Thanks to Andrea for the photo.
I just spent an inspiring (and I don't use that word lightly) week end at Body, Mind, Spirit, 2010: National Conference for Young Women Living with Breast Cancer.
My best parts:
A Friday afternoon workshop: "Take charge of Your Treatment for Women with Metastatic Breast Cancer" with Dr. Maureen Trudeau. Engaging, accessible, interesting, informative and hopeful.
A Saturday afternoon workshop: "Intimacy after Cancer: Rekindling the Flame" with Dr. Sally Kydd. Amusing, motivating, reassuring, helpful and just plain fun.
A Sunday morning workshop: "Living with Metastatic Breast Cancer. Support that Works" with Dr. Tzeporah Cohen. Emotional,moving, cathartic, uniting, strengthening.
Speakers who resonated: Deborah Dubenofsky (Ontario Region Board Chair, Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation) and Carol Ann Cole.
My takeaway message (from Dr. Natasha Zajmalowski, Dr. Rob Rutledge, Dr. Roanne Segal and others)-
When it comes to breast cancer recurrence, it appears that insulin is the root of all evil. Lowering insulin levels improves the odds for a long and healthy life. How to do this:
1. Get at least thirty-five minutes of moderate exercise every day. Hooray! Something I'm already doing right!
2. Maintain a healthy body weight. This has provided the kick in the pants to re-commit to dropping 44lbs by my 44th birthday. Weighing too little isn't good either but that's never been my problem.
3. Eliminate or reduce alcohol and sugar. The insulin explanation is the first one I've understood and accepted re the link between these yummy things and cancer recurrence. To be truthful, not being an "all or nothing" kind of person, I don't see myself promising to never consume booze or sweets again. I can't even say that I haven't partaken since the conference, this being the season of Hallowe'en and pumpkin ale. I can say that I will make a greater effort to hold out for the good stuff and not give in to cravings.
I'm happy to say that although this message was consistent, the speakers seemed to be devoid of judgment. No one was blaming the victim or telling cancer patients that they brought the cancer on themselves.
I still feel that there are greater environmental and medical issues that need to be addressed. But there are just so few things we can control as cancer patients that I appreciate straightforward advice and simple things I can do to increase my odds of being around to see my children grow up.
Thank you so much to the staff (especially Jenn McNeill of the CBCN) and volunteers (especially Andrew, a volunteer from Humber college who helped with my books, kept me company and was enormously supportive during and after my book signing) at the Canadian Breast Cancer Network and the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation for helping me to promote Not Done Yet, and especially for organizing an amazing conference.
Can we do it again next year, please?