#TryItTuesday: Say Yes to Your Health
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Published on October 09, 2018

Kim Vanderpoel and family

#TryItTuesday: Say Yes to Your Health

Recently I gave a talk for a local Relay for Life event. I requested that half of those present stand.

I then shared that those standing represented the number of men and women who will be diagnosed with cancer during their lifetime. I instructed two-thirds of those standing to then be seated, and let everyone know that those who were left standing represented the individuals who pass away within five years of receiving a cancer diagnosis.

Ten years ago those statistics didn’t mean much to me. In May of 2008, I turned 40 years old. I was a wife, mother of three and a wellness nurse at DAKOTACARE. I had very few breast cancer risks and like most, a crazy busy life. I was going to cancel my first mammogram appointment when a brief conversation with an 87-year-old elderly woman changed my mind.

She said to me, “Honey, a mammogram is the gift I give myself every year!”  So, I had my first mammogram.

Good Advice Pays Off

I am able to be here today, celebrating life with all of you because I said no to busyness and said yes to myself: I gave myself the gift of the mammogram and breast health awareness. A few months later, when I discovered a lump in my left breast, I knew something wasn’t right.

In December of 2008, I was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer called triple negative. Without surgery, there was a good possibility I’d have little time left on this earth. With surgery, I would have a 30 percent chance of survival, and if I added chemotherapy treatment, I would increase my odds to 70 percent.

Shortly after diagnosis, I met with my breast surgeon to discuss surgical options. After much prayer, research, and tears, I made the decision to have a double mastectomy.

This decision was confirmed to be the perfect one for me when a few days after the surgery, my surgeon called to inform me that not only did I have one cancerous tumor in my left breast, I had multiple tumors, and there was a 5-centimeter cancerous tumor in my right breast.

Talk about overachieving in the tumor department.

Thankfully, cancer had only spread to a few lymph nodes, and treatment began.

The Journey Itself

My cancer journey continued with many ups and downs. I had 16 chemo treatments, six weeks of radiation, multiple hospitalizations and surgeries.

It wasn’t long into my chemo that I learned losing my hair was a small portion of the cancer journey. For me, chemo was a tough, long, hard road, but with the support of my family and friends, and faith in the Lord, I was able to fight through the challenging times.

What I Was Shown

I have so many life lessons that I could share with you from my cancer journey. But since time is limited, I’ll share these few:

  • Cancer showed me fear. God showed up and held my hand through many friends and family.
  • Cancer showed me pain. God showed up and comforted me through many friends and family.
  • Cancer showed me fatigue. God showed up and reminded me it is OK to rest.
  • Cancer showed me hope, courage and love. God showed up through cards, words, and love of others.

Cancer showed me that each one of us has a purpose in this life; it also showed me that I have a choice. We all do.

We can choose to eat healthy. We can choose to be active. We can choose to love others. We can choose to forgive. We can choose hope. We can choose to embrace every moment in this gift called life.

What To Do After Wake-up Call

Being diagnosed with cancer, especially at a young age, brings along with it the reality of death. Although cancer was an interruption to my life, it was also a great wake-up call!

With a 30 percent chance of recurrence possible, I started doing research to see if there was anything I could do to help increase my odds of long-term survival.

Research has shown that poor diet and not being active are two key factors that can increase cancer risk and recurrence. The good news is that we can do something about these risks.

  • Get to and stay at a healthy weight throughout life.
  • Be physically active on a regular basis.
  • Make healthy food choices.

Another risk factor you can control is to say no to sitting! You can say yes to amping up your physical activity.

Did you know the only three in 10 adults get the recommended amount of physical activity and some 37 percent of adults report they are not physically active at all? Scientists have discovered that low fitness accounts for more sickness and deaths in the population than anything else that has been studied.

Isn't it time for us all to say no to an unhealthy lifestyle so we can yes to life?

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