Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Attitude and Simple Eating. One Woman's Recipe for Life

Every now and then, I have the good fortune to share time and space with someone truly remarkable. Meet Joanne.

She kicks butt at Mixed Martial Arts. She runs half marathons. She plays chauffeur to her two teens.  She works full time in a demanding career.

Every night, she makes a family dinner. No salt. No processed food. A simple meal of lean protein -- either fish or poultry -- with heaps of fresh, raw vegetables seasoned with garlic and her favourite herbs. Basil, rosemary, parsley.

A diet that's free of chemicals, Joanne says, is critical to her health.

Our paths crossed when I was mortgage shopping. Joanne helped me get my finances in order. As she talked me through the figures, my eye caught a glimpse of a bandage on her chest.

"Oh, that's just my portacath," she said casually. "For my chemotherapy every third Friday."

Joanne has Stage IV breast cancer. It's infiltrated her bones and cost her 13 lymph nodes in her left armpit. She's on a strict no-salt diet to prevent lymphedema. Her uterus has been removed to give the cancer one less place to invade.

She's been kicking cancer for four years now. "The best four years of my life," she tells me.

She is grateful for her cancer. Yes, grateful.

She says the disease has brought her closer to her husband and their children. They now take regular family vacations -- for the first time in seven years. She's said farewell to 15-hour work days. She works half that. "And I'm 30 per cent more productive," she proudly adds.

If I hadn't seen that bandage, I would never ever suspect that Joanne has a serious illness. She looks lively and robust, with energy to spare.

After her Friday chemo sessions, she heads straight to the gym. The day after her hysterectomy, she was back at her regular routine. No time to be idle.

Joanne has amazed her doctors. They credit her excellent response to treatments and surgeries to her rigorous exercise regimen. Joanne says that exercise and nutrition keep her healthy. But her most powerful tool is her attitiude.

"I can't be bothered with cancer. I have to keeping moving. I have to live for now."

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