Aerobic Exercise during Cancer Treatments

Aerobic Exercise during Cancer Treatments

Aerobic exercise (a.k.a. “cardio”) has many proven benefits for all humans. Cardio relates to cardiac, meaning it’s for the heart! For cancer thrivers, aerobic exercise can have many excellent benefits (including improved survival rates and decreased rates of recurrence!) and should be recommended for all oncology patients. Read on to learn about the benefits and general recommendations for aerobic exercise during cancer treatments.

Benefits of Aerobic Exercise

  • Increase your sensitivity to treatment = better tumor cell destruction!
  • Prevent muscle loss and build strength (including your heart muscles)
  • Reduce treatment-related side effects
  • Reduce depression and anxiety
  • Improve your sleep
  • Reduce your recurrence and mortality risk significantly (up to 50% for some)
  • Improve your quality of life

Psstttt… if you’re not convinced already, I’m not sure what will get you on board this point!

Types of Aerobic Exercise

  • Walking
  • Riding your bike
  • Running*
  • Interval Training
  • Swimming**

*If running was part of your pre-treatment routine, it may be ok to continue, BUT as some treatments can put you at risk of cardiac dysfunction, it may be best to stick with more gentle cardio until your heart gets stronger. Always check with your doctor or physical therapist!

**Avoid swimming in the ocean or public pools if you are neutropenic, have recently had surgery, or have open wounds/blisters from radiation therapy due to increased risk of infection!

Aerobic Exercise Guidelines

We’ll use the FITT principle for aerobic exercise guidelines:

  • Frequency: 3-5 days per week
  • Intensity: RPE 2-3 – keep it light for cardioPROTECTIVE benefits!
  • Time: 10-60 minute sessions for total of 150 minutes per week
  • Type: Choose your favorite from those listed above!

What is RPE, you ask? RPE, or Rate of Perceived Exertion, is a measure of how hard you feel you’re working. Use this Modified Borg Scale to guide your intensity during your workouts!

Modified Borg
Scale
0RESTING
1VERY EASY
2SOMEWHAT EASY
3MODERATE
4SOMEWHAT HARD
5HARD
6
7VERY HARD
8
9
10VERY, VERY HARD

Special Considerations

  • Understand if the chemotherapeutic agents you received can cause cardiotoxicity. If so, be sure to request a baseline cardiac workup. Know that low-intensity exercise may have a cardioprotective effect during treatment!
  • Monitor your vital signs!
    • Use your fitness tracker to monitor your heart rate OR here’s a video on how to check your heart rate manually!
    • Report any significant or unusual shortness of breath to your physician.
    • Watch for swelling that may be early signs of lymphedema or cardiac dysfunction.
  • Monitor lab values! Generally, if your lab values fall in the following ranges, you should check with your provider before exercising:
    • Neutrophils (ANC) <1.5 x 10^9/L
    • Platelets < 20,000 cells/uL
    • Hemoglobin < 8g/dL (anemia)
  • Be cautious if you know you have any of the following:
    • Bone or lung metastasis
    • Osteoporosis
    • Abnormal sensation or dizziness/imbalance which may increase your fall risk

Now you know some general guidelines for aerobic exercise for cancer patients! By the way, these general guidelines apply to those without cancer as well! Always seek medical advice before starting a new exercise program and remember: All information shared on this page is for educational purposes only. If you are thinking of starting an exercise program, consult with your physical therapist or physician to determine what is right for you!

Aloha ❤

Resistance Training during Cancer Treatments

Resistance Training during Cancer Treatments

You’ve probably heard the old saying, “If you don’t use it, you lose it,” right? Well, it’s true! For oncology patients in particular, resistance training is an important way to maintain strength, balance, and quality of life during and beyond cancer treatments.

Benefits of Resistance Training

  • Maintain functional STRENGTH to continue to do the activities you love
  • Improve or maintain MUSCLE mass
  • Improve or maintain BONE health
  • Improve QUALITY OF LIFE
  • Reduce MORTALITY risk by 33% [Hardee, et al, 2015]

Types of Resistance Training

  • Bodyweight Training
  • Pilates
  • Yoga
  • Weightlifting (free weights, machines, resistance bands, etc.)
  • TRX / Suspension Training

*Pro tip: Choose a type of exercise you enjoy to make it fun and something you look forward to!

