I believe that most of us know that health is important. I can tell you from experience that without health not too many things matter, yet most women forget to put themselves first, especially when we have kids, a family, work, a career, school, and so many other things to take care of.
I had to learn to put my health as my number one priority. I learned this by traveling two difficult journeys. Today I know that being healthy is my wealth. There is no guarantee in life, but I know that by being as healthy as possible I give myself the best possible odds to lead the quality of life that I deserve. I am the keeper of my health.
In 2008, when I was diagnosed with stage IIB Cervical Cancer, I had not visited my gynecologist for three years for the same reasons that so many of us have – I had a busy schedule, I had no symptoms, I was healthy (so I thought), I was in a monogamous relationship (I was married for 10 years at that time). What can go wrong? Right? I found out fast that plenty could go wrong. This led me to a very difficult journey. I had to go through chemotherapy treatments, external, and internal radiation. At times, I wanted to give up on myself. It is scary to be face to face with your own mortality.
With lots of faith, and support I was able to come out on the other side. I had another chance at life. Unfortunately, I did not take advantage of this – perhaps I am a slow learner or perhaps I just needed to learn the lesson well. I was having a hard time finding my “new normal” after cancer. Some of us cancer survivors barely speak about the aftermath, and the secondary effects that we have to endure after the battle, maybe because we are just so grateful for our second chance, that everything else seems like a small price to pay. Make no mistake; it is not easy to reinvent yourself or to pick up the pieces. It is not easy not to think about the monster that left scars in our bodies and in our minds. Will it come back? We live with the fear of the nightmare every day.
I found comfort in food. Food made me feel safe and warm. Food filled the empty hole I had. Food numbed the anxious feelings that I felt in the aftermath. However, eating without any control brings consequences. My scale tipped at 240 pounds. I am only 5’3”, and my doctor said that I was officially morbidly obese. Due to being overweight or I should say morbidly obese, I developed several illnesses — diabetes type2, high cholesterol and high blood pressure.
I took several medications to control these illnesses, and had many warnings from my doctor to do something about my weight. Warnings that I ignored. It was not until my medications began NOT to work and forcing my doctor to think of other measures to take (like injecting the insulin) that I finally realized that I had to change my lifestyle. I was sabotaging the chance at life I had been given.
The journey of losing weight is not an easy one, but it yields endless benefits. You have to be determined, patient, consistent, and focus. In 2011, with the help of people with knowledge in this area, I embarked on a weight loss journey, and I was able to lose 113 pounds by eating sensibly, portion control, and exercising. It took me approximately 14 months to get to my goal. It was NOT an easy task, I had my ups and down. I had to dig deep within me to find the determination that I will stay the course to the end – no matter how long it took me, and no matter what it took. Unfortunately, there are no easy programs, and no easy fixes to lose weight. Ultimately, you are your own force.
I was able to reverse all my illnesses, and I do not take any kind of medication anymore. All of the hard work paid off. Being healthy closes the doors to many illnesses. I learned the meaning of FREEDOM. Now I go to my doctor with the confidence that he will not be saying to me all the things he used to say before like a broken record, which I hated to hear – because I knew better. Today I can say, “I beat cancer, and I beat obesity” – But honestly – it does not end there, it is a daily struggle for me. I fight fear, I fight demons left behind in order to move forward, but it is all worthwhile.
I changed my lifestyle. The lifestyle I choose to follow for all my days to come, and even though I fail at times, I know that my bad days do not dictate my tomorrows. I am grateful for many things especially where I am now in my personal development. I am healthy. I am strong. I am wiser. I am happy. I am gentler on myself, and others. I am listening more. I am learning. I am teaching.
Health does not look the same on everyone, nor is it a straight road. However, we have to take the responsibility to care for our body, mind, and spirit. You do not have be a size 4. You do not have to eat perfect all the time. Your workouts do not have to be intense. You need to do the best you can with what you have on a daily basis. Consistency is the key. Nothing worthwhile is ever easy.
I wish you all much health. Remember, you are the keeper of your health.
Patti is 9-year cervical cancer survivor and a Cervivor Ambassador. She is a Wellness and Life coach. Certified Personal Trainer, Group Fitness instructor, and a Certified Diet and Weight Management Adviser. Patti is also one of the moderators for our Survivor Slimdown Project.