Body to Pat: Pay Attention

By on July 6th, 2011 Categories: The Breast Cancer Journey

For most of my life, I have been oblivious to myself. Sure, I was pretty confident about who I was; I knew I was smart, capable, funny, but I knew this on an intellectual level, not an emotional or, most important, a physical one. In the 15 months before I was diagnosed, I had four bladder infections. Intellectually I knew something was wrong with my system, but I sped on with my life without spending too much time thinking about just what was going on, just what was wrong with my body to make it get this kind of infection over and over.

I did a certain amount of research and determined that, most likely, my diet was the problem. One infection came on fairly quickly and ferociously a half-hour after I had a completely satisfying cup of Irish coffee. I checked my natural healing book and, sure enough, coffee, alcohol, and sugar are high on the list of ingredients for a bladder infection. So, not being a complete dummy, I stopped drinking Irish coffee, but I did not consider the deeper issue: Why did my body react so quickly to those ingredients?

I sort of asked those questions, but I did not force the answer. Likewise, I did sort of lame breast exams, but did not really take them that seriously. Certainly, smart, capable women like me did not get breast cancer. We have better things to do. So, when I felt a small lump, I did not take it that seriously, figuring it was just a fluke that would go away. Because I was so derelict in doing exams, I was not even that sure what was usual and what was not.

I suspect I am like others who feel they need to control their destiny—it’s not just that I think I know best and the world would be wise to take my counsel. It’s also that I am terrified of what will happen if I let down my guard—I’ll go hurtling down a metaphorical cliff into the abyss of the soul. Splat.

Luckily, that small lump came right before my yearly gynecological physical. The doctor, also a smart, capable woman, found it, sent me in for a mammogram and made an immediate appointment for me with a surgeon. The medical pros, then, found what I had been ignoring.

So, this has all made me pay more attention to the physical me, to be attuned to my body. And, oddly, I no longer fear the self-exams, as I now know that if I find something, I just deal with it, the way I did with the first lump.

I completely changed my diet, emphasizing lots of vegetables, a good amount of fruit (not too much because fruit is high in sugar), three decent meals a day plus a healthy snack between each one (broccoli in hummus, homemade trail mix), complex carbohydrates, and a small amount of protein. I have alcohol once or twice a week—rather than the one or twice a day that used to be my norm—and I have limited my caffeine.

I still occasionally get a bladder infection, but it’s usually when I completely go off my diet and that happens less and less. I now can tell when one might be coming because I am finally attuned to my body and I can usually avoid it by dealing with it homeopathically.

This post was borrowed with permission from Pat's personal blog, Positives About Negative. Pat is the author of Surviving Triple Negative Breast Cancer and the co-author of The Magazine From Cover to Cover, also published by Oxford. She has been a magazine writer, editor, consultant, and professor for more than 35 years. She headed Drake University's magazine sequence for 22 years before taking over as director of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication in 2004. In May 2006, Pat was diagnosed with early-stage hormone negative breast cancer and retired from Drake in 2007 to focus on health writing and her health. She had surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation, and is now healthy, fit, and cancer-free.


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