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Letting My Body Speak During Cancer

How I Learned to Listen My Way Back to Health

Photo by Fuu J on Unsplash
Photo by Fuu J on Unsplash

I was in such a great place with my life when I was diagnosed with stage one breast cancer. I finally had my own business that I loved, and it was just starting to take off. Things were looking and feeling very promising — then I was interrupted with my health crisis.

From Rumor to Reality

During diagnosis and surgery, I felt fine. As far as I was concerned, my breast cancer was a rumor. I felt more bothered by the diagnosis as an interruption to my blossoming new business. I did not feel “sick” until after surgery, and that’s when I started to wake up and question everything. I grieved for my resilient body. I had no idea, until I looked at my scarred chest, that it had gotten so tired!

I realized that I had to do for my body what my body did for me. I was going to protect and champion it. I was going to cherish it and heed its voice as my partner, not as my minion.

Giving Voice to My Body

Before surgery, I accepted that I was in a health care mill; doing and being as I was told was how I lived most of my life. After surgery, however, I wanted to give voice to my body.

When I consulted with my radiologists, I questioned their prescription. I argued, bare-breasted, before two men, why the standard dose of radiation was too much for my unique body. They looked at each other with a barely perceivable shrug and agreed to reduce my treatment from six weeks to four. During the fourth week of treatment, my body started to break down. I felt its gratitude then, when the treatments stopped. I can’t imagine what it would have experienced with two more weeks of poison.

Then came the pharmaceuticals.

My oncologist told me that the next standard was 10 years of an estrogen-blocker. She explained that it would help prevent recurrence and my mind interpreted that to mean no estrogen-blocker meant recurrence and death. I winced and accepted and for the first time in my life, I was taking regular medication.

Just 10 months later, I was in terrible condition. I could barely move for the joint pain. I lost the use of my hands and my thumbs locked in place. I gained a lot of weight. My creativity stopped, my business momentum slowed, and I became very, very depressed.

I didn’t even realize how bad things were until I shared my feelings and condition with my oncologist. She said all of this was par for the course, that she had patients in their 30s undergoing the same treatment accepting that they were going to live life feeling 100 years old. That was her gentle way of telling me to buck up and accept my new state of being because it was better than death. Was it?

She then went on to prescribe anti-depressants for my depression and steroids for my joints…

“STOP.”

The word surprised us both. It was my soul that exclaimed it. There I sat, wide-eyed, realizing that I was, once again, not giving my body its voice. I stated my case and we agreed to give my body a temporary break from the medication. I was amazed at how my energy and spirit came back!

Without pharmaceuticals, I started to dance around the house to music again. My creativity and sense of humor came back. My body stopped hurting and I regained complete movement of my hands.

Working With My Body to Thrive

I now customize integrated therapies according to my body’s responses. My oncologist works alongside an effective naturopath to help reduce inflammation and boost immunity. Together, we agreed to sporadically take the estrogen-blocker, but I temporarily stop as soon as I feel the pain creeping back in. If my current oncologist did not agree to integrative therapy, I would have left her for one who did.

I cannot move into my future as an outspoken businessperson if I can’t hear the voice within. I also cannot expect consumers to value my business, which is an extension of myself, if I do not have self-value. I now use joy as a measurement of my condition. The best thing I can do for my health is to value and allow for my freedom of expression. It is a matter of mental, physical, and spiritual fitness that I do that from now on.

I now lead a business whose mission it is to inspire personal and social expression and connection through joy and play — something I plan on doing for a long time to come.

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