A Lot to Give Up

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Giving up my breasts was an easy decision, after all, they are trying to kill me. Actually doing it will be hard, and the recovery will be harder, but they are not the only things I will give up thanks to cancer.

Before this I didn’t know a whole lot about cancer. I’ve not really gone through it with anyone in detail, not even my dad who lives a few hours from me. He is a man of few words so I only get told the very basics. I’ve not spent a lot of time thinking about it other than the usual mass media advertising around certain events or celebrity cases.

In the last few weeks I have been reading. Not a lot yet, but as much as I can get my hands on. I want to know what I can do in terms of lifestyle choices to help ensure this cancer never comes back. Every book, article and website I read has a different opinion as I wade through the minefield of what to take on board and what to ignore.

Clearly I will be giving up travel in the short term. Not only because of the surgery itself, but because there can be all sorts of complications throughout the recovery period. I also now have to fill in that section about pre-existing conditions on the travel insurance forms and decide in each case whether to pay the extra to have breast cancer covered or hope nothing goes wrong related to it while I am away.

My diet needs to change too. While a lot of the recommendations are simply that, my plan is to be as healthy as possible before I have my surgery. That means removing many of the usual toxins from my body before then. The main thing is not eating meat. Meat actually has quite high carcinogenic qualities.

Luckily this was not a big stretch for me as I almost never ate red meat anyway. I’m really only giving up chicken and some seafood. Oily fish, such as salmon, tuna and sardines are about all I will have, thanks to their good qualities. The absolute worst meat in terms of cancer is all my favourites – bacon, ham, salami, sausages, anything smoked or cured. Even smoked salmon is now out.

As for the rest of my diet, my focus is on unprocessed foods, with a high emphasis on what are called cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, kale and bok choy which actually have cancer-fighting qualities. Not sure I can manage the 2-3 cups each day that I have seen recommended, but I will at least try to fit some in each day.

Alcohol also has to go. I am really going to miss my wine. I had no idea it is as bad as tobacco in terms of causing cancer. I have committed to not drinking at least while I am going through treatment. Not sure I can commit to it for the rest of my life, but we will see.

While coffee (or caffeine) has never been proven to have any links to cancer, I have decided to substitute it for green tea. Green tea has some links to helping prevent cancer. It also has lots of other good qualities that help in overall health. Unfortunately one of those is not the taste, but I will continue to struggle on with it.

A common thing to hear is to stop eating sugar because it feeds the cancer. While people have told me this, all the reading I have come across says that this is a myth. But for general health, it’s a good idea to at least cut down on sugar. I had already been doing this for a couple of months before we went to Canada, so I don’t need to make a huge change here either.

There are many studies that discuss the benefits of exercise for, well, everything! It will help me to be fit for surgery, getting up and moving as soon as I can afterwards will encourage blood flow and healing, and, if I have to go through it, there is evidence that regular exercise lessens the symptoms of chemo. So luckily, I only have to give up my exercise as much as I need to to heal. Oh, I won’t be running any marathons or hiking up mountains anytime soon, but I am really hoping that within a couple of weeks of the surgery I will at least be able to take short walks to the beach.

If I need further treatment such as chemo and hormone suppression I will be giving up a lot more. Of course with chemo I will lose all my hair. If I am put on Tamoxifen then there is an increased risk of endometrial cancer, so likely I will have more surgery to have my uterus removed too. I will go into a chemically-induced menopause, and deal with everything that entails. Any of these treatments mean I could loose my good health for the rest of my life and I will spend years dealing with one side effect or another.

Cancer never finishes when treatment does, it’s a life-long challenge. I’ve not even been through it yet but I can see what so many others are going through. Cancer is so insidious and sneaks into every part of our lives, a truely horrible disease that takes so much, not just from the cancer patient, but friends and family too. Giving up my breasts is the least of my worries.


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