Resistance Training Guidelines

  • 2-3 days per week
  • Focus on major muscle groups
  • Moderate Intensity
    • 40-60% of maximal effort
    • RPE 3-6

What is RPE, you ask? RPE, or Rate of Perceived Exertion, is a measure of how hard you feel you’re working. Use this Modified Borg Scale to guide your intensity during your workouts!

Modified Borg
Scale
0RESTING
1VERY EASY
2SOMEWHAT EASY
3MODERATE
4SOMEWHAT HARD
5HARD
6
7VERY HARD
8
9
10VERY, VERY HARD

Special Considerations for the Oncology Population

Take extra precaution AND work with a specialist if you know that you have:

  • Bone Metastasis
  • Osteoporosis
  • Abnormal sensation or dizziness/imbalance which may increase your fall risk!

Now you know some general guidelines for resistance training for cancer patients! By the way, these general guidelines apply to those without cancer as well! Always seek medical advice before starting a new exercise program and remember: All information shared on this blog is for educational purposes only. If you are thinking of starting an exercise program, consult with your physical therapist or physician to determine what is right for you!

Aloha ❤

BCAM is BACK!

BCAM is BACK!

I know I’ve been terrible at keeping y’all up to date on my life lately, but that’s because I’m just busy living right now. When I look back on my life one year ago, I still have a hard time believing any of this actually happened. Cancer treatments consume your life for nearly a year (or more for some), and then you’re just done? When chatting with other survivors, we all seem to comment on how none of it seems real. We were in survival mode for so long, and when the dust finally settled, we had to come to terms with the fact that, yes, indeed, we did have cancer. What a trip!

Every day gets easier, but some days all the feels creep up and you don’t know whether to be sad or angry or go hide in the corner until it passes. I try not to take anything for granted, but I’m just human, too, and I often get sucked back into the usual work, sleep, eat, repeat. With that said, I’ve been making a concerted effort to go for walks by the beach, do yoga, hit up weekly farmer’s markets, and get together with friends when I can. Those things help. A lot. Make time to do things that bring you joy.

On Monday, I had my annual MRI – just a follow up scan to keep a close eye on things. Thankfully, all looks clear. There is a small area of enhancement in the same area where I mentioned I needed a biopsy back in July which already came back benign so here’s hoping I don’t need another biopsy! In my professional opinion, I’m right in the middle of tissue healing from radiation therapy, and there’s a lot of scar tissue forming right now. With that comes a lot of tightness and discomfort in my left chest wall, and I think that friction is creating a small cyst in that region.

Again, the survivorship game is not all sunshine and rainbows. While everything is technically “all good” now, sometimes it isn’t. There are a lot of things that I still need to work through, but I just choose to take it one day at a time.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

This brings me to the main point of this post which is that Breast Cancer Awareness Month is back! I personally choose to refer to BCAM as “Breast Cancer ACTION Month” as I think it’s a great time to donate to breast cancer research, reach out to family/friends you know going through cancer and offer your support, and speak up to lawmakers and organizations with power to make change in medical care for cancer patients.

October is a time of pink ribbons and shameless promotion of products that support breast cancer. Breast cancer thrivers have coined this “pinkwashing” and want to remind you to be mindful of any products you purchase this year. Any major company that claims to put proceeds to support breast cancer better be donating at least 20% of their profits to organizations that fund breast cancer research. And, if you choose to make a donation to breast cancer organizations, choose one or two that fund research primarily or that you know directly supports thrivers with care packages, financial support, or practical support (like providing free wigs, offering transportation or house cleaning, or fertility preservation assistance).

Here are a few of my favorite breast cancer organizations to support:

My BCAM Action Plan

This October, I’ll be focusing on holding the American Cancer Society accountable for their recent change in recommendations to delay annual mammogram screening for those age 45 and older. This is a recent change in recommendations and adds insult to injury to prior recs that both breast self-exams (BSE’s) and clinical breast examinations are not indicated for early detection of breast cancer. These recommendations are based off a study out of Shanghai in 2018 that indicated that more benign lesions were found on BSE’s than malignant ones, and therefore led to unnecessary procedures like imaging and biopsies. In case you can’t guess who benefits from these recommendations, let me spell it out for you…INSURANCE COMPANIES.

