“How we thrive!”

Who better to know the dips, bumps and curves on the road you take with metastatic breast cancer than four women traveling that path today. Read on for the strategies that keep Andrea S., Andrea N., Renee and Sara centered, active and optimistic.

Health Monitor Staff
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“I am not alone in my fight.” —Andrea Sosa

Schedule a daily activity. 
“I make sure I do something every day,” says Andrea, who hops out of bed and gets dressed right away. “It may be just doing something around the house, or going for a walk. It raises my energy level, and I feel like I’ve accomplished something.”

Fit in fun!
Andrea’s passion is baseball—and the San Francisco Giants are her team! “I’ve gone to two games a month for the past five years,” says the Martinez, CA, resident. And not even cancer could keep her from a double-header last season. “The Giants played the day game. The [Oakland] A’s played the night game,” she explains. “With public transportation, you can go to both venues. I bring along my pain meds, plenty of water and sunscreen.”

Ice away skin problems.
“During chemo, I’d get hives on my neck, chest and arms that burned and caused swelling,” says Andrea. “The best thing for that is ice packs. They quickly reduce the swelling and inflammation. A little calamine lotion helped, too!”

“I’ve been labeled all kinds of crazy, but I’m going to live."
—Andrea Nugent

 Take advantage of free retreats.
“Little Pink Houses of Hope provided a free beach house for me and my family on Oak Island, NC,” says Andrea of Miramar, FL. “It was time I could focus on my son, forget about medicine and doctors and just have fun.” And don’t give up if programs have restrictions, Andrea stresses. She wrote the director of a program for people under age 35: “Hey, you’ve got some 40-year-olds out here. We can kayak! We can hike!” He started a new program and Andrea’s just back from mountain climbing in Utah!

Cry…then move on.
“There are moments I just want to cry,” admits Andrea. “I give myself a five-minute pity party. Then I tell myself, Snap out of it and keep it moving!” And when loved ones were struggling with her diagnosis, Andrea reminded them, “You guys need to pull
it together!”

Look outside of yourself.
Andrea  is a single mom to seven-year-old son, Zachary, and a foster mom to three younger children. Plus, she volunteers…a lot. With the foster agency. With church. And at the nonprofit she started, Bionicgirls.org, which helps local women with breast cancer. “Sometimes I have to tell myself to slow down!”

“Finding someone you connect with makes all the difference.”
—Renee Sendelbach

Make a “resting appointment”!
At one o’clock each day, Austin, TX, resident Renee sets the stage. “I turn on some relaxing music and set my phone alarm to wake me up in an hour. I’ve learned to go easy on myself and not think, ‘Oh, if I don’t get that laundry done, I’m a failure as a mom.’ ”

Release your creative juices.
Every morning around 9 am, Renee paints—and some of her canvases go on her Etsy store. She may paint for two hours—or through lunch. “I lose myself when I am painting,” she says. “When I’m working, I put the energy of love and healing into the canvases.”

Snack to combat nausea.
“Eating a lot of small snacks helps,” says Renee. “I might do natural peanut butter and an apple. Or a
pre-made quinoa salad from the store. Or carrots with hummus.
I keep it healthy!”

Don’t accept depression.
After her stage IV diagnosis, Renee found herself going down a path toward depression and anxiety. “I told my oncologist and she said, ‘Here’s a list of doctors. You need to go to therapy.’ And I did. Luckily, I love, love, love my therapist. Finding someone you connect with makes all the difference.”

“There is great joy to be had in being outdoors.” —Sara El-Hassani

Make treatment days special.
“[My sister and I] quickly established my hospital visits as opportunities to talk and laugh together. We usually pack our bags for the day as if for a fun day out, with foodie treats and little gifts for each other. It is precious time to be with one another.”

Invest in a veggie brush.
Sara bought a special brush she uses to clean non-organic produce. “I work on the principle that eating fruit and veggies is good for you, whether or not it’s organic!”

Do what gives you pleasure—and peace.
For the West Yorkshire, England, resident that’s doing some Argentinean tango. “I dance Argentinean tango regularly, up to five times a week. On a good night, I can easily find myself ‘in the zone’ where my body feels light and utterly responsive, and where my mind becomes completely free and unencumbered.” 

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November 2014