Dear Ladies (and Gents):

I am going to tell you how you can prevent breast cancer. Yes, I am going to spell it out so that you may possible avoid the dreaded words from your doctors, “You have breast cancer.”

Within the past two weeks, I have learned of yet two more local women in my circles that have been diagnosed with a form of breast cancer. For someone who lives in a “small” city of approximately 50,000 residents, it is rather alarming and disheartening to learn of two women I know or know of having just heard those words, “You have breast cancer.”

Something has to give! Millions are poured into the pink breast cancer vehicle year after year after year and still “in 2013, an estimated 232,340 new cases of invasive breast cancer were expected to be diagnosed in women in the U.S., along with 64,640 new cases of non-invasive (in situ) breast cancer.” Source:  Cancer.org

Something has to change! “In 2013, there were more than 2.8 million women with a history of breast cancer in the U.S. This includes women currently being treated and women who have finished treatment.” Source:  Cancer.org

I am not a doctor, nor am I a researcher so my disclaimer will be up front and center. However, I am a breast cancer survivor and I am an avid advocate for pervasive change. Never have we had a need to rally the troops more than right now this moment. Never have we had a more pressing need to make sure that YOU are doing what you can to prevent breast cancer.

Nearly every person that is young (i.e. 20-50 years old) with a cancer diagnosis has had a traumatic or life altering and very stressful event in their lives. STRESS. Many of us know that stress has a tremendous negative effect on our immune system, but in my opinion, many of us know all too well the actual effect – a cancer diagnosis – because of the result of that tension in our lives. We reside in a society, in modern times, where the amount of stress we perform under is tantamount to a badge of honor. For what? At the end of the day, do you really want to go to the grave with everyone remembering what a wound up ball of rigidity you were in your lifetime? I used to wear my stress in that fashion; everyone used to compliment me on how I managed my chaotic life like a graceful Superwoman with a corporate career, little children, aging and sick parents and then some. Newsflash: I did not manage it well. I nearly – LITERALLY – killed myself in the process.

Many of you may be aware that we all have cancer cells in our bodies. Yes, we do. Typically, our immune system is strong enough to destroy any mutant or wayward cells in our bodies; but what happens when our immune system cannot destroy or keep up with the rate of multiplication of the cancer cells? You often times develop a tumor (unless it is a type of cancer like leukemia, which is blood borne and does not create a tumor).

What can we do to ensure our immune system stays strong enough to battle? We can do a lot. Preventing cancer is not a proven science, or we would not be seeing my rage right now. However, if I told you that following Steps 1-10 would very likely help you prevent cancer, why would you not want to do it? Why would you not want to enable these steps in your children’s lives so they prevent their increased risks at getting cancer?

Ladies, we need to rally now. Men, you need to join in because even though your rates of breast cancer remain low; the ability to lower your risks for breast cancer are the same options that also lower your risks for other types of cancers.

Who’s in? Is everyone raising their hands? Let’s be the change we wish to see in the world, instead of being reactive and waiting for more cancer diagnoses in those around us, let’s be PRO-ACTIVE starting NOW.

