancer survivorship years.
Eating a well-balanced diet full of fruits and veggies – those antioxidant rich foods – should be in our daily lifestyle. This morning’s breakfast consisted of a smoothie full of blueberries, strawberries, an apple, and a few handfuls of spinach. Not only was it delicious, I knew it was healthier for me than heading to the nearest coffee shop for their sugary drink.
I’ll admit this is my weakest link to a healthier lifestyle. With a busy life, and the busier it gets, the less I want to exercise. However, the weekend hikes in the hills have been my saving grace. Not only am I getting my needed cardio for the day, I’m also noticing a difference in the tone of my muscles. Dancing with my daughter, walking the dog, and doing daily household chores are a start to turning my lack of exercise around.
Medical Care Plan
No one walks away from a cancer diagnosis without a cancer care plan. I see my regular oncologist every six months. Some may see theirs more or less frequently depending on their needs. Having an open communication between my doctors and myself proves that I can receive the best care possible.
Advocating For Yourself
If it wasn’t for me putting my foot down, I might not be here today to tell you that being your own advocate is one of the most important things you can do for yourself. At times, you may need to stand up to a doctor to get the care you know is needed. If you feel you need a second opinion, demand it. You might need to take a break from a situation before it gets out of hand. You may need to change aspects of your life to make yourself happier. Advocate for you!
Walking down my life path hasn’t always included my faith. It wasn’t until my daughter was born that I realized how much I needed to be more spiritual. I needed to have the power of prayer by my side. I needed to know that I wasn’t alone in my journey. I needed to know that someone always had my back. I know now that my faith has been an important part of my healing – mind, body, and soul.
Embracing The New Normal
It’s been hard at times knowing that I lack the strength in my arms and chest muscles that I once had. It’s seems strange to look in the mirror and see the scars across my nippleless boobs. It’s difficult to know that my daughter fears for my life, all while my fear is for hers. However, this is my new normal. I came out of cancer a different person. I’m not as shy as I once was. I talk more frequently, tell people about my life story, and continue to put myself out there for others to see and learn. I have learned to embrace this new normal with open arms.
Celebrating the little things
Now this is my favorite! I laugh at myself often because I do celebrate the little things. The idea of waking up in the morning means that I have another day to experience. When my daughter comes home from school with a perfect score on her spelling test – it goes right up on the fridge for all to enjoy. When my husband calls me out of the blue to say “I love you” my heart instantly does a few flips. I celebrate my birthdays – the date of my birth, the date of my mastectomy surgery, the date I got my new “girls”. All of these occurrences, and more, deserve to be recognized. I might not do a happy dance, or applaud, but by golly, you better believe there is some type of celebration going on.
Whether you are newly diagnosed or a 35-year survivor, take the time to think, meditate, or pray about these seven points. They might just make all the difference in your life.
Angela Banker is a mother, a wife, a daughter, and a sister; she is also a young survivor, a caregiver, a supporter, and a fighter. She was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 33, and found herself empowered to share her story to raise awareness about breast cancer. Angela participates in Relay For Life, started the Sisters Beating Breast Cancer page to inspire others, and continues to "fight like a girl" with the hope that her daughter will never have to hear the dreaded words, "You have cancer."