Cancer Recovery 2

February 18, 2009

I understand that a diagnosis of cancer is like a slap in the face. Then the carpet gets pulled out from under your feet. A roller coaster appears and you’re thrown up, down, and around so you have no sense of direction anymore. When the roller coaster stops, you find yourself  in a swamp with no clear path to follow.

I’ve experienced all this and heard others say the same: it’s a nightmare.

What saved me was my support system. My husband, family, and friends came to my rescue and coached me along until I found the road to recovery.

If you know someone who is facing a cancer diagnosis, please be kind to them. The act of love and friendship may just save their life.

Sleep – are you getting enough?

May 31, 2010

Getting 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night helps you to lose weight, look younger, feel better, and do better with memory, focus and willpower says Daniel G. Amen, M.D. in the book Change Your Brain Change Your Body.
This is a great book if you want to improve your life by changing your mind, and we can all do this if we choose to.
Here is a summary from the chapter on sleep:
2009 Sleep in America Poll:
– 20% of people get less than 6 hrs of sleep
– 28% of people get a good 8 hrs of sleep
– Temporary sleep issues affect almost everyone
– Sleep deprived people are twice as likely to eat sugary foods & simple carbs and skip breakfast which affects blood sugar which leads to poor choices all day

Sleep requirements for adults: 7-8 hrs
National Sleep Foundation
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke

Losing sleep can make people fat:
– University of Chicago study
– People who are sleep deprived eat more simple carbs
– More of hormone ghrelin which stimulates appetite
– Less of hormone leptin which tells the brain you are full

Sleeping more helps with weight loss in a Glamour magazine study:
– 7 women slept 7&1/2 hrs for 10 weeks – lost 6 to 15 pounds

Sleep does more for your skin than cosmetics – younger, smoother, refreshed
Adequate sleep:
– Promotes good brain activity – memory, willpower, and focus
– Boosts athletic performance – better motor function & learning
– Improves mood and energy for socializing

Tips to help you go to sleep & stay asleep:
– maintain a regular sleep schedule
– create a soothing routine that encourages sleep
– read – avoid action packed or horror stories
– avoid naps
– sound therapy – nature sounds, music, fan
– drink warm milk with pure vanilla and stevia
– take electronic equipment out of the bedroom
– avoid eating 2 to 3 hours before bedtime
– exercise but not within 4 hours of going to bed
– avoid caffeine, chocolate, nicotine & alcohol
– avoid checking the clock if you wake in the night
– use the bedroom for sleep & sex – if you wake up go to another room
Change Your Brain Change Your Body is published by Harmony Books New York.

Cancer prevention

May 22, 2010

If 5 to 15% of cancers are genetic, that leaves 85% or more cancers which are caused by lifestyle and environmental factors. If we want to prevent cancer, our best bet is to focus on being healthy instead of focusing on the fear of getting cancer.

Our bodies are assaulted every day by foreign chemicals in food, water, and air. We also make bad chemicals inside our bodies when we have negative emotions such as anger, anxiety, guilt, worry, and negative stress. Our job is to provide a balance so our bodies can function properly and recover from these assaults.

If we want to prevent cancer or any other condition such as diabetes or heart disease, we need to focus on doing what it takes to be well. If we are in our best possible state of wellness, these diseases will be kept under control and we can live in good health for the most part.

I took my health for granted before I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1986 and colon and skin cancer in 1987. I figured that I was too young to get cancer, and I would pay more attention to my health as I got older.

I’ve learned that the effort to be well is less than the effort required to be ill. Since I’m a bit lazy it suits me fine now to put my effort, time, and money into wellness rather than illness.

Most people know what it takes to be well – the trick is to want to do it enough to make some simple lifestyle choices. There are 4 areas which form the basic pillars of wellness: healthy eating, regular activity, adequate sleep & deep relaxation, and good stress management. Any one can choose to improve their wellness if they make it a priority.

Making healthy lifestyle choices is simple and with a coach it can also be easy. Support systems make the difference between success and the need to try again. Coaches can be friends, family or professional wellness coaches.

