Coping with a Cancer Scare and Covid Anxiety

Kelly is a writer, animal lover, makeup enthusiast and a cancer survivor.

Well, let’s add coping with a cancer scare and Covid anxiety simultaneously to my list of talents. Last week I had my annual oncology visit. I found a lump about a week before the appointment, and my HCP took one look and scheduled a mammogram and ultrasound. This was on a Friday and the tests were scheduled for Monday. My doc was not messing around. Combined with my mild Covid fear, that made for an anxious weekend.

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Three Years in Remission and I’m a Nervous-Nellie

March 14 marked three years of survivorship for me…excuse me while I do my happy dance! But wait, what is this anxiety I feel? In 2014 and 2015, I made a big deal about my cancerversaries. My work peeps heard about it for weeks leading up to the big date, my friends were invited to celebrate, and I felt a sense of giddiness to mark another year without a recurrence. What happened to the party this year?

I’ve had a lot on my plate recently, and quite frankly the date nearly slipped my mind. Work has amped up, and Miss Grace and I will be moving soon to a new home. The process of house hunting, purchasing, packing, and moving is overwhelming in and of itself. Add the stress of transitioning Mom from living independently to assisted living, and watching the person I love most in the world decline, well it is heartbreaking.

But there has been something deeper than family, career, and domicile that has kept me from making a fuss. Most remissions occur in the three- to seven-year window. There it is.

The Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation notes that most recurrences occur in the first five years. The American Journal of Managed Care refers to the three- to seven-year window. At 10 years after initial treatment, the recurrence rate drops drastically, which is why my oncologists are fixated on that 10-year mark.

Meanwhile, I’m living in the three- to seven-year space.

I’ve been asked if cancer is always on my mind. If I obsess over it. That’s tough to answer, because cancer is part of me. I didn’t ask for this. I had no choice in the matter, but I have to accept that it is, and always will be, part of who I am. I wrote shortly after my diagnosis in this post that cancer would not define me, but there is no denying cancer either.

It’s a little like asking if breathing is always on one’s mind. Yes and no. You know it is part of you, you don’t think about it every moment, but you are innately aware of the fact, on some level, that you are breathing at all times.

So, my answer is yes, cancer is always on my mind; and my answer is no, I do not obsess over it because it is often not intentional thought, it is an awareness. Except now I’m three years cancer-free. That three- to seven-year window just cracked open, and I’d love nothing more than to shut this sh-t down. But I can’t.

I’m dealing with my fear of being overconfident, of jinxing myself, and I will celebrate. I’ll rally my friends and do it up good. After all, regardless of health, wealth, age, luck, or lack thereof, you still only live once!

Cheers!
Kelly

Komen Race for the Cure 2015

First and foremost, thank you to everyone who supported me in the Race for the Cure this year and in years past. Your kindness and generosity are astounding, and I am humbled.

The topic of breast cancer is near and dear to me. The disease is near, well, because I’ve had it and am in remission, and the fight against it is dear to me because I would love for all the little girls growing up now to never have to worry about such things. How great would that be?

Each year the Race for the Cure seems to take on a slightly varied meaning for me, and this year was no different. I walked in memory of my brother-in-law’s mother who was lost to breast cancer too many years ago. Even though I never met her, I was honored to wear Carron’s name and bring her into this beautiful, pink army against breast cancer.

As always, I arrived in good spirits. Truth be told, I was giggling at myself for kindly, and pointedly, explaining that my VIP parking pass was never provided to me when the parking attendant asked me to turn my map over. It read “VIP Parking Pass.” Ha!

Laughing is entirely appropriate because the Race for the Cure is an opportunity to celebrate the fact that we are alive. There is music, there are concession stands, a sea of people, and there is an infectious, upbeat vibe. Yet every year when we actually begin walking, and I start reading the “In Celebration of” and “In Memory of” signs on the backs of thousands of people, I get choked up. I am overwhelmed with feelings of sadness, fear, gratitude, guilt, and hope.

