“Cancer sucks, however, the warrior it creates is undeniable and battle-tested.” Jerrod Phillipps about his sister, Jamie Hoffpauir, breast cancer survivor. As a breast surgical oncologist, Dr. Kelly McLean understands the complexity of breast cancer survivorship. Read her encouraging words.

 “Cancer sucks, however, the warrior it creates is undeniable and battle-tested.” Jerrod Phillipps about his sister, Jamie Hoffpauir, a breast cancer survivor. 

One in eight women will get breast cancer. The biggest risk factors are being female, age, and having breasts. Those risks are difficult to modify. This disease affects women of all ages. Although breast cancer is potentially deadly, with an aggressive combination of surgery, radiation, and medical therapy, people live through it. They survive…for a long time, too. While fighting breast cancer brings out the warrior in you, it also leaves mental, physical, and emotional scars that touch all aspects of life, which include continual anxiety over recurrence, weight gain from the hormone-blocking medication, and contractures from the radiation treatments. The list goes on. 

The feelings after surviving cancer are similar to the post-traumatic stress disorder that soldiers experience when they return from war. The battle itself is so intense, self-preservation so paramount, that you just do what needs to be done. You don’t think. You don’t question. You just fight. After, however, when life is “normal” again, you have time to think. Sometimes all you seem to have is time. You’re supposed to resume your old life, however, you’re no longer the old you. 

This is a time of choice. 

You can choose to just survive, to do only that which is necessary to get from day to day or you can choose to be more. Yes, your battle with cancer left scars that you didn’t ask for, however, it also developed a previously unrecognized inner strength. Tap into the same drive that got you through treatment to challenge yourself to do more than you think you can. Draw on the same determination with which you fought the battle to maximize each day of the gift of life that you have been given. Ask yourself to be better today than yesterday, and better tomorrow than today. Regular exercise and maintaining a healthy body weight can reduce rates of recurrence by up to 50%. In a time when so many factors were/are out of your control, this is one that you can influence. Opportunities to help you live fully exist. Embrace them. Race on a Dragon Boat. Run a half-marathon. Commit to a daily boot camp. Go backpacking. Take one small step. You already know that you have the strength inside. What could be tougher than what you’ve already been through? 

Move Beyond Surviving – Thrive! 

Dr. Kelly McLean, Surgical Oncologist 

The Christ Hospital Surgical Oncology 

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