Sharon and Mom1I just became a grandmother!! Charlotte Rose was born to our oldest son, Will and wife, Allison on Monday, August 31st at 5:00pm. She weighed in at 4.9 lbs, 17 inches long – a tiny little girl and cute cute cute!! I was able to go to Dallas, TX to lend them a hand for a few days and what a delight! She is absolutely precious and we are all in love!!

I usually do not talk about personal issues, but this month is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. As breast cancer survivors, my mother and I usually raise money for the Atlanta 2 Day Walk/Its the Journey to help men and women going through the rigors of breast cancer. In the past 3 years, we have raised $40,000 for the cause! This year our youngest son, Chris was racing a full distance Triathlon – Ironman Maryland on the same weekend as the walk, so we were not able to participate in the walk. We (mom) still raised money for the cause, though!

My own journey began June 2004, less than a year after we moved to Dawsonville from Pennsylvania. My husband’s practice was not off the ground yet and he had not developed a network of trusted specialists yet, so we were both reeling not only with the diagnosis, but also where to seek treatment. I started down a path with a group of physicians based on recommendations and internet reviews, only to soon discover that my philosophy of methods of treatment and theirs did not match. We were not even close! So back to the drawing board. I share this because it is important that whenever you are faced with a diagnosis that you:

  • realize that you may have choices

2)   it is important that you trust and hopefully like the healthcare provider

3)   even in the midst of overwhelming fear, it is possible to find a peace with the process

Off I went to a general surgeon that a friend had seen and highly recommended. I was much more comfortable with his approach, his staff, office and all that. I did also have a consult with a plastic surgeon for a mastectomy, but just couldn’t wrap my mind around that much surgery at that time. So, I decided on a lumpectomy with the general surgeon. All went fine and well until he decided he had not gotten wide enough margins on the tumor and wanted to go back in to get more tissue. I do not do well with anesthesia, so recovery was prolonged but even that was only an inconvenience.

The picture soon became muddied and full of questions regarding the follow up treatment. The general consensus seemed to be that chemotherapy and radiation was the best course of action. However, being a nurse, I read all kinds of clinical studies and outcomes and see and hear all of kinds of personal stories. Beyond that, I just had a deep sense that I wouldn’t survive the chemo. I know that sounds crazy, but it does actually happen. So, for three months after the surgery I did nothing. My husband, being an MD was beside himself – he really wanted me to have chemo. I was insisting on some type of alternative therapy. He finally found a physician in the Atlanta area who used a modified plan for chemo administration with alternative therapies. This was the man I wanted to see! I was greatly relieved to find out that he was not an advocate of radiation. (He had seen too many serious complications) We agreed on a treatment plan of a reduced dose of chemo 1 time a week with some alternative therapy and no radiation.   I was much more at peace.

Off I go to the first chemo session, and all went well (until I woke up in the middle of the night feeling like I was in a raging oven and puking my guts out). The following week when I went back, my blood levels that dropped too low (from 1 reduced dose of chemo) to administer any more at that time. As it turned out, that was the pattern that my body took – 2-3 weeks between chemo sessions. They were able to administer alternative therapy which was completely non-toxic on the weeks that I did not receive chemo. But, my point is this:

4) listen to your body and your intuition – just because a treatment works great for most people, you could fall in the 1-2% that does not have a positive outcome.

5) keep searching until you find a healthcare provider who IS on the same page with you

I finally finished the chemo after many delays, and I continued the alternative therapy for a year afterwards. I also kept my port a lot longer than most would (5 years). I figured you always need what you don’t have. When I finally had the port removed – what a day of freedom!! I had passed the 5 year mark cancer free and finally did not have a port – so life was practically normal. I had mentally and emotionally thrown that baggage way behind me and took off running, not looking back.

6) today, given the current constraints on the availability of health care, there may not be as many options for treatment choices now and most certainly not going forward, so what can a person do to Prevent such a diagnosis?

Unfortunately, there is no magic formula that is a sure thing for prevention. However, that being said, it is prudent and beneficial for preventing a myriad of other diseases with diet and activity. The statistics for cancer prevention show that diet and activity decreases the probability of cancer of any type. Much depends on genetic predisposition, but even given that, lifestyle has proven to influence the genetic hand dealt.

When I received a cancer diagnosis I was convinced that food was the enemy. No thing that came out of a box, bag, can, jar, or wrapper passed my lips! I ate only what God grew and man had not adulterated in any fashion. I felt better than I ever had in my life and learned how to navigate through social occasions without difficulty. I believe this choice helped my recovery from the chemo which had knocked the wind out of my sails physically. We really are in a precarious position with our food sources. GMO grains are now the norm and additives that are both addictive and toxic are laced in everything on the grocer’s shelf all the while bearing labels that attest to the “natural”, “healthy” concoction packed inside. Yet allergies, gluten intolerance, lactose intolerance diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity to name a few, are on the rise.

7) buyer be ware – and educated and disciplined and wise

Once I regained strength and stamina, I resumed my usual activity goal of 10,000 steps per day plus some weights and classes, etc. As I have talked about in a previous article, we are not designed to sit all day. Yet our modern conveniences have created a lifestyle of sitting at desks or in cars and grabbing convenience foods that contain “who knows what” in the ingredient list.

8) learn how to swim against the tide – turn around 1 degree at at time

There are loads of self help books and programs available designed to get the motivated reader/listener Sharon and Mom1on the right track. The key to change is in the doing. “What am I willing to do for my health and my life”. This is the question that we each need to ask ourselves. So today, standing in Starbucks, I saw the chocolate chip cookie (which is now the size of 4 cookies from a 1950 portion chart) is 390 calories, I thought – “Hmmmm, now THAT is a really good reason to PASS on you, my sweet friend!”

9) each health positive decision or choice counts as Action and 1 giant step towards taking control of life

Carpe Diem and Live Stronger my friends!

Until next time,

Sharon