Susan G. Komen Walkers
Each pink sign carries the name (some list several names) of someone diagnosed with breast cancer, either “In Celebration of” or “In Memory of”

Whether my friends notice how quiet I am for the first minute or two, I’m not sure, but it’s because I am on the verge of tears. If I speak, I will cry. I think of those who were not as fortunate as me, those whose battles have been long and painful, and the loved ones left behind. I give myself a minute to process that load of emotions, and I have the self-talk. Kelly, get it together–this is a glorious day. And then I walk.

Writing my message on the Susan G. Komen Wall of Hope
Writing my message on the Wall of Hope

Thank you for understanding why I walk, for supporting me with your generous and thoughtful donations, your well-wishes and prayers, and for walking with me. It truly means the world to me.

Cheers,
Kelly

Two Years Cancer-Free: Learning to Let it Go

In my imperfect home, surrounded by friends, I celebrated my two-year cancer survivor anniversary [she does the happy dance]! I feel so blessed and thankful for every day I am cancer-free. Two years under my belt; eight more to go. No complaints, but it sure feels a hell of a lot longer than two years since this journey began. I can’t say whether it is due to the stress, or because I took the living-of-my-life up a notch and am just plain wearing myself out. I suspect it is a little of both. Either way, the crow’s-feet and gray hairs are multiplying like a rabbit colony, but that’s all right with me.

After the initial shock, I armed myself with a determination that could not be matched. I was riding a high from my sheer will to expel this disease from my body, and that was actually a good thing. It jump-started a whole new attitude, an exercise routine, and a healthy diet. Every day I woke up was a day for which I was thankful. I saw beauty everywhere. I used the exclamation point excessively. Indeed, the “!” was out of control.

At one year cancer-free, I was still feeling that high. I hope by then I had backed off the over-zealous punctuation, but I’m afraid to look. My new, positive attitude was intact, and I was sticking to the healthy diet. I was slacking on the exercise (my couch potato ways), but I never gave it up completely–I walked the dog daily, occasionally did yoga or a few jumping jacks in my living room, and did a few 5K races. And, as if I weren’t OCD enough, I was decluttering and organizing the hell out of my condo. The purging of possessions was, and still is, therapy for me. Perhaps all the extraneous stuff I’ve been tossing is representative of the nasty cancer cells I so badly want out of my body. Hmm.

At two years cancer-free, I feel like I am falling into my stride for the long haul. I sprinted for two years; it’s time to settle into my groove and see this thing through. I am painfully aware that the rug could be pulled from under me at any moment, and every little ache and pain is quickly submitted to my physician for thorough examination, but I have maintained my good attitude. During the first year, I operated with panic-driven positivity and put into play all of the tangible strategies I could (surgery, radiation, diet, exercise, non-toxic products). Going into year three, in addition to the tangible strategies, I am also becoming focused on my state of mind, which is a little more than having a positive attitude.

While I’m keeping up the good ‘tude pretty well, I am also dabbling in the art of non-perfectionism. Non-perfectionism. For those of you who know me personally–GASP! Right?

Before you say there ain’t no way, listen to this. I hosted a little soiree at my home last weekend to celebrate my cancerversary. Remember when I said in this post that I don’t entertain often because I can’t seem to ever get my home perfect enough to have people over? And, if I’m being honest, because I procrastinate until the idea goes out of style anyway. Well, in addition to the usual frenzied people-are-coming-over cleaning, I had my pre-party punch list that I worked on for three weeks, some of which did not get done:

Punch List

  • paint door
  • paint entry way
  • paint hallway
  • install rack for scarves in hallway
  • caulk around HVAC vent and paint vent
  • measure, order, and install piece of granite along pantry
  • purchase screen door & hire someone to install
  • purchase & hang string lights on deck (3 trips to the store for the right extension cord)
  • plant flowers on deck
  • purchase and install hanging shelf in powder room
  • remove door from kitchen cabinet and paint interior
  • clean carpet
  • hang floating shelves in living room
  • hang guitar hanger in living room (for ukulele)

