Cancer Tips Health

Why my heart test matters to you

I received my results from recent cardiology tests. Let me share why my heart test matters to you.

Ever since chemo for bone cancer treatment 20+ years ago, in which I took the max dose of a chemo drug that can cause long-term heart issues, I’ve seen a cardiologist and get annual heart tests. Last year, my breast cancer treatment included chemotherapy and radiation to my left breast area. More chemo means more poison to my body. While I did a special breathing technique to protect my heart and lungs during radiation, it’s still another risk.

Last week, I had a strain echo which is an in-depth check of my heart function and muscles. And the results were….fantastic. My heart is strong! What a major relief!

In fact, over the past few years, my heart function has improved! (Interestingly, this improvement coincides with the purchase of my road bike!). My cardiologist complimented my efforts and commitment to keeping my body strong, which makes me proud.

Embracing a healthy lifestyle

When I went through bone cancer treatment, I was 21 and used to regular exercise during college. My chemo treatments were inpatient, which engulfed my life for 13 months. And those chemo drugs kicked my butt physically, mentally and emotionally. But I pushed back. I hated laying around a hospital room so when I felt decent, I did little exercises in my room or walked up/down the halls on crutches. I had some amazing arm muscles!

Cancer treatment puts a ton of stress on your body, not to mention poison in your body if you go through chemo. I’m so unbelievably grateful for my body. Three cancers, two bouts of chemo, radiation treatments and multiple surgeries. As I moved past treatment, a healthy and active lifestyle became that much more important to me.

Thankfully, I’ve always enjoyed being active and exercising. But, even with that, I’m not perfect. I like wine and craft beer, licorice and Swedish Fish candy at times. Chips and salsa are my weakness. And I enjoy these. Happily and without guilt. Because I know my limit and I balance it with exercise, fruits, vegetables and more.

Here’s why my heart test matters to you – it’s proof you can be an advocate for your health. If I can help my body be strong and healthy, after three cancers, you can too. I hope to inspire you. And show that you can be in control of your health, whether through cancer, another health issue or simply every day life.

Here are a few tips to motivate you:

Get active!

Hiking in the woods is one of my favorite heart-healthy activities!

Being active can help improve your health physically, mentally and emotionally. You can also experience weight loss, lower risk of depression and anxiety, and better sleep, according to the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control. The risks of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and some cancers can be lowered.

So all of that is great! And that’s what you need to keep in mind – you’re getting/staying active for YOU!

Find an activity that you enjoy. Walking the neighborhood, hiking in the woods, biking, running, Zumba, weight training and so much more are great activities. Set small goals to get started and stay motivated. Invite a friend to join you and help you commit to a schedule (sometimes it’s harder to bail on a friend who is expecting you to be at the trailhead).

Don’t let others’ perspective slow you down.

People have opinions on almost anything (I’m guilty too). And many share whether you ask or not. But I’m learning that others’ opinions and perspectives don’t need to affect my life. A lot of negativity is attached to cancer. I get it – it really sucks. I really don’t need to elaborate on the total crap of the disease, do I? However, I’ve discovered that people hold onto that negativity to make opinions of what patients should or shouldn’t do.

For instance, last year during chemo, I committed to myself that I would be active every day, even if it was a slow 10-minute walk or slowly riding my bike trainer. And I did it. The activity physically and mentally made me feel stronger and gave me a goal. My side effects were less severe and my blood counts stayed fairly decent. I was proud of myself. Still am. I shared these achievements on this blog and my social media. However, a few people told me that I was setting unrealistic goals for others patients because not everyone can be so active during treatment. And maybe I was pushing myself too much. What?! My goals had nothing to do with others. And my activities were completely cleared with my doctors, who both encouraged and praised my determination and positive outcomes.

I’ve learned to smile and say ‘thank you for your perspective,’ and then do what works for me. I know my limitations better than anyone, even my doctors agree with that. I also am most protective of my body. Because it’s my body and health.

Of course everyone should do what works for them. Make choices that will benefit you and your health. But if you can get up and move, even a few minutes each day, it’s a start. And starting is often one of the hardest challenges.

Be your own advocate.

You do you, right? Yes! (read my “Embracing ‘you do you’ care tips” blog) That means taking care of yourself. And trusting yourself and your instinct. If you want to get healthier or stay healthy, do it.

Focus on self-care and what works for you. Especially when it comes to cancer treatment. Or really any health issue. Because one of the most important things I’ve learned as a three-time cancer survivor is that you get one body. And you need that body. So take care of it.

If you’re not feeling well or have concerns about changes in your health, talk to your doctor. Don’t skip important screenings, such as mammograms, colonoscopies and other health checks. Being proactive can help catch or even prevent serious illnesses.

You know what’s most important? Believe in yourself! Trust you can achieve your goals. And don’t forget to celebrate those achievements!

*Talk to your doctor before starting any activity or exercise. This is my experience only and you should do what works best for you.

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