My story started on November 28, 2014, the day after Thanksgiving. Why does that date stick out to me? It was the date of my annual physical and mammogram. Since I had never had any problems before, I was tempted to skip the mammogram. However, after a still small voice told me I needed to have the mammogram, I heeded my instincts and had it done. I sometimes refer to that as the "fatal mammogram" because that is exactly how I felt. Within the course of 2 weeks, I had further mammography, ultrasounds and biopsies done. On Dec. 12, 2014, I was told that I had breast cancer and underwent surgery on Dec. 18, 2014.
From there, I received more mammography, ultrasounds, MRIs and biopsies. From that point forward, I underwent chemotherapy and radiation treatments. I experienced many side effects and was referred to Palliative Care at Mayo. During that period, I began to practice self-actualization, visualization, and acupuncture. These treatments helped me to tolerate the side effects of chemo and radiation, and to have a better self-image, both of which were huge counterparts of my becoming healthy once again.
Before that time, I had walked my dog every day, rode my bike, snow shoed, etc. During my treatment phase, I attempted to remain active-sometimes all I could do was wiggle my feet or lift my legs while in the recliner at home. Some days, I tried to walk my dog to the end of the driveway. About 4 months after my treatments were completed, I was given the opportunity to join a program at the Y for cancer survivors and their supporter called "Livestrong". The program lasted 12 weeks and we met twice a week. Each time, we were asked to share something like what good thing had happened in the last few days, what our favorite color was, etc. which was part of getting us to focus on something other than our disease. We also had to go into the fitness room and were taught how to use many of the machines. We were monitored closely during our exercise sessions and a before and after assessment was done. When I entered this program, I was not able to climb a flight of steps or climb the slight hill at home to get my mail without stopping frequently to catch my breath. I can now climb a flight of steps, get my mail, walk my dog, and complete an hour-long exercise routine without difficulty.
During and after that time I learned many things through self-reflection. One was that I have many good friends without whom I would not have gotten through this experience. Other things I learned had more to do with my personal nature. Humility, vulnerability, and vanity were part of my learning curve. Also, becoming aware of what is really important and what is not helped me to focus on the good things which I believe helped in the healing process.
What is my message to you regarding my story? GET YOUR MAMMOGRAM! It may save your life as it did for me. Also, EXERCISE. Exercise releases endorphins, which help one to feel better psychologically. It also helps with bone strengthening, flexibility, balance issues, cholesterol issues, hypertension, etc. You also can develop new friendships through the people you meet while exercising, which I have done.
Since there is no family history of breast cancer, I thought I was immune to it, but I guess not............I will never say that I am glad that I had cancer. However, I will say that I am thankful every day that I had the experience, as I am a better person for having gone through it.
Spirituality and Health...
By: Mission Integration Committee
Spirituality can take many forms. It can be seen as your commitment and practice of a faith, your connection with others, or even your relationship with our living planet. It includes how we make sense of our lives' circumstances. It helps us to frame our ideas and interpret the actions of others. It strengthens our convictions. Spirituality allows us to open ourselves for new and challenging experiences; to grow as members of the human community.
However we define spirituality, it's important to recognize its impact on our over-all wellbeing. We know through experience that balance among mind, spirit, and body is important to live a whole and healthy life. The Rule of St. Benedict implores us all to live in moderation. Eating, sleeping, working, reading, praying, relating to others, using social media, and exercising; each has an important role in our lives. It's essential we prevent any one element from becoming more important than the others if we wish to live a healthy life. Sister Joan Chittister shares in Wisdom Distilled from the Daily, "All must be given its due, but only its due. There should be something of everything and not too much of anything." Is it challenging? Of course! We have fluctuating needs. With each assignment, call to action, or request for help, we are drawn from one of life's imperatives to another. Some are important on Monday, only to be replaced by another as we transition into Tuesday. The act of taking a breath, and thinking before we act allows us some of that balance. We need to think before acting to ensure our actions are measured, inclusive and representative of a balanced life.
Binging, in any form is unhealthy. An endless number of exciting and stimulating opportunities are continuously drawing our attention. All of these experiences steal from us the important act of being present in the moments we are offered. The chocolate cake calls our name. The new episodes of our favorite TV show are released on Netflix, and we watch a season's worth in a day. We check our social media for updates, and then look up from our devices to discover two hours have vanished. Do you recognize the lack of balance there? Binging is focusing solely on one activity while excluding the rational thinking process that tells us it's unhealthy. Being intentional in each moment provides us the lasting and important aspects of friendship, caring, love, and rest. Intentionally working to balance mind, body and spirit allows us those valuable moments that provide depth in relationship with ourselves and one another. To heal, help, and love others requires balance in ourselves.
Pontificating really doesn't help, so here are some practical ideas you might employ to help find balance in each day:
Schedule time daily for reflection, meditation, and/or prayer...if it's a new activity, grow into it
Create a weekly menu to ensure a nutritious and balanced diet, avoid the rushed fast-food that we know are not good for us
Work when you are working, and don't when you're not; set times and limitations on your homework, accessibility, and the frequency you check your work communications
Set limitations on your use of social media, most devices have a timer you can set and utilize; it's ok to be disconnected for a period of time each day
Make time for exercise, inside or outside, get your heart pounding
Date yourself, your friends, your loved ones; set up a date once a week or month to spend with those who are important to you
Serve others, make it part of who you are
"It takes as much energy to wish as it does to plan."
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