“That’s just the way it is.”

I wish I had a dollar for each time a survivor has told me she heard this from one of her wellness professionals.

Bring to mind something you don’t like that keeps showing up in your life.  Maybe it’s something physical you’ve been dealing with since cancer, like low energy.  Maybe it’s financial stress or another kind of anxiety you haven’t been able to shake.

Now hear this: “That’s just the way it is. You’ll get used to it.”

How does that make you feel?

I feel a heavy stone sitting on my heart.  The part of me that desperately wants to believe there’s a way out feels sad and hopeless.

I wince every time someone tells me she’s heard that statement, because the last thing I want is for cancer survivors like you to feel hopeless.  And the darn thing is, that statement is rarely (if ever) true.

Here’s the story of one survivor who proved that statement wrong.

I met K nine years after her treatment for stage 2 breast cancer. While her scans never showed evidence of recurrence, K was overweight, tired and depressed. She lived alone, and hadn’t been physically active for years due to painful neuropathy in both feet as a result of her treatment. Since the breast cancer she’d also had three surgeries to remove malignant melanomas from her skin, and her dermatologist was observing the progress of four more suspicious lesions.

The constant emergence of skin cancers kept K worried that eventually her breast cancer would return too.  She told me she felt like she was at the bottom of a deep, dark hole.  She didn’t know how she’d ever crawl out.  And no one on her wellness team was giving her any hope.

We began by overhauling K’s nutrition, replacing empty calories with lots of fresh, organic fruits and vegetables.  I also wrote her one of my favorite prescriptions:  15 minutes of joy daily. She wasn’t to let a day go by without a bubble bath, relaxation to music or another activity that gave her at least 15 minutes of sheer bliss.

Within the first week, K noticed her energy starting to increase.

We started K on some stretching and light physical activity she could do until she could get back to walking. She chose to further support her progress with a series of acupuncture appointments.

Eight weeks of healthy nourishment, regular physical activity and acupuncture reduced K’s neuropathy to the point where she was able to walk 2 miles a day.  As a pleasant bonus to her efforts, she lost 12 pounds. K felt like she was finally getting her life back.

But she needed more.  K’s immune system needed help to stop the ongoing formation of skin cancers. She needed an aggressive prevention plan, but hadn’t found anyone who could offer her one.

K had a limited budget for lab testing, but we easily and inexpensively confirmed that she had high fasting insulin and two elevated inflammation markers.   We added well-researched nutritional supplements to address these risk factors and a topical plant-based cream to help heal the lesions she already had.

Stress impacts immune resilience, so we explored K’s emotional world as well.   Having lost her husband three years earlier, K had forced herself to remain employed in a toxic work situation for the income and benefits.  With her new awareness of how every aspect of her life affected her wellness, she chose an early retirement.  She told me she was going to take a couple of months “just to focus on me.”

She found a house-sitting arrangement in the quiet outskirts of town and kept up her daily walking.  She realized for the first time that she didn’t have to be busy every moment, that it was OK to take life more slowly and have a little fun.  After four months of active prevention and conscious choices about her quality of life, two of K’s suspicious skin lesions had disappeared, and the other two had shrunk.  She could finally believe that she had every chance of a happy, disease-free future.

I’m sure no one meant to steal K’s hope. But she’d been trapped for her first nine years as a survivor because no one had offered her any other possibility than “that’s just the way it is.”  In fact, nothing could have been further from the truth.

Her turnaround began the moment she chose to believe there was a way out of her “deep, dark hole” of disease and depression.  When she committed to finding a solution, found an expert partner to guide her and dove into action, she rediscovered hope and became well on every level.

And that, my friend, is what I wish for you.