OCTOBER IS BREAST CANCER AWARENESS MONTH
I was cold, terrified, and having trouble staying focused. I was a medical student, assisting a gynecologist in surgery during a hysterectomy. Not only was I nervously assisting this particular type of surgery for the first time, but my mother was in the next operating room. The surgeon was performing a biopsy from a mass in her breast to determine benignity versus malignancy.
I will never forget the moment when the surgeon who was operating on my mom, entered the OR behind me and whispered, “It’s malignant.” I felt a wave of panic. I don’t remember being relieved by my attending, but I do remember blindly fleeing the room to find my dad in the waiting room to tell him. I was sobbing. In my flight, a nurse stopped me, engulfed me in a hug, and asked me what was wrong. When I told her, she calmed me so that I could go talk to my dad.
Everything changed that day. For the next several years, I lived in daily fear that her cancer would return, especially since I was diagnosing far more cancer than I wished. That’s when yoga became a saving grace. I encouraged my mom to begin practicing yoga with me at the local park district. I am glad we