Readjusting my Life After Breast Cancer
Happy October! If you’ve been following me for a while now, you know how strongly I feel about Breast Cancer Awareness Month. I still can’t believe it has been a decade since that April 2012 call that completely changed my life. Sometimes, I think back in disbelief about how I almost didn’t schedule that lifesaving mammogram. I was so busy with Bridals by Lori and shooting another season of Say Yes to the Dress: Atlanta, plus my husband was dealing with his cancer battle, that I was prepared to just skip my mammogram that year. I thank g-d every day for the women at Northside Breast Care Center who called and insisted that I not miss my appointment.
I’ve learned so much in the years following my breast cancer battle. I’ve become a fervent advocate for breast cancer awareness, speaking throughout the country, and sharing my story of what was and what could have been while also offering hope and strength to other women who are starting their journey through breast cancer.
The statistics are sobering: one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime. But there are also some very hopeful statistics: from 1989-2019, the breast cancer mortality rate decreased by 42% due to improved breast cancer treatment and early detection. That means that since 1989, about 431,800 breast cancer deaths in U.S. women have been avoided. I’m a living example of how early detection saves lives.
Survivorship brought with it some much-needed changes for me and my family. The immediate years following my breast cancer battle were focused on physical and mental healing. There were PT appointments to strengthen my body from the double mastectomy and of course a lot of emotional and mental work that brought me so much closer to my faith and family.
The reality is that no one walks away from breast cancer unscathed. As survivors, we know that once the surgeries and treatment are behind us, we are different versions of ourselves. It becomes impossible to simply rejoin the lives we had before breast cancer, and instead, we focus on creating a new life that incorporates mindfulness, meaningfulness, and grace as we navigate through this post-breast cancer world.
Here are five ways I’ve readjusted my life in the aftermath of surviving breast cancer:
- Daily exercise – I’ll admit that before breast cancer, I worked out because I wanted to look good. Truth be told, I hated working out on the daily. Since breast cancer, I look at exercise in a whole new light. It’s no longer about keeping my figure so that I can fit into my favorite clothes, it’s about the health aspects. My daily yoga practice is as important for my body as it has been for my mind. I also appreciate the ability to lift my arms over my head and the strength I feel in the new muscles in my back every time I unload and put away the groceries, a task that was impossible during the immediate aftermath of my mastectomies. No matter what I have on my plate that day, I make my morning exercise routine a priority, for my health and wellness.
- Slowing Down – Before breast cancer, I was always on the go. I have always been so driven in my career while juggling every other aspect of my life as a female entrepreneur, TV personality, wife, mother, grandmother, and friend. Downtime for me was few and far between, a habit I know many women can relate to. When was the last time you put yourself first? These days, self-care for me means slowing down and stopping to smell the roses. I no longer pack my schedule and make time for the things that truly matter to me: showing up for my children and grandchildren, having dinner dates with my husband and friends, and taking Chloe on strolls around the neighborhood. Slowing down has brought a lot of peace and happiness into my life.
- Accepting help – I don’t know if it’s something in the sweet tea down South, but it’s not easy to admit when we need help. Before breast cancer, I was always that martyr Mom who would rather exhaust myself doing it all rather than ask for help. But the vulnerability of breast cancer taught me how to not just accept help when offered, but to also ask for it when needed. It was a hard lesson to learn; I had the misconception that asking for help meant I wasn’t strong enough to do it on my own. Today, I recognize my limits and I know that reaching out when you need support is an essential part of recovery.
- Proactive control of my health – Scanxiety for a survivor is very real but monitoring after breast cancer is an essential part of life. I know I’m not alone; my daughter Mollie oftentimes has a panic attack leading up to her yearly mammogram, especially in light of our family’s history. But as women, we can’t afford to take a head-in-the-sand approach to our health. Don’t ignore the signs or explain away symptoms, even if you think you’re just being anxious or paranoid. It’s much better to have your doctor give you a clean bill of health than to ignore a potentially life-threatening condition.
- Finding my tribe – Friendships tend to ebb and flow throughout our lives, and who was in your inner circle in your thirties might not still be there today. It’s so important to have a tribe for companionship and support, at every stage of life. I’m still working on this well into my sixties. I don’t take my closest friends for granted as I continue to foster new friendships. Having that camaraderie and support as I head into new stages of my life is just so invaluable. I can’t recommend enough investing the time to find your tribe.
How has breast cancer impacted your life? Are you a previvor, survivor, or have supported a loved one through breast cancer Share your experience in the comments below, and don’t forget to schedule your mammogram!
Till Next Time,
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