For adolescent and young adult (AYA) cancer thrivers (ages 15-39) who are ineligible for annual mammograms, the only way for us to detect cancer early is through BSE’s. The more frequently we do these screenings, the earlier we can seek care for any abnormal findings, and the better our prognosis if we should be very unlucky to find a malignancy. I found my lump on a BSE and it saved my life. I will advocate for BSE’s until my lungs give out. Should you feel so inclined to support this cause with me, please reach out to the American Cancer Society via phone/chat or social media to let them know how you feel about this!

I’ll also be sharing a bit on social media about how PT can be helpful before, during, and after cancer treatment because October is also National Physical Therapy Month. Follow me on Instagram for more – @bri.d.pt!

Beyond that, October is my favorite month, so I’m going to get some Halloween decorations out and get ready for Spooky Season! Maybe I’ll pull out the old purple wig for Halloween this year, too! Stay well, friends!

Aloha ❤

Chemotherapy: Stretches for Health

Chemotherapy: Stretches for Health

Before beginning any exercise program, please check with your physician or physical therapist! Not all exercises or stretches are appropriate for everyone – please read my full medical disclaimer here before trying any of the exercises listed below.

It’s no secret that it can be difficult to stay active during chemotherapy. While exercise has been proven to have many physical and emotional benefits during cancer treatment, some days it’s just difficult to get moving. I’ve designed this short stretching compilation to stretch the spine and major joints of the body to promote mobility and circulation on even the most difficult chemo days. Make these stretches part of your daily routine or use them to loosen up after a nap or before bed!

Watch the video for a full demonstration:

*Note: Video plays at 2x speed! Take your time when you’re stretching!

Child’s Pose

From a kneeling, or seated position, slide the hands forward until you feel a stretch in the shoulders and lower back. Hold for 30-60 seconds as tolerated.

Modifications: For greater stretch of the side body, walk the hands to the left or right.

Cat/Cow

Begin on hands and knees in a neutral spine position with hips stacked over knees and shoulders stacked over the wrists. Inhale and slowly drop the belly to arch the back, lifting the breast bone. The, exhale and round the back from the tailbone to the neck, broadening the space between the shoulder blades. Alternate moving into each position for 5-10 repetitions.

Modifications: Perform in a seated position, reaching forward as you round the back, and allowing the arms to reach behind you as you lift the chest.

Hip Flexor Stretch

In a kneeling position, square your hips and tuck your tailbone until a gentle stretch is felt across the front of the hip. Perform deep breaths. Hold 30-60 seconds as tolerated.

Modifications: Perform in a standing partial lunge position, hold onto something for balance. To increase the depth of the stretch, sidebend the body away from the bottom/back leg.

Hamstring Stretch

In a kneeling or seated position, stretch one leg out in front of you. Square the hips and straighten the knee as you hinge from your hips to deepen the stretch along the back of the leg. Try not to round the lower back to allow for the best stretch. Hold for 30-60 seconds as tolerated.

Modifications: Lie on your back and use a strap/towel to pull a straight leg up toward the ceiling. Flex your foot to deepen the stretch.

Butterfly Stretch

Sit with the soles of your feet touching and knees dropping down toward the floor. Perform deep breaths. Hold for 30-60 seconds as tolerated.

Modifications: Place pillows or yoga blocks under the knees to reduce strain on the hips, lean forward to deepen the stretch.

All stretches are designed to be gentle, but can be progressed if they become too easy. Stretches can be performed 1-3 times per day as needed.

Happy stretching!

Aloha ❤

Breast Surgery: Post-Op Stretches

Breast Surgery: Post-Op Stretches

Before beginning any exercise program, please check with your physician or physical therapist! Not all exercises or stretches are appropriate for everyone – please read my full medical disclaimer here before trying any of the exercises listed below.

After both breast-conserving surgeries and mastectomies, people often find they have difficulty reaching overhead or behind their back, washing or fixing their hair, or feeling tightness throughout the chest wall. The following stretches are helpful to improve range of motion and help you restore your ability to complete your usual daily tasks!

