Staying Healthy and Preventing Disease in More Ways Than OnePosted on by
As a little girl, I witnessed my mom’s three sisters’ breast cancer journeys. One of my aunts, Caroline, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and decided to get tested for the BRCA gene mutation.
After my aunt and mom tested positive, I got tested, too, and learned that I carry a BRCA genetic mutation, increasing my risk for breast and ovarian cancer. That discovery led me to make decisions about how to manage my risk.
A Wake-Up Call
My genetics made the decision easy for me. I saw the likely future, and I could change it. I had a mastectomy 8 weeks after learning about my genetic mutation. As I was recovering in the hospital, I had a wake-up call. We can’t control our genetics, but there are some things we can control. So many people all around me were sick with often preventable diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease. If I was going to remove my breasts to prevent illness, why would I not do everything in my control to keep from getting something else I could avoid?
I Make Myself a Priority
Once I recovered from my mastectomy, I got moving. The first personal preventive measure to address was sleep—not easy with two young kids and a career that took me from Africa to Asia. However, I now make sleep a priority, and with 8 hours of sleep, I can take on anything!
Next, I found new physical activities to do. I always loved the water, so I found a local club where you could learn to paddleboard. Paddleboarding led to my obsession with wakesurfing. Wakesurfing not only provides physical exercise but also promotes strong relationships with others. I’ve been fortunate to meet a great group of women I call my “surf sisters,” who enjoy both paddleboarding and wakesurfing, as well. When I get on the boat with my sisters, I often say, “Okay, for the next two hours, we don’t have any problems.” I wholeheartedly believe feeling carefree and childlike is exhilarating and stress-relieving.
I make a point to get in 10,000 steps a day. I’ve also learned that the right healthy foods are just as good as less healthy fare. For example, I eat avocado, chicken, and tomatoes every day for lunch.
Since my mastectomy, I also had another child and then had my ovaries removed. You may be thinking, “How can she do all that with a job and kids?” The only way I can do it is to make myself a priority, tune out any negativity or judgment from others, be okay with the house not being perfect, and ignore those late-arriving work e-mails until tomorrow.
Seeing my doctor regularly, limiting screen time, and never texting while driving ensure that all these good habits give me the highest chance for not just a long life, but a good life. At 47, I feel better than I did at 30. For me personally, I view my genetic mutation as a gift, and I’m living my best life because of it.