In many ways, I had no control over what happened to me. There were probably thousands, hundreds of thousands, of 33 year old women who were about the same height, weight, and had the same health status(no known health issues) as I did when I developed cancer...and yet they didn't develop it and I did.
Genetics, maybe? Environmental circumstances or exposure to unknown factors, perhaps? A failure of my immune system to kill developing cancer cells, possibly? Bad luck?
However, having been through treatment and researched the disease extensively, I came to realize that even though I may not have ever been able to completely prevent myself from having cancer, I could have an effect on my chances of recurrence, or at the very least, in delaying a recurrence.
You fight the type of cancer I had by fighting it one day at a time over a very long period of time. Chemo is not highly effective against this particular type of cancer, because it is slower-growing and relies on the natural hormones that a normal woman's body produces.
The most effective strategy is to starve any unidentified cancer cells that might exist by taking an anti-hormonal treatment in pill form, once a day, for five years. That's 1,825 pills.
Another effective strategy is to engage in physical exercise for at least 3-4 hours every week consistently, for the long term. Studies have shown that this can reduce recurrence rates by another 30%-50%.
This is why I run, and also why I have lost about 25 pounds over the last 2 years...with unfortunately much more to go.
It has been a long, slow process to get into well enough shape in order to be able to run 3-3.5 miles several times a week. My weight loss has also been painstakingly slow. I will go through weeks and months sometimes without losing a single ounce, but because the exercise is useful in fighting off recurrence, even without losing weight, I persevere through the discouragement of working so hard and not seeing the scale move.
Inevitably, what happens is that after a couple months of no real progress, I will lose several pounds in a week, or my running time will dramatically get better even though I am simply doing the same things I have been doing for the last two years.
The progress comes in fits and starts after long periods of never-ending plateaus.
It has taught me something that I always knew, but never fully appreciated; great things are done in small, consistent steps over long stretches of time.
There are no shortcuts to anything worthwhile in life.
Want to be a good parent? Show up every day for 18 years.
Want to become a great musician? Practice every day and make a point to learn more every day.
Want to have a good relationship? Continue to consistently try to care for and support the other person/friend/spouse.
One or two impressive incidents don't take the place the of consistently trying, or faithfully working at something.
The same holds true for finances. After my dad passed away, we had hoped that we would be able to sell his house and use that money to become debt-free and save the rest. That dream was quickly dashed. Now, as we rent out he house, even that has turned into a long-term investment, not a huge money-maker, especially after taxes, insurance and normal repair costs. Yet, over the course of 5-10-15 years, the house has the potential to provide a huge cumulative profit.
Slow and steady. Bit by bit.
That is how a life is built. That is how hard tasks get done. That is how health is reclaimed.
Endless toil without many immediate results.
Very exciting, no?!
No, not exciting, but true. And, it has never been more true to me.
If there is something that you want to change in your life, or a goal you want to accomplish, you must simply take a step toward it, even if it is a small step.
Live your life. Enjoy it along the way.
Just be sure to take the one, little, daily step in the middle of everything else.
Eventually, it adds up.
Even DH has become proof of this. He started his Master's degree at the end of my cancer treatment, and right before my father died. It was chaos for him those first few semesters while I was still recovering and we were dealing with my father's death and lawyers and fixing a termite destroyed house on the weekends in our "spare time".
And yet, he still took classes and did the work and two years have passed.....leaving only this last one before he will have completed it.
Day in, day out, and before you know it...he'll be done.
That's my self-help advice for today. Don't use it all up at once.