Women: Take Time for Self-Care. You’re Worth It!

Posted on by DCPC

By Teri L. Larkins, Ph.D.

Photo of Dr. Teri Larkins as a baby, held by her grandmother.
Grandma Anne enjoying playtime with her grandchildren, Brandon and Teri, in front of her home in Baltimore, Maryland, circa summer of 1979.

My late grandmother, Ms. Anne E. Larkins, was an accomplished elementary school principal and teacher when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in the spring of 1983. In her typical solutions-focused way, she sought to understand the disease and how best to manage it. She modeled steps a cancer survivor must take to live a longer, healthier life.

She took action to modify her lifestyle and behavior and was able to rely on her family and peers for emotional and caregiving support. She stopped smoking, began eating more plant-based, whole foods, and continued her active lifestyle. I have fond memories of us shopping and enjoying life outdoors. I remember one occasion in 1988 when we were playing an exercise video game. Together with her best friend, Ms. Lucille, and her granddaughter, we took time to care for ourselves to nurture our health and wellness.

Wellness: A Personal Journey and a Professional Passion

Having a family health history of breast cancer on both sides of my family inspired me to pursue a career dedicated to preventing and controlling cancer. My career and my life’s purpose are focused on helping girls and women create lifestyles led by healthy choices.

These lessons resonated with me throughout my life, and I am happy to apply them at home and work to be proactive and reduce my own cancer risk. At age 26, I had a breast biopsy and enlarged lymph nodes removed from the right axillary area of my breast. Between 2006 and 2016, four close (first and second degree) relatives on my mother’s side of the family were diagnosed with breast cancer.

Photo of Dr. Teri Larkins measuring a coworker's blood pressure.
Teri is “paying it forward” by helping a CDC colleague with her wellness checkup.

This prompted me to gather and keep records of my health history. I also talked with my health care team about getting tested for gene mutations such as BRCA. My results for BRCA 1 and 2 mutations were negative. I’ve learned in my work with CDC’s National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program and Colorectal Cancer Control Program that screening and finding cancer early help reduce the cases of and deaths caused by cancer. As I have been inspired by my grandmother, I encourage you to learn your personal and family health history. Talk to relatives, even the shy ones. These conversations are important for helping understand your cancer risk.

I found that with my family, good food and fun activities help make the conversation easier. For example, my family loves cookouts and neighborhood block parties. Holidays and events like Thanksgiving and family reunions are also perfect opportunities to learn and share.

Essentially, cancer prevention and control is about wellness. Wellness is defined as a dynamic process of becoming aware of and making conscious choices toward a more balanced and healthy lifestyle. It is important to make wellness a part of every dimension of life—social, physical, emotional, occupational, intellectual, environmental, spiritual, and financial.

Celebrate Her Health

During May, we celebrate Women’s Health Month and National Women’s Health Week. During this time, I am involved in my community, providing tips and talks about women’s health, cancer prevention, and reducing health disparities. Celebrate by making sure you are current with your yearly well-woman’s visit and preventive screenings. Do a wellness heartbeat checkup on yourself every day. Then, pay it forward by encouraging women in your life to do the same.

My personal mantra is: Master your Ps of life—peace, purpose, and pleasure—by putting your health first.

Photo of breast cancer awareness walk at CDC in 2012.
Walking is a great way to increase your physical activity and lower your cancer risk.


Take one minute…

To just be

Take one minute….

To eat and heal from the green earth

Take one minute….

To do a heartbeat check

Take one minute….

To lace up and move

Take one minute….

To keep life simple and safeguard your mind and your time …Take one minute, one minute to celebrate what matters most.

Your self-care, Your self-love

You’re worth it!


Dr. Teri

Written for Women’s Health Month

Teri Larkins, Ph.D. serves as the co-lead for the communication team in the Program Services Branch in CDC’s Division of Cancer Prevention and Control. She is also the CDC WorkLife Wellness liaison Chamblee campus lead, and a liaison with the Office on Women’s Health. She co-led the ScreenOutCancer initiative.

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11 comments on “Women: Take Time for Self-Care. You’re Worth It!”

Comments listed below are posted by individuals not associated with CDC, unless otherwise stated. These comments do not represent the official views of CDC, and CDC does not guarantee that any information posted by individuals on this site is correct, and disclaims any liability for any loss or damage resulting from reliance on any such information. Read more about our comment policy ».

    Thank you Dr. Teri for your selfless courage in sharing your family story. I’ll offer your guidance to my three sisters and mother.
    Stay well ‼️

    Thank you so much for sharing your personal journey and history with all of us. We have come a long way but still have so much ground to tread in defeating this disease. With continued efforts such as yours and knowledge of early prevention we can conquer cancer at the root!

    Dr. Teri, this is a wonderful blog story about your passion and drive to prevent and control cancer. It’s wonderful to have a change agent like you working at CDC and in the fieldl! Thank you for reminding us to implement self care practices, daily.

    Thank you, Dr. Teri! I can relate to your journey and will be taking some of your suggested measures into account for my personal health. Again, thanks!

    Thank you, Dr. Larkins, for this very poignant personal story and for the reminder that our lifestyle choices – from the foods we consume to our wellness and self-care practices – can greatly impact our health. I especially appreciate that you include the importance of the 3 P’s. The “take one minute…” poem is the wellness “to-do” list we all need 🙂

    Teri, thank you so much for sharing your grandmother’s journey to good health and your heartfelt personal mantra which is inspiration enough for me to take a minute to do something healthy for my own self.

    Dr. Teri, it is always helpful to know the motivation behind someone’s career choices. I now know why you are so passionate about your work in the Division of Cancer Prevention and control. Although you no longer have your grandmother with you, it seems she took many steps to extend her life far beyond her initial diagnosis. Determination runs in the family!

    Teri, thank you for sharing your story and family history. Many of us have these same stories but are apprehensive to share and discuss with our family members for so many reasons. This was inspirational and you placed a spotlight on taking care of ourselves must be our number one priority. I will pay it forward by generating conversations and action steps in my own family and church congregation. Again thank you!!!

    Teri, Thank you for sharing.

    This blog is so inspirational, and informative in many ways.

    I often times find myself wanting to know more about my family’s history, while neglecting to educate myself about my family’s health history. I will do my best moving forward to take more time to use family gatherings to learn, and educate. Whether it be about better eating habits, or new active habits.

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Page last reviewed: Tuesday, June 23, 2020
Page last updated: Tuesday, June 23, 2020