Shannon Miller shares a personal letter to us all…We all know someone who’s been affected by cancer. My mother is a survivor. I have family members who have fought varying types of cancer…
I had covered the topic as host of a health radio show, and I am an advocate for women’s health and wellness, but I certainly never imagined it would “happen to me.” I was invincible. I was healthy. It’s not that I ever specifically thought that I wouldn’t be diagnosed with cancer, I just never thought about it that much. I had plenty of other things going on in my life with work and our one-year-old little boy. It just wasn’t something I worried about…
Image credit: Renee Parenteau
Well, I didn’t worry about it until the day my doctor found a baseball-sized tumor on my left ovary. That’s when everything changed. By January 2011, I was in surgery to have the tumor removed, along with my left ovary. After that, I began an aggressive chemotherapy regimen.
Up to that point, I held many titles, including Olympian and World Champion. I was a daughter and wife. Of course, my favorite title was Mom. However, now I had a new title to add to the list, one I never imagined I’d have…survivor.
It’s been four years now, and I continue to look for the blessings from that difficult time. There are lessons I learned that I hope others can utilize without having to personally walk down that path.
These are some of the lessons from being a survivor that help me keep my sanity and give me hope. I hope they do the same for you:
- Make Time for Yourself. When life gets hectic and I get stressed to the max, I often think back to my cancer journey. Cancer focuses your priorities like never before. I remind myself of that time, and how important it was to focus on my own health. That doesn’t always come natural to us, but if you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t be there for all of those who depend on you. So give yourself a break. Take time to get a massage, have a quiet cup of tea, or get in a really good workout. You don’t need to apologize for making your health a priority.
- Focus On Your Health Everyday. You can do this by making small changes like watching portion sizes, squeezing in 10-minute workouts or making that doctor’s appointment. But you need to do it NOW. It’s way too easy to put these things off. Write it down, and do it today. During chemo, I set small goals for myself so that I had something to achieve each day. Sometimes my goals were as simple as get up, get dressed, and walk around the dining table. But those goals meant I had something to do that day to make me stronger. I was empowered each time I checked off one off my tasks.
- Rely On Your Training. My training in gymnastics taught me to set goals and follow through. It taught me how to take on a challenge with the right attitude: a positive one. Because a negative attitude doesn’t just get you nowhere, it actually sets you back. What is your own training you can rely on??
- It’s All About Teamwork. I have unending gratitude for the nurses and physicians that took care of me and those that take care of others every day…and then go home and take care of their families. I learned quickly how critical it was to have a team with me throughout such a difficult time. This team included amazing friends and family who helped out in any way they could. You don’t have to go through a difficult diagnosis to understand the importance of your team. We need to identify our team, then utilize that support and be an asset to your team each day.
Cancer is in the news and top of mind this Fall, and that’s a very good thing. It can remind us that we aren’t invincible, that we need to stay focused and take care of ourselves so that we can be as healthy as possible.
Don’t take your health granted. Take this time, before you get bogged down in the holiday craziness to get on a regular schedule of some well-deserved “me” time. And then enjoy it, guilt free!
Shannon Miller is the most decorated American gymnast in history and is the only female athlete inducted into the U.S. Olympics Hall of Fame – twice! Her tally of five medals at the 1992 Olympics was the most won by a U.S. athlete. At the 1996 Games, she led the “Magnificent Seven” to the U.S. Women’s first ever Team Gold and captured Gold on the Balance Beam for the first time for any American gymnast. Launching her company Shannon Miller Lifestyle: Health and Fitness for Women in 2010, Shannon is now a highly sought-after motivational speaker and advocate for the health and wellness of women and children. As an Olympian, wife, mother and cancer survivor, Shannon is dedicated to helping women make their health a priority. Her memoir It’s Not About Perfect: Competing For My Country and Fighting For My Life published in April! Please visit www.shannonmiller.com for more info on her other projects.
Treatments, such as reiki, shiatsu, and programs like yoga, meditation and tai chi, can provide increased relaxation, well-being, strength, balance and more.
But how do you find qualified therapists and beauty providers who can provide these services and what treatments/services are safe? Here are a few FAQs to help you get started:
- I want a massage but where do I begin? First ask your oncology doctor or nurse for recommendations for licensed massage therapists who have training or experience working with cancer patients. You can also explore listings on Spafinder.com.
- Is it OK to use my current massage therapist or wellness provider? If you already have a massage therapist or other practitioner you like, explain your diagnosis and ask if he or she has any experience with cancer patients – and if they are comfortable working with you. If not, ask for a recommendation.
- What would I disclose?Let your massage therapist know about your diagnosis, treatments, diagnostic tests, blood values, symptoms, activity level and any restrictions you may have.
- What about other spa and beauty treatments? A good practice is to ask as many questions as possible and defer to your doctor for the final say.
Our Pledge to be Cancer Aware
To help people who are experiencing cancer more easily find qualified spas and beauty providers who offer safe, effective services, Spafinder, has identified spas and wellness locations by “Basic” or “Comprehensive” Badges on spafinder.com/wfc.
We believe it is important to remember that cancer is not a one-month issue; it’s a reality all year. All of us at Spafinder are committed to helping those living with cancer—including friends, family and co-workers—identify spa and wellness locations with confidence. Our goal is to serve as a bridge for all who are experiencing cancer and the dedicated providers who seek to serve them.
Share your story about how a spa therapist or beauty provider you know provides support to someone living with cancer.