My mother died of metastatic breast cancer two months after her 62nd birthday. I celebrated my 62nd birthday earlier this month. My reflections and emotions are all over the place. She had a double mastectomy at 55 years old. At 60, the cancer returned and despite chemotherapy and radiation treatments, the cancer spread. I remember pushing mom in her wheelchair around the neighborhood in April a month before she died. It was a sunny day. She and I took in the daffodils, tulips, and hyacinth budding in the neighbor’s gardens. She was wrapped in a blanket and a head scarf to stay warm.
On my birthday this year, I started my day with a bike ride around Lake of the Isles. Recovering from a total knee replacement last August, I was thrilled with the breeze on my face on this soon to be 76-degree day, and my leg’s capacity to pedal the full rotation. Had I made healthier choices than my mother that allowed me to feel so good? Was it fate? Was I just lucky? Mom was obese by medical standards, suffered from mental health issues never addressed, and lived stressed and on high alert. She suffered. Life and health are full of mystery. The only certainty in my reflections, and emotions was my gratitude.
Following my ride, I savored the connections with friends and family through phone calls, cards, text messages and social media birthday wishes. After a warm shower, I enjoyed a wonderful scheduled two-hour massage. Yes, that is decadent. I had put money aside; it was my birthday gift to myself.
I have made choices in my life to use my resources of time, money, intention, and energy to support my physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing. As a nationally board-certified health and wellness coach, mindfulness facilitator, and a pharmacist, I continue my studies of the continuum of health and wellness. The Illness-Wellness Continuum proposes that individuals can move towards greater health and wellbeing, passing through the stages of awareness, education, and growth. Worsening states of health are reflected by signs, symptoms, and disability. Research supports the fact that a person’s outlook can affect wellness.
Part of my practice, personally and professionally, includes incorporating the tenants of Lifestyle Medicine. This is an approach to caring for ourselves and therapy from practitioners that focuses on changes to lifestyle habits that can prevent, treat, and even reverse disease. Replacing unhealthy behaviors with more beneficial ones can help you live a healthier life. What are the areas of Behavioral Interventions and Lifestyle Changes?
• Movement: Do you move your body every day? Walk, jog, or run alone, with your pet or friends in our beautiful neighborhoods, many parks, and around the lakes. Find your local Yoga in the Park and attend. Join a gym. Play frisbee, golf, soccer, pickleball or tennis in our parks.Canoe, kayak, paddle board or fish on our lakes. Find your accountability partner.
• Diet: We have the best farmers markets; go and buy good local in season food. Participate in a local community garden. Receive fresh meat and/or produce from a local CSA (Community Sourced Agriculture). Drink plenty of water. Have healthy snacks available such as raw veggies and nuts. Our soil no longer provides all the minerals we need even if we eat whole foods, so investigate supplements with your health care provider.
• Stress Management: Breathe deeply several times a day. Notice your stress triggers and symptoms and choose to engage in an activity that relaxes you. What do you need? How are you feeling? Have unscheduled time each day and check in with yourself.
• Relationships/Community: Connect with people you enjoy. Volunteer. So many organizations are supporting the thriving of every member of our community.
• Eliminate Toxins and Unhealthy Habits: Minimize the toxins you put in your body; alcohol, cigarettes, fast foods. Reduce excessive screen time.
• Sleep well: Develop a relaxing routine and avoid blue screens before bedtime. Minimize light and sound in your sleep environment.
Spring is flourishing all around us. Savor every day. We have many choices throughout our day to live an empowered authentic healthy life. In community, we got this!
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