The New Year’s resolutions of a cancer patient
The start of a New Year is all about reinvention, fresh starts and hope. It is a time when you decide to eat more healthily, drink less alcohol and pledge to spend more time with friends and family. My life living with secondary breast cancer means that every day is like New Year, every day I have to pledge to live that day better than the last. The pressure on cancer patients to eat more greens/alkaline food/ juices/raw food; sleep lots; drink less; meditate; do yoga; exercise; reduce stress; do healing such as Reiki, Theta, NLP, EFT etc, etc; is huge! There is a whole industry of books, lectures and websites geared to help you heal yourself and prevent the cancer returning or getting worse.
It’s hard not to read into the subtext of this industry that getting cancer is your own fault. The guilt is enormous and you can’t change the past. It has taken me years to come to the resolution that getting cancer was just plain bad luck. Changing my lifestyle will make me feel healthier and help the main cancer drugs do their thing but it won’t provide the miracle I so hope for.
I firmly believe that the drugs do work, they more than anything else will give me the time I need to live my life. Chemotherapy has already got me into a stable remission once, it can do it again! One day I will run out of drugs but till then bring them on! There are so many messages at the moment that we should be seeking alternative treatments and I worry how dangerous that message is. I have always seen them as complimentary therapies alongside the drugs to ease the side effects and help me feel as good as I can.
I am sure there are some very lucky people in remission from alternative therapies but how many are there who weren’t so lucky? How many have lost their lives after reading a celebrity book about alternative remedies? I know of one young mother who refused chemo and had green juice only, now her two children are growing up with only memories.
So what changes have I made? What resolutions do I have going round my head every night as I go to sleep that I must do better tomorrow? The first is simple: More vegetables. I always ate a lot of fruit. I love fruit but vegetables were harder to get into my diet. I am an avid networker and often found myself at three evening industry events a week including wine and some canapés – not much veg there. In the morning on my way to work I would grab a pastry or cereal bar for breakfast and lunch was either a working lunch or sandwich. I could go the whole week with only one portion of veg a day. This has changed now with me choosing salads instead of sandwiches and veg smoothies made in a juicer and super strong blender. I even tried growing my own wheatgrass for daily shots but it took up so much time!
Alcohol, my friend and enemy for so many years has also gone. I find above everything else it destroys will-power – so not only do you have the harm of the alcohol but it also encourages less sleep and bad food choices. I feel pretty rotten all the time from the pain, fatigue and drug side effects so why be hungover on top of all that?! It just simply wasn’t worth it anymore. A glass of bubbles will never be turned down but that’s about it.
I try and sleep a good eight hours a night but I’ll be honest, I’m terrible at going to bed. I know I should, I know I’ll feel better if I do but some teenage rebel in me still sits on my shoulder encouraging me to stay awake. If I had the man of my dreams there to tempt me then maybe I would finally break this bad habit! But while the bed is still empty the lure of the TV can be too much.
I have had healing (what is healing?) and counselling, which both gave me some peace. However, in remission I found solace in my comfort zone of work so didn’t make the time to continue them. With my recent diagnosis change I will seek them out again.
I also need to move more. I have completed triathlons, marathons and treks but never found the rhythm of regular exercise. Running is now beyond me but gentle swimming, walking and Pilates are just what the doctor ordered, literally, as they will help the back muscles be strong and do the job the bones can’t anymore.
So I am starting the year with a new set of resolutions but really, they are the ones I go to sleep chiding myself about every night. And then I wake up in the morning and try again… after all tomorrow is another day.
For more information on secondary breast cancer, visit www.breastcancercare.org.uk/secondaryTagged in: Breast Cancer, cancer, new year, resolutions
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