Completely Well

I’m well, completely well. I had my second anniversary appointment with my oncologist in mid-November and came away with a good report. ‘You’re clear”, she said. “What are you doing to keep yourself that way.” “Exercising regularly – walking most days, doing Pilates twice a week, and yoga at least once a week. I’m also eating healthily, meditating when I can and staying calm.”

I did tell her that I am osteopeonic. What’s that, you may ask? It’s where bone mineral density (BMD) is lower than normal peak BMD, but not low enough to be classified as osteoporosis. To keep from becoming osteoporotic, I have increased my strength and balance training and am taking Vitamin D, Vitamin K and calcium daily. All prescribed by my integrative doctor. I’ll need to take the supplements until I have another bone density test in 12 months time.

osteopenia-and-osteoporosis-the-difference

As time goes by I have almost forgotten that I had a brush with cancer. Up until the two-year anniversary of completing chemotherapy, I had joint pain in my feet and ankles, especially after sitting in the car or driving. That has now completely gone, even after a long trip. I get out of the car and can move freely again. Wonderful!

The only reminder now is ongoing mild lymphedema and that really isn’t bothering me too much. I have started to manage this so that it doesn’t interfere with my day. Sometimes I feel I am a walking beacon that I’ve had breast cancer. Even though I’m not embarrassed about it, I don’t want to advertise it every day and that’s certainly how I feel when wearing a compression sleeve with a short-sleeved top. I wear it when it works for me and manages my condition. I’ve found a fantastic website, Better Health Channel, established by the Victorian Government, which has excellent information on lymphoedema and fluid retention.

I’m now turning my mind to getting myself back into the business world with the aim of contributing something of what I’ve learnt to others. I’ve started a new business, called The Vital You, presenting a series of experiential cooking workshop weekends, which are designed to give vitality and keep people well.

In the process of setting up the workshops, I’m realising that looking after my health and wellbeing is a daily job.

It’s so easy to slip ‘off the wagon’ – to not meditate because we have people staying or we’re travelling or I get up too late and need to get on with my day. I can feel the affect of not meditating regularly. I’m not as present, centred or calm and I have a tendency to worry about things. Whilst I’m not a new year’s resolution person, I will be returning to my practice as I welcome 2015.

With all the partying and getting together that goes on in December, I’ve found it’s so easy to eat too much, have a regular ‘special treat’, drink alcohol each day, eat out often and to let go of some of the discipline I have had around healthy eating and limiting my alcohol intake. Actually there’ll definitely need to be a new year’s resolution this year!

Healthy Alcohol Consumption

community-salad-recipes-from-arthur-street-kitchenI feel the need to get back to challenging walking and a diet of salads and lots of vegetables. My body is demanding it and so is my mind. Here’s to a mindful, healthy new year with mornings of meditation, walking and yoga as well as a return to my beautiful kitchen to prepare some of the delicious healthy salads I’ve found in my new recipe book, Community, Salad Recipes from Arthur Street Kitchen. Yum!

Leaving the Waiting Room

patienceI’ve realised over the past month that I’ve been spending a lot of my time waiting. Waiting for what? Waiting to be told I was well. Waiting for my lymphoedema to heal. Waiting to get the inspiration to start a new business. Waiting for my husband to agree with my aspirations, whatever they may be. Waiting to lose weight.

I wasn’t aware of it until I felt a kick start happen a month ago. What caused it?

I went to have my annual mammogram and ultrasound at The Mater at 7.00am on a Monday morning. There were few cars on the road, only one person in the waiting room and the radiology staff still not there when I arrived. I was feeling anxious, particularly after having to walk by the ward where I recovered from surgery and seeing Chemo Cottage through the Waiting Room window. The last two years came flashing back.

I felt great in myself – fit and well. I still had the odd twinge occurring in my breast, side, shoulder and arm. There was a small doubt. “Would I be clear?” I was called, changed down and went straight in for the mammogram. It was quick and painless. “I’ll just check there’s nothing more”, said the radiographer. I then stood topless, waiting to hear whether I was clear to go on for the ultrasound. “Yes!” “Hooray”, I quietly cheered.

I then put on a gown and waited in a cubicle for the sonographer to be ready. The early hour meant it was a short wait. Next thing I was having warm gel spread on my chest and the ultrasound gun run over my breast and up under my arm pit. “It all looks good”, I heard. “I’ll just check with the Doctor”. I had a contemplative five minutes on the bed whilst I cleaned up and waited for the news. “All clear, you can get dressed and go.” I walked out elated, feeling proud.

IMG_1225I drove home, met up with my husband and then hit the road with him to drive to Mooloolaba, towing our sports boat behind ‘the ute’. We were competing in the National Sports Boats Regatta. How my ability has shifted in the last 18 months – from where I found it difficult to get my balance on the boat post chemo to being an integral part of the crew handling any role I needed to take on during the regatta. It’s the third regatta I’ve competed in in the last 12 months.

I returned to meet with my surgeon. It was the two-year check up. “You’ve heard the good news”, he said. “Any concerns?” “Just my lymphoedema.” He offered the suggestion of considering a lymph node transplant. It’s not that bad and I’m aiming for it to clear naturally with the daytime compression sleeve and night-time Caresia sleeve. So I declined to explore this option. “See you in 12 months.” We shared holiday stories and I left.

