Lately I have been posting quite a few ‘then’ and ‘now’ photos on my social media accounts. It’s not because I think I look more beautiful when slimmer (as some have alluded to). It is because I have totally ‘wowed’ myself as I honestly never believed I would be as fit and as healthy as I am today.
Recently, I found an old body analytics sheet from 2017 – the year of the diagnosis and the year I stopped eating meat and dairy. My body fat percentage was 42%! Today it is 32%. This has shocked me to the core. I have lost 10% body fat in the last 2 years. The figure still isn’t as I’d like as apparently my ideal lies somewhere in the early 20s. Also, I now run regularly! I never used to be able to walk on the treadmill for more than 5 minutes!
Seeing my body fat loss, sparked off my search for more ‘then’ and ‘now’ photos.The ‘then’ photos are from my biggest days which lie somewhere between 2009 – 2013. All the ‘now’ photos have been taken within the last month. So, this blog is a short one really and is definitely quite a selfish one because I plan to keep coming back to this page, to constantly remind myself, how far I have come.
Oh and if this inspires you too, fantastic! 🙂 No really, I hope that you too might be inspired to make healthier lifestyle choices. Our lives depend on it.
….La la la la la la la – Becky’s that girl la la la la la la la!
Excuse me as I indulge in the rapper Eve’s classic chorus with my own twist.
I’m feeling kind of sweet right now. A big contrast to this time two years ago when I was psyching myself up for the big op. At the time I couldn’t imagine the future. For the first time in my life, I couldn’t make any plans, I had no view of what my life beyond that moment might look like. I didn’t know if the operation was going to be successful. I had read stories about doctors operating to rid the body of cancer, only to find huge tumours that had been previously missed, and were too far gone to be dealt with.
But boy has time moved on and my outlook changed! I have been extremely fortunate, and I don’t let myself forget it. I had cancer and now I don’t. Now I am working very hard to stay cancer-free. So, what does that involve? I’ve spoken about some of this stuff before and so I won’t go into great detail but generally:
I try as much as possible to stay in positive environments and around uplifting people (I am surrounded by some wonderful souls who help me do this).
I have eliminated all meat and most dairy from my diet.
I take a vitamin D3 supplement every day.
I do not drink alcohol at all because it there is evidence that alcohol increases your chances of getting breast cancer. You can read more here.
I stay prayed up – yeah I’m a God chick, who knew?
Probably the biggest change I have made is to my workouts. As a survivor I have it etched in my brain that working out 5 times a week decreases my chances of getting a recurrence by 40%. Check out what the NHS is saying about that here. The International Journal of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation states: “ Physical exercise has repeatedly been shown to prevent recurrence among breast cancer survivors. The findings of these studies suggested that high physical activity levels are associated with a significantly decreased risk of breast cancer mortality or overall mortality. Breast cancer patients with higher physical activity levels may have improved prognosis with a lower risk of recurrence and death than sedentary survivors.”
I can’t ignore the evidence! If working out 5 days a week lessens my chances of getting cancer again by such a huge amount, why would I not get with the programme?
I’ve been on it! Helped by my fellow cancer survivor friend Rachel, we have been killing it in the gym and at home. Rachel lives in London and me, Birmingham. We hold each other accountable to our workouts and eating via Whatsapp on a daily basis. I also take part in boot camp and power bag classes at Alexander Stadium with the ball-busting Martin and militant Steve. These guys are amazing and know their stuff, they push us to our limits! With incredible results.
More recently, I have discovered running. Let me tell you now, I do not love running in the slightest. I really would rather not run. However, I am getting better with each circuit around the track, I know it’s great for my health and on an egotistical tip, it is shaping up my body a treat! I have been averaging 1-2 runs a week alongside my other workouts. However, I recently saw gospel artist Kirk Franklin on the Breakfast Club and he said he ran 20 miles a week! He is nearing 50 and looks incredible. This has inspired me; if he can do 20 miles a week, I can at least up my game to 9 miles by increasing my runs to three times weekly.
Anyway, this blog is turning out to be longer than planned. I simply wanted to report on how wonderful the exercise and general healthy lifestyle has made me feel. I was looking back at some old photos of me and I wondered: if I had known back then how delightful and fulfilling it would feel to live such a healthy and fit lifestyle, would I have done it sooner? The answer would be: ‘Most definitely yes!’ I feel confident, beautiful, healthy, fit, inspired, youthful and hopeful. I am what Michelle Obama describes as ‘Becoming’ at the ripe old age of 42 and I love it!
So, when I see my new reflection in the mirror and remember what it took to get me here, I am not coy to reply to the imaginary Eve in my head:
Good morning, good morning! The sun is shining and I’m feeling good today.
This is significant for a lot of reasons but mainly because, although I have decided to fully live my life, I am still human and I still get aftershock from the diagnosis 9 months ago.
Every now and again, little negative Becky whispers in my ears and tells me stuff like: you’re not good enough,the cancer is going to come back, sadness is here to stay and other crazy stuff. I had a wobbly moment last night. What triggered it, I can’t pinpoint. Sometimes it’s just seeing someone struggle on TV (like last night on the program about people who stammer) or maybe an undesirable thought knocks me in my head. It doesn’t have to be anything major.
But what I really love about me now is I know how to deal with these moments. I have a range of armoury in my imaginary tool bag to whack those moments of disempowerment hurtling into space. They include: switching off social media (so if I go quiet, I might just be having a moment to chill), speaking to someone who knows how to help me lift my mood or altering my physiology in order to change my state of mind. This morning I danced with my daughter whilst eating my porridge. She loved it, as believe it or not (as a former Zumba instructor) she has not seen me dance all that much. Attending a HIIT class today was also part of my ‘getting back to my happy place’ agenda. Plus, I put on a Youtube video about listening to your heart and not your stupid brain (that’s what it’s called). All these have activities helped me to re-focus and get back on track. Now I am feeling absolutely awesomeonce again!
