In 2011, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. In 2013, I had a recurrence. The past 7+ years have been a long, difficult journey back to healing. Besides going through several surgeries and radiation, just last month I completed my course of daily medications, and I am in the process of coming off the meds (and their terrible side effects) and realizing that I am healed and that it’s time to put this chapter behind me. Whew! I am so grateful to be well this Christmas, and I wake up every day with a deep sense of thankfulness.
It’s been so much on my mind, though, others of you out there who are still struggling with long-term illnesses. Many of you even going through breast cancer treatment just like me. I wanted to share with you my prescription for managing my side effects and living a full life through my many years of breast cancer therapy. Healing is not just about being “cured,” but also about living with peace and balance each day, no matter the final outcome. Despite the pain, suffering and struggle, I do believe that I was able to live fully each day through this experience, and come out stronger for it! I hope this article is helpful to you, and I’d love you to share your tips and wisdom for getting through cancer therapy or other long-term illness in the comments below! I’ve also realized, that even though I’m well today, these are tips I’d like to take with me, every day, for the rest of my life!When symptoms get you down, make a list of all the things you are grateful for. Click To Tweet
Here is my prescription for you (based on my own journey):
- Reach out to others! You don’t have to go through this alone. Call your friends when you feel down, and spend time connecting with your community.
- Meditate every day to help you stay balanced. (I used Animal Reiki meditation.)
- Get support from holistic therapies (I used Reiki and acupuncture). In my experience, conventional medicine is great to treat disease, but not so great for the long road towards healing and wellness. Use meditation and holistic therapies to help you heal fully and find your new “normal.”
- Change your diet! This is hard but will make a HUGE difference in how you feel! I went Vegan/Gluten Free (anti-inflammatory) for my bone health and to decrease side-effects from my long-term hormone therapy. I made sure to include 1-2 cups of dark leafy greens 3 times a day (homemade green smoothies are the best!). I recommend the cookbook Crazy, Sexy Kitchen by Kris Carr, and my two favorite recipe blogs are Minimalist Baker and Oh She Glows. I can honestly say I’m healthier now than before my cancer, in large part because of my diet change (and learning to cook).
- Take daily vitamin and calcium supplements for bone health. These work best when you’re eating a really good diet. My father-in-law wrote a great book about this: Fighting Cancer with Vitamins and Antioxidants by Kedar Prasad.
- Don’t lay around, even if you’re feeling poorly. Get up and going (even if slowly at first.). I do Pilates twice a week for weight-bearing, horse riding twice a week, plus 2-3 daily walks with my dog. Thank goodness for our animals to keep us active! This was something I built up to: If you’re too weak to do all of this at first, at least take a short, slow walk outdoors with a friend every day.
- Focus on your blessings – you have many, even if at times it may not feel like it! When symptoms get you down, make a list of all the things you are grateful for. Keep adding to your list, and see how long it grows over time! Then, when you feel sad, instead of ruminating on everything that is hard, read your list aloud to yourself ☺
- Find ways to help others (See my article “Healing Power in the Radiation Suite” on Levekunst.com). Doing so will help you shift your focus from your own experience of suffering, and it will help you realize that there are many others who are not as lucky as you! No matter what you are struggling with, you can always find ways to help others, even if they are small ways.
- Spend time with animals – every day if you can! Even if you don’t have your own! Volunteer at your local shelter, sanctuary or rescue. Or just spend time in nature. Animals will help you find joy in the present moment, and they’ll always see you for your best self, instead of judging you for what’s “wrong” (as we humans sometimes do).
- Be kind to yourself: Give yourself time to rest, or take “mental health” days when you’re feeling run-down. It’s ok if you can’t take on as much as you used to, or if you tire more easily. Don’t be afraid to disappoint the expectations of others. Just say “No,” to putting too much on your list! Take time for a cup of tea or a phone call with a good friend.
- Say goodbye to toxic people in your life. It’s time to circle your wagons, folks, and you don’t have the extra energy to indulge anyone who isn’t 110% in your corner and bringing only the positive to your life! When I was very weak, in the beginning, it was very easy for me to realize who these people were, because it felt as if just being around them was draining my life force. Scary! Now that I’m stronger, I no longer feel that vulnerable, but this is a lesson I will take to heart every day from now on.
- Ask for help when you need it! This was maybe the hardest one for me personally. I remember having to ask strangers to get things for me on the top shelf at the grocery store because I couldn’t lift my arms, and needing help bringing the groceries to the car for me because I couldn’t lift the weight of the bags. I hated asking, but thank goodness, people – strangers – were always kind.
I look forward to your comments below. Wishing each of you abundant healing and many blessings, and may the peace of Reiki surround and embrace you!