So my road back to wellness had begun. I started with green smoothies for breakfast and adding more fruit and veg to my diet. I went sugar free because literature was telling me that sugar feeds cancer. When you have cancer or have had it everyone has an opinion on what you should or shouldn’t eat, heck I even had friends tell me to stop wearing deodorant…my answer to that was “you first”. Pee-ewww
I saw a naturopath who assured me my body was rebuilding well and started to have regular massage to help with the scar tissue and my tight muscles. I also went to see a hypnotherapist. I know right, some thought I was ‘whacked’ and to be honest I was very sceptical myself but it felt right so I made the appointment and went.
The hypnotherapist and naturopath was the start of me exploring new things and looking outside of what I had tried in the past. The hypnotherapist did a few things that had me believing and when I left I had a vision in my mind of how I wanted to look and feel and she had linked a colour with food and given me a few eating cues. It allowed me to really recognise if I was hungry and start to become a mindful eater. Seeing a hypnotherapist and naturopath wasn’t a quick fix but it started the ball rolling.
Getting well and losing weight isn’t about just one thing, it’s about changing a whole lotta things and finding the right formula for you. It’s about not giving up when feeling challenged and being open to trying new things.
I started introducing small changes like loading cinnamon into almost everything to stabilise my sugar craving and adding turmeric to my nightly meals because again I’d read how freakin awesome it was for me. I had warm lemon water when I woke up and sleepy time calming tea before bed. I stopped eating anything with nitrates in it ( like bacon and sausages) and gave the Doritos the flick, with the amount I consumed during chemo I actually couldn’t face them.
I ate more yoghurt, and drank almond milk and coconut water. I sipped on raw cacao (love it) and green tea. During chemo I couldn’t stomach green tea which was sad as it’s a firm favourite. I dabbled with protein shakes and chia, and ate spelt bread and quinoa. That first few months our pantry resembled a health food shop while the grocery bill got bigger. The teenage sons would hang off the pantry days whining that there wasn’t anything to eat. One day a son said “there’s nothing to eat, everything’s fu#kin organic!”.
During treatment the boys diet changed too. Gone was the Betty Crocker mum who baked daily and made a well rounded meal every night, I couldn’t face the kitchen at all. Instead the boys were fed on meals delivered by good friends…lots of lasagne and spaghetti bolognaise LOL. I didn’t have the heart to argue when Nutri grain started to replace weet bix and tim tams became a daily regular instead of a sometimes food. Food that came in boxes was in abundance in our home, one thing I’d prided myself on not ever doing before. We were doing the best we could throughout treatment but…it wasn’t all good.
While I was making my own muesli and back cooking again what I know now is that I was still eating large meals and still celebrating with food. Just because you eat ‘healthy’ food doesn’t mean it’s always healthy for you, loading up on heaps of fresh beetroot with feta and quinoa sounds good but it’s all about moderation.
I started pounding the pavement doing daily walks which lasted all of about 3 weeks because the sun and my hot flushes weren’t a great combination so I signed up to a gym but hated the plastic smell of the running mats so never went. Note to self, never pay 12 months membership in advance!
I didn’t give up, it was a detour only and I took up swimming in the ocean, at first it was just bobbing up and down and floating, enjoying weightlessness and the feeling of water washing over me. I progressed to some stretching with some water walking. After a few weeks I pushed my body and did 100 strokes of freestyle and 100 strokes of backstroke, then I went hard core and bought some flash goggles and made it a daily event. It doesn’t sound like a lot, 100strokes…but for me and the trauma my body had been through this was a massive achievement! I was still living with constant pain in my chest and lest arm with limited movement and nerve damage. Guess what?…it was making a difference. Slowly my range of movement started to get a little better and I started to feel alive. Ok, I had found something that was working and I liked doing it.
I think this is when I realised it wasn’t about losing weight it was about caring for my body and rebuilding it. I needed to stretch the tightness, work my limbs that had been dormant and rebuild my strength. I needed to honour my body.
I was losing a little weight but had struggled with the exercise because of my constant pain. My knees were like that of an arthritic 80 year old because of the chemo drugs and my body was trying to assimilate new hormone drugs. It all hit home when I purchased an MG convertible late 2103. It was my middle finger salute to chemo and I revelled in feeling the sun on my face, wind in my fluff of hair and feeling free. The only problem was my knees were shot and my wrists ached changing the gears… For fu#ks sake really?? I couldn’t believe the far reaching side effects of treatment and how they continued to impact my life. After 12 weeks I stopped driving the MG…she’s for sale if you wanna buy it 🙂
When I was forced to stop driving the MG it made me reassess my body and what else I could be doing for it. A new year had just ticked over and I was determined that 2014 was going to be about rebuilding. It was time to spend the time on me and I was in no hurry to go back to work even though having my salary back would have been very welcome. Instead we decided that I needed to spend time repairing physically and mentally.
My radiotherapy oncologist said something that’s always stuck with me, “Jen you’ve had a year of treatment with a truckload of toxins and drugs, it’s going to take you a year to get well again, take that time”. Wise words!
I was preparing to undergo breast reconstructions in 2014 and I knew these would be big surgeries that I needed to be strong for. A new year meant opening my mind up to new things, I’d made a good start but Christmas saw me fall back into old patterns of eating sugary treats and overindulging. My mind was all over the place when I had a scare, I found another lump on my collarbone, a few agonising days of testing revealed it wasn’t serious but I was still struggling mentally. I was having difficulty with having survived, kinda like survivors guilt and I couldn’t believe what I had come through. Thoughts of reoccurrence constantly plagued my mind and I ended up booking a flight to Queensland to have some solo time out. Uhuh, I did a runner LOL
I flew into Brisbane, hired a car, bought some C.D’s and headed off on a road trip up the Bruce highway, music blaring and the wind in my hair reliving childhood memories of my years growing up in Queensland. I visited a cousin in Hervey bay and one in Brisbane, in between I had a few nights in Caloundra on my own enjoying late night spas and trying to figure out the meaning of life. I was depressed…really depressed and one night found myself on the balcony of my 8th floor room wondering if I jumped would I feel any pain. I was so freakin tired of being in pain! I was teary and messed up with a head full of dark thoughts. Obviously I didn’t jump, I answered a call on my phone instead and it was my mister…we talked it out and a few days later I flew home with a totally new mindset.
The doctors and medical system had done their bit and now it was up to me. It was up to me to fight and put in real effort because I was given a second chance and needed to make the most of that. It didn’t matter if I had 2 years or 20 years left, if I wasn’t plugged in to life then I wasn’t living.
I decided a wholistic approach was what I needed. New year = new beginnings, stay tuned.
Til next time,
If you are struggling with depression, please call someone. Call a friend, a co worker or family or call a helpline because life is worth it!
LIFELINE-13 11 14
BEYOND BLUE-1300 22 4636
CANCER COUNCIL SUPPORT-13 11 20