Each year, pink reminders can be seen on national landmarks and lapels alike, from the George Washington Bridge in NYC lit up with shimmering pink lights to the pink ribbons sported by survivors and advocates everywhere.
It’s a very visual message that the fight is ongoing. While new findings are making researchers more hopeful, increasingly more women are being diagnosed at a younger age.
As medical professionals tackle the many facets of detection and treatment, maybe taking steps to maintain a healthy weight throughout adulthood will be a positive step we can all make. While there is no guarantee that this will keep you cancer-free, there is certainly enough statistical data to suggest it will give you an edge.
In a report last year, The National Cancer Institute said that obese women are 30 percent to 50 percent more likely to develop breast cancer than women who are at a healthy weight. A healthy diet and physical activity seem so obvious, but it does take a conscious effort. What if you do everything right and still contract breast cancer, then what?
After talking with many women of different ages, backgrounds, ethnicities, and physical conditions, the one common thread is it’s a personal fight that is never over. Even after being confirmed cancer-free, there is always a nagging doubt. As with any disease or illness, you are your own best advocate.
When you are in a fight for your life, information is your most powerful weapon.
We certainly live in the age of easy access to information and current research, and while it’s a time-consuming process to wade through everything, it does make you an active participant in deciding your options. So whether you are looking to make lifestyle changes to help prevent breast cancer or are battling the disease, maybe some of the latest information will be helpful.
Maintain a Healthy Weight
Being overweight significantly increases your risk of breast cancer, particularly if obesity occurs later in life after menopause. See “Losing weight, getting fit can reduce risk of breast cancer,” by Liz Szabo, YourLife.USAToday.com
Check out “Physical Activity and Cancer,” the National Cancer Institute, Cancer.gov.
Eat a healthy Diet
A great resource is Joanne Sgro-Killworth, a TV fitness expert, certified personal trainer and sports nutritionist who specializes in weight loss, post-rehab, and post-cancer training. For fitness plans and recipes, go to www.fitnessanswer.com.
Maintain a Healthy Immune System
By keeping your immune system strong, even if you can’t avoid getting sick, you will be able to deal with the symptoms and treatments and recover faster than you could if you had a weak or compromised immune system. Natural immune boosters include the following:
• A good probiotic with a therapeutic dose of CFUs (colony forming units).
• Reishi mushrooms are another great immune booster.
• Eat a diet rich in immune-boosting fruits and vegetables, including dark, leafy greens, watercress, berries, and acai.
• Give the body a chance to restore itself through sleep.
Try to Avoid Stress
That’s easier said than done, but stress can manifest in a multitude of health issues. Whether a walk around the block, meditation, a homeopathic remedy, massage, exercise, if it reduces your stress, just do it.
It’s so easy to check out your breasts when you are in the shower. Do it once a month.
Consider an Annual Mammogram
Every woman over 40, and younger if you know you are at a higher risk, should consider mammograms.
Consider Having an MBI
A study has found that a screening method called molecular breast imaging (MBI) is three times better than mammograms at finding small cancers in women with dense breasts (that’s about two-thirds of all women in their 40s). Ask about it.
Do Your Research
If you are too traumatized by the diagnosis, have a good friend help you. At the end of the day, you have to be comfortable with your decision.
Check out all the cancer websites out there. While the big national sites are great, don’t forget about other organizations and media sites reporting on the latest developments and books by cancer survivors. Suzanne Somers’s book “Breakthrough” may be controversial, but it offers some great insight.
Seek out other women who have gone through the process. Sometimes practical information can be the best kind.
Be a full participant in your treatment process. Whether you and your medical team elect to have surgery, chemo, radiation, or alternative treatments, you decide. This is not a time to be brow-beaten by anyone.
Try to take a friend with you to your doctor appointments. You may need someone else listening to the details and asking questions if you become overwhelmed. It’s also not a bad idea to take a tape recorder with you, just to make sure you have a clear understanding of the discussion and can refer back to it.
Whatever treatments you decide on, be prepared. There will undoubtedly be side effects, so find out exactly what they will be. If you have a job, you will need to have a frank conversation with your boss, so everyone can prepare for your time away.
Build a Strong Support Network
• Never underestimate the value of friends and family. Let those who love you help you.
• Prayer is a powerful healer of both body and spirit.
• Laughter can sometimes be the best medicine.
Eco18 is a collective of creative-writing individuals from different backgrounds with a common goal—to live a healthier, more natural lifestyle. Their combined expertise, humor, and opinions explore green and sustainable in a practical, fun way. www.eco18.com