I learned much from having cancer and I want to share what I’ve learned with people who want to improve their wellness. My coaching business is called Start Here and Go Forward because I think it’s important to focus on where you’re at right now and where you want to go. If you want to Start Here and Go Forward to wellness, I will be your partner in health.

How I Kicked Cancer’s Ass

May 17, 2010

Congratulations to Meaghan for creating I Kicked Cancer’s Ass! I don’t usually use that word in public, but then I’ve been quiet about a lot of things for a long time. I kicked 3 types of cancer in 1987 and have been cancer free since then. Woohoo – that’s 23 great years of appreciating my life like I never did before cancer.
This is my story which was posted to Meaghan’s blog on how I learned to kick cancer:
I was preparing myself to die with breast, colon, & skin cancer in 1987, and I’m so thankful to the people around me who helped me to change my mind. I did a lot of work myself, but my support team helped to make it easy for me.

If you have cancer and you want to kick its ass – get a support team to help you as it’s very tough to do this alone. If you know someone with cancer who wants to kick its ass, then whatever support you give them will make a big difference in how they’re able to live their life.

I was fortunate to have a wonderful health care team all through surgery and chemotherapy. My doctors were helpful and they inspired me to do everything I could to complement conventional medicine and help myself get well.

The Cancer Agency ran a support group where I learned to do meditation, visualization, guided imagery, deep breathing, and deep relaxation. My surgeon recommended a psychiatrist to help me deal with unfinished business, and a Cognitive Behavioral Therapy course to help me deal with depression.

With love and support from family and friends, I learned how to manage my stress and change my diet and exercise pattern. Reading books, listening to tapes, and attending workshops taught me many other coping skills and bit by bit I built my road to health and wellness.

I’ve been an active member of the cancer community for many years now as a survivor, health care worker, and as a volunteer. It’s with sadness that I’ve seen many people die of cancer. If we don’t know cancer is there and we let it grow too long, it just takes over like an aggressive weed. When cancer is advanced it takes over our bodies and takes away our energy; with more cancer and less energy we have less chance of kicking it out.

I think the best defense is an offense; we need to be aware of our bodies and check out signs and symptoms when they begin. This way I hope more people will give cancer a swift kick, and take control of it before it controls them. Cancer is like a bully! When we let cancer have its way, it takes over our lives and even takes our lives for no good reason. When we stand up to cancer we at least have a chance of kicking it out of mind and out of sight. By focusing on being as well as we can possibly be, we improve our quality of life and possibly our quantity of life.

One day at a time, I give thanks for every day.

Here’s Meaghan’s contact info:




May 15, 2010

Simplicity seems to be a lost art in most busy lives today. It’s too bad because many people don’t have time or take the time to stop and notice what surrounds them. When we remember to do this, there’s always something interesting to see and if we’re lucky, something beautiful to lift our spirits.

People from many different spiritual beliefs promote “living in the moment”, “being present”, and “taking one day at a time”. This recurring theme seems to be an ideal way to live if we want to enjoy life. How many of us actually do this on a regular basis?

It takes so little time to stop, take a deep breath, and look around to take in where we are, what we’re doing, who’s there, and to relish the fact that we’re alive. When we actually do this though, we get more in touch with who we are and why we’re here.

When we think about who we are and why we’re here, then we’re better able to overcome negative details that can drag us down. Thinking about the bigger picture inspires us to keep putting one foot in front of the other and moving towards our ideal of what we want for ourselves.

The most important things in life start with simple things such as love for our selves and others. Please take the time today to acknowledge yourself for who you are and what you do to enjoy life. Happiness is the key to good health!

Breast cancer genetics

May 8, 2010

Thinking about daughters and genetics on Mother’s Day –

I read about this conference as a result of a link on Twitter:

The conference in Toronto sounds interesting, but I have alarm bells going off when I hear about women facing a “daily conflict” about telling daughters of their risk for breast cancer.