Clear string lights on patio at night
The lights on the deck are dreamy

I was okay with not completing the list, but the morning of the party, pretty much everything that could go wrong did go wrong. I’ll spare you the details, but my dog got sick (voluminously so). All of my bedding had to be washed. There was an issue with the making of the deviled eggs. And then there was the matter of the handyman who was running late, and who arrived in time to show me the door I purchased was defective. I told him not to worry, I’m a whole new person who is not a perfectionist and to install the door anyway–a little bit of crooked won’t bother me. But the door was not just un-square, it was warped. Simply put, the screen door could not serve it’s intended purpose of keeping the bugs out. Did I mention this is the day of the party?

I cleaned up the dog mess; I paid the gentleman for installing the door, and we agreed to deal with replacing it another day because it clearly could not be remedied before the party; and I prepared as many deviled eggs as God would allow. It turned out that was exactly the number of guests I was expecting. Yep, I had one egg per guest to offer (along with lots of other food). Of course, in the midst of all this I did phone a friend to vent a little, but I wasn’t losing my mind. I was okay. It was just a “can you believe this?” call. And you know what? The party was lovely. Nobody cared that I had over-purged my glassware and some were drinking Prosecco from whiskey glasses, and nobody stormed out in disgust because my screen door was jacked.

One question that came up a couple of times at my little celebration was whether I got another tattoo. I got my first one in honor of my one-year survivor anniversary (see that post here), and some folks thought I might make that an annual event. Look at that punch list. When in the world would I have time to get another tattoo?

Ha! (emphasis on the exclamation point)

Cheers!
Kelly

 

Why I have a tattoo

It was just about a year ago that I got my first tattoo. I say first, because if I’ve learned anything in life, it’s to never say never. I don’t plan to have any further artwork added to my body, but who really knows?

I ended up at Mad Ethel’s Tattoo in Raleigh last year after debating about it for a few decades. Seriously. I am among those who wanted a tattoo, but never had the cojones to do it. The permanent nature is what would invariably stop me. And thank GAWD, because the parrot, the phoenix, and, I’m ashamed to admit–Ziggy, would have me at the high end of mortified right now.

Ziggy cartoon
Remember Ziggy?

These were all things I thought were cute or, dare I say, cool. There was no connection between me and a parrot. Kim Basinger had one on her shoulder in No Mercy, so I wanted one. I thought a phoenix on the top of my foot would be the bomb, and the Ziggy thing, that was a hold-over from childhood. I still have the Ziggy Christmas ornament from my grade school bestie, but let’s all breathe a huge sigh of relief that the little bald cartoon man is not peeking over my belt line at you. Whew. I’d say I dodged one there.

Regardless of how relieved I was that none of the aforementioned ever made it SubQ, I still wanted some ink. For years I babbled about getting a cross on the back of my neck, which would be something with meaning for me, but it’s not terribly unique. Then, as my one year cancer-free anniversary was approaching, it hit me. My favorite church hymn had become my mantra while sorting through my feelings about cancer, living, dying, and what little control I have over all of it. I’m doing everything I can to stay healthy, but the bottom line is, no matter what the final verdict, it is well with my soul.

So there it was. A few weeks before my one year cancerversary I stopped at Mad Ethel’s, the place looked clean, and I threw down a deposit. I told a friend and, without hesitation, she said “I’ll get one with you.” Now that’s a friend. So the two of us spent the better part of nine hours with Anton, tattoo artist extraordinaire. Yep, nine hours. The guy I initially scheduled with walked out the day prior, and because it was incredibly important to me to get the tattoo on that specific date, Anton was kind enough to work me in. I got the feeling the other guy left amidst some drama and their entire schedule was thrown off as the dust settled. But, after watching my friend get her custom artwork sketched, transferred to her skin, outlined, then filled in, after going next door to Fiction Kitchen for some dinner (if you have not been yet, you must go), after unsuccessfully trying to convince Grace over the phone to come out of her crate for the neighbor, after running home to let Grace out, it was finally my turn. My single line of script was simple, took about 20 minutes, and there I had it. My life-long dream of permanent dermal graffiti was realized.

