Can you tell me a little bit about your breast cancer history?
I was diagnosed in 2010 and had one tumor and then was having lots of changes that were, like: ‘I don’t know about this.’ So, I had a double mastectomy in August of 2010, had the implants, got that done by the end of that year, and all went fairly well.
Then about nine years later, both ruptured. So we took those out and replaced them. But I was never comfortable again. So, with lots of scar tissue and mobility issues, I would say eight months after that, we chucked them all. And that has helped tremendously! But, I wouldn’t be moving without Marty’s help here at the studio.
So movement sounds like it’s been a big part of your recovery.
Do you want to tell me a little bit about that and how it’s helped you?
About six months, or three months, whatever it was, after the implants went in, I went on a vacation in Mexico. I was a swimmer so we’re in the pool when I went to get out of the pool like I always do, you know, I had nothing. I had no strength, nothing!
I thought: ‘I’m not going to be able to get out of the pool.’ And that surprised me! I don’t know why it surprised me because they cut into your pec muscles so some things just aren’t quite the same. But that should have been a heads up that there was more work to be done.
I thought I just wanted to strengthen. That was my piece. But what I discovered over time is that I really need to practice lengthening with a full stretch, not just strength. So once I got into the GYROTONIC® METHOD, that’s when things started to really turn around! I still have some issues and I tighten up very easily but that’s kind of a constant thing that’s better with movement.
Strengthening is an important piece of it, but strengthening helps shorten muscle, which causes more tension. You pinpointed that a really important piece that is missed a lot is lengthening and allowing the muscle to stretch and work in both directions versus just in one direction.
Do they still do ‘Reach to Recovery’ or whatever it used to be?
Yes! And a lot of that depends upon your surgeon, or your oncologist, and what kinds of information you get on lymphedema, on stretching, on strengthening, or recovery. It’s really all over the board, which is why Marty and I offer this breast cancer recovery coaching service because there is such a disservice that’s being done to patients.
Now during your cancer, I’m sure you had all kinds of support, which is wonderful for the surgery and getting through that portion of it. How did it go for you not having that support during the time of your treatment and then after your treatment? What did your support look like for you?
I think two things. I didn’t have a lot of support outside of like family. But I think there’s so much that you don’t know. Everybody has an opinion. Should you have implants, should you do, what type, just while you’re still thinking about your own self-image and mortality and all those things that come into play. So, that part was really good.
But I didn’t know the questions to ask either, so I just assumed that what I was going to work on was, you know, building strength back up because I knew I couldn’t do that. So, it was nice when I really got to where I was working with Marty and, I mean, I burst into tears I think the first day I met her. And it was that vulnerability of okay, I just have to open myself to I don’t like where I am right now, but that doesn’t mean I can’t get somewhere with the help. But it was that really opening up and not being so nervous about what I look like, what I couldn’t, could not do, any of that. It was just set all of that aside and make an action plan to be able to move.
There’s a lot of mental, emotional, physical aspects of breast cancer and breast cancer recovery that we also really need to take a deeper look at, and you speak very well to that. You mentioned that looking at your recovery it was difficult, you didn’t know all the questions to ask and you didn’t really have a plan. So if you can look back now, what would’ve been most helpful for you as you started your recovery?
I think there is that piece, we always talk about you need to be good to yourself and in this group, goodness, we’ve been through everything and then some as a group, but really as you’re going through something to just be good to yourself, to be okay with, you know, today I can’t stretch like that. I can’t do this. Whatever that is. But to be able to be just authentic to who you are and where you are right now and look forward to the changes that will come.
Giving yourself a little grace in your recovery. And being tuned in with what your body needs, what you need mentally: what you need today is maybe more movement. And sometimes what you need tomorrow is a little bit more relaxation, or meditative breathing, or whatever the case might be for that day and being open to shifting for what’s needed for that day, but still being proactive and moving forward.
And I think it really helps to have people that are helping you navigate that because they’re not—supporters, it’s not only that they believe in you, but it is that they are not walking that same mental path as you. So they can kind of hold you up as you struggle with that stuff and give you goals to move forward. So that’s just huge, the people you bring in. There’s those people that are just worried about how you feel, and look, and all of that. And then there are the people that are really, like, where do you want to be? And that are patient enough when you say, “I don’t know.” And help you find it.
So, now let’s segue just a little bit into health coaching and look at what our program is. Can I ask you first, what do you know about health coaching? Do you have any thoughts or have you heard about health coaching?
I have heard about health coaching. And coming through this experience the importance has increased to me because there’s just so much that we don’t know and it’s those weird little things that you say, geez, I get this weird twinge over here or whatever. And somebody on the health coaching side can keep an eye on that, where for you it’s just in the moment and you’re just kind of like, “Okay, this is feeling weird.” Like you ignore it. Where a health coach can help you process and take action if you need to correct something.
Absolutely! And within the health person, I think that you hit it on the head as well about talking about having someone to help you navigate. I want to feel better. Okay, what does that mean for you? So, let’s really dig a little bit deeper, find what that vision is for you, because it’s hard to get to that goal if you don’t really know what that goal is. And so setting up those tangible goals and having a safe place to be able to talk about your feelings. What is it like to feel stressed about this? What is it like to have you go through the mental piece of it or the physical piece of it? What does it feel like to kind of get through it and then go, “Now what do I do? Where do I go from here? There’s nobody here to help me.”
And that community is really important. You talked about the community and having someone to assimilate what you have already experienced and maybe they have that experience or maybe just someone who can listen to you. Friends are wonderful, family’s wonderful, but having somebody who’s non-biased, non-judgmental, there’s an investment I have in you, but my investment is for you to feel better, not what I want for you. And I think sometimes friends and family, that can get a little bit mixed. And so just having that other person to talk to as you’re navigating through is very helpful as well.
