The new year impacts breast cancer survivors in a vastly different ways than it does most people. Our resolutions, especially health-related resolutions, can be detrimental to our health if we don't keep them. This survivor shares her own chagrin at failing to keep some promises.
Bonnie Annis is a breast cancer survivor, diagnosed in 2014 with stage 2b invasive ductal carcinoma with metastasis to the lymph nodes. She is an avid photographer, freelance writer/blogger, wife, mother and grandmother.
The New Year is upon us and with it comes the pressure of great hopes and expectations. Well-meaning promises are made and even though many of those will ultimately be broken, the intentions behind them are always good.
Health, wealth, and happiness are among the top categories from which resolutions begin. These three are most important for they touch our lives profoundly and impact us like no other.
But what happens when a breast cancer survivor doesn't follow through with her resolutions?
This past year, I promised myself to do everything within my power to stay healthy and strong. I never wanted to face the possibility of recurrence and in fact, I've become quite fearful of that very thing. I bought all sorts of herbal supplements, stocked up on organic green tea, filled my pantry with vitamins and placing my hand over my chest (where my breasts used to be) swore an oath of determination to live. I filled my pantry and refrigerator with healthy choices. Fresh fruits and veggies took precedence over the more palatable processed foods. I dusted off my treadmill, bought new workout clothes and running shoes. I checked the springs on my rebounder, making sure everything was safe and secure. I bought a new set of graduated weights, planning to whip these arms into shape and tame my lymphedema and then life happened.
All of my well-made promises were slowly forgotten. Gradually, I grew tired of swallowing handfuls of pills. No longer did I crave mugs of steaming hot green tea. I got tired of prepping all those fruits and vegetables. It was so much easier to consume prepackaged meals. As much as I wanted to, I didn't have the energy to exercise and soon, I found myself turning into a pleasingly plump couch potato.
In just a few days, I can join the ranks of those, like me, who've failed to keep their resolutions but want to give it one more go. We're not bad people, honestly, we're not. We have hearts of gold. We want to help ourselves by doing what we can to survive and thrive, but it's hard!
Constantly, we have the ever dreaded cloud of recurrence hanging over our heads. It follows us around like Charles Schultz's cartoon character, Pigpen's, dust. It's ever present even when we can't see it. We feel it daily. And as much as we don't want to think about it, it's there. It's always there.
So, as a breast cancer survivor, I need to be responsible. I need to do the right thing. After all, it's my life and no one will suffer if I fail except me. So, I'm going to try again.
Maybe this year, I'll actually manage to lose some weight. Statistics have shown that obesity is one of the leading causes of the recurrence of breast cancer. This is due to the fact that fat cells produce more estrogen in the body and goodness knows, those little fat cells have found a home with me!
What can I do differently to set myself up for success? I know exactly what to do, but will I do it? Perhaps I’ve gone about things the wrong way in the past. Instead of forcing myself to down all those supplements once or twice a day, maybe I could spread them out a little. And that green tea … maybe it tastes good cold. I could vary the temperature and times of day I drink it. Instead of peeling and chopping all those lovely fruits and veggies, I could buy the pre-chopped, frozen packages. Now and then, I might even give myself permission to have a processed meal for dinner, too. As for the treadmill, rebounder, and weights … well, I’m just going to have to push myself to get moving. Since I love music, maybe finding premade playlists for my iPod would spark my fire for better health.
Good intentions? Yes, I have plenty of them. A desire to live past the elusive five-year mark? Yes! I want to prove my medical team wrong. I want to show them I’ve worked hard to keep the cancer from returning. So, once again, I’ve made a list of all the things I plan to do in the New Year.
I still have my list from last year and I must say, I’m saddened when I look it over. There were only one or two resolutions I was able to check of as completed. This year, my list is shorter and more precise. I think I’ll be better equipped for success this time around. So bring on the New Year and bring on a better me! I’m looking in the mirror and I don’t quite like what I see. I know I have the power to change that. I hear you Olivia Newton John, let’s get physical and as you continue to battle your recurrence of breast cancer, I salute you. You’re an inspiration to us all. I want to be like you when I grow up so I’d better get busy doing everything I can to do that very thing.