Dog looking over owner's shoulder, tattoo on back
My heart and my mantra, side by side (photo by InBetween the Blinks Photography)

Permanent dermal graffiti. I like that. And ironically, what finally got me to the shop was my need for something permanent–the very thing that kept me away for so long. For 30 years I had been living on the fence, fearing an irreversible mistake. My life was in total upheaval, nothing was right, and nothing could be certain. This tattoo was one thing that would just be. It would be mine, and no oncologist would stage this tattoo, tell me how to treat it or what my survival rate would be. It was a tiny little something that I could determine and I could have forever, regardless of how long forever lasts. My terms. And so it is.

It is well with my soul.

Cheers!
Kelly

After Cancer, Everything is a Scare. Aches and Pains Keep me on Pins and Needles.

Spoiler: I am okay!

However, once you’ve received a cancer diagnosis, every little ache and pain is suspect (in your mind) of being the thing that will do you in. I thought maybe I was being overly dramatic, but this is actually common among cancer survivors. Even though I’m in remission–possibly cured, and for all intents and purposes healthy, something like a nagging backache can sound alarms. So my back pain x3 months had me seriously concerned.

When I have random aches or pains, I do the self-talk: you’re getting older, you’ve been running, you lifted something, you slept in an odd position, but it never completely quiets the background noise (as my friend and fellow survivor John calls it) in my mind telling me this could be more than a backache. As much as cancer has changed my life, my perspective, for the better, there is still that constant wonder whether I’m cancer-free or have rogue cells traveling through my lymphatic system looking to set up shop.

After a few weeks of severe pain, I called my general doc who did an x-ray to rule out disc damage (especially since I’ve had a ruptured disc in my neck). Everything looked good. Some relief. I had a regularly-scheduled appointment with my oncologist two weeks later and left it at that. Calling her in a panic and being seen immediately would only have made the possibility more real. Remember how long I was in denial about the lump in my breast? Nearly two years.

So I popped into Dr. C’s telling her how great I feel as a 19-month survivor, except for some nagging back pain. Her face and her response snapped me right back to reality. Bone metastasis is most common after breast or prostate cancer, and especially within the first few years of remission. More sobering, it is usually not curable. It can be treated but not cured.

After many questions from my oncologist and a blood test, I was out the door and told they would call me with the results within a few days. Shaken and scared, my mind wouldn’t stop the what if loop. I thought about how my Mother should not have to survive the loss of a third daughter. For her to lose one child was horrible. A second was unfathomable. Losing a third would destroy her. To say my heart breaks for her is an understatement; I can’t properly put it into words.

I wondered who would love and take care of my dog [the same way I do] after I’m gone? Grace is my heart on four legs. How could I not come home one day, leaving her to wonder where I was and why did I leave her?

Grace is my copilot and my heart!
Grace is my copilot and my heart!

Grace and I see things like this gorgeous sunrise on our walks.
I get to see things like this gorgeous sunrise while walking my dog.

Something many of us struggle with: what have I done with my life? Have I done any good? Have I touched people in a positive way; have I helped anyone? For being allowed to live any length of time, the least we can do is leave this world in better shape than we found it. Until I get my carbon footprint to zero, save some animals, and feed some people…I mean really, what’s the point of having been here if I don’t do some good?

Lastly, do I have it right with God? Surprisingly, and maybe arrogantly, I feel the least anxiety about this one. I have faith, and I think I’m ok. We’ll see.

It’s scenarios like this–the back pain scare–that shed some light on why I live my life with a little more urgency now. For all I know my time is not ticking away any quicker than yours, but the realization that it could be has lit a fire. I was going to run a 5k in South Carolina this month, but had already signed up for a WordPress class because I’m intent on making my blog the best it can be. I bought a ukulele (another thing on my life list) and can’t wait to start lessons, except I’ve signed up for therapy dog classes with Grace first. There’s so much I want to do and potentially so little time in which to do it. Technically, that’s the case for everyone since none of us knows how or when we’ll cash in, but when you get that little wake-up call, you get moving.