The good news didn’t stop there. My integrated doctor had recommended I have another CTC (circulating tumour cell) test mid year. When I went to get the results from him, the reading was down a whole 100 points from 250 to 150. We were both so thrilled he shook my hand. He offered to step up the supplement treatment with some Chinese herbs. I declined, “I want to keep doing what I’m doing. I believe it’s working”. He took me off the liver healing supplements and kept me on the bone density and hormone related supplements. I felt I’d had another win. “Two years down, three to go,” he said – a salient reminder that I can’t be complaisant.

I bounced out of the surgery and greeted my husband with a smile from ear to ear.

pilates-photo

Pilates Reformer

I resolved to keep up my regime of daily meditation, a brisk morning walk interspersed with yoga and pilates, daily juicing, organic food, no dairy, home cooking, healthy eating and plenty of sleep.

Amongst the rounds of appointments I still need to have, I had a six-week check up with my lymphoedema physiotherapist. “What’s the LDX (fluid) reading?” “11.4”, she said, “you’re down 3 points.” A miracle! The sleeves and weekly lymphatic drainage massage were working.

My prescription of PATIENCE during chemo looks like it’s paying off. I could feel the weight of being constantly concerned about my health and healing lifting. I felt I could ‘Leave the Waiting Room’ and start living my life more fully. I felt inspired to start working and contributing to others.

So that’s what I’ve been doing for the past few weeks. I’ve been working on a Wellness Project, facilitating workshops which teach people how to eat and live well. The first one will be in November this year.

All this good news gave me the impetus to talk with my husband about some other business ideas we have. We’ve started to progress them. I’m really excited about my life and am relieved that I’ve STOPPED WAITING!

 

Being My Best Friend

ImageToday was about recovery. What from? A big challenge I undertook yesterday in a team of four amongst a couple of thousand walkers. We participated in Sydney’s Coastrek, an annual 50km (or 100km if you’re really game) walk from Palm Beach to Balmoral Beach. As I’m not completely mad, I chose to do the 50km.

How did this come about? One of my gorgeous, fit, adventurous girlfriends, who had done Coastrek before, asked me mid last year if I’d like to join her team for this year. I saw it as a great challenge as well as opportunity. It gave me a goal to increase my fitness and get my body back to full health.

Image 2We started training in October with 15km walks every second weekend, then increased to 20km, 25km and finally 30km. Through our training we walked the whole route – roads, soft sand beaches, beautiful bush tracks, stairs, steep driveways and footpaths – covering every type of terrain available along Sydney’s magnificent northern beaches coastline. Once I’d done the 30km walk, I knew my body was up to the 50.

My training also included pilates once a week, yoga twice a week, soft sand walking and my usual beautiful brisk morning walks three times a week. I ate as healthily as I could each day and then determined what gave me energy on my training walks – Bird Bars, Protein Balls and Coconut water for rehydration. And, of course, plenty of water.

This was an achievement for me in so many ways. When I started training my energy level was low on hills and my breathing laboured. I’d put on a few unwanted kilos last year and had developed a mild lymphoedema in my left arm. With Sydney starting to get hot, I was concerned I would aggravate the lymphoedema. Instead, with a managed remedial programme with my physiotherapist and regular lymph drainage from my lymphatic masseur, the fluid in my arm started to reduce and they cleared me to walk. My lungs got stronger, such that I didn’t find the hills difficult and the bonus is I have shed 4 kilos in the process. A win all round really.

Fred HollowsAnother part of our challenge was to raise money for the work of The Fred Hollows Foundation which restores sight to people who are needlessly blind in developing countries and aboriginal communities. Our team raised $5,000 which will see 200 children and adults have their sight restored through cataract operations. It is reassuring that our efforts will make a difference too.

During a Sydney summer, one would expect sunshine, a gentle breeze, a little humidity and heat. A shower or two and 23C was predicted yesterday. Instead we got 20C and pouring rain; so out went the sunscreen and on went the raincoats. This presented us with difficult and challenging conditions. Rather than see the beautiful azure waters of the Pacific Ocean and bronzed bodies spread along the sand, we saw rugged grey waves on deserted closed beaches; except for walkers, of course. There was a steady stream of them along the coastline.

Image 4Our final achievement was to complete the walk within our time goal of 12 hours. Through driving rain, with wet shoes, strong winds, along soft sand, down slippery paths, whilst dealing with long toilet queues and track bottlenecks, we did it in 11 hours 53 minutes and 25 seconds without a cross word, supporting each other all the way.

At the end, even with aching joints and sore muscles, we picked up speed and ran through the finish line to the click of cameras and my husband waiting with a bottle of champagne to celebrate. How lucky were we to have him on our support team.

Thank goodness for massage. I had a wonderful remedial massage this morning which saw my muscle and joint pain disappear. Being totally self-indulgent or responsible, take it as you will, I followed it with a lymphatic massage. The best news was my lymph fluid was down. After all that exercise. What a miracle!

I have come a long way in the past 12 months and am probably in the best mental, emotional and physical state of my life. I am strong and well and that is a great gift. During today’s massage it came to me that my body is my best friend. Why? Because I love it and am a true friend to it! That’s what I’m grateful for today.