My life and the longevity of my life are made of the choices I make every day. This blog was born from conversations with others and I was inspired to write about, and bring attention to the idea that in many areas of our lives, rule should be the exception – in our thoughts, actions and behaviors, if we want to live our best life, healthiest life and live the longest, fullest life possible.
If you are working to modify a behavior change, take on a challenge or live your life for a perceived better outcome, than good for you. In some situations, it can take a life altering circumstance or even a health diagnosis to choose to adopt new habits or lifestyle changes.
One year ago, I began a journey of discovery and ultimately lifestyle changes when I was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer. As a health and wellness professional I had always lived a “healthy” lifestyle, but I began to learn that health, my health, could be taken to an even deeper level. Maybe my story will resonate with you….
The good part of my diagnosis was that it was not genetic, it was curable and with treatment I was looking at a positive outcome, after 8-9 months of varying treatments. It was the year 2020, the world was all but shut down so my cancer treatment came at the right time if that could ever be a thing. Much of the treatment I received, starting with chemotherapy, a lumpectomy followed by radiation, was very common for my diagnosis and after learning the reason and benefits for the treatment recommendation, I followed along. As I have written in my previous blog, I adopted a daily routine of exercise (hiking), detox (Epsom salt baths), hydration (170 ounces of water) sleep (8-9 hours), along with positive affirmations and just a big ole positive attitude! With my daily regime and a cold capping technology incorporated into the day of treatment I was not only successful in staying healthy but was able to keep almost all my hair. Why is that important to the story? Because keeping my hair allowed me to tell my story when and to whom I wanted. Though I had to go through treatment for cancer, it did not define me and for the most part I lived my life totally normal. As normal as one could in the middle of a pandemic, fighting a killer disease.
After the physical treatments were over, I was now learning about the next 5-7 years (according to my oncologist) and ultimately the rest of my life. What did that mean? It meant being told to take a pharmaceutical drug to suppress estrogen. But statistically, that drug was to affect me emotionally and physically while trying to keep me “healthy and alive”. So, with that I started to talk to lots of people and I began doing my own research to see if there were alternatives to these pharmaceutical drugs.
I discovered a couple different tests that helped me change my life, forever. One was a test called the Dutch Test that through urine samples, allowed me to better understand the pathways of my estrogen, meaning did it come from a good place, okay place or bad place (these were the categories), and through this test I learned that 80% of my estrogen came from a good place… so that was good in the realm of the estrogen aspect of my future treatment (and the pharmaceutical drugs I was supposed to take). This same test also tests cortisol (stress) levels in the body. The second test I learned about was the Nutrition Genome test, a cheek swab test, that basically (in 97 pages) explained my genetic makeup through different tests (including hormone health, DNA repair, athletic performance, etc.). These tests proved to be life changing.
In my situation, cancer was created in my body through a lifestyle recipe I was choosing to live. Now if I knew what I was doing wrong I promise you I would not have made the same choices. The good part is with research and discovery, including the two tests I mentioned, I found another better recipe for living a longer, stronger, healthier life. First I learned that I was genetically predisposed to stress – and my life was in so many ways full of stress - which encompassed my approach to my job (lots of travel and how I traveled), my approach to many of my relationships (trying to do too much for too many people I loved or wanted to be with), my approach to exercise (too many regular high intensity, inflammatory workouts) and even my breathing techniques, or lack of one. Notice I said “my approach” to these areas of my life, this is critical to the end game, because as I learned, just modifying my approach to a few areas of my life would prove to have a huge impact on my life long health.
The second major area of learning was my diet, and how it directly related to the estrogen positive cancer I survived. I learned that I was not to have more than 22 grams of saturated fat eat day, and genetically I was not to eat dairy, including cream, cheese, ice cream as well as saturated fat meats (beef, pork and lamb). There were a few other things I learned through my journey, but these prove to be the most important to full recovery and a long healthy life.
After learning about the genetic needs of my body I immediately made lifestyle changes in these areas. My eating habits changed, I redesigned my workouts, I began looking at each task, each day and myself and my needs very organically and with care. Not that I did not care for myself or others before, but now I better understood how small choices in these areas would affect my body and possibly the rest of my life. Here is a cool stat, after just 5 months of changing my eating habits and eliminating the foods I was genetically not supposed to eat, I lost 22 pounds! Just wow, that is something I could not do after trying for almost 10 years! Losing weight is so important in my journey because (did you know?) fat releases estrogen in the body! Being overweight estrogen was being released in my body and in my case, post treatment my goal was to suppress estrogen and prevent any cancer from reoccurring. So, weight loss for looks is good but weight loss to live was/is the goal here.
Along my learnings I have met with different types of doctors including surgeons, radiologists, oncologists, and radiation doctors, of which all of them are trained to remove the cancer from the body. While some do help with prevention of cancer, it’s up to me to keep the cancer from ever coming back. Some doctors say the first year to two years is critical for keeping an eye on the reoccurrence of cancer and making sure I undergo regular tests and exams. Other doctors shared their insights that its after 5-7 years that cancer can reoccur. One physician told me a story that happened in his own family. About 25 years ago his mother in law was diagnosed with lung cancer and had never been a smoker. She went through treatment, adopted lifestyle changes that she lives today, many years later, and has never seen a reoccurrence of cancer.
The bottom line is the changes I have made in my lifestyle behaviors and diet choices are not a something I should do once in a while, they are habits that I will choose to live for the rest of my life. I have always said, “motivation is a powerful thing” and this is a perfect example.
I experienced a few times recently when someone shared their thoughts about my choices and how I could make an exception this one time about what or how much I ate because it was an event or holiday, and it struck me to the core. Maybe surviving breast cancer is my motivation or maybe my mindset is forever changed because I remember the moment when I was told, you have cancer, and being so scared I couldn’t breathe. I have learned my body requires to be treated a certain way and for me, the rule is the exception. This same approach could apply to many aspects of our lives. Have you ever had a goal or knew you should do or not do something, and there were always exceptions where you did not follow the rule? Have you not followed through on something important because someone else did not support your goals, dreams or beliefs?
Not every situation in life requires the rule to the exception approach, but it should be when the motivation to succeed is strong or the outcome could be life or death. I am here to share with you this, you have one life, live it and don’t take second (or first) chances for granted. When you learn something and still do not adapt your actions or your mindset, you will have no one to blame but yourself.
In good health,