At 40 years of age, I was happily married with three kids. I was looking forward to growing older, seeing my children go their own way and enjoying my sunset years. I was preparing my retirement investments and settling into the best years of work. But I got diagnosed with cancer and the earth fell off from underneath me. Within a month I was told I had stage four cancer and if both breasts weren’t removed cancer would spread to the rest of my body. I didn’t even have time to come to terms with the devastation. I was given one week to prepare for surgery and the next morning I woke up without my breasts. I had three operations, seven months of chemotherapy, and five weeks of radiotherapy.
“I made my way back all the way from stage four cancer and a double mastectomy.”
I am in remission now and it took me a long while to realize that it was okay to cry and grieve for the part of me that I had lost both emotionally and physically. My body will never be the same again but it doesn’t mean that I can’t continue to live the life I lived prior to my diagnosis.
Losing your breasts takes a great deal of emotional and physical strength and courage. I have found complementary therapy really helped. As well as my standard breast cancer treatment of daily pills and monthly injections. I have also incorporated acupuncture, massage, exercise and healthy eating into my healing regiment.
Prior to having any of the treatments mentioned, make sure that you get the all-clear from your local doctor or specialist team. If they are not aware of your condition, don’t forget to mention it to them.
“I was fortunate to get a new lease of life and I was committed to doing everything I could to heal completely.”
Acupuncture is a major part of ancient traditional Chinese medicine. The Journal of the American Medical Association published a study on the benefits of acupuncture for breast cancer patients. The study examined 104 women receiving high-dose chemotherapy. They were administered anti-nausea medication and a random selection was chosen to undergo a five-day electroacupuncture treatment (where acupuncture needles are mildly stimulated with an electrical current). Others were treated with acupuncture with no electrical current and the last group received no form of acupuncture at all. Participants who had acupuncture experienced fewer episodes of nausea than those who didn’t.
Acupuncture affects people differently; you may feel energized or relaxed. Some people experience slight disorientation after the treatment for a short period of time. You should avoid strenuous activities after the procedure. My sessions make me feel really relaxed and I usually have to take a good nap straight afterwards.
“When you have had too much pain, feeling something good can be a great stress reliever.”
I know how difficult it can be to deal with body image, family issues, friends that mean well and say the wrong thing, and finances. However, massages were one of the best treatments I got. When you have had enough of the pain, feeling something good can be a great stress reliever. I always looked forward to my massages, and still, do. It makes the emotional and physical drain so much easier to deal with. The touch empowers me and I don’t believe I would have been able to go through this ordeal without my massage therapist.
The best time for a massage is a few days prior to surgery, another the day before you have surgery and whenever you feel it’s necessary after surgery. The procedure activates the parasympathetic nervous system which is responsible for relaxing the body. This lowers blood pressure, reduces adrenaline, reduces cortisol, relaxes the diaphragm, and slows respiration. Massage stimulates the release of emotions such as helplessness, loneliness, guilt, anger and fear. Internally, a massage will increase peristalsis, digestive enzymes, lower blood sugar, and reduce muscle contractions.
“Sticking to a strict exercise regimen can help you deal with both post-treatment depression and fatigue.”
According to The American Cancer Society, women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer should exercise for approximately 4 hours per week. Exercise helps to reduce the risk of developing more cancer and to improve the overall quality of life. Exercise stimulates endorphins which is a feel-good hormone. You will feel more positive and energetic after a good workout.
During my treatments I stayed as active as possible, I continued bike riding, aerobic classes, and went swimming with my sons at the local pool. I definitely wasn’t at peak performance but at least I wasn’t sitting at home feeling sorry for myself. Exercise empowered me to feel normal.
A bad diet is thought to be responsible for between 30 to 40 % of all cancers. Therefore, it is essential that your body is as healthy as it can be to boost your immune system and prevent breast cancer, as well as promote healing for women who have already been diagnosed. Research has discovered that nutrients from whole grains, legumes, vegetables and fruits will ensure that your body functions at its best.
My chemotherapy ended just as spring had started. My hair was growing back and as I took my daily walks in the park, I began to notice the leaves budding on trees and the flowers starting to sprout. The newness of life surrounding me gave me hope that I was being restored.
Before my diagnosis, I not only took my life for granted, but I took the beauty of nature for granted. Now I am in awe as I watch the sunset, smell the sweet scent of a rose or hear the intricate, melodic chirping of birds. I now have a whole new appreciation for life.