As every October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, I thought it would be helpful to share what I learned from having breast cancer:
- Be Your Own Advocate
Most women I know discovered their breast cancer themselves. Do your own breast exam. Don’t wait for a doctor to tell you something is wrong. Don’t wait for your yearly mammogram.
- Avoid Things That Can Interfere With Your Hormones
I am not a doctor, but from my experience and research: avoid things that can interfere with your hormones, which can include birth control pills, fertility drugs, and hormone therapy for menopause. Speaking of menopause, when you get to menopause, try acupuncture, change your diet, and ramp up your exercise. There are no quick fixes, so best to accept where you are and know it’s just for a period of your life. If you are having trouble sleeping, make your room colder, avoid sugar, caffeine and alcohol, try Chinese herbs/vitamins, melatonin, get into the sunshine/nature, do more cardio, figure out your purpose, help others, meditate. Do the things that naturally give you a high.
- Nurture Yourself
Women often spend their lives nurturing others, especially women in the service industry (like real estate). Make sure you give to yourself, have boundaries around when you need time to yourself or to exercise or to cook yourself a healthy meal. Pretend you are in love with yourself and treat yourself as if you were someone you were madly in love with. I will often make time to make my sons a healthy meal but not myself. Take a walk after a meal. It minimizes blood sugar spikes.
- Have Regular Check-Ups
See your doctor once a year for a checkup and make sure you are getting enough Vitamin D and B. Have your blood checked to make sure you are getting enough of both.
- Limit Sugar and Alcohol
You are what you eat and we know sugar and alcohol are not good for you. Drinking even small amounts of alcohol is linked with an increased risk of breast cancer in women. Alcohol can raise estrogen levels in the body, which may explain some of the increased risk. “Epidemiologic studies have consistently found an increased risk of breast cancer with increasing alcohol intake. Pooled data from 118 individual studies indicates that light drinkers have a slightly increased (1.04-fold higher) risk of breast cancer, compared with nondrinkers”, (National Cancer Institute, Alcohol and Cancer Risk, July 14, 2021). Avoiding or cutting back on alcohol may be an important way for many women to lower their risk of breast cancer.
- Watch Your Saturated Fat and Processed Food Intake
Excess fat, especially around the middle area, can be a risk factor. Having more fat tissue can increase your chance of getting breast cancer by raising estrogen levels. Also, women who are overweight tend to have higher levels of insulin, another hormone. Higher insulin levels have also been linked to some cancers, including breast cancer. Being overweight or having obesity increases your risk of getting cancer. You may be surprised to learn that being overweight or having obesity are linked with a higher risk of getting 13 types of cancer. These cancers make up 40% of all cancers diagnosed in the United States each year, (National Cancer Institute, Obesity and Cancer, April 5, 2022).
- Be Happy and Stay Positive
Attitude is everything. Remove yourself from toxic environments and relationships, whether at work or in your personal life. When I was going through chemotherapy, I was in a transaction with another agent who called constantly and yelled instead of having a calm conversation so I limited my interaction with this person by mostly corresponding via text and emails. I no longer allowed this person to affect me and it made a huge difference on my state of mind.
- Get Into Nature
“Exposure to nature not only makes you feel better emotionally, it contributes to your physical wellbeing, reducing blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, and the production of stress hormones”, (University of Minnesota, How Does Nature Impact Our Wellbeing?).
- Do Things That Make You Feel Good
Doing hobbies that you enjoy and especially helping other people if you can are both great ways to reduce stress and improve your mood. Good deeds do not need to cost money or take much time.
- Turn Inwards
If you ever do get breast cancer, turn inwards, focus on doing everything you can to get well. Often this means focusing your mind onto healing. The mind is a very powerful thing when focused.
- Be Kind To Yourself and To Others
For Breast Cancer Awareness month, I have had the pleasure of speaking at Rayni William’s Pink October Power Ladies Luncheon with fellow Breast Cancer Warrior, Anne Burns. Please donate to Anne’s GoFundMe to support and show love to this incredible woman and mother. I would not be where I am today without the help and kindness that was shown to me from my community of fellow women, friends, and family.