In this installment of The Whole You, Sarita Joy Jordan writes about finding a passion for exercise and maintaining healthy living practices after diagnosis. Read other posts from this Wellness Weekend blog series and join us for this three day event that’s just for you!
I was diagnosed with stage I breast cancer in 2005. It was a very difficult road, but I made it through. I had to figure out my new normal. Since 2007, I have participated in many conferences, forums and workshops involving wellness after my initial breast cancer diagnosis.
In 2012, I fell off the healthy living wagon and shifted in daily practices that I knew to be normal. Like starting my mornings off with coffee that was way too sweet. Eating fried foods and take-out for lunch and dessert for snacks. And then, to top it off, having a high-calorie filled dinner and plenty of Pepsi. The more I ate, the more pounds I packed on. The more I sat, the more difficult it became to get up and move something. I suffered from depression and was saddened about my inabilities.
I joined a Biggest Loser program at my neighborhood Y. I was assigned a personal trainer and began to learn how to be accountable for what I ate. I also was introduced to a nutritionist, who showed me how to make adjustments to my diet. Although, I didn’t win the contest, I completed the weight loss challenge with a renewed zest to live healthy. I joined a running group and began to excel in running; 5k’s, 10k’s and even completing several half marathons. I didn’t know that this wellness choice would ultimately save my life. You see, in 2013, my cancer returned. I was diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer with metastasis to the liver, bones, skull base, left ovary and right axilla.
I truly believe that if I had not been running and made these pivotal changes to my diet, I would have been in a dire situation at this second diagnosis. I had no pre-existing comorbidities. I finally understand the importance of wellness.
Facing a diagnosis like this, it was now more important than ever to maintain my overall wellness. Building onto what I already learned from the Biggest Loser program, I participated in Living Beyond Breast Cancer’s Eating Well After Breast Cancer program, held in partnership with MANNA. This program increased my knowledge about nutrition after breast cancer, and showed me simple and satisfying recipes I could make in my own kitchen.
I just completed 26 rounds of chemotherapy, and I exercised and participated in classes at the gym during treatment. I was able to utilize the Livestrong program (www.livestrong.org), which is a 12 -week program at the gym, specifically designed for cancer patients. I participated in yoga, rowing class, ran on the treadmill, walked the trails, water therapy and exercise, Zumba, etc. I recently spent a week kayaking with a program called First Descents (www.firstdescents.org). in Mt. Hood, OR. This was an adventure of a lifetime. I recently completed a 5k walk/run and a 4.5mile walk/run with my local church, which was a goal that I set for myself. Although I will be in treatment for the rest of my life, movement will also be my medicine.
My interest in exercise and healthy living is why I am so excited for the upcoming Wellness Weekend in Denver, CO, with LBBC. I am especially looking forward to Yoga on the Steps: Denver. I participated in Yoga on the Steps: Philadelphia for the first time this year and I joined Jewel Ajibade’s and Amy Lessack’s team, Thrivin’ and Survivin’. Participating on this team with them was life-changing, uplifting and inspiring., I started to understand that mind, body and soul need to be in-sync at all times – Namaste! You know, had I not made the connection between the importance of diet and exercise, I might not be alive today and able to share my experiences with you via this blog.
I am looking forward to being reacquainted with my fellow Hear My Voice: Metastatic Breast Cancer Outreach volunteers, at the annual fall conference participants, women LIVING with metastatic disease and being able to connect and encourage other women who may be living with an early-stage diagnosis. We are all on this breast cancer journey together and may just need a little motivation to get off the couch. This September 18-20 weekend can offer the motivation we need. Any movement is beneficial and there are so many options to incorporate wellness while dealing with a breast cancer diagnosis and beyond.
Sarita Joy Jordan is a retired supervisor from the Department of Public Welfare and most recently, Temple University Hospital as a patient navigator. She is more than 9 years past her initial breast cancer diagnosis and was diagnosed with metastatic disease in 2013. Though she is in active treatment, Sarita continues her role as a patient advocate and volunteer, most recently as a Living Beyond Breast Cancer Hear My Voice Outreach Volunteer. Her life purpose is to educate, motivate and encourage women to live beyond a breast cancer diagnosis.