These stretches should be done after a sufficient amount of time has passed post-operatively so all incisions in the breast, chest, or axilla (armpit) have healed. Be sure that any incisions are well-healed before attempting these stretches without guidance from a healthcare professional. Normal soft tissue healing of the skin and underlying tissues takes about 4-6 weeks. Stretching might be uncomfortable as you push into tight areas, but you should not typically experience pain >5/10 while performing stretches.

Watch the video for a full demonstration:

*Note: video plays at 1.5x speed – take your time when you stretch!

Shoulder Stretches

In a kneeling, or seated position, slide the hands forward until you feel a stretch in the shoulder or axilla. Perform gentle repeated stretches (10-15 repetitions) or hold for longer durations (30-60 seconds) as tolerated.

Modifications: For greater stretch of the side body, walk the hands to the left or right.

Cat/Cow

Begin on hands and knees in a neutral spine position with hips stacked over knees and shoulders stacked over the wrists. Inhale and slowly drop the belly to arch the back, lifting the breast bone. The, exhale and round the back from the tailbone to the neck, broadening the space between the shoulder blades. Alternate moving into each position for 5-10 repetitions.

Modifications: Perform in a seated position, reaching forward as you round the back, and allowing the arms to reach behind you as you lift the chest.

Sidebend Stretch

In a seated or standing position, grasp your affected arm with the opposite hand and gently lean away to stretch the shoulder and side body. Breathe deeply into the ribs on the affected side. Hold 30-60 seconds as tolerated.

Modifications: Lie on the unaffected side over a pillow or foam roller and gently stretch the affected arm overhead, limit the range of motion as tolerated.

Pec Stretch

Lie on your back and allow one or both elbows to fall out to the side. For mastectomy patients, perform only one side at a time until cleared by your physician to perform both sides together. Do not allow the back to arch away from the floor or bed. Hold for 30-60 seconds as tolerated.

Modifications: place pillow/s or a yoga block under the elbow to allow tight shoulders/chest walls to relax during the stretch. This stretch can also be performed standing with forearms placed against a doorframe.

Open Book Stretch

Begin lying on the unaffected side with knees bent to 90 degrees to protect the low back. Place the affected arm behind the head and allow the body to rotate and open up the front of the affected shoulder/chest. Breathe in as you open and exhale to return to the starting position. Repeat 5-10 times.

Modifications: Straighten the affected arm for a greater stretch or circle the arm over the head to stretch in various angles.

All stretches are designed to be gentle, but can be progressed if they become too easy or maintained if full range of motion is achieved. Stretches can be performed 1-3 times per day as needed.

Happy stretching!

Aloha ❤

365

365

It’s been one whole trip around the sun since we read the dreaded pathology report… “consistent with invasive ductal carcinoma.” And in these last 365 days, I feel like I’ve lived 100 different lifetimes. Newly diagnosed. Fertility planner. Chemo baldie. Breast conservation surgery advocate. Radiation breath-holding champion. Student. Educator. Survivor.

Now, the scars are fading. My irradiated skin is healed (although a little pale if you ask me). My energy is slowly returning. Life is going back to “normal,” whatever that is these days. I’ve been a little silent on the blog and on social media because a lot of my energy is going toward trying to remember what I told myself when I was first diagnosed…

YOU ARE NOT YOUR DIAGNOSIS.

Some days it’s difficult to remember who I was before cancer. Honestly, sometimes I come across an old photo and I don’t even recognize that girl! So I’m setting out to reinvent myself a bit. I’m prioritizing adventure, travel, learning new things, letting in old things that bring me joy, and not wasting one single second doing something I don’t feel passionate about…at least trying anyway.

I learned in the past year that I am fearless. I can do anything I put my mind to, but the one thing that scares me is missing out on doing the things I love and crave with the people I care about the most because of things I “should” be doing. Nothing is more important to me in this lifetime. From here on out, if it’s not a whole-hearted “yes!” for me, I’m not doing it.

You’ll likely be seeing a lot of different content from me in the future as I plan to continue the blog to share information about physical therapy, pelvic health, oncology, and other things that I feel everyone should know about. At heart, I am most passionate about teaching, sharing knowledge, and educating myself, so if you’d like to keep learning with me, I’m happy to share this space with you.

