Pat Biedermann: Living Harmoniously with Stage IV Cancer – The REAL final installment of a Multi-Series

On April 28th and 29th, 2012, Living Beyond Breast Cancer will host its Sixth Annual Conference for Women Living with Metastatic Breast Cancer. In preparation for that event along with our video blog series, we introduced Pat Biedermann, an  LBBC  Helpline volunteer who happens to be living with metastatic breast cancer. In this multi-series, Pat will share with you–not only her story–but her “tricks and tips” on how to live (and live well) with the disease.

Here are some of the things I do to change the way I handle stress take control of my life:

Avoid internalizing the stress of others

I have learned to adjust my reactions in response to someone else’s actions: if a client (or even family member) is ranting and venting, I have learned to try and view it as just that. There is no need for me to internalize that rage and allow it to eat me up. This too will pass. I remind myself that it is not necessarily me that they are upset at, but someone or something else.

Take care of myself

I’ve learned the importance of taking time to care for myself, because if I don’t, then no one else can. Just enjoying a hot bath or a quiet walk helps keep me centered, focused, mindful. I find, in particular, that a hot bath with baking soda and sea salt is not only relaxing, but in my case, is also detoxifying.

These may be small measures, but they sometimes can have a big effect.   I have also tried to stop watching violent TV shows and movies and have opted, instead, for a show that will make me laugh. There’s enough drama already in life all day long – who really needs more from TV and reality shows?   Although I still love reading my trashy romance novels, I thoroughly enjoy reading books that now have meaning to me.

This brings me to the final element of change which helps me live harmoniously with my stage IV cancer. I can sum it up by simply saying that I took control of my life, but –as you will see—that included changes that were anything but “simple.” I am a drastically different person today than before my diagnosis. Not everything I do would appeal to everyone; maybe none of it will. I simply implore you to find something that works for you.

These are the many steps I took to take control of my life:

Honor my body

It was right about this time I realized that in order for my life to continue, I needed to make major life changes. I had taken up walking with both the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer and the Susan G. Komen 3-day Walk. Once I did both walks in the same year. Between these events and training for them, I did a lot of walking. Two months after a walk, I had another recurrence. After that, I decided it was time to hang up my long-distance sneakers and honor my body.  As much as I wanted to contribute to a wonderful cause, I also knew I was doing great trauma to myself. I learned from this that I must put my body’s needs first.

Eat well

Nutrition is another simple avenue where I can exercise control over my life. I now believe that most processed food out there will eventually make us sick.  I have come to realize most of my shopping should be done on the perimeter of the market.  As a result of Dr. Gonzalez, I juice every morning.  Every day I vary the ingredients, but they are all full of life -enhancing vitamins and antioxidants.  My family may raise their eyebrows and turn up their noses, but so be it.  I have also discovered that I would much rather cook a nutritious meal at home than go out to eat. Never in my long career would I have said that I enjoyed cooking. Eating out was always first choice. Now I relish the time and the results.

Because my cancer is estrogen-driven, the majority of my foods are organic. The pesticides used in conventionally grown fruits and vegetables create issues with estrogen and could possibly promote tumor growth. I realize the cost of buying organic can be prohibitive. If cost is a factor, then a list of the top contaminated fruits and vegetables is readily available, as well as the least contaminated. I avoid all meats, including chicken and turkey. I do enjoy eggs (poached is my preference), yogurt, fish, and lots of nuts, grains, almond butter, and other good sources of protein. The benefit of this type of protein is that it doesn’t acidify the body the way meats do.

Seek out uplifting people

This is Pat

Having been a single mother for many years, as well as a workaholic, I confess I never took the time to cultivate deep friendships. One of the changes I made in my life is to seek out and cultivate healthy friendships.  Now, I consciously attempt to re-connect with old friends and forge bonds with new ones. The one trait shared by all the people I choose to spend time with is this: they all inspire me in some way. When I leave them, I feel buoyant and hopeful and renewed. If I cannot avoid being around pessimistic “downers,” then I find I call upon my mindful-based stress relief techniques so that I do not internalize their negative feelings.  I have a wonderful group of friends today. Don’t get me wrong. My family is there for me, too. But families worry about their wife/daughter/sister/mother, and I find myself sometimes censoring what I say to them. With my friends, I can express exactly how I am feeling.

Is there such a thing as a healthy Stage IV cancer survivor? Who knows? Whatever the outcome, my lifestyle is a way I can feel good about what I am going through.

Once again, we here at LBBC would like to thank Pat for sharing her story.

Pat enjoy walks out in nature, reading and spending time with family and friends. Visit our website for more information on the Conference for Women Living with Metastatic Breast Cancer and to Register for the April event. Additional resources can be found through LBBC’s Understanding Guides: Metastatic Breast Cancer Series.  Later this year, LBBC will produce a guide for women newly diagnosed with metastatic cancer.

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