One Cancer Survivor Plans on Improving Her Health After COVID-19

A breast cancer survivor lists 5 steps that she will take to get her health back on track.

August is National Wellness Month, and this year I am finding that news inspiring. I am not sure how others have been managing COVID-19, but I found that by around July of last year, I was experiencing burnout and my healthy habits became harder to maintain. I was working as a first responder and the days were long and daunting. My only activity outside of work was shopping for groceries – one of the only things open were the grocery stores.

At some point, food became comforting and cooking was an outlet. I avoided crowds and would bike or walk on days after work when it was not raining, but my motivation was slipping, and my workouts became less frequent.

Prior to COVID-19, I would often enjoy meeting with yoga groups I would participate in for my own well-being and had regular follow-up appointments with my dietician. Once conditions hit pandemic levels, a change in policy and appointments at the local hospital where I would see my dietician changed and my favorite yoga studio closed. I rejoiced a couple of months ago after vaccines were distributed when my gym finally opened back up and things appeared more normal.

In South Florida, things are changing again, and we have begun to experience a new wave of COVID-19 infections among large groups of individuals. Hospitalizations have increased significantly. I don’t mind masks, as I personally have no problem protecting my health or that of others when shopping or socializing indoors, but I still had not reverted back to normal life events, like meeting with my dietician to help me stay on task with healthy eating habits. I am currently recuperating from a recent revision to my breast reconstruction and look forward to being cleared to exercise this month. To support my getting back to healthier habits and losing some unhealthy pounds I have gained during the pandemic, I have a few tips I will be following to support mental, physical and spiritual wellness during these challenging times.

  • Have an accountability partner. I will be creating a group on Facebook with a few fellow survivor sisters to support one another in exercising. It will be a place where we can share our goals and give one another positive feedback to support motivation in meeting our goals.
  • Reach out for COVID-19–friendly support. I will follow up with my insurance provider to obtain the resource for a dietician I can see through telehealth. I will aim to meet every couple of months to get back to keeping healthy habits and learning new potential recommendations personalized for my health-related conditions.
  • Have a plan for when the gym is closed or as restrictions limit attendance. Fortunately, I just received a new treadmill, and I will be taking advantage of it once I am cleared to workout. This will also be a nice backup when the weather does not permit me to bike or walk outside.
  • Find new ways to enjoy the outdoors. During COVID-19, I missed getting out, and now I plan to get back to using my kayak on weekends to enjoy the outdoors and manage stress while connecting with nature. Last year, most of the Florida Keys were closed to non-residents, so I am grateful that the state parks have opened back up – this includes having access to the Everglades where myself and my family can launch our paddleboards and kayaks. While COVID-19 hospitalizations increase, I am hopeful the parks will remain open and permit activities with social distancing.
  • For socialization, I have begun creating scheduled meet ups in outdoor locations for socialization. For many of my breast cancer peers, avoiding indoor events is still a matter of safety due to having a compromised immune system sometimes secondary to treatments.

Overall, my goals are aimed at helping me to avoid burnout and the continued impact of uncertainty and a change in typical resources associated with COVID-19. I will be ensuring COVID-19 or not, I get back to supporting physical, mental, and emotional well-being. I hope you might review some goals for well-being during National Wellness Month if you’re feeling in need of such.