In the meantime, please keep me in your prayers as I have my “new baseline” mammogram today. As it usually works with true divine intervention, my scans are scheduled exactly on my 1 year anniversary of my diagnosis. While I feel deep down that everything’s going to look great, there’s always that tiny voice in the back of my mind saying “what if…” Honestly, I’m not sure if it will ever get easier to repeat imaging, but I’m choosing to see it as a privilege that I get to have these scans at all. God must want me here for something!

As my friend Kate says, “If you’re very lucky, life goes on.”

I hope you’ll do something that makes you feel wildly, beautifully alive today. Do it for all those we’ve loved and lost. I’m incredibly grateful for all of you.

Aloha ❤

It’s Going…

It’s Going…

**Full disclosure – this post contains affiliate links. I may earn a small commission when you purchase from certain companies at no additional cost to you. You can read my full disclaimer here. Mahalo!

Hi, friends. It’s been a minute! I just wanted to share that today I am officially 5 months out of chemo! That sounds super gangster, right?!

Many things have changed since October, and I feel like there’s a bit more “normalcy” happening. I’ve gone back to work part-time and have had wonderful patients. I almost forgot how much I love patient care. I got vaccinated for COVID. I even got my first post-chemo haircut… What more can a girl ask for?

1st post-chemo cut!

I’m still having to remind myself that I’m only about six weeks out of radiation because some days I get so frustrated by the level of fatigue I feel after only a 6-hour work day. Cancer fatigue does not equal regular fatigue, y’all. It’s a level of physical and emotional exhaustion that I would not wish on anyone. Even a full night of sleep doesn’t quite seem to be enough to fully recharge. I’m not telling you this to complain, but just to remind you to be gentle with your friends and family who’ve had cancer. The long-term effects are not always visible, but they are very, very real.

I can’t remember if I’ve said this, but being officially “cancer free” and completing treatment has not been easy. Over the past year, I was 100% in survival mode, jumping through all the hoops to get this obnoxious little invader out of my body. Then treatment ended, and honestly nothing could’ve prepared me for the emotional tsunami I’ve experienced.

Don’t get me wrong, I am overwhelmingly grateful to have had treatment work so well for me. I know that I am lucky to have caught it early and that a cure was an option. Most days, I can find the joy in knowing I’ve survived and that my body is healing, but there are many days where I feel the very real fear of recurrence or a deep sadness that my life will never quite be as carefree as it was before. There are a lot of tears. I know that this will all get better with time and I’m learning to give myself grace, but the struggle is real, you know?

For now, I’m just taking it one day, one hour, one breath at a time and learning to find peace among the challenges. I’m thankful for all of you reading this. Don’t forget to send a little love to those you love today.

If you’re feeling extra generous, TNBC awareness month is still going strong until March 31! Right now, your donation to the Triple Negative Breast Cancer Foundation will be tripled thanks to some generous sponsors!

Curious what current TNBC research focus is on?

  • Anti-androgen hormonal therapy options
  • Immunotherapy options (targeted treatments) for TNBC with specific basal-like tumors
  • PARP-inhibitors for TNBC patients with BRCA genetic mutations
  • Development of a TNBC vaccine (How cool! I love preventative medicine!)


DONATE HERE or make a purchase from Paris Laundry (a clean living site owned by a fellow #breastie who is donating 10% of all purchases to TNBC research this month) to help us advance TNBC research and find more treatment options for my fellow TNBC warriors!

Aloha ❤

Radiation Fibrosis

Radiation Fibrosis

Radiation therapy is used as an adjunct treatment for cancer to kill off any remaining cancer cells in the surrounding tissues which are often called “micrometastases.” Radiation therapy is not appropriate for all cancer patients, but for those who do have treatment plans which include radiation, the short and long-term effects can be difficult to tolerate. Today, I want to share more about one long-term effect of radiation therapy called radiation fibrosis.

What is Radiation Fibrosis?

