10 Attainable Resolutions To Keep This Year Despite Breast Cancer
Losing weight. Exercising. Being nicer to your partner.
These are New Year’s resolutions bound to produce a sigh, an uncomfortable feeling of guilt—and almost inevitably, failure. They’re too broad; too big. It’s like looking up at a faraway mountaintop, rather than at the path right at your feet.
You don’t have to climb that mountain. You just have to walk as far as you can see on the path in front of you. Then do it again. And again.
THAT’S how you fulfill a resolution.
2009 begins an era of change in our country—or so many of us hope and believe. In the spirit of change, here are 10 things you can do this year to change your life—with breast cancer, after breast cancer, or simply fearing breast cancer—for the better.
1) Take it easy on yourself: As women, we seem to have genetically high self-expectations. As little girls, we’re achievers, trying to do well in school. As adults, we want to be the perfect worker, mother, wife, daughter.
Guess what? Perfection is impossible. Textile artists in the Middle East carefully include a single flaw in each carpet they weave—“because only God is perfect.”
Try this: Each day, get up and resolve to do your best. Each night, go to bed and assess whether you HAVE done your best. If so, congrats. If not, you’ll have another chance tomorrow.
2) Be diligent about your breast health. DUH. We all know that. But what does it mean, specifically?
If you’re due for a mammogram, get one. THIS MEANS YOU. I’m appalled at the number of women I know who skip mammograms because they’re inconvenient. Hey, get breast cancer, you’ll find out what “inconvenient “ really is.
Notice and deal with breast changes. If you find a new lump, you think your breast is infected, anything out of the ordinary—deal with it. There’s nothing sillier than sitting there being afraid you have breast cancer, and… just sitting there. Act.
And if you don’t want to “bother” your doctor, ask your questions here first; we’re happy to answer them.
3) If you’re a survivor and fear of recurrence terrifies you, resolve to view that fear realistically, and try to defuse it.
Whatever your chance of recurrence—7%, 18%, 64%—look at it logically. If you had an 18% chance of winning Powerball, would you put a down payment on that oceanfront mansion? Well, then, if your chance of a breast cancer recurrence is 18%, quit planning your funeral!
IF you have a recurrence, you’ll deal with it. Imagining it ahead of time is an exercise in self-torment. Why go there? (And don’t say you can’t help it… YOU are in charge of your emotions, not vice versa.)
4) Resolve to make a lifestyle change—a minor one, if that’s what you can handle—to lower your risk of breast cancer. Have 1 drink instead of 2. Choose London broil instead of sirloin, white meat instead of dark. Lose a few pounds. Pick a change you think you can successfully make, and go for it.
5) If you’re taking long-term drugs, do it right. Take your tamoxifen or aromatase inhibitor or Herceptin regularly, and on schedule. Yes, it DOES matter if you skip a few days. These drugs work—but only if you take them.
6) Be your own best advocate. Doctors and nurses are human; they have their bad-mood days, they forget things, and they don’t know your body like you do. If you’re in the car after your appointment and find yourself saying, “I wish I’d asked…” or “I don’t understand why I have to…”, then resolve to speak up next time.
7) If you’ve been through cancer treatment, stop being angry about the new state of your body. The hot flashes, the neuropathy in your feet, the tingling where your breast used to be? These may or may not fade with time. If there’s no treatment for your particular after-effects, stop stressing and learn to live with them.
8) Appreciate what exercise can do for you, and accept what it can’t. Exercise will make you feel better; endorphins released in your brain brighten your mood. It’ll also strengthen your cardiovascular system.
But depending on what drugs you’re taking, exercise may not help you lose weight. If that’s the case, don’t quit! Sooner or later you’ll be off the drugs, and back in weight-loss mode. And when that day comes, you want exercise to be firmly entrenched in your routine.
9) Learn to say thank you. So many times during the cancer experience, we avoid those words; even the sentiments.
Someone offers to accompany you to your chemo treatment. “No thanks, I’m fine.” When in reality, you KNOW you’ll be woozy afterwards, and really shouldn’t drive.
Or your friends at work volunteer to make dinner for your family three times a week. “Oh, that won’t be necessary. We can handle it.” But think how nice it would be to have a hot dinner delivered right to your door—free—when you can barely drag yourself off the couch after radiation.
Repeat after me: “Thank you. I’d appreciate that.” See? Not difficult at all. And the nice thing is, the person offering is just as pleased to give you this gift as you should be to accept it.
10) See if your hospital or cancer center has a “buddy program.” Many do; it connects women who’ve been through breast cancer treatment with women just starting the same type of treatment.
If your hospital offers such a program, sign up for it: either as the veteran, or the newbie. Trust me; either way your life will be enriched, and the load you carry on your cancer journey lightened.
Happy New Year! Now go make it a good one.