10 Ways to Be Good to Yourself Despite Breast Cancer

PJ Hamel Health Guide
  • As women, our default mode of behavior is to take care of everyone around us before we take care of ourselves. Well, listen up: I’m that airline flight attendant telling you to put the oxygen mask over your own face FIRST, before you fasten one on your child. Consider these 10 options. And vow to do at least one of them ASAP:

    1. Exercise, the cure for all (most) that ails you. And exercise doesn’t have to mean spandex and sweating on a treadmill. If you’ve just had surgery, and are dealing with a gaping hole in your chest, exercise is getting out of bed and slowly shuffling across the room, pushing your IV stand in front of you. If you’re 5 years out, exercise may mean a brisk walk around the block in the morning—around several blocks, if you can manage it—to loosen those joints and muscles, the ones that stiffen up overnight due to hormone therapy drugs. If you’re overweight, it means walking, walking, walking… as much as you can. If you’re in good enough shape, try lifting weights, to stave off bone loss. Just get moving! It’s good for the body, and even better for the soul.

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    2. Pick up a kitchen timer. Go somewhere quiet, set the timer for 5 minutes, close your eyes, and listen to your heart beating and your lungs pulling in air. Concentrate on how your body is working; consciously relax your muscles. Try not to think at all; just listen. When the timer goes off, get back to business. This is a very basic form of meditation, and hopefully you’ll find it incredibly relaxing.

    3. Get some girlfriends together and go shopping. Me, I HATE to shop (except grocery shopping; yeah, I know, weird). But I love being with my girlfriends as they twitter around trying on clothes and shoes, holding skirts and pants up against one another, comparing price tags and labels. Watching them have fun is great entertainment; and I don’t have to spend a dime.

    4. Treat yourself to a really outstanding cup of coffee. You know, a caramel whipped cream mocha with a shot of espresso… something or other. Forget the diet, close your eyes to the $3.50 it probably costs, and simply enjoy the over-the-top decadence of supremely gussied-up java.

    5. Lose yourself in your all-time favorite movie. For me, that would be Moonstruck (comedy); Out of Africa (drama/love story); or Dr. Zhivago (full-screen epic). If you don’t own the DVD, see if your local library has it. If all else fails, rent it at the video shop. Just be sure you watch it with a) someone who appreciates it and won’t laugh when you cry, or smirk when you laugh, and b) a bowl of popcorn and a diet Coke.

    6. If you enjoy a good glass of wine but have been avoiding alcohol because you know it’s a possible recurrence risk, set your fears side for a moment and have a drink. You might even have to go to a bar to do it, if you don’t keep a bottle on hand. Savor each mouthful; feel the slight buzz you’ll probably get. I’m just hazarding a guess here, but I don’t think the occasional glass of wine will kill you! Relax and enjoy it.

  • 7. Go to the library, settle into an easy chair, and relax with a magazine you never get a chance to read. People. Time. Gourmet. Sports Illustrated? Wriggle your toes, stretch out your legs, loosen your shoulders, and read every article, every ad, from cover to cover. Note: If time doesn’t permit a trip to the library, throw all caution to the wind and BUY your favorite magazine. Hide it next to the bed. Then make up an excuse to go to bed early.

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    8. If you’re in rush-rush-rush mode all the time, like I am, do something really absurd: take a hot bath. With bubbles or bath salts. Fill the tub with steamy, scented water, and sink in up to your chin. Feel the weightlessness of your body. When the kids start pounding on the door, turn on the water and make believe you don’t hear them (if you’re sure they don’t REALLY need you!)

    9. Pursue a passion. Are you a gardener? A golfer? A bread baker? Do you bowl, or watch NASCAR on TV? Whatever your favorite leisure-time activity, don’t talk yourself out of enjoying it because you “don’t have time.” If not now, when? Life’s short. Surely you’ve learned that lesson…

    10. Finally, take a moment to forgive yourself, for all of your imagined failings. Yes, imagined. As women, we expect way, way too much of ourselves. We’re all human; let’s allow ourselves to BE human, to stumble and fall and pick ourselves up and start again. Because we’re not defined by our weaknesses; we’re measured by our ability to keep moving forward, which is truly our strength.


Published On: March 25, 2008