I’m a breast cancer survivor, wife, and stepmother. What’s a normal day like for me? In addition to taking care of my family, hearth, and home, I run a business from home and am a cancer and autoimmune advocate. My days are about living with meaning, purpose, and simplicity.
Rise and shine! I wake up around 5 a.m., when my husband is getting ready for work. I stay in bed and start every day with gratitudes, prayer, and forgiveness, then 10 minutes of meditation (I use the Headspace app). Finally, I listen to the Bible in One Year daily devotion (another favorite app) while I’m getting ready for the day. My bath and body products, toothpaste, and makeup are all nontoxic. I want to feel good about beginning each day taking care of my body, mind, and spirit, and being a cancer-preventing machine!
I’ve been dealing with adrenal fatigue and dysfunction and also joint pain, both latent side effects from chemo. So, my morning exercises are simple and gentle — small weights, a short walk, and yoga. My goal is to increase the intensity of my workouts at some point with longer walks, light jogs, and swimming. But for now, I need to strike a balance between gentle exercise and increasing the effort only when my body is ready.
Next on the docket is making breakfast for my stepson and myself before I send him off to middle school. I’m a big proponent of protein and fat in the morning, so breakfast is often an avocado smoothie made with some yummy cancer-fighting superfoods and healthy mix-ins. I like to get the diffusers going with seasonal essential oil blends. Right now, my favorite combination is lemongrass, bergamot, and frankincense. I’ll also listen to health-related podcasts. I’m always trying to learn more about being healthy and am studying to become a naturopathic doctor.
7 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Between 7 a.m. and noon are my power hours. I have the most energy and focus in the morning, so I stack my day with either labor-intensive or brain-challenging work during this time. I run a website dedicated to healthy living for real life, and also do a lot of breast cancer and autoimmune advocacy. This is my time to work on blog posts, write articles, conduct interviews, or whatever else is needed to make money and pay the bills.
Depending on the day, I also use this time to tend to the homestead, work in the garden, or run errands. Who can say no to a visit to the local farmers market? Weirdly enough, I really enjoy cleaning our home. Over the last few years, we’ve tried to minimize the amount of toxic chemicals in our home, since environmental toxins can contribute to causing cancer. I either use nontoxic cleaners or ones I’ve made myself. I even learned how to make homemade laundry detergent!
I never fully healed after cancer treatment ended six years ago, and was subsequently diagnosed with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an autoimmune condition. I’ve learned that the two diseases are “frenemies” and pose daily challenges with my adrenals and chronic fatigue.
In the early afternoon, I’m normally in a full-on adrenal crash (which I’m currently trying to heal). On most days, the fatigue hits like a brick wall and I can’t stay awake even if I try. Therefore, this is my sacred quiet time. I eat a healthy lunch (my favorite is kale salad!) and then take a long nap. On my better days, watching a little mindless TV is helpful to rest if I can’t sleep.
The brain fog (thank you, chemo!) gets worse during this time of day, so I don’t fight it. I can’t focus on anything and I’m completely exhausted. I’m learning to accept this time as scheduled rest time.
As a Type A personality, it’s difficult to slow down, but after everything I’ve been through, my body demands that I not only slow down, but put it in park. I’ve consciously made healing a part of my day as much as eating or brushing my teeth. If Mamma doesn’t take care of herself … Mamma can’t take care of anyone else!
Quiet time ends with a transition to family time. My stepson is home from school, so it’s tending to homework and after-school activities for him.
I cook a healthy dinner. My stepson and husband eat a mostly paleo diet, and I typically nosh on the side dishes since I’m gluten-free, vegan, and dealing with a lot of food sensitivities.
Chemo wrecked my GI tract, and the Hashimoto’s has exacerbated the stomach cramps, pain, bloating, and IBS. It took several years to figure out how eliminating trigger foods from my diet made the majority of these symptoms disappear.
Instead of being upset about the foods I can no longer enjoy, I’m learning to try new recipes. Since eating organic can be expensive, we go for the 80/20 rule and find a balance between eating clean and sticking to the budget.
We always eat dinner together as a family. Even if it’s quick, it’s nonnegotiable in our home. With three busy schedules, family dinners are our time to check in with each other and share the stories about our day. I also feel that it’s important to model healthy habits for my stepson and give him a solid foundation to fall back on as he grows up.
The last part of the day is devoted to prepping for bed. I’m adamant about getting 8 to 9 hours of sleep every night. These shutdown rituals help me calm down and prepare my body and mind for restoration and healing overnight.
Once dinner is cleaned up, I draw a warm bath with Epsom salts, Himalayan salt, and essential oils. I find that the combination of magnesium, sulfate, and trace minerals helps improve my sleep, stimulate the gut, reduce inflammation, and soothe muscles and joints — all of which are greatly needed as a cancer survivor. Depending on the day and my mood, I may or may not listen to another 10 minutes of Headspace meditation.
After my bath, I slather on lavender body lotion (nontoxic, of course) and prepare the bedroom. This includes turning on the diffuser with lavender essential oils, spraying the bed with lavender essential oil spray (a DIY!), and turning on the Himalayan salt lamp. I’ve found that the scents and peaceful energy of the room make for a sound night’s sleep.
Before I hit the hay, it’s family time. We “try” to not be on our phones or devices and will watch some TV together for an hour or so before bedtime. I’m usually outvoted, so most nights it’s “The Simpsons,” “American Pickers,” or “The X-Files.”
I head up to bed and read until I fall asleep. The phone goes into airplane mode. I play some binaural beats and say my bedtime prayers while falling asleep on our organic mattress and bedding. Sleep is the most critical time of day for healing and restoration for anyone, but especially for cancer survivors.
If you can’t tell, I’m passionate about a good night’s sleep! I want to wake up refreshed and full of energy so that I can fulfill my mission and passion of being an inspiration and advocate for my fellow cancer survivors.
It took a dose of breast cancer for me to realize that every day is a gift and a blessing and should be lived to the fullest. I’m not slowing down any time soon. Well, except for nap time!
Holly Bertone is a breast cancer survivor and living with Hashimoto’s disease. She is also an author, blogger, and healthy living advocate. Learn more about her at her website, Pink Fortitude.