New Year, New Attitude


Each new year, many make resolutions for change. For the person with cancer, resolutions are important but also need to be realistic.

The new year always slides in with a bang and with it come hopes and dreams for a better future. It’s an exciting time of year for me. It’s a clean slate, the chance for a do over.

But I haven’t always looked to the new year with anticipation.

When I was first diagnosed with breast cancer, I wasn’t sure I’d see the new year. I was diagnosed in July and the new year was six months away. All I could think about was getting through the day. There were no plans for the future. Thankfully, as fate would have it, I made it through the rest of that year and did celebrate the new year, but I did so with great trepidation.

Five cancerversaries have passed since that initial diagnosis, and each year since has been better than the one before it.

I can honestly say, I look forward to the new year now. As soon as Christmas has passed, I’m making preparations to usher in the new and get rid of the old. One of the ways I do this is to reflect on the past while thinking about what I’d like to see happen in the new year. As I look back, I can realize areas that needed improvement. With those in view, I decide to make the necessary changes. This year, I’ve set some lofty goals, all of them health related.

For the person with cancer, health goals are extremely important because staying healthy means there’s a good chance a recurrence of cancer can be kept at bay.

At a recent checkup, I discussed new year’s goals with my doctor. Sharing a desire for better health, he encouraged me to incorporate the following into my plan: A whole food, plant-based diet. Since being diagnosed with breast cancer, all of my doctors have encouraged me to eliminate processed foods and excess sugars, but along with those changes, the doctor encouraged me to begin focusing more on a whole food diet. There’s a lot of data on diet and cancer and there are many conflicting views, however, many medical professionals feel a more natural food diet offers the best option for a healthier lifestyle.

According to the National Comprehensive Cancer Network’s website, “While there are many benefits to eating well, the data are mixed on whether diet alone can prevent certain cancers from returning. Nevertheless, there is strong evidence that a plant-based diet cuts the risk of cancer overall. Many epidemiologic studies have shown that people who eat diets rich in fruits and vegetables and sparse in meat and animal fat have lower rates of some cancers, including lung, breast, colon and stomach cancers.”

  1. Watch the weight — Keeping a healthy body mass index would give me a greater chance at living longer, the doctor said. According to information on the website, “Many studies have shown that, in postmenopausal women, a higher BMI is associated with a modest increase in risk of breast cancer.
  2. Exercise — Before the doctor said a word, I already knew I needed to move more. He encouraged me to follow the guidelines issued by the American Cancer Society, which recommend survivors get 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity physical activity, along with at least two strength training sessions per week.
  3. Stress management — My oncologist recommended spending at least 20 minutes a day in meditation. “Taking time to practice mindfulness,” he said, “would help with focus and reduce unnecessary stress.” I definitely needed that.
  4. Social connectedness — It was recommended I spend at least 30 minutes a day connecting with a live person. It did not mean spending time on social media. He suggested I make plans to meet a friend for lunch or take up an activity where I’d be forced to have social interaction. Connecting with others would help my mental well-being.

The information I received helped me realize there were things I could control in the new year. With cancer, there are so many things we can’t control and if we’re not careful, cancer can become a convenient excuse to stop living life to the fullest.

This new year, why not make the choice to celebrate a new you?

“Attitude is everything” according to Diane Von Furstenberg.

This year, as the new year brings with it new possibilities, I’m going to do the best I can to make my life count. I’m planning to be intentional about my health. And borrowing words from some of the lyrics of Patti LaBelle’s song, New Attitude, “I know where I’m goin’ and I know what to do. I’ve tidied up my point of view, I got a new attitude.”

May this year be the best one yet. Happy New Year. Take back your health.

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