How to Live Well: Lessons from Inspiring Survivors

IMG_7801What does a 50 something woman recovering from breast cancer treatment look like? I can tell you, because I met her after one of my aqua classes at Glen Ivy Hot Springs.

A Wellness Story

Jill was a woman who approached me with a story she was eager to share.

She told me she had been taking aqua fitness classes as part of her recovery from breast cancer surgery, and that the warm, therapeutic aqua environment had been extremely helpful in improving her flexibility and range of motion. It also helped alleviate a painful condition she had developed called lymphedema. (Click the link for an excellent article on aqua fitness and lymphedema.)

Jill’s voice was strong and confident. Her demeanor was upbeat, empowered, and life affirming.

To be honest, my first thought was, “What’s wrong with this picture?” This perky, fit, youthful woman, in her mid-fifties, did not look like she had just endured the rigors of cancer diagnosis, treatment, and recovery. Instead, she looked like a picture of health!

And then it hit me. The question I should be asking is not, “What’s wrong with this picture?” It should be, “What’s right?” I began to think that maybe there’s a wellness lesson in Jill’s story. Perhaps the strategies she, and others like her, use to vigorously recapture their precious health and quality of life, would also work for the rest of us simply trying to make better choices in our crazy-busy lives.

Wisdom Worth a Listen

Like many of you, I have people in my life—-family, friends, clients—-who have faced the challenge of serious illness. I see them navigating their path with courage and strength, but I also see them making conscious choices that lead to favorable outcomes. Here are my top picks for what I think these wellness warriors are doing right. Maybe you’ll connect with a few that will help you along your wellness path:

  • Engage in your wellness. Survivors decide to face the problem by being part of the solution. They take specific steps each day to play an active role in their recovery. Rest, eat well, exercise gently, embody positivity. Day to day wellness doesn’t just happen on its own.
    • Embrace healthy choices as if your life depended on it—-because it does!
  • Gather your tribe. Survivors can’t go it alone and they know it. Any wellness journey requires the help of a supportive team of cheerleaders and people willing to listen.
    • Find two people who will support your journey. Spend more time with them. Think of two people who don’t. You got it . . . Nice knowin’ ya!
  • Have a winning attitude. Sure, cancer survivors “fight” for their health. But more importantly, they are in it to win it. Negativity does not serve them, so they move forward with an openness that invites new ways of thinking and being.
    • Practice working with that “mean girl voice.” Send her off on a slow boat to China, and invite more positivity to your wellness path. It really does work.
  • When you’re down, get up! Cancer survivors endure an unpredictable path throughout their recovery process. While they may become tired or discouraged at times, they remain focused on their wellness mission and are able to stand up, dust off, and get back to the business of healing. Any wellness journey is like this. One minute you’re peeling and chopping carrots for the week, the next you have your spoon in the Ben and Jerry’s. You’re not a failure. You’re not worthless. You just had a hard day and ice cream seemed like the best way to go.
    • Get over it! Move on!

Are You Ready to Own It? 

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As a hockey mom, I say, let’s use wellness to STICK IT! to cancer.

Cancer—-that big, bad, demon of a disease that we really need to find a cure for—-often gives people the permission they need to finally put themselves first. When they begin to take care of themselves—-I mean really take care of themselves—-they often emerge on the other side looking like Jill, the shining star of this story.

I say it’s time to let go of the limiting belief that it’s selfish to take care of ourselves until we are sick.

One of my students put it this way. She said, “When I say NO to some of the extra things I am doing for other people, it enables me to say YES to the things I need to do for myself.” Amen! Her words so inspired me, that I am stealing them for my new wellness mantra. I’m sure she wouldn’t mind if you did too!

Feel good. Be Well. Meg

Let’s celebrate our warrior friends by sharing a quick story about someone you know and how their wellness journey inspires you. How could you put their wisdom to work in your own life today? Why not call them up and tell them about it? 

Or try this week’s wellness prompt on your own . . . 

IMG_7492Wellness Prompt: When you think of making time to take better care of yourself, what thoughts, feelings and emotions come to mind? Take a moment to write about it. Does fear, guilt, overwhelm, or utter confusion take over? What would it take to finally OWN IT! around your wellness, and what specific steps would bring you back to your well-self again? 10-minute write . . . GO!

7 Comments on “How to Live Well: Lessons from Inspiring Survivors

  1. What a solid, uplifting message, Meg, and so true. Jill’s success is proof positive that you can more easily move beyond adversity with the right attitude, wellness regime and friends and family to encourage you. Good for her!

  2. Powerful story. It is interesting that the big nasty C frequently gives people the impetus to finally put themselves first! I’ve never seen a wellness prompt before. I’m taking it on!

    • You are so right, Jennifer. It is amazing that it takes that—or some other whack over the head for us to say enough! Guilt for taking personal care time is something that often comes up in my workshops. Thanks for trying the prompts! I love writing toward my wellness. Such powerful stuff comes up every time I do. Let me know.

  3. I absolutely love your reaction at first to Jill because it is common. Was she in denial? No you saw she was taking her own wellness in hand. You realized and embraced that from meeting her, not that common but well appreciated from those of us in the sisterhood of breast cancer.

    • Thank you for sharing Haralee. Yes, I had a series of “aha!” moments around people in my life managing serious illness. I began to see their journeys as inspiring wellness stories, and it changed my perspective on everything. It’s often where I get my own best inspiration for moving my life forward.

  4. What an inspiring story and I love your bullet points, Meg. These will help all of us face adversity to live better lives. I’m absolutely thrilled about this post and about the woman you met. Kudos to both of you.

    • Thanks so much, Cathy. Meeting amazing people with stories to tell is just one fabulous perk of my job. Always fun to be able to share.

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