Daily conflicts are not healthy – if we pile more daily conflicts on top of all the other concerns we have when living with breast cancer, they will further damage our health.

I say learn about genetics if you can handle it, but not if it creates emotional pain which may affect your health and well being.

I think it’s important to remember that genetics are responsible for only 15% of cancers.

Some lifestyle choices – which we can control – are responsible for many more cancers than genetics. Taking charge of our lifestyle choices is empowering!

Women are disempowered when they think they have no control over their prognosis because of their genetic makeup.

Women need to be empowered in order to overcome breast cancer.

Women can protect their daughters by encouraging them to eat healthy food, be physically active, get enough sleep and deep relaxation, and manage their stress. Healthy habits make a difference!

I know because I had Stage II breast cancer in 1986. I’ve been cancer free since 1987 and I’ve done that by changing my lifestyle once treatment was over. I eat a low fat high fiber diet, walk every day, get enough sleep and deep relaxation, and manage my stress level. This is simple stuff, and if I can do it so can many others.

Cancer institutions tell us that 30 to 50% of cancers can be prevented. I believe you get what you focus on and this is what we need to focus on if we’re going to reduce the cancer rate in the next generation.

Peace of mind helps us to survive cancer. I believe that negative emotions and daily conflicts can ruin our health, so it’s important to work through them and move towards a healthier state of mind.

In the words of an old Chinese doctor: Happiness is the key to good health!

April 24, 2010

The good news about cancer is that if it’s found early enough, people can recover.

The bad news is when it isn’t found early enough.

My question is – why does it have to take so long to find lung cancer?

Often it seems that lung cancer is discovered too late and people die very soon after diagnosis; this is tragic especially in young people.

As a society we need to pay attention to the symptoms of lung cancer and not brush them aside because we think it won’t happen to us.

I made this mistake with breast cancer, and I could have saved myself a lot of grief with a timely mammogram.

We all need to raise our awareness of lung cancer symptoms, to listen to our bodies, and check out unhealthy symptoms.

So the most common symptoms of lung cancer are: cough, coughing up blood, chest pain, and shortness of breath.

Other symptoms may be wheezing, hoarseness, and repeated chest infections such as bronchitis or pneumonia.

I’ve heard of a few people who have gone to the doctor to check out a cough and been put on antibiotics, then much later they find out they have lung cancer.

We need to pay attention if our gut feeling tells us there’s something seriously wrong, and we need to stand our ground to make sure we get the proper treatment.

I know that denial is the most common coping skill, but if we think about the benefits of finding cancer in an early stage compared to later stages, it makes sense to find out sooner rather than later.

It’s up to us to know our bodies well enough to know when something changes, and it’s up to us to take the next step.

It’s important that we care enough about ourselves to be our own best friend and take action if it’s needed; it’s simply a matter of self care and we all deserve this.

Health vs. wellness

March 26, 2010

I see the difference between health and wellness as being one of ownership. We tend to think of the health care system as being in charge of our health, whereas I believe that we are each personally in charge of our wellness.

Health can be divided into: physical health, mental health, emotional health, and spiritual health. Health can also be divided by disease such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, etc. There are many health care professionals who are trained and ready to help take care of our health; mostly they are specialized in their field and take care of one aspect of our health.

Wellness on the other hand includes every aspect of our health and well being such as fitness, disease, nutrition, physical activity, weight, sleep, relaxation, stress, and life satisfaction. Who can take care of all these aspects of ourselves? We can! We are our own best expert when it comes to knowing exactly what we need to feel good and to be healthy.

It’s an awareness thing. The secret is to be awake when we decide what to eat, and how to exercise, and to be aware when we have a nagging pain. The key is to take action and seek health care when we need it.

Wellness is about the big picture, and about taking good care of our mind, body and spirit. We are each in charge of our wellness but we don’t have to do it alone. A wellness coach is a partner who will help us reach our best possible state of wellness.

I know because my husband coached me to recover from 3 types of cancer in 1987 and I’ve been cancer free since then. I’m now a wellness coach who knows the value of having a support system to help me be well and stay well.

