Exercise: “Get into the Groove…” and Move!

I used to exercise to offset the intake of wine and nachos.

A few extra step aerobic classes or Tae-bo sessions and, “Voila!” back to normal.

Alas, that stopped working MANY years ago.

Now, I exercise – or, I prefer to say, “move,” to get lymph flowing and better balance my immune system.

Some of my favorite ways to move:

Walking – This ranks as “best in class” for me. Especially outside in nature. I’m a fast walker and can sometimes move into something that looks like “wogging,” a combination of a walk/jog. Yep, I look ridiculous. And, yep, I feel super alive. But, I enjoy slow, too.

Last August I “loped” around NYC for the entire day, racking up over 35,000 steps and seeing a ton of Manhattan!

fitbit

My “half marathon” around NYC!

Rebounding (Mini Trampoline) – I do this one in short bursts. I weave it in to help me have a High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) style of workout. I do a combination of two minutes on the treadmill, two minutes on the trampoline, two minutes of strength training, rinse and repeat… My Fitbit records it as a Basketball workout, which always strikes me as funny because I’m 5 feet tall.

Qigong – I started this peaceful practice when I was healing and continue to incorporate it into my morning and evening routines. I also add the moving and breathing techniques to many of my yoga and meditation classes.

Yoga – Yoga reduces my overall stress level and allows me to appreciate the state of my body on that particular day and point in time. It slows down my racing mind and increases awareness of how interestingly my body fits together. The final relaxation, or

xenasavasana

Sweet Xena (RIP) had the best savasana evahhhh!

savasana, is the cherry on the sundae! When I was younger, I used to skip it. These days, I take a yoga class BECAUSE of those final minutes of sweet stillness. I learned about yoga4cancer when I was recovering from surgery. A friend gifted me with this book and I followed the exercises as I healed. Now, I’m a certified teacher in the y4c methodology.

Cardio Kickboxing – This one is fun and brings me back to the glory days of Tae-bo. I feel strong and have fun doing it. There’s inspiring music, light weights, and I can constructively get out any latent aggression. S*^%*^o)#@%^r!!!

My cancer diagnosis prompted me to appreciate my body and love it more than I ever had before. I was so sad and scared at first, but then became so grateful for how well my body healed and continues to heal. The medication I am on has hurtled me into early menopause (THAT’s a future post – Oh, boy!). I’ve watched the scale steadily increase over the past few months and it’s been hard not to freak out. Both my oncologist and oncology naturopath explained how my body is doing exactly what it’s supposed to do – it wants to offset the drop in estrogen by adding fat. But, fat can increase chance of recurrence, so I get stressed. But, stress can increase the chance of recurrence, so… I now focus on figuring out how to “be” with this new way of being. In the meantime, I move daily to balance my immune system. I eat nutritious foods. I meditate to reduce stress. I honor sleep. I practice gratitude for my body and work on navigating the changes I’m going through as positively as I can (and I carry a collapsible fan in my purse).

What helped: The Steps to Wellness Program at The University of Vermont Cancer Center. This program is open to any cancer survivor. It’s a 12 week supervised group exercise program which includes educational workshops on lifestyle management. The American Cancer Society recommends either 150 minutes of moderate exercise (that’s just 21 minutes a day!) or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise – or a blend of both – each week to help prevent recurrence and optimize recovery and overall health. Strength training is recommended at least two days a week.

What I wish I knew earlier: After many months, the weight gain WOULD eventually stabilize. It’s slooooow coming back off, but it’s finally beginning to occur.

Some things you can try right now:
Get up and go! Pick something that brings you joy. Like to dance? Try something like Zumba. Like to bike? Hop on a scenic path or try indoor cycling at a place like REV. Like being on the water? Try a kayaking adventure. Choose something FUN that you’ll welcome doing. I have been attending a Monday night Pilates class at Peace of Mind Pilates for the past nine years. An added bonus from this weekly ritual? I’ve formed forever friendships.

kayak

Have fun in nature with friends!

Break it up. It takes seven minutes to walk from my cubicle to the end of the parking lot and back. It clears my mind and always makes me more productive. If done three times in 8 hours – BAM! – 21 minutes of moderate activity.

Practice gratitude. Gosh, our bodies are freakin’ amazing. Think about it. That wonderful heart of yours has been pumping since you came into being. Your eyes are taking in this text and your brain is translating what it means. Maybe you’re listening to music, the sounds of nature or the laughter of someone you love. Or you’ve recently wrapped your arms around someone special – or petted a beloved animal friend. Perhaps you enjoyed an aromatic and delicious dinner. Your body is the vessel that carries around the unique spirit that makes you YOU for this precious slice of time. Walk, run, jump, play, and celebrate the body you have! Cherish it. Love it. MOVE it.

What are some of YOUR favorite ways to “move it, move it?”

Next Up: Flashes & Fear

Medical Disclaimer: This blog is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Medical advice must only be obtained from a physician or qualified health professional.

Geri Ann Higgins, owner of Fully Present, is a breast cancer survivor, Certified Health & Wellness Coach, Registered Yoga Teacher, Certified Yoga4Cancer Teacher, Reiki Master, Tarot coach and Marketing & Communications professional. Learn more at http://www.FullyPresentwithYou.com

Listen to Your Gut

My first thought when I was diagnosed with breast cancer was, “I finally have my answer.”Lovefillsthehouse!

The haunting had begun two months prior. There was something wrong with my breathing. Having lived with manageable asthma, I knew this was different. I couldn’t explain it sufficiently, but I was off.