And they’re not going to be as action motivated. If I’m tender, if I’m sore, they’re going to be more likely to go, “Don’t do anything then, you’ve been through enough.” There’s a transition point that you just “No, I have not been through enough. I’m not going to get back what I want to get back if I don’t push a little harder now. I’ve had my, oh, poor me stuff, now it’s time to move on.”
Yes, being able to create some action goals and then break those down, so that they correlate with your vision. So breaking those bigger goals down into small action steps to continue to be able to move forward, and someone helping you navigate that would’ve been helpful?
Definitely! And some of the discomfort that I didn’t know, is this a problem? Is this not a problem? Do I push through it? Do I not? I don’t know.
Having that person to kind of help you navigate when’s a good time to move forward, when is a good time to kind of just hold where you are, and what are the things do we need to look at that might be a common problem or an issue that we can add off a little bit easier or yup, you really do need to go talk to the doctor and these are some questions you’re going to ask. So some helpfulness there. Part of our program here at Uncommon Movement is really looking at the aspects of health coaching, like having someone to navigate, having someone to help move things forward. But really going back to that exercise and movement piece and how important that is to almost every aspect of cancer recovery. Tell me about the mental aspect of the movement piece of things for you?
Well, I had laughed that I was never somebody who really did the exercise thing. Like, a lot of people like to go to the gym and work out and I was not one of those. I would swim. I would do things. So it was a mental game in a way. I didn’t know any of these gals that we’re now dear friends. But it was just, you know, that one foot in front of the other and they’ve had hip replacements, and broken feet, you know, you name it. So, you feel like you’re in a struggle, but you’re feeling like just part of the human race. Like this is not unusual, this isn’t so special. It’s just that’s my hurdle. So the mental piece was big. Now I can’t. Oh, I hate having to miss anything. I hate it. Because it’s made such a huge difference, the physical aspect and I think the self-acceptance that, you know, once I removed everything again, both for the risk of the autoimmune type stuff that I definitely was feeling and just the freedom, that acceptance and authentic being was huge.
So finding some grounding balance to exercise and movement allowed you to navigate your way through to normalizing what was happening?
Yes. Absolutely. See that’s why we need health coaches because they can interpret what we’re trying to say and actually say it.
Exactly. And so the importance of having movement for mental health, physical health, and for the community of what you needed to have, even if they weren’t breast cancer survivors, just having people around you that had gone through something. And they were recovering in their own way and brought something to your ability to get on your path to recovery a little bit better.
Looking back at yourself or anyone else who’s now starting the journey that you may be had had, what advice might you have for somebody else who’s starting their journey?
Baby steps. But absolutely movement is essential. You don’t want to hole up at home. I mean, movement is what’s going to get you through everything. And having a coach, having people who aren’t there to pamper you, they’re there to understand and support, nurture, to get you on your path. So that’s as important as having that comfy network of nurturers around you.
Yeah. That balance. You need both.
You need both. Absolutely.
Yeah. And you are spot on with that importance and I think when we just do one, when we just do health coaching, we just do movement, we miss the optimal piece of intertwining those and really being able to move forward at a little bit faster pace, a little bit more optimally and just a much healthier way, that we’re able to do that.
Yeah. I was surprised at how long it took me to understand. I thought I was really doing minimal damage, so to speak, with the whole pec muscle stuff. It’s like it didn’t register that they were putting something under that pec muscle. You know that things are being impacted, but it just doesn’t really register that there’s going to be a whole lot of stuff when you’re messing with your own pec muscles. So, just to be able to have somebody who can say, you know, this is kind of how it’s going to feel. This is what’s going on and this is what it looks like under there, because I didn’t really have a lot of that information. I think because it felt so good initially and everything looks good after the initial surgery, like, if you’re doing the whole implant thing, that you have your self-image back, but the functionality of everything is different and it didn’t register what that was going to mean for my recovery journey.
Interesting. And especially when you noted that you already had movement in your life prior to, you know, to this, it seems like that would be a much easier recovery for you because you’re already doing some of this. But just the fact that the toll it really does take on your body mentally, physically is pretty profound.
And I think for anybody if you had—I had a back injury a number of years ago and so I was very in tune to what those signs and symptoms were if I was pushing too hard or something. But this was all new territory. This was different body parts and different effects. So yeah. It took a while to get there. So, having people who are—yeah, they tell you initially build your team, build that support team, meaning your oncologist, your nurse people and everything. I don’t know that that should be left to the individual usually.
Yeah. And especially I think when that information is coming to you, it can be very early on and you didn’t even know what that means. I mean, you don’t even know what that looks like for you or your sole focus is on, you know, just getting through the surgery, just getting through chemo, just getting through whatever it is you have to get through. And then once you do that, you’re like, “Okay, now what? Where do I go? What do I do?” And so yes, I think that’s where the lapse really happens because that information upfront is lost in everything else that’s happening. And so being able to come back to that goal, okay, how do we start to rebuild and get onto your new normal. You know, going back to normal, what you had is not going to happen. So what is your new normal? Where do you want to go and how do we get there is really the big piece at that point.
Yeah. I think too the survival piece that you just kind of grit your teeth and get through it. And then now what?
That’s really the inspiration for me is to create this program that can support that to answer questions like: “Now what do I do? I have survived and I want to get back into my life, to what I’m doing.”
So really this is like the best spot that we can create this, is to have health coaching and for local clients, the movement studio to really look at that exercise movement piece of things and how essential that is to the whole recovery.
Very individualized with great outcomes!
Exactly! Thank you Jane for sharing your experience with us!