If you are in your best possible state of wellness, I congratulate you!
If you would like to be well and want some help, reach out and engage a coach who can be a friend, family member or a professional wellness coach like me.

Cancer survivor becomes wellness coach

March 10, 2010

Here is an article by Joanne Shuttleworth which appeared on the front page of the Guelph Mercury on March 9th 2010 – my 65th birthday.
I celebrated the publicity for my cancer prevention program called Start Here and Go Forward. I also celebrated the fact that I’m still alive and cancer free 23 years after having 3 types of cancer in 1987.

GUELPH -Lynn Roodbol was 41 when she learned she had breast cancer. Six months later she was also diagnosed with colon cancer and then skin cancer. All this a year after her husband had lost his job.

It was a devastating period and Roodbol said she felt helpless and hopeless as she became a pincushion for chemotherapy, at the beck and call of her doctors, and faced with the very real spectre of her death.

“I had myself in a pine box,” Roodbol said quietly. “I really thought I was going to die. But my husband coached me through it and I had a huge support system. And somewhere along the way something changed.

“The light went on for me and I stopped that downward spiral. I wanted to do anything I could to live again.”

Roodbol turns 65 next week — a number she never expected to reach in those dark days. She’s also a certified wellness coach in part from gratitude for the extra 20-plus years she’s been given. And part to help people who may be feeling as powerless as she had. Roodbol is leading a five-week workshop called Start Here and Go Forward, a program based on wellness coaching that will discuss healthy lifestyle choices, which help prevent cancer and reduce the risk of its recurrence.

It runs from Hospice Wellington’s temporary location on Woodlawn Road on Monday evenings, 7 to 8:30 p.m. from March 22 to April 19. Cost is free, but registration is required.

The methods she recommends are neither a surprise nor complicated and they can prevent other diseases besides cancer — eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep and relaxation and learn to manage your stress.

“I’m not an expert, so if I can do it, anyone can,” she said. “But sometimes it’s difficult to see that on your own. A wellness coach will grab your hand and work beside you as you realize your goals.”

Roodbol said she was weighed down by negativity when she was diagnosed with all her cancers, and even when she began to recover she still didn’t feel well. She started to visit a therapist who helped her to leave negative feelings behind and focus on the positive.

“Therapy taught me to let go of anger and guilt. After all, I was an X-ray tech and I didn’t have a mammogram. I blamed myself. I was full of guilt. I had to learn to let it go,” she said.

It’s not as superficial as it may sound. Sometimes it takes a seminal event to put life in perspective. Sometimes an attitude adjustment is in order.

“Once you hear the ‘cancer’ word, you often don’t hear anything else,” said Erin McInnis, client services supervisor with Hospice Wellington. “And it’s easy to get lost in all the information. But life is about living, it’s about wellness. Lynn will challenge and inspire participants.

“At times like that, people are looking for things they can do to help themselves. Lynn will show them how.”

“If you spend your energy on wellness, it’s energy you don’t have to spend on being sick. And believe me, it’s so much more pleasant being healthy,” Roodbol said.

If you go:

WHAT: Start Here and Go Forward, a workshop based on wellness coaching that will discuss healthy lifestyle choices, which help people to prevent cancer and reduce the risk of recurrence of cancer.

WHEN: Monday evenings, 7 to 8:30 p.m. from Mar. 22 to April 19

WHERE: Hospice Wellington, 107 Woodlawn Rd. W.

COST: Free

This program is now full and I’m registering people for a new program starting on April 26 2010. Thank you for your interest!

Life threatening drug combination

February 10, 2010

Paxil halts breast-cancer drug benefits –this was a headline in the Globe and Mail newspaper on Tuesday February 9 2010; the article written by Andre Picard. The breast cancer drug referred to is Tamoxifen and you can read the article here:

“David Juurlink, a senior scientist at the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences and co-author of the study” says: oncologists have known, anecdotally, that this combination of drugs was problematic but the new research clarifies the extent of the problem.