My Life List. Lots to do!
My Life List. Lots to do!

But the lab results were good–my alkaline phosphatase level is normal. I’m still having back pain, so off to physical therapy I go. No idea what brought it on or why it’s lingering, which brings us back to getting older, running, lifted something, or slept funny. Of course, the possibility of something awful is still in the back of my mind. Although this scare turned out to be much ado about nothing, my mission to squelch the background noise, and to complete my list, continues.

Cheers!
Kelly

Komen Race for the Cure 2014 – A Different Experience

It’s been one week since the Komen race, and it’s been quite a while since I’ve talked about my cancer. I think about it pretty much every day, but I typically don’t discuss it unless someone asks. I’m not averse to the topic but don’t bring it up, and I have a few ideas about why, but that’s for another post.

What brings up the word at least annually is the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. This organization has done so much to fund research, education, and screening; and it has raised awareness of breast cancer to the level of being an everyday topic of conversation. That, my friends, is awesome.

I’ve done the walk in years past, before I was touched by breast cancer. It was another walk to do, an event. Then, as you know, at last year’s race I was a three-month survivor. I think I performed well and held it together as graciously as anyone would have at that point, but looking back, I now realize I was an emotional mess. I knew factually what my situation was – survival rate, etc., but I hadn’t had time yet to fully process how I felt about it. What it really meant to me personally and not simply statistically.

Add to that some deeply personal issues I was dealing with (the heartache and turmoil of a marriage that was over before it began), the fact that I was running late that morning and was near tears over possibly missing the survivor photo, a sprinkle of chaos finding my team members, and voila! you have a girl walking who is cheery and smiling one moment, contemplative the next, and lip quivering during the survivor parade. The. Entire. Parade. (and cried during the ceremony that followed).

Let me tell you how this year looked. Arrived with time to spare. Simply stood in one spot while every one of my team members appeared over a period of maybe five minutes. Walked, talked and laughed for 3.1 miles, was ravenously hungry by 9:30 a.m., and unabashedly danced and sang throughout the survivor parade. Wow, what a difference a year makes!

I graduated from the under 1 year group to the 1 to 4 year survivor group. I got to enjoy the food truck rodeo this year, and I indulged in a bottle of Coke. You are gasping in disbelief because of the sugar thing, but let me explain…I let myself splurge on the big day, AND, I drank maybe 1/3 of it before it went in the trash. It tasted weird. I was craving a Coke, but when I took a nice big, cold drink of it, I thought why am I drinking thick brown manufactured syrup? It made me more thirsty. Water please!

Team Live. Run. Cure! was ready to walk!
(one team member actually ran the race and another ran to the event, so the team name wasn’t a total bust)
The parade felt a little different for me this year 🙂

I know in previous posts I talked about perspective and how being diagnosed with cancer completely changed mine. Well, it continues to change, and that’s a good thing because as well as I thought I was a year ago, I’m even better now. I am not perfect and there are no guarantees, but I am happy and I am well. I am very well. For 15 months I have not forgotten to be thankful for that.

I hope I continue to celebrate every day like it’s a parade, and I hope I am always thankful.

Cheers!
Kelly

The Down-Side of Clean Eating

I’ve been yapping about clean eating for about a year, and I can’t say enough about it.  My energy level is up, I sleep better, and I assume those are both a result of better health in general.  So what’s the problem?  I fell off the wagon this weekend.  Woe is me.

If you’ve spent any time with me, you know I eat, and I eat often.  Before the clean eating, I enjoyed a fairly disgusting diet.  Fast food, endless amounts of sugar, and greasy everything.  If it was breaded and deep-fried, it was on my plate; if it was sugary, it was in my belly.