You can’t always positively think yourself out of a difficult place. What I now realise, is that you have to work a little harder than that. Being aware of the strategies you have available to you to get your power back, is essential to having a healthy mind.
I don’t ever want to pretend that I have it all sorted and that now that I’m choosing to live my life purposefully, everything is magically wonderful all the time. That is just false! I acknowledge that I will always have to face challenges, as all of us do. The difference is now, I am much better prepared to deal with them. With the power Ihold in my tool bag, almost feel sorry for any negativity that comes its way – almost.
In two days, it will be exactly 6 months since I had my breast cancer surgery – a bilateral mastectomy to be precise. It has been one big ole crazy journey and I guess one that will not end anytime soon. The reason doctors generally don’t say, ‘You’ve been cured’ and prefer the term ‘cancer-free’ is because once you’ve had the disease, you are at greater risk from getting a recurrence (though the likelihood does lessen as time goes on).
This little piece of knowledge could really depress me if I let it. I could constantly be on edge, checking myself daily for any changes, getting paranoid from the tiniest niggle or ache but I choose not to. Instead, I am seeing the opportunities to live a healthier, fuller and more fulfilling life. I am embracing the gifts cancer gave me.
My life has already changed dramatically since 28th April 17 when I was officially charged with DCIS and invasive breast cancer. As I lean into the changes that I know I need, I vindicate my spirit and choose to live life on my terms.
I am now…
Following a plant-based lifestyle. Most people who know me, see that I now follow a plant-based diet. This means different things to different people but what it means for me is that I no longer eat meat or dairy but instead, my diet is filled with natural produce from the earth and fish for my essential fatty acids & vitamin B12 (although I am working on weening fish out in 2018).
Minimising social chatter. Those who know me on Facebook or Instagram, may have noticed that I am not as present as I used to be, that’s because I have deleted these apps from my phone. Oh my gosh! This has been a Godsend! My clarity of thought has improved, I do not get anxious as easily, I am much more focused and I get more done! After all, did we not have rich and fulfilled lives before the existence of these mediums?
Avoiding toxic people. You can just smell them before they enter the room. They stare at you, beckoning you into their poisonous atmosphere. I am having none of it! If I suspect you are carrying bad vibes in your aura, I’m gone to tomorrow. There is not much worse than allowing a soul vampire to suck your positive energy dry.
Indulging in music therapy. My soul has been soothed with some serious vocal and musical delights this year. I have attended quite a few of ‘Reed Bass Presents’ events this autumn. I cannot tell you how cathartic these sessions have been. I have sat there, sometimes with tears flowing down my face as the melodies and the golden voices of vocalists such as Nat Chards, Ola Brown and Sapphire Sings reached my core and coerced me to feel emotions again and released the numbness I used for protection.
Being mindful of my thoughts. I am not going to sit here and pretend that everything is ‘cook & curry’ (as many Jamaicans would say. Meaning ‘everything is okay’); it’s not. I have had some really dark days (and still do), when I allow my mind to think about the dire possibilities i.e. the cancer returning, having to have another operation or worse still, leaving my daughter without a mum. Or sometimes, I try and reconcile what has happened to me. Some days I still find it difficult to believe that I had cancer. It’s weird. But lately I have had to remind myself of the energies that I am attracting when I think about these things. I believe that you attract the energy you focus on the most. I want to live a life that is full of fun experiences, magical moments and lots of happiness. Therefore, I actively choose to think about the endless positive experiences coming my way, in order to think the right elements into existence.
6. Partaking in Pilates classes. I used to think holistic classes such as Yoga and Pilates were boring. As a former Zumba instructor, I was used to loud music, high impact jumping and pumping. That certainly has its place, however what has been so lovely about Pilates is that I have been able to show kindness to my body whilst still challenging it. It’s going to be a while before I can bounce (I’m still healing from the operation), so Pilates offers me a way of staying toned in a way that will not interfere with my healing. Plus, the relaxing environment and serenity leave me feeling renewed and chilled out.
Not caring so much about what people think about me. I have just gone through the most traumatic experience of my life and for the most part, I was very public about it (as it helped me to deal with the enormity of it all). Compared to this, most previously little stressful events, now feel like an ant scratching a giant’s foot. They just aren’t relevant.
8. Being completely present when playing with my daughter. Prior to my diagnosis, I was guilty of utilising a double consciousness when spending so called ‘quality time’ with my daughter. Half my mind was in the activity in which we were engaged and the other half was in: work, my list of chores, who I needed to email next, etc… It wasn’t fair on her. Now, I put down my phone, turn off the TV, I actively listen to all the important words coming out of her mouth and I dedicate chunks of time when I am completely hers. What played in my mind many times when I first found out I had cancer was ‘I can’t leave her.’ So why would I choose to be here and not be present in her life now?
Meditating. I am very conscious of the fact that stress can lower the immune system and that when it is lowered, you are at greater risk from getting a disease. So, meditation offers a great way to de-stress. When all is quiet, I sit on my sofa or bed, switch off the lights and either listen to some meditation music, or sit in silence. This leaves me feeling clear of the brain fog and much more relaxed. I have on occasion, woken up with very stiff crossed legs.
Following my dreams. When I was at my mum’s house recovering for weeks on end, I spent a lot of time thinking about what I really wanted to do. For a few months after that, I dismissed those things as pipe dreams but now that I have started to seriously focus on that which I truly desire, I’m already starting to reach for those dreams. I am not saying much now but I will say: You’d better keep watching this space. 😊
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