I’ve had the same ritual for the past six months. After my morning pee I strip naked and step on the scale. Today the scale read 147 pounds. That meant I'd lost fifty pounds in total since beating breast cancer! And to think, I did it without one day of dieting. I did it by loving my body and how it changed after cancer.
I was not overweight as a kid. My mom was a health nut back in the seventies. Her version of a taco salad came with broccoli and mushrooms. When she brought snacks into our house it was a treat, something to be savored. It wasn’t until I was pregnant with my first son that I became overweight. To my mother’s chagrin, my gynecologist was not alarmed when I gained eighty five pounds with that pregnancy, and I went on to gain even more weight in my two subsequent pregnancies. Despite trying weight loss programs like Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, and that ridiculous Paleo Diet, I never took any of that weight off.
During the long weeks of my breast cancer radiation treatment, I'd come to learn why my previous diets failed. It was all in my mind!
I used to think I was alone in fighting cancer. Once I confronted this negligence of responsibility and removed that veil from my life, I realized that cancer did not just happen to me. Once I realized I had the mind power and good sense, my lifestyle and diet changed on its own, and for the better.
Being obese increased my risk of breast cancer and if I stayed at 197 pounds, statistics showed that I would double my risk of a recurrence, since I carried all the extra weight in my belly. Once free from the trance of self-neglect, I began to dissect every inch of my body to discover the underlying origins of my breast cancer.
I explored the genetic, metabolic, dietetic, environmental, physical, and emotional factors that led to my disease, and I made a decision to change them.
During my long process of self evaluation, I focused on my incredibly complex anatomy and became grateful for each and every part of it, even the parts that no longer worked as well as the others. The more time I spent meditating
inward, scanning my body, the more I fell deeply in love with every single cell, system, muscle- especially my swollen, burnt, painful, raw left breast. I became comfortable with my outer self just the way it was- even the flab on my inner thigh that chafed when I walked. For the first time in my life I became comfortable with those 42 G breasts. It was my new found love, respect, and gratitude for the body I lived in that led me to want to use food, exercise, and stress reduction techniques to heal and serve it instead of make it sick.
I didn't think I would reach that level of self love, but I’ve learned that anything is possible and things take unpredictable turns after having cancer.Setting my intention towards a more healing lifestyle meant that I needed to drop the belief that it was impossible to change my eating, fitness, and mental health habits. Part of this was accomplished through taking the initiative to educate myself. I started reading books and articles about foods that fight cancer and other diseases. I met with a nutritionist, joined a fitness program, and started seeing a therapist.
I began to care about the quality of foods I put into my body and I now seek out organic products. My research guided me to embrace foods that fight cancer on the cellular level such as green vegetables (particularly cruciferous ones), beans, mushrooms, and onions. I cut out or drastically reduced disease-causing foods, like refined starches and carbohydrates, sugars, dairy, animal products, and oils. I taught myself to really enjoy grocery shopping. When I shop I keep my focus on the food I’m buying. The concentration I have while shopping shifts my mindset from grocery shopping being a drag and chore to a joyous and rewarding task of gathering nutritious food
that fuels and heals my body. It’s that same presence I have while preparing meals that allows me to fully enjoy cooking, and prepare things that end up tasting delicious. I practice eating mindfully, noticing how every bite of my food tastes and how it assists my body.
When I'm eating out, my mind might suggest the chicken parmigiana, but my loving heart orders the baked salmon with veggies instead. I enjoy the salmon just as much as I would or even more because I know eating it helps me rather than hurts me. When I pass by a Dunkin Donuts and think sure, I'll grab a second cup of coffee that day, my heart reminds me I have cancer-fighting green tea waiting for me at home.
I'll try new foods that I read about, like sardines and their wonderful health benefits. My thought about sardines before was that they were totally gross. I never even tried one, yet had strong negative thoughts about them. Reminding myself that thoughts are most often not true, I was persuaded to try for the benefit of my body. I mashed them up like tuna fish and mixed it with mustard and chopped onions. I ate it on a slice of Ezekiel bread with arugula on top. And guess what, it was delish! Could sardines really taste good or has my newfound intense love for myself influenced my mind so I have ease and joy when eating to serve my body?
Either way it doesn’t matter- since sardines taste way better than how breast cancer feels.
How did your self perception change after cancer?