I cut fast food entirely.  After not having it for so long, it isn’t even appetizing to me now.  I cut sugar drastically – I stick to the USDA recommendation of 20 to 25 grams of added sugar per day.  I limit fried foods to a few times a month.  And really, of the three food groups that used to comprise my diet, I only miss the sugar.

But last night at dinner (celebrating my one year cancer-free milestone!) I had dessert.  Actually, I had two desserts.  Key Lime pie and Tiramisu.  They were delish.

A celebration of this magnitude called for dessert!
Check out the woman in green on the right photo bombing us!

Then today for lunch I went to BurgerFi, which I don’t consider fast food (but maybe I’m wrong).  They use all natural, free-range beef.  That sounds a whole lot better than anything the usual fast food suspects serve.  So I ordered up a cheeseburger and onion rings.  This is what I got:

Do you see how big those rings are??
This thing is bigger than my hand!

The burger was good and I had no problem making it disappear.  The onion rings were a problem.  They were huge!  I used to love onion rings specifically for their grease factor.  These were pretty darn greasy.  I ate two of the five rings and was done.  The greasiness was a huge turn-off.  Can’t do it any more.

By 3pm I was feeling like Morgan Spurlock in Super Size Me.  Obviously, in just two meals I’m not talking about weight gain or health problems, I’m referring to the colossal tummy ache and overall feeling of yuckiness.  It’s nearly 8pm now and I’m still feeling yucky.  I’m talking really yucky.  I had toast and hot tea for dinner.  It’s likely the combination of dessert last night and the grease today, but right now I don’t ever want another onion ring again.  Sorry BurgerFi, you should have got me when I was a bad [food] girl.

So, as much as I love eating clean, I’ll confess to the down-side: you can’t go back (at least not without some pain).  Once you’ve gotten away from the bad food, it just might sound nasty to you or it might actually make you feel awful.  I’m pretty sure I’ve been cured of my cravings for greasy food.

But isn’t that a good thing?  If you’ve been trying to change your diet and feel like you’ll never succeed, you will.  Know that you will!

Cheers!
Kelly

My Struggle With Acne

My hormones are a mess. There, that’s out there. It’s the result of discontinuing a hormone regulating medication to accommodate a cancer fighting medication. Hmm, cancer vs. raging hormones…I’ll deal with the hormones. The only side effect of the hormone issue has been acne. I wish it were hot flashes or night sweats (I think), but it’s full-blown adolescent-like acne.

So what’s a girl to do? I’ve been avoiding prescription acne treatments due to the side-effects. I tried a couple over the years (Retin-A and Aczone) and both caused my skin to be dry, red, and cracked. It was as bad as the acne. There are a lot more medications out there, but much to my dermatologist’s dismay, I’m reluctant.

I did a little search for natural acne remedies and have been doing a baking soda and water treatment for about a week. My face has calmed a little, but I can’t really say whether it’s the baking soda paste or the downswing of a hormone cycle. Regardless, I’m doing the cover-up thing until (or if) my skin clears.

I’ve been using EWG’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database as a guide to which products are harmful and which are not (huge thank you to Liz for that tip!). Apparently it’s a big deal to make cosmetics that don’t contain toxins. And when I say cosmetics, I’m not just talking makeup. This includes soaps, lotions, toothpastes, deodorants, etc. A contributor to TakePart.com says the average person uses up to 15 beauty products every day. Fifteen. The average person. That’s a lot of gunk soaking into our pores folks.

My mission: find a liquid makeup that

  • Has a low Skin Deep score
  • Wears well with my combination skin
  • Provides good coverage

I want to look good and sleep well knowing I’m not polluting myself with parabens and what-not.

I’ll post product reviews on the makeup I try and include before and after pics (I’m terrified to show you the before pics – thank you, American culture, for that little phobia). I’ll let you know what I find – feel free to share your tips here too. Wish me radiance!