The combination of the antidepressant and tamoxifen is ‘potentially life-threatening’. I wonder why we continue to have drugs prescribed for us that are life threatening. No doubt there are a number of reasons, one of which is the intense pressure from pharmaceutical companies to drum up business regardless of whether or not people are better off. Another is the reluctance of the medical system to use anecdotal information until there is evidence based research. I believe in the wisdom of paying attention to anecdotal evidence, and I believe we should err on the side of caution. If there is anecdotal evidence which shows that a drug combination raises the death rate, then we should halt that process until it’s proven. It’s the opposite of being innocent until proven guilty, but I think it’s a question of safety.

“Depression is … common among cancer patients. The new research shows that almost one-third of women taking tamoxifen for treatment of breast cancer were also taking an antidepressant.”

Severe depression was part of my life for many years, and I had breast cancer in 1986. The anecdotal evidence I have seen since then tells me there is a link between depression and cancer. My surgeon referred me to a therapist while I was going through chemotherapy. I refused to take antidepressants and took a course in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) instead; with much help I turned my life around.

CBT is a cheap, drug free intervention which I believe is largely responsible for saving my life. It took a lot of time and energy to change my thoughts, but it takes a lot of energy to be depressed and depression was robbing me of a decent life. Isn’t it better to help people get well than to prescribe drugs which are life threatening?

I have to question this statement by Dr. Juurlink: “He said women taking this combination of tamoxifen and Paxil should consult a physician. ‘They should not discontinue either drug on their own”. I agree that people should consult a physician – no question. However, the way this statement is phrased implies that people cannot be responsible for their own decisions. I believe that people need to be enabled to take responsibility for their health and physicians are the best people to help us do this.

I see individual responsibility for our health from this day forward as a requirement for the well-being of people in general, and also for the preservation of our health care system. This does not include the need to blame anyone for the state of their health; blame serves no one. It’s impossible to roll back the clock and undo my diagnosis of breast cancer. What I learned was to accept my diagnosis and to move forward, to work towards achieving the best possible state of wellness that I could. I’ve been cancer free for 23 years.

I urge every one to start today and go forward to take good care of your own health and be as well as you can possibly be.

Can we change? Yes we can – if we want to

January 26, 2010

Change is not easy, but it’s simple: if we change our thoughts we can change our lives. Changing our thoughts is not easy, but there’s a process called Cognitive Restructuring which helps us to change our thoughts if we change some beliefs that no longer serve us.

It’s all described in the book Mind Over Mood: Change How You Feel by Changing the Way You Think by Dennis Greenberger and Christine A. Padesky.
This is a workbook on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) for people who want to change habitual thoughts and behaviours which keep them stuck in a place they don’t want to be. Aaron Beck, the founder of Cognitive Therapy, has written a forward to the book.

Spending time in places such as depression, anxiety, and anger is an unpleasant way to go through life as I recall. A diagnosis of cancer made me wake up and decide to enjoy life instead. I was told to make each day count, so I worked with a therapist and it’s been well worth the time and effort I spent to change my thoughts. I have been cancer free for over 22 years now.

The book describes how our behavior often results from automatic thoughts. Underlying many of these automatic thoughts are our assumptions which may be right or wrong. Assumptions come from core beliefs which have been stored in our bodies since childhood. These beliefs served us as children since other people such as parents, siblings, and relatives have a large influence on the way children think and behave. However, as we mature we’re required to be responsible for our own actions and well being, and the core beliefs may not apply to us as individuals.

Changing our thoughts can be easier if we look at what’s causing us to think the way we do. Many of us would do well to look at our core beliefs and let go of the ones that keep us stuck in a childhood mentality. It’s an exercise that creates awareness – we will no doubt choose to hang on to core beliefs which serve us, but there’s an opportunity to de-clutter the core beliefs which create obstacles. With those obstacles out of the way, it’s easier to move forward to a new way of thinking and a whole new life. The book, Mind Over Mood: Change How You Feel by Changing the Way You Think, is set up as a self help method, and I believe that a person would have nothing to lose by trying it out.