Survivor Slimdown

In 2018, there will be an estimated 1.7 million new cases of cancer diagnosed in the U.S., with that number estimated to be 23.6 million worldwide by 2030. Thankfully with advances in medicine, the number of survivors of the disease is also on the rise. The National Cancer Institute reports that in 2016 there were 15.5 million cancer survivors in the U.S. and that number is expected to increase to 20.3 million by 2026.  Cancer Survivorship is an area that continues to be studied, as practitioners seek to help patients learn to live life beyond cancer.

Cervivor has found that many cancer survivors emerge on the other side of the disease ready to tackle life, but often what is waiting for them is an unhealthy lifestyle. Obesity is a known factor for the development of other co-morbid illness, prevalent in cancer survivors such as diabetes and heart disease and can feel like an up hill battle. Survivors regularly struggle with depression, anxiety, motivation, and weight issues that are often intertwined and connected to one another. We see and hear this message consistently and decided to do something about it.

In January 2018, Cervivor re-launched a project called “Survivor Slimdown.” Survivor Slimdown is an online group aimed to support ALL CANCER survivors in their fight to live a healthy and balanced lifestyle after a cancer diagnosis. While we are a “slimdown” group, we aim to address and support all survivors and recognize the connection of mind, body, and spirit. We currently have 70 members engaged in our private online group, led by cancer survivors Patti Murillo-Casa and Holly Lawson.

Patti Murillo-Casa, Survivor Slimdown admin AND in-house fitness guru.
Holly Lawson, Survivor Slimdown admin, finishing her first post-cancer 5k.

Patti is a retired New York City police officer turned fitness guru. After her battle with cancer, she lost over 100 lbs! She is a Certified Personal Trainer, Certified Senior Fitness Specialist, Pound Pro Instructor, and Spinning Instructor just to name a few. Patti assists in the administration of our online group, ensuring information being shared is safe, accurate, and cutting edge. Holly had just completed her 4th half marathon when she was diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2016. She had extensive complications from treatment that left her inactive for two years. Holly is determined to regain her health and fitness. She and Patti pack a power punch. They love leading the Slimdown group as active participants on the constant journey of health.

Survivor Slimdown provides daily motivation with “Fit Tips” and regular challenges, to keep members engaged and motivated. The group is constantly sharing recipes and tips for living a balanced lifestyle. However, it truly is the spirit of our survivors that makes the group so dynamic. Survivors understand one another and can encourage one another in the quest for health in ways others simply cannot.

Here’s what participants are saying about Survivor Slimdown:

Survivors keeping one another motivated and challenged! They understand!

“I love that we are all in this journey together even though we may be at different levels of fitness or at different stages in our health or Survivorship, we come together in this group. We all encourage each other, laugh about our misadventures, and “celebrate our victories.” Maria Franklin

This brings motivation to me without judgement and constant nagging!” Kristine Sprigler

“The Fit Tips are my fav! All the positive posts really keep me going and inspire me to ‘pay the motivation forward’. My physical and spiritual self-feel energized.” Carol Lacey

“I like the realistic goals & suggestions, along with the consistent positive encouragement are such a breath of fresh air and help me stay on goal.” Sarah Nielson

“The daily posts, the recipe suggestions, encouragement from everyone keep me motivated.” Paulette Apostolou

Survivor Slimdown participants are staying active with everything from walking, running, personal trainers, sparing, and water aerobics!

“The positive attitudes of the members and the constant encouragement of each member to push and support the rest of the group through all obstacles, has been one of the biggest reasons I love this group.”  Scott Courville

Do you find yourself feeling stuck and unmotivated to be active and live healthfully? Do you want to be on this journey with people who get you? Would you love to have accountability, recipe sharing, daily Fit Tips, and regular challenges for yourself? If this is you, we invite you to join us. We welcome all cancer survivors, male or female-no matter what the diagnosis, to join our online group. We understand cancer survivors, we understand finding your way in Survivorship, and we understand the desire to live a healthy balanced life after cancer. Come join us in Survivor Slimdown!

Click here to join Survivor Slimdown!

Statistics retrieved from https://cancercontrol.cancer.gov/ocs/statistics/statistics.html

My Health is a Priority

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.