As the weeks went by, I ran through a slew of appointments: Primary Care doctor, asthma and allergy doctor, chiropractor, acupuncturist, massage therapist, and finally, a mental health counselor, because I couldn’t stop thinking of my own death.

Nobody could find anything physically wrong with me. My lungs were fine and the continued breathing difficulty I was describing didn’t quite fit with what happens with classic anxiety or panic attacks. The pain on the right side of my mid-back was viewed as a possible overuse injury or as a result of a massage that was too deep.

From early January through early March, when people would ask how I was doing, I would answer something to the effect of, “I’m okay. I’m trying to figure something out, there’s something going on, but I’m working on it. I just need to figure it out.” I started canceling anything extra on my calendar. I just wanted to be home. Friends were getting increasingly concerned by my behavior change. I was nervous. At times, they could see that there was a frantic or uneasy look in my eyes. They saw my chest heaving in discomfort. Fear had entered my world and had a firm foothold in my psyche.

Upon waking each morning, I hoped I’d magically returned to normal during the night. Instead, the mysterious new way of being remained.

One evening, I was alone in my house and a wave of panic and desperation washed over me. I remember breaking down and pleading to whoever or whatever might be listening, “What is WRONG with me? What is happening? Please, please, help me understand! What do I need to do? Tell me! Help me! Please! I KNOW something is wrong with me!”

A week later, I started my day with a routine mammogram.

When I got back to my office, the phone call came. They found something. In BOTH breasts. The right side was the one that was more concerning. I had to go in for a magnified mammogram and ultrasound.

I told a couple of close friends. They shared their own stories of being called back, trying to allay any fears.

But, I now knew. They’d found the source.

You see, my annual imaging was overdue by three months. I had delayed it because I had been attending the parade of other appointments about the erratic breathing and upsetting thoughts. Since I had previously gone two years in between mammograms and did not have a family history, I was not concerned by waiting 15 months versus 12. I had not connected anything worrisome with the mammogram that morning, because the pain was in my back and the difficulty was in my lungs and head. I was just ticking off the “self-care” box of annual appointments.

Interestingly, the pain was on the part of my back directly behind my right breast.

After additional testing (magnified mammograms, ultrasound, core needle biopsy), my diagnosis was medically confirmed.

I did not get too many details – those would come when I saw the Breast Cancer Surgeon.

My first appointment with her brought additional unexpected, and unwanted, information. I thought they would make an excision, and I would possibly need to have radiation. That wasn’t to be the plan.

I needed a unilateral mastectomy.

I summoned my inner strength, gathered my loved ones close, and looked to something higher.

I thought about death. A lot. This also led me to think about life and living. I learned more about what I didn’t want, so that I could begin to craft a more meaningful life on a variety of levels.

I am lucky. I had it worse than some and a lot better than many others. That said, I understand the fear a cancer diagnosis brings, I have experienced orthorexia, life-changing surgery, intense types of physical and mental pain, feelings of “scan-xiety”, medication side effects, and the ongoing fear of recurrence.

After I was diagnosed, I craved information. Although the broad strokes were given to me, the “detail” recommendations for healing work were lacking. I found the stories of others to be beneficial guides. I got a better idea of what to expect, even though I knew that every experience was unique.

In the coming weeks, I’ll share key lessons I learned. I’ll talk about my own experience, I’ll talk about the role of love (love is what it’s all about, people!). I’ll talk about Qigong, Tarot cards, Yoga, a couple of kooky kitty cats, unique fashion choices for a unilateral gal, sonic bowls, and more. I’ll introduce concepts that you might really like and others that you might think are way too out there.

For those undergoing your own cancer experience, I wish you the highest and best.

My hope is that you can find something that resonates with you, something that brings you or a loved one hope, health or a peaceful moment. When considering what might be a good fit, just listen to your gut.

Part of the reason I’m sharing is because I would have wanted to read something like this… an inside view of a portion of what you might experience, which could help you prepare just a little bit more. A map of the territory. This map only goes so far and others will likely be needed for you, but this will be a way to bring light to some of the shadowy unknown parts that you may move through.

Healing means different things to different people at different stages. Taking time to be still and asking what would most enhance your body, mind and spirit’s healing on a morning, afternoon and evening basis may help you regain a little more control.

May you be able to recognize the blessings that surround you amidst this temporary period of fierce difficulty.

So many will be there for you – allow them in.

Geri Ann Higgins, owner of Fully Present, is a breast cancer survivor, Certified Health & Wellness Coach, Registered Yoga Teacher, Certified Yoga4Cancer Teacher, Reiki Master, Tarot coach and Marketing & Communications professional. Learn more at www.FullyPresentWithYou.com.

 

 

 

A Case for Mindful Eating

A Case for Mindful Eating

I recently attended a local StorySLAM event, hosted by The Moth. The theme was IMPOSSIBLE. Your story had to be true and showcase a time where you successfully overcame impossible odds. I immediately knew what I wanted to share.

I placed my name in the hat, but was not chosen. There was an abundance of potential storytellers that evening and there were only 10 slots. Although disappointed, the theme of the event enabled me to organize my thoughts around a scary situation that, up until then, I had stayed fairly silent. A couple of years have passed, and they’ve brought their own unique and unexpected challenges. Looking back on that night of defying the odds, however, I continue to carry relief, gratitude, and empowerment. I now realize that the experience helped me prepare for other unimaginable situations to come. I’m now ready to share this story.

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