Cheers!
Kelly

A Run Cut Short and What Lit the Fitness Fire

Thursday was supposed to be my final workout of week #1 in the C25K program, but it was not so. Everything was going well and then I felt a pull in my left calf. It was on the inside of the leg, about half way between knee and ankle. It didn’t feel like a cramp; it felt more like a tendon was being pulled. It was pretty darn painful. So I cut the run short and limped home with all the resolve to have a do-over. And I did – two days later my second try went just fine. No pulling, no pain, and I completed week #1! Woohoo!

One suggestion from you all was to invest in, and be properly fitted for, a good pair of running shoes. I went to Fleet Feet Sports on Wade Avenue and did exactly that. The sales associate measured my feet both sitting and standing, watched me walk, and spent a lot of time talking with me about my running experience, daily routine, and what shoes I wear on a regular basis. After all of that, he brought out a pair of shoes that he felt would work best for me. They felt great! I tried on four different pairs of shoes, all of which felt like fluffy little clouds on my feet. I bought the pair with the most cushion beneath the arch. We talked a lot about my arches and the plantar fasciitis thing. It boiled down to doing everything to prevent that from ever happening again.

So many pretty colors!
The newbies. The appropriately-named Cumulus 15 by Asics.

Now let’s address the elephant in the room, shall we? I’ve made it no secret that I do not like exercising. Not even a little bit (so noted in this post). It has always bored me, been too difficult, or I just plain would rather be doing anything else. So how is it that I’m suddenly getting all fit up in here? Exercise is a huge piece of the cancer prevention puzzle, and once you’ve had cancer, your goal is to prevent a second cancer in another part of the body (2nd cancers are typically treatable but not curable).

We’ve been told and retold that we should maintain a healthy weight and get cardio and strength training on a regular basis. I emphasize the ‘and’ there because we often fall under the false perception that if someone is not overweight, well they must be physically fit (i.e. healthy), right? Not so. Read this now and hate me later: I am naturally thin. I’ve told you about my crazy metabolism. I have never dieted, and I have seldom stuck to an exercise routine. Lucky? Absolutely. But even though being overweight is a risk factor for breast cancer, look who was just as susceptible. Simply being thin does not mean you are fit (insert raised eyebrows and pursed lips). Exercise is important for everyone.

We certainly can’t chalk this up solely to my sedentary lifestyle though. There are likely multiple contributing factors here. Poor diet, never had children, age, just to name a few. But even though I’m not pinning this fiasco entirely on the lack of exercise, I’m sure as heck not going to take the chance of that contributing to a second cancer. In addition to completely changing my diet (I eat clean these days), I’m also injecting a good dose of physical fitness – forever. There is no better motivator than serious contemplation of your own mortality. It’s quite a kick in the pants.

Props to the YMCA for jump-starting my exercise program. I know you totally just sang Yyy Mmm C-A, Yyy Mmm C-A-A! A fellow patient at the cancer center mentioned a program the Y was doing for survivors. I got out the Google and found they were offering the program right here in Raleigh – super! I emailed the contact person and wouldn’t you know they were starting a new session in a couple of weeks – even better! And the news just kept getting better. The LiveStrong program through the Y is free to any cancer survivor at any time in their life – score!

Post-workout chair stretching.
I look freakishly happy about it!

So I did the 12-week program and we met twice a week for a one-hour workout. There were five of us who completed the whole shebang. There was a bit of support group time incorporated into the “stretch and reflect” period at the end of each workout. It was good to spend time with folks who were navigating the cancer path too.  It was a wonderfully positive experience and it allowed me to sample different types of exercise, equipment, and classes. My favorite was restorative yoga – no surprise there (low impact, not strenuous). I think it pairs well with the running too. Good stretching is so important if you’re going to do any running. And when I say running, you know I mean jogging (sometimes shuffling).

It turns out the LiveStrong program was the transition I needed into my newly found healthy lifestyle. Isn’t it nice how so often just what you need is placed right in front of you? Folks, I think that’s called grace.

Will running & yoga be my “thing” forever? Probably not. I’m sure right about when I get all comfy and settled into it I’ll change it up. I’ll keep you posted!

Cheers!
Kelly