2014 Breast Cancer Wellness Cruise is in the works and I am the co-director
So what exactly is wellness? Look up wellness in the dictionary and you will see that well·ness[wel-nis] is a noun.
1. The quality or state of being healthy in body and mind, especially as the result of deliberate effort.
2. An approach to healthcare that emphasizes preventing illness and prolonging life, as opposed to emphasizing treating diseases.
I would add to this definition that wellness includes health in body, mind, and spirit. When the body, mind, and spirit are all in alignment then you have the “trifecta” of healing. Wellness to me is the exact opposite of illness. It is an active state of being conscious in your life, living with intention, and constant focus on “being”.
A breast cancer diagnosis is a wake up call not only for the individual who is diagnosed, but also their entire family. As seventy-five percent of breast cancers occur in women who have no family history of the disease, a diagnosis comes as a surprise. We know that lifestyle plays a crucial role in not only the prevention of recurrence, but in the prevention of the disease overall. So here’s my message: why wait for a breast cancer diagnosis to create wellness in your life? “Make Wellness the WAY!”
Creating a life of wellness requires a huge commitment to self-care. Making yourself the most important person in your life is often a foreign concept. When I have a newly diagnosed woman or man in my office, I ask them a crucial question at the end of the consult: “Who is the most important person in the world?” I get a variety of answers: my children, God, my husband ??? The answer I am looking for is “me” (the patient themselves not me as the doctor!). Once they answer the question, they realize that if they fail to care for themselves completely then they may not be here to care for those they love. It’s an aha moment for them and, for the first time in many of their lives, they have to put themselves in the #1 position of the most important people in their lives.
Making yourself the most important person in the world is essential in the process of creating wellness in your life. Self-love is not the same as being self-centered, instead it is the process of being centered on self. Self-love allows you to spend the time to care for your physical health, emotional health, and spiritual well-being. Remember, wellness is the quality or state of being healthy in body, mind, and spirit especially as the result of deliberate effort! So you can see that wellness does not simple just show up, you need to invest time and effort to create wellness.
So lets break this wellness concept down into the three components: the physical body, emotional or mental well-being, and the spiritual or soul’s journey.
The physical aspects of breast cancer <BODY>
When diagnosed with cancer, you first need to treat the physical body and rid it of the disease. This involves the possible use of one or a number of therapies such as surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy. Treating the physical body to eliminate the cancer is just the first step.
Once the physical body has been completely treated of the cancer itself, you need to take steps so that work actively to not only prevent cancer from recurring but to live the best life you can live. Lifestyle plays an important role not only in decreasing the recurrence of breast cancer but also in decreasing the risk of developing breast cancer in the first place.
The majority of breast cancers are estrogen sensitive and therefore estrogen produced in the body can act like a fuel on the fire. Very few people understand that our fat cells in our body are actually tiny ”factories” where substances are converted to estrone and estradiol, the forms of estrogen that can stimulate cancers to grow.
Think of your body as a “temple” worthy of being worshiped. Your soul has chosen to reside within your body. Therefore, you need to maintain the “temple” in good working order. You need to nourish your body with healthy foods, strengthen it with physical exercise, and rest it with adequate sleep.
Food is our best medicine and making wise choices that help the body’s immune system are essential. Eat to live, don’t live to eat! Eating whole foods and avoiding processed foods is a good start. Attaining and maintaining a healthy body weight is essential to long term health and wellness. Over the past 50 years, our activities of daily living have changed causing us to no longer have enough physical activity in our typical daily routine to maintain a healthy physical status. Five hours of cardiovascular exercise a week combined with resistance or strength training three times a week is suggested to maintain a healthy physical status.
Our body also requires adequate uninterrupted sleep. A clinical study of nurses revealed that interrupted sleep patterns was linked to increased risk of breast cancer. We know that individuals who do not sleep well also have a difficult time losing weight. So in order for us to create wellness in our physical bodies, we need to create balance with appropriate nourishment, exercise, and sleep.
Stress and the breast cancer connection <MIND
A diagnosis of breast cancer creates immediate fear. Fear paralyses you from living your life and, when not addressed, can keep you from healing far after the physical cancer is gone. These fears include the loss of physical aspects of one’s body, but more significantly, of premature death or recurrence of cancer. Oftentimes health care providers are successful at treating the physical manifestations of cancer but are less successful at guiding patients to release the fear and live life in the moment, in the present. In reality none of us, even those of us without cancer are guaranteed tomorrow.
Stress is a factor that is also part of the mental and emotional aspects of cancer care. It may be the financial stress that cancer brings or an increase in the stress and anxiety that existed prior to the diagnosis. An eleven year study looking at alleviating stress through psychological counseling and stress reduction has been shown to decrease the risk of recurrence by 45% and death by 56% in patients with Stage II and III cancer!
Focusing on the joy in one’s life and remaining positive are extremely important in the healing process. I recommend gratitude journals to my patients to help them maintain focus on all of the blessings they have in their lives.
Too many of us choose professions that do not foster our passion and purpose in life. I am blessed to be in a profession that allows me to fuel my passion daily. Although my day job is being a breast cancer surgeon, my soul’s passion is empowering everyone I meet to find healing in his or her life.
It often takes a diagnosis of cancer or some other adversity to bring about the awareness that you are not living an authentic life. One of my favorite quotes from Paulo Coelho’s “The Alchemist” is “when you follow your heart’s passion the universe will conspire in your favor”. Often times we have chosen professions that increase the monetary value of our bank accounts while spiritually bankrupting our souls.
In order to obtain emotional and mental peace after the diagnosis of breast cancer, you must release the fear: the fear of the loss of one’s current life and the fear of recurrence and premature death. You must live life in the moment for the “present” is the gift.How we relate to the world <SPIRIT>.
Organized religion may have given you the opportunity to begin your spiritual practices, but cancer gives you the opportunity for spiritual mastery. Understanding that each of us is a spiritual being having a human experience is oftentimes eye opening. As a physician, I cannot always cure my patient’s cancer. That does not make me a failure as the physician, it makes me a spiritual being having a very human experience. Cancer places a soul on the fast track to healing. Spending time in meditation, prayer, yoga, or whatever spiritual practice resonates with that soul is the key to healing.
Come join us on this year’s Breast Cancer Wellness Thrivers Cruise and be inspired to create your own reality! We will meditate, practice yoga, become educated about integrative nutrition, exercise daily with a two-time super bowl champion Vaughn Hebron and so much more! I look forward to meeting each and every one of you on Royal Caribbean’s Liberty of the Seas.
I am thrilled to be a co-director of this year’s “Breast Cancer Wellness Thrivers Cruise”. This year’s cruise is going to be a true journey to wellness. We are anticipating that it will be not only well attended but also be an inspiration for all who attend! For some, it will be the beginning of their journey to wellness and, for others, it will be a confirmation of their path already in process. Transition from surviving after a breast cancer diagnosis to “thriving” after a diagnosis requires hard work and a commitment to creating wellness.
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