Radiation fibrosis (RF) refers to tissue changes which occur locally after someone goes through radiation therapy. Tissues which are most often affected are the skin, subcutaneous tissues (fat, muscle, bone), organs such as the lungs or heart, or the gastrointestinal/genitourinary tracts depending on the part of the body that is irradiated. Ions from radiation beams cause DNA damage and localized inflammation around the tumor site as well as in the surrounding normal tissues. The degree of damage often depends on each individual’s sensitivity to the radiation itself as well as the dose given and area of tissue treated.

Who is at Risk for Radiation Fibrosis?

Anyone who undergoes radiation therapy as part of their cancer treatments is at risk for RF. Some factors that increase susceptibility of developing RF include:

  • Those who also have concurrent chemotherapy or surgery
  • Those with pre-existing connective tissue disorders (scleroderma, lupus, or Marfan’s syndrome)
  • Those with a genetic mutation in the ataxia-telangiectasia (ATM) gene which assists to repair damaged DNA

How does Radiation Fibrosis Present?

RF onset can be immediate, early delayed (0-3 months after treatment), or late delayed (>3 months after treatment), however most find that symptoms begin to show up 3-4 months after treatment ends. Symptoms usually come on gradually and they are, unfortunately, not reversible.

Some of the symptoms include:

  • Thickening of the skin
  • Muscle tightness or atrophy
  • Limited joint mobility
  • Lymphedema
  • Mucosal fibrosis (mouth, throat, GI tract, genitourinary tracts)
  • Pain

What Treatments are Available for Radiation Fibrosis?

Physical therapy is proven to increase range of motion lasting up to six months post-treatment (and probably longer if the person continues their exercises)! PT’s can use manual therapy or prescribe specific exercises to mobilize the skin and myofascial tissues, increase range of motion in affected joints, improve strength, and manage lymphedema (if they are a lymphedema specialist – if not, then they should refer you to someone who is a certified lymphedema specialist).

For reproductive/colorectal cancers in particular, seeing a pelvic floor physical therapist may be indicated to ensure independence with toileting (especially bowel movements) or to assist with sexual concerns like pelvic pain or tightness.

Other potentially-beneficial treatments may include hyperbaric oxygen therapy, pentoxyfilline (a drug that helps to improve blood flow to the tissues) with or without the addition of vitamine E (a powerful antioxidant), and botox injections – but the research is still pending on the true benefits of these treatments!

If you or someone you know is going through radiation therapy, let them know about RF & send them to a physical therapist to help with any mobility concerns they may have!

Aloha ❤

References:

  1. Radiation-induced fibrosis: mechanisms and implications for therapy (Straub, et al. 2015)
  2. Supervised physical therapy in women treated with radiotherapy for breast cancer (Braz da Silva Leal, et al. 2016)
  3. Radiation Fibrosis Syndrome: Neuromuscular and Musculoskeletal Complications in Cancer Survivors (Stubblefield, et al. 2011)
TNBC Day!

TNBC Day!

Hi everyone!

I wanted to share that today, March 3, is TNBC Day! In fact, the whole month of March is dedicated to raising awareness about triple negative breast cancer and fundraising for TNBC research! As you know, I was diagnosed with TNBC last April. TNBC primarily affects younger people (age <50), people with a BRCA1 genetic mutation, black & Hispanic women, and people with Ashkenazi Jewish heritage.

15-20% of new breast cancer diagnoses are triple negative, which means their tumors lack receptors for estrogen, progesterone, or the HER2 protein. Because of this, treatment options are limited for TNBC and there are no targeted therapies available as there are for other types of breast cancer. For this reason, TNBC (which is typically more aggressive and tends to metastasize to the bone, brain, or lungs) can be difficult to treat and that is why I advocate for TNBC research!

Current research is focusing on:

  • Anti-androgen hormonal therapy
  • Immunotherapy for TNBC with specific basal-like tumors
  • PARP-inhibitors for TNBC + BRCA patients
  • Development of a TNBC vaccine (whatttt?!)

For the month of March, 100% of all donations to the Triple Negative Breast Cancer Foundation will go to research. If you are able to give, know that all of us TNBC thrivers (past, present, and future) appreciate you!

Click the photo below to use my personal link to donate to TNBC Foundation!

