1-Year Anniversary and 3D Pictures

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The 1-year anniversary of my breast cancer surgery is coming up in a couple days and I’ve been reflecting on the last year and how it all started. With a 3-D mammogram.

Regular mammograms are so important and when I was offered the option to have a 3-D mammogram done, I took it even though I would need to pay an additional out-of-pocket fee for it. My insurance only covered part of the screening. I didn’t really know the difference between a regular mammogram and a 3D one but my very quick and limited research indicated a 3D mammogram created better pictures.

Traditional mammography takes a single picture versus 3D mammography which takes multiple pictures or slices. The multiple pictures are used to make a 3D image that is clearer and easier to read. These images help detect more cancers and detect them early and help doctors see the size of the cancer easier. It also reduces false positives.

A lot of the research on the effectiveness of a 3D versus traditional mammogram is published by companies that manufacture the screening machines and doesn’t necessarily show a huge difference between them. There is some debate that the more accurate, clearer picture may show abnormalities that require further testing thus producing unnecessary stress and anxiety.

Here’s some more information about the greatness of 3D mammograms from breastcancer.org

A study looking at 3 years of data on breast cancer screening with 3-D mammograms has found that the benefits of 3-D mammograms last over time.

The study was published online on Feb. 18, 2016 by JAMA Oncology. Read the abstract of “Effectiveness of Digital Breast Tomosynthesis Compared With Digital Mammography: Outcomes Analysis From 3 Years of Breast Cancer Screening.”

Benefits of 3D Mammograms Last Over Time

“These findings reaffirm that 3-D mammography is a better mammogram for breast cancer screening,” said Emily Conant, M.D., chief of breast imaging at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, who was the senior author of the study. Dr. Conant also is a member of the Breastcancer.org Professional Advisory Board. “These results are an important step toward informing policies so that all women can receive 3-D mammography for screening.”

Based on my personal experience, I highly recommend a 3D mammogram. I was fortunate that my cancer was very small and caught very early. My amazing surgeon indicated that a 3D mammogram was the reason my cancer was caught early. A traditional mammogram may not have caught it and I would have gone a whole year before another screening. In hindsight, the best $50 I EVER spent.

But, sadly, many insurance companies don’t cover the full cost or even part of the cost of a 3-D mammogram. Many women, including me, can afford to pay out-of-pocket fees on top of our insurance coverage to have this more advanced screening but far too many women don’t have that option.

If you have the means, please consider donating to help someone and if you need assistance, here’s a search tool  to help. Please help me spread the word.

*steps off soapbox…

Happy Exercising!

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Exercise is becoming a pain in the ass…

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Actually, it’s becoming a pain in the hips…and feet…and hands…
In recent weeks, I’ve developed joint pain as a side effect of a medication I’m taking as part of my breast cancer treatment. I’m only 43 years old but I feel like I’m 100! It takes me 10 minutes to loosen everything up enough to stand out of bed in the morning. If I sit or stay in one position for more than about 20 minutes, I have to do the loosening up thing all over again.

As you can imagine this is affecting my fitness routine. I have two road races coming up that I’m training for. Not being able to fully flex my feet kind of hinders the running process. When my hips are stiff I move with a sort of waddling motion…like a duck! Have you ever seen a duck run? It’s not pretty.

As with everything else since my cancer diagnosis, I’m trying to take it all in stride (pun intended!) and just figure out a new normal for my fitness plan. Some days are better than others. Some days I’m so uncomfortable that anything more than a 10 minute stretching session is all I can handle. Other days, I feel pretty good and get in my regular routine. So far, all the medication side effects I’ve experienced have been temporary and and my body seems to work through them within a couple of weeks. I’m hoping that will be the case once again so here are a few things I’ve been doing to work through this.

  1. I’ve made my warm-ups longer. Whether I’m going for a run or getting ready for a strength training session, I make my warm-up as long as I need to feel comfortable.
  2. I’ve renewed my commitment to working on my flexibility. Anybody who knows me personally knows that my flexibility is laughable at best. My hips and lower back are always tight and I can barely touch my shins let alone my toes. So now I make sure to stretch (dynamically and statically) before and after every workout. I also use my foam roller daily. And I’ve started to stretch a few nights a week before bed.
  3. I modify my workouts when I have to. And I don’t stress about it. If I’m only able to run 3 miles instead of 5, then that’s what I do. If I need to skip squats because my hips hurt, then that’s what I do. The bottom line is that I’m still doing something. It might not be as much or as intense as I’m used to but I feel worse if I don’t do anything.

If you’re experiencing any kind of chronic pain I hope these tips can help you too. I’ll keep plugging away and hope that these symptoms fade before my race next month.

Happy Exercising!

P.S. Look for my Complete 10K Training Plan ebook on sale soon!

The Road “Back” to Fitness isn’t an Easy Commute

 

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The Road Back…

 

I’ve exercised regularly in one form or another since I was 13. I try to eat healthy most of the time. Everything in moderation! I have never smoked and I don’t drink often.

And then in January of this year at the age of 42, I was diagnosed with breast cancer.

To say I was shocked is an understatement. It was a very early stage and had not spread through my lymph nodes or anywhere else in my body yet so surgery followed by radiation was my treatment plan.

After I got over my initial shock and anger, I tackled this as if it were simply a bump in the road. When my treatment was over I would be done and just get back to life as usual. I was so naïve! This was no bump in the road. It was a major detour or more like a complete change of direction.

After treatment, I was exhausted and didn’t do much, but physical activity and my personal fitness were never far from my mind. I took the time I needed to recover and I didn’t push myself but was anxious to get back to my fitness routine… lifting, running races, etc.

Well, that road back is proving to be much more difficult than I expected. Maybe I wasn’t that fit to begin with…who knows! Logically, when your getting back in shape, you start with lighter weight, walk/run intervals, lots of rest, etc. I’ve done everything “right” so why is it taking so long?! Why am I not fit? I know this makes me sound like I’m having a little temper tantrum, but this is new territory for me.

And then, it dawned on me, this is just another “level” of fitness in my life. I need to stop looking at myself as being out of shape and start looking at it as just my current fitness level. And move forward from there.

This is no different than when I took the summers off during high school and did absolutely nothing or the time I (stupidly) ran a marathon with bronchitis and it layed me up for months afterward. Whenever I started up again I never felt “out of shape” I just knew I was starting at a different fitness level. I’ve used this realization to adjust my workout plans and goals for the rest of the year. I usually run a number of road races but I’ve set my sights on just one in particular that I run every year. I’ve relaxed my expectations and decided to focus on new areas. Nutrition for one! And flexibility.

Don’t get me wrong…cancer is HARD. It’s hard to accept. It’s hard to understand. It’s hard to treat. It’s hard to live with. But, maybe, just maybe, this IS just a bump in the road.

Stay tuned for new workout plans and updates on my progress. Let me know if I can help you on your journey, whatever it may be!