  1. Reduce your stress. Starting right now. I am already stressed out worrying about how many of you will not undertake these measures (but I am employing my coping technique and hoping that even if *some* of you start making changes, then we have started the positive path of change). Limiting the stress in your life is not easy; we all know this. Just as we pick and choose our battles with our irrational toddlers in our lives, we need to pick and choose the battles of stress we allow to wash over us. That bill you are worried about paying – it will still be there tomorrow, and next month, and making yourself worried about it is simply not worth the money owed. The deadline your work has imposed, you can only do your best…..readjust the other sails in your life to implement your best, but at the end of the day – work is only work and you will not be remembered for that aspect of you at the end of your life. I felt trapped prior to my diagnosis: the lifestyle I chose to live forced me to maintain the unreasonably stressful job I employed; my parents residing with us was a choice I made to ease their lives but was a choice that nearly destroyed my life. Would a different job or having my parents move out have prevented my cancer diagnosis? We will never know, but my quality of life for those years would have been much better for my well-being.
  2. Do NOT smoke. I am calling myself out for being a hypocrite here, as I do not like being told what I can or cannot do by others. However, the statistics cannot be any more telling and forthright: smoking causes cancer. You would not inject yourself daily with a toxic disease would you? Every cigarette you smoke is akin to playing Russian Roulette with your health. Your smoking causes family members of mine to have asthma attacks. Many of you would never intentionally cause harm to another human, but smoking does not only affect your health – it affects complete strangers around you and seizes their lungs to the point where they may not be able to breathe.
  3. Exercise. Stop shaking your head, ha ha. Sure, we can all exercise a bit more in our lives but again, the statistics demonstrate how valuable exercise is for our well-being. You do not need to go all Crossfit on me, but daily walks, weekly hikes, a few minutes of stretching and simple exercises like sit ups or planks help your health with much more impact than you may realize. Find an activity that you like, join a friend and make it fun. Your body will thank you.
  4. Nutrition. The topic of what we eat will spawn a multitude of spin offs from this blog. Nutrition is key. In my opinion, part of how I have staved off a recurrence of my highly aggressive form of breast cancer is in large part due to how I changed my nutrition post-treatment. Our grocery stores are laden with processed foods that will not give us optimal health. Sorry, Cheetos are not fuel for immune system precision. The food industry has been allowed to alter our food and fill every bite with man-made chemicals; some of which we have no idea of the impact on us after years of consumption. Is the consumption of azodicarbonamide worth the risk? Again, this is a battle I choose not to take and I avoid for me, for my children and those around me. Join a CSA for locally grown produce (and you may inquire how they treat said produce with pesticides, if at all). Purchase your meats from a local farmer who raises their animals cruelty-free and without injecting them with all sorts of growth boosting supplements. Too expensive you say? My full year of cancer treatments, surgeries and related protocols cost in excess of half a million dollars. Over $500,000 worth of methodology to save my life and that does not touch upon lost wages, additional out of pocket expenses and the emotional price of cancer. $500 for sixteen weeks of more veggies and some fruits than my family of five can handle, plus $65/month for grass-fed, locally raised meats. Hindsight is always so clear.
  5. Wear your sunscreen. I will always wonder if those bad sunburns on my chest may have been the trigger for the wayward breast cancer cells.
  6. Watch your personal care products. We live in a great country that affords us so many choices, why not make the ones that are best for our good health? If we know parabens are known carcinogens, why would we continue to use them on our largest organ: our skin? The bottle of soap right next to the one containing parabens may not have parabens – read your labels and find what works best for you and your children. One more way you may empower yourself, your immune system and possibly dodge a cancer diagnosis.
  7. Be your own best advocate. If your body or your health seems questionable, ask, ask and ask again to be sure you get an acceptable answer. Your body has an amazing way of letting you know something is off, so listen to it. Your doctor may have an M.D., but sometimes, they are only human and it is OK to question what they tell you. Again, we live in a phenomenal country where choices are rampant – it is okay to pick and choose your medical team.

Ladies, I used to be one of those people who ignorantly spouted: “We are all going to get cancer or die anyway, I may as well die eating, drinking, doing the things I love!” (Head down, shamefully shaking my finger at myself). We all have the ability to make better choices for ourselves and for our families. We have got to take our health into our own hands, we have to make sure we stop taking our lives for granted and we have to stop and ask: “Am I making the best choice for pro-active, preventative health?”

YOU have the ability to reduce your risks for breast cancer. You DO. Find some friends, talk about what steps you will each take for yourselves and for your families. Teach your children how to put their best healthy foot forward, it will be a lesson they take with them throughout their lifetime and quite possibly pass on to their children. Empower not only yourself to possibly dodge a cancer diagnosis, help your friends and family. Maybe instead of hearing about two women in your town who were diagnosed in the past couple of weeks, you will be chatting with your peers about how POWERFUL your immune system is, or healthy our society has become and how everyone is living to be 80, 90 or 100 years old.

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Do you want to be a part of a team of superwomen/superheros who have armored themselves with the power of choice? I certainly do. Will you join me today?

Yours in health,

Rebecca

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