5 tips to help you stay healthy when cancer’s got you down

This post was originally featured on Sharsheret, an organization that helps women face breast cancer.

What does a healthy life mean to you? How do you stay healthy against the odds?

I thought I was healthy when I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer at the age of 29. I recovered and since then exercised and ate vegetables and had 2 children. My thyroid was checked every 6 months and I again thought I was healthy.

Then last year I was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 42. Like most women I was busy with my family, work, friends, and life. I didn’t have time for cancer again, but apparently cancer had time for me.

Now I’m recovering from my second surgery in 5 months and no matter what I want to continue my healthy lifestyle. There are days I don’t feel like exercising. Staying in bed is tempting. Popsicles are more comforting than fruit. What’s a cancer survivor to do?

Different things work for different women, it’s true, but here are some things that worked for me.

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1. Take a walk

Even when I don’t feel well I force myself to walk around the block or on the beach using my headphones with uplifting music. This is guaranteed to help me feel better.

2. Join a cause

After my diagnosis I looked for something to prove to myself that cancer couldn’t stop me. I joined a dragon boating team of breast cancer survivors. Rowing a boat in unison with other women who went through breast cancer is empowering! After practice we compare notes on surgery, doctors, and experiences.

3. Take a breath

Meditation is very powerful. Going into surgery, I listened to a meditation for surgery recording on my headphones. This helped me to be calm and at peace. There are free meditation apps available for download to help you with everything from sleep to life balance.

4. Do yoga

When I was in too much pain to attend my regular yoga class I searched for a yoga for cancer class and found one! A local studio offers a donation-based class twice a week for cancer patients. If you can’t do a pose, the instructor offers alternatives. This class has been a big part of my healing process. If you aren’t ready to go to a studio, stretching out at home can do wonders for the body and mind.

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5. Be grateful

A friend recently asked if I was angry. Why should I be angry? She responded that I have had had cancer twice. No I’m not angry. I’m actually thankful. I’m still here and have been motivated to make a difference. In 2001 I started the Thyroid Cancer Survivor’s Association for South Florida, I’m a national speaker, author, certified cancer coach and patient advocate. Cancer hasn’t defined me. Cancer is just part of my journey.

Sharsheret is a Jewish non-profit supporting breast cancer survivors and those who are at risk or have been newly diagnosed with breast cancer.


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