As Breast Cancer Awareness Month comes to a close, I realize that I was inspired more than once over the past thirty days, by stories like the one I am about to share with you. People like Jill, the shining star of this blog post, can teach us all a bit about what it means to engage in our own wellness story. Read on and see if you agree.
What does a 50 something woman recovering from breast cancer treatment look like? I can tell you, because I met her a few weeks ago at Glen Ivy Hot Springs Spa.
Jill was a woman who approached me after my aqua class with a story she was eager to share. She told me that she had been taking aqua fitness classes over the past year as part of her recovery from breast cancer surgery, and that the warm, therapeutic aqua environment had been extremely helpful in improving her flexibility and range of motion. It had also helped alleviate a painful condition she had developed called lymphedema. Jill’s voice was strong and confident. Her demeanor was upbeat, empowered, and life affirming.
To be honest, my first thought was, “What’s wrong with this picture?” This perky, fit, youthful woman, in her mid-fifties, did not look like she had just endured the rigors of cancer diagnosis, treatment, and recovery. Instead, she looked like a picture of health!
And then it hit me. The question I should be asking is not, “What’s wrong with this picture?” It should be, “What’s right with this picture?” I began to think that maybe there’s a wellness lesson in Jill’s story. Perhaps the strategies she, and others like her, use to vigorously recapture their precious health and quality of life, would also work for the rest of us simply trying to make better choices in our crazy-busy lives.
Like many of you, I have people in my life--family, friends, clients--who have faced the challenge of serious illness. I see them navigating their path with courage and strength, but I also see them making conscious choices that lead to favorable outcomes. Here are my top picks for what I think these wellness warriors are doing right. Maybe you'll connect with a few to help you along your wellness path:
- Engage in your wellness. Survivors decide to face the problem by being part of the solution. They take specific steps each day to play an active role in their recovery. Rest, eat well, exercise gently, embody positivity. Day to day wellness doesn’t just happen on it’s own. Embrace healthy choices as if your life depended on it--because it does!
- Gather your tribe. Survivors can’t go it alone and they know it. Any wellness journey requires the help of a supportive team of cheerleaders and people willing to listen. Find two people who will support your journey. Spend more time with them. Think of two people who don’t. You got it . . . Nice knowin’ ya!
- Have a winning attitude. Sure, cancer survivors “fight” for their health. But more importantly, they are in it to win it. Negativity does not serve them, so they move forward with an openness that invites new ways of thinking and being. Practice working with that “mean girl voice.” Send her off on a slow boat to China, and invite more positivity to your wellness path. It really does work.
- When you’re down, get up! Cancer survivors endure an unpredictable path throughout their recovery process. While they may become tired or discouraged at times, they remain focused on their wellness mission and are able to stand up, dust off, and get back to the business of healing. Any wellness journey is like this. One minute you’re peeling and chopping carrots for the week, the next you have your spoon in the Ben and Jerry’s. You’re not a failure. You’re not worthless. You just had a hard day and ice cream seemed like the best way to go. Get over it! Move on!
Cancer--that big, bad, demon of a disease that we really need to find a cure for--often gives people the permission they need to finally put themselves first. When they begin to take care of themselves--I mean really take care of themselves--they often emerge on the other side looking like Jill, the shining star of this story. I say it’s time to let go of the limiting belief that it’s selfish to take care of ourselves until we are sick.
One of my students put it this way. She said, “When I say NO to some of the extra things I am doing for other people, it enables me to say YES to the things I need to do for myself.” Amen sister! Her words so inspired me, that I am stealing them for my new wellness mantra. I’m sure she would not mind one bit if you did too!
Write About It . . .
Think about someone who inspires you by the way they have faced a difficult health challenge--it may even be yourself! What are they doing right? Is it their attitude, their mental or spiritual approach, or a healthy behavior that seems to be helping them along the way? Could you use any of their wisdom for your own journey? Where do you stumble or feel challenged when it comes to making good choices? I'd love to hear what you’re writing about.