Cancer sucks, but… (Part 1 of 2)
What’s the best thing that’s ever happened to you? You probably wouldn’t say cancer.
But I would.
After 3 years of law school and 3 years as a trial attorney, I didn’t realize the pattern I’d settled into. I was busy all the time, eating microwaveable meals to get by, and trying to squeeze in a work out every once in a while. Everything else was about work.
I was diagnosed with breast cancer when I was 29. I found a lump in my breast. Doctors told me it was nothing to worry about, then I decided to have it taken out anyway (thank God for vanity), and they determined it was cancer.
Several years after my diagnosis and treatment, people ask me for advice after they or their loved one has been diagnosed with cancer. This blog is all about things I did to make sense of my diagnosis as well as things I experienced during and after my treatment.
If you’re going through a health scare right now, I hope you read this with the sense that you’re not alone and that you’re going to get through this.
If you’re reading this and you know someone going though a health scare, I hope this helps you understand what they’re going through and gives you guidance in dealing with what they’re experiencing.
“What? Cancer? You mean the kind of cancer where I have to do chemo and radiation?”
Those were almost my exact words when my doctor told me I had breast cancer.
The doctor’s receptionist had to get the doctor to tell me my diagnosis over the phone because I was too busy doing trials to come in for a follow up appointment if it was simply routine follow-up.
Holy crap. I’m mortal.
It’s a shock to the system hearing you have cancer. It’s a reminder that you’re mortal. I still forget sometimes. The most difficult part for me was confronting my mortality and realizing I had no control over when or how I was going to die.
So what’s a Type A personality to do? I took control of whatever I could…or at least a sense of control.
The first thing I did when I came home from the office after hearing my diagnosis was start googling “breast cancer.”
Okay, the first thing I did when I came home from the office was sit in my car sobbing uncontrollably in front of my apartment building while some guy walked by wondering what the hell was happening to me.
After that, I went into my apartment and started googling.
I looked up everything I could about breast cancer: what I should be eating, what the standard treatment was, what should I ask my doctor, etc.
Then I came across stories about celebrities who had breast cancer. Oddly enough, these stories motivated me. When I read about Kylie Minogue, Sheryl Crow, and Christina Applegate having gone through their treatments, it made me feel this was doable.
Other fabulous women had gone through this, and I could too.
Telling the family.
My parents live out of town, so I didn’t want them to worry. But I decided to tell them that night. It was difficult to tell them the news and that I didn’t want them to visit me while I was undergoing treatment.
I knew that I would want to play hostess while they were in town, and that I needed to focus on me and what I needed. I needed rest and time to process this alone.
Is this a coincidence?
I was the third of three women who were diagnosed with some form of cancer in my office. We were all hired on as lawyers at the same time and were presumably going through the same amount of stress that everyone else new to our profession went through.
I couldn’t help but associate cancer with my job though. I was working up to 70 hours a week after law school doing trial after trial because that’s what was expected.
Once I was diagnosed, I knew I had to change things. So I changed everything I could.
I knew I wasn’t doing the best I could as far as eating and exercise go, so I upped my game. I’m still working on upping my game. It’s tough to create a habit and stick with it, but it feels good when you do.
First off, I started practicing yoga.
I had thought about doing yoga for about a year, but I just couldn’t get myself to walk through the door. When my co-worker learned of my diagnosis, she recommended a yoga studio she went to. I decided I was going to do it because whatever I had been doing so far wasn’t keeping me from getting cancer.
I started practicing thinking it would be good exercise, but I got so much more out of it mentally and emotionally. If you’ve gone through anything traumatic, I highly recommend trying yoga.
Second, I stopped zapping so many meals.
Working as much as I was, I turned to microwaveable meals all the time. Now, I purchased cookbooks to eat healthier and learn how to cook. I learned more about spices and herbs because I used so few in my meals, but I knew I needed them in my diet.
Third, I found an outlet for relaxation and learning about healthy herbs and spices — tea.
I knew tea was good for me (antioxidants, L-Theanine, etc.), and I also had fun learning about blending teas and spices. It was a way for me to incorporate healthier things into my diet without becoming a master chef.
I get questions about tea as it relates to cancer all the time, so I’m going to take the time to answer this here. Tea is not a cancer cure. There’s no magic tea that will make you slimmer or bestow better skin. Tea is a healthy beverage that can take the place of unhealthy beverages. Naturally sweetened teas can take the place of a dessert if you have a sweet tooth. And teas can offer a way to relax if you drink it mindfully or as a meditation. Loose leaf teas contain more antioxidants than tea dust in tea bags, so if you decide to incorporate tea into your diet that’s the way to go. Click here here for 4 quick tips on brewing tea.
In the next half of this two part blog, I’ll delve into the mental side of things – y’know, dealing with anger, dating, and dealing with people who are, let’s say, empathetically challenged. Here’s part 2.
In the meantime, if you think this post can help someone you know, share it.
Founder & tea lover
Sicilian Tea Company
P.S. If you know someone going through cancer right now, and you think they could benefit from this article, please consider sharing it with them.