If you are here because you were recently diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer, here are three things I wish I would have known at the time of my diagnosis (#PowerOf3):

  • O N E : 40% of breast cancers are found on a self-exam! Check you chest & advocate for those under 40 who do not qualify for mammograms yet!
  • T W O : A TNBC diagnosis is not a death sentence! TNBC is an aggressive cancer and it’s treated aggressively, but it also has a higher rate of complete response to chemotherapy than other types of breast cancer – stay hopeful!
  • T H R E E : There is an incredible online community full of young & old TNBC thrivers on Facebook & Instagram. Through these incredible people, I’ve receive comfort, advice, and comedic relief from the cancer saga – come thrive with us! Check out @tnbcfoundation and @tnbc_thrivers on Instagram.

Mahalo & Alooooooha! ❤

And Just Like That…

And Just Like That…

Today, February 10, 2021, is my last day of radiation therapy and my LAST DAY OF ACTIVE TREATMENT for triple negative breast cancer (*breathes huge sigh of relief*)!! It has been the most rollercoaster-y 10 months of my life and I am ready to close this chapter of pokes and stitches and breath holds forever! Or at least until my follow up scans in April….

Triple negative breast cancer is a scary diagnosis. The recurrence and mortality rates are much higher than for other breast cancers, especially in the first three years of remission. After five years, however, the average recurrence rate drops quite a bit. As part of my follow up care, my wonderful breast surgeon and I have agreed to do an annual mammogram (coming up in April) and also an annual MRI (planning for October) so that I’ll have some type of surveillance scan every 6 months for the near future. Because TNBC has a high grade (cells multiply rapidly), it’s important for me to continue self-monitoring by doing a monthly breast self-exam. Should anything return between scans, I’ll be able to catch it earlier (again, #KnowThyself).

I’m planning to transition back to work in the next few weeks. I’ll likely start out seeing patients part-time and slowly ramp back up to a full time schedule. I am also transitioning to our women’s health center from our regular outpatient PT department where I’ll get to work with more pelvic floor and oncology patients (this is really where my passion lies so this is exciting for me)! As daunting as it may be, I’m very much looking forward to getting back to patient care. I feel like I am living my best life when I’m helping people live theirs so I’m thankful to have an occupation where I get to do that every single day.

Taken on my regular walk down Mahalo St. – Mahalo means “thank you” in the Hawaiian language! Fitting for today’s post…

As much as I didn’t want to get all sentimental in this post, it’s impossible to reflect back on the past 10 months and not feel completely overwhelmed with gratitude. I’m overflowing with thanks for those of you who prayed for me, who supported me financially or by sending gifts and cards, who called or texted just to check in and talk with me about anything (especially anything that didn’t have to do with cancer).

I’m amazed by my excellent medical team – they are smart, smart cookies and always made sure I was well taken care of, not to mention the whole “saving my life” thing. I’ve met many women recently who weren’t as lucky as I was with their medical teams and were told things like “you’re too young to have cancer” or “let’s just watch it closely over the next several months.” Honestly, best practice should be to just refer for the dang imaging. I could go on a long rant about how insurance companies should NOT dictate what practices and procedures are recommended by doctors (who are the actual experts on medical things, by the way), but I’ll spare you. Instead, I’ll just continue to urge you to stand up for yourself and refuse to settle for a “wait and see” approach to your health.

I’m also incredibly grateful for my body for carrying me through all this treatment. It was hard, you guys, and it was hard for my husband to watch me go through it. But, now I know just how strong I am – how strong I can be – in case I ever forget. I’m really proud of myself for seeking care when I knew something was wrong, for taking the time to research integrative treatments to support my body during treatment and recovery, and for making exercise and stress relief a priority the whole time. It’s been a privilege for me to take time off work while recovering and also to have so many knowledgeable people (healthcare providers and other cancer thrivers/survivors) around me pointing me in the right direction.

Lastly, I just have to shout out my husband one more time. Truly, I could not have done this without him. He is the best guy around, and every day I’m lucky enough to spend with him is an absolute blessing. Looking forward to many more (less scary, more exciting) experiences with you, Justin ❤

Love this guy…

Don’t forget to find the joy in the simple things today. We all have our own struggles, but it’s important to look for the blessings in each day. Sending my love to you!

Aloha ❤