A breast cancer survivor shares her experiences with the BRCA gene.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Advice from A Fitness Expert

This is an email my fitness instructor sent me recently:

"I met someone today in my bodywork class. She wanted ideas to rebuild her abs, since she was cut for breast cancer surgery and reconstruction.

This is the third person I've come across in a similar predicament, so I am planning to do some intensive research on exercise for women who have had breast cancer.

I hate to see breast cancer survivors frustrated with their bodies, when everyone seems amazed by how far you have come , medical teams happy with the results...you seem to be the only ones left with a feeling of unfinished business...and indeed it's not over for you.

You have a different body, you are and you are not the same person. You need to assess these changes and how slowly they will be part of you from now on. You need to work with these changes that you may not quite understand or even know about.

Your battle is not over, and everybody has left.

I believe strongly into the amazing ability of the body to heal repair and adapt, but also in the power and relation the mind has on this process.

Your will and courage is your victory. We, as instructors, need to wake up to this specific growing demand and try to work together with the health professionals to assure not only recovery, but long term health , happiness...and fitness!

Women who have had breast cancer need to work specifically on core, abs and upper body strength--which seems to be the 2 areas of most changes and trauma...psychologically, physically and physiologically.

See you in class!"

Helene Villinger
AFAA Certified Personal Fitness Instructor

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

When Rubbish Happens-Part 2

Recent layoffs among several people I know have prompted responses from well-wishers, telling the newly unemployed they'll "be in a better place" one day and "when one door shuts, another opens"...blah, blah, blah.

While I believe these statements can be true, there's a catch. It's up to you to open the next door to get to a better place. It doesn't automatically open. This pertains to jobs, or cancer, or any other disappointment in life.

Some people I know responded to their layoff by aggressively applying for jobs, networking, heading to the gym and keeping a positive attitude--which ultimately lead them to their dream job. Others headed to the bar, sat on their backsides and decided to be bitter.

A friend shared his fear of wasting his life due to working long hours and not having a Hemingway-like adventure every weekend. While I don't endorse workaholics or couch potatoes, it's not a job or lack of fun that wastes a life.

Rather, it's wallowing in anger, depression, fear and bitterness in response to life's challenges. Instead of moving forward with courage, you become paralyzed in your grief.

Life CAN be better when bad things happen to good people if you rise to the occasion. It's becomes better because it changes you -- you grow up, get a new perspective, learn to handle problems. Tough times can deepen you, pulling you out of your self-centered, self-absorbed, childish, all-about-me context.

And becoming a deeper, less selfish person is what allows you to live a richer, more fulfilling life.

Changing for the better is earned the hard way--the way we all try to avoid--through pain and suffering. But in the long run--by plowing ahead with courage--you can look back and say, "I'm in a better place because this happened."

When Rubbish Happens-Part 1

A friend, who is younger than I, is now in hospice, dying of cancer. It has not escaped my notice that I've survived cancer for the time being, while she did not. This begs the question--why her and not me? Why did she get the death sentence while I was spared?

This has always been a tricky question that arises when life throws you a curve ball (or in the case of cancer, when life throws you a grenade). I don't claim to have the answer. But I do know, that as modern day Americans, we've come to expect a Disney ending to tragic things of life. And it's just not so.

Why did I get life over others in my condition? It's not because I'm exceptional, or that God loves me more, or that prayers for me outweighed prayers for others. I've known far better and nicer people--with much greater faith--to experience an early death while I lived. You have to wonder why.

After pondering this over time, here's what I hold to be true: "To whom much is given, much is required."

My writer-counselor friend, Sue, wrote a poem, "The Scarecrow” in which she points out that our life experiences "make our stuffing deep, rich and available for God’s use, whenever and however He decides to scatter it."

So, until the day comes when I'm in hospice, I'm in a strategic position to be a blessing to others. After all, it's what's required.