PART 2 of Breast Cancer Care workshop was on Tuesday 10th September and we covered more interesting subjects (at least for me): Diet and Exercise + a short bit on Complementary Therapies (a little less interesting, at least for me).
The Diet and Cancer Prevention talk was really enlightening. The talk was given by a trained dietician who works only with cancer patients and a lot of myths have been debunked. The main thing I have learned is that there is no “magic” food that will protect you, despite what you will read in the papers ; on the same line, there is no food that increase your risk if you eat a healthy diet. Basically, you are told to do what any doctor would tell you to stay generally healthy: drink lots of water, eat lots of fruits and veg, have a balanced diet, portion control.
The thing that was important was to maintain a healthy weight and avoid alcohol as alcohol was the only thing that had been scientifically proven to increase risks of breast cancer. So if the “recommended” alcohol allowance for women is 2 units per day, if you had breast cancer or are at risk, you shouldn’t do more than 1 unit per day.
The big thing that had been debunked for me is the connection between artificial sweeteners and cancer risk and she said that there is actually no long running studies that can prove a link and having too much sugar (or being overweight) is more of a risk than the couple of sweeteners you might take…
Generally speaking, the things that are bad for anyone’s diet, are bad for a cancer survivor just the same so as long as you exercise, eat healthy and only do treats in moderation, you should be fine. She has also emphasised the need to be careful with vitamins and food supplements as some can counteract the effect of your medication so it is best to check with your oncologist before self prescribing yourself.
I have to say this talk left me quite optimistic and relieved. I had images in my head of having to start a special diet and taking lots of supplements but turns out, I don’t have to as I have always been careful with my diet. I have definitely put on some weight during treatment (normal apparently) but once I start exercising again, it should come off quite easily. The only change I have definitively made since diagnostic is my alcohol consumption. I never drank much, don’t get me wrong, but now I am even more careful. If I go out 2 or 3 times in the same week (which can happen!), I will only allow myself alcohol on 1 of those and only a couple glasses. To be honest, I don’t mind so much as I stopped enjoying feeling like shit the day after a boozy night and let’s be frank here, even if I had a relatively easy ride with the chemotherapy and such, there were still enough days were I felt like crap from the drugs that I am not willing to get myself back there in a hurry and that’s how a hangover feels.
Similarly, the Exercise and Cancer Prevention talk was also interesting. Again there is no magical exercise combination which will guarantee you that cancer won’t come back but I have learnt that there are absolutely no sports I can’t do now that I am done. I started boxing not long before I was diagnosed and really enjoyed it too and thought that because of my operation and the fact that I had plenty of nodes removed, I wouldn’t be able to take it back as it might be bad for lymphoedema…but no. She said that as long as you feel ok, there are no reasons why you can’t resume the same activities, just to remember to start slowly. The only thing that could be bad would be to do static exercises with your arm, like some yoga position (plank) where you have to hold still as it does not encourage the flow of lymphatic liquid. Back to boxing, the class I used to attend doesn’t exist anymore so I will have to find another and I think I’d like to start swimming again (one of the best exercises to do).
Then, to finish the session, we had a lady who came to talk to us about Complementary Therapies which includes aromatherapy, acupuncture, massage, relaxation, guided visualisation… She wasn’t a very good speaker I am afraid. Not only, am I not keen on the subject (well I don’t mind massages and I wouldn’t mind trying acupuncture…which she didn’t actually talk about) but relaxation and guided visualisation are really not my cup of tea and unfortunately instead of talking to us about it, she read everything that was on her presentation slides…like we couldn’t read them. She kinda of lost me quickly. It was not helped by the trial session at relaxation she “treated” us with at the end. I am sure it works wonders for some people, but I am not into the wishy-washy stuff about breathing peace and letting go of tension and visualising gardens and shit. If anything, this is the type of thing that is going to stress me because I find it utterly useless (to me)… Saying that, most of the other ladies seem to enjoy it. It’s just not for me, I am not a spiritually inclined person so although I can accept that breathing deeply can help relax you, I can never get to that blank state where your mind is empty…my mind is never empty…there are always 100s thoughts whizzing about in it and I don’t mind it to be honest. If you ask anybody who knows me well, I am not a person who stresses herself despite my inability to switch my brain off.
Next part: Breast Awareness after diagnosis and Adjusting and Adapting after diagnosis