In 2009, I was running a wine and food public relations agency in New York City, hobnobbing with famous chefs, drinking world-class wines and traveling the globe to promote wine and food regions. That summer I had partied with P Diddy’s celebrity guests at his Beverly Hills White Party, hosted a press trip to Spain, attended a cocktail conference in New Orleans and went on a two-week wine drinking business trip to Tuscany with my husband for a big new client.
It was on that trip to Italy when I discovered a lump in my breast during a self-examination. Within weeks my world changed. I received a diagnosis of Stage 2A breast cancer with tumors in both breasts. This savvy world traveler was about to take an unexpected trip to Cancer Land, a place she didn’t want to go, wasn’t prepared to visit and simply wanted to get out of alive with a one-way ticket back to good health.
After the initial shock sunk in, I looked at myself in the mirror and said to the scared person staring back, "You may not have chosen to have breast cancer, but you can choose how you will face it and how you will use this experience to make sure you stay in good health from this point forward. You will choose to be fearless and stay fabulous."
I call 2009-2010 my Year of Living Chemically and Surgically. I underwent a double mastectomy, reconstruction, chemotherapy and a prophylactic surgery to remove my ovaries and fallopian tubes after tests for the BRCA2 genetic mutation came back positive.
I also call it my Year of Personal Transformation and Reframing. I decided to use the time to change all unhealthy habits, and eliminate toxic stress that I believe were contributing factors to my illness. While I let the doctors take charge of fighting the cancer; I took charge of healing my body.
My five-part plan was this:
Drink plenty of water or other healthy beverages, such as herbal teas or fresh-squeezed juices.
Get daily exercise. Even a 30-minute walk if I was helpful if I was up to it during treatment, as was stretching.
Make smarter food choices and manage portions. This included going to a plant-focused diet (not plant-based diet since I still eat eggs and fish) and abstaining from processed foods, too much sugar and greasy fatty foods.
De-stress with meditation and deep breathing exercises.
Exercise your mind to stay focused and defog chemo brain with a creative outlet. Mine was writing daily in a diary and later a blog.
The year after treatment I looked like a new woman, and for the better. I was healthy, fit, lean and my skin glowed, all attributable to the healthy lifestyle changes I made. I still imbibe great wines and indulge myself in good food that is now also good for me. I just do it all with mindful moderation and conscious consumption. My life is still delicious and I savor every moment with more appreciation.
These are simple changes that anyone can make to stay healthy during and long after treatment. It’s your choice. Make your life delicious. Embrace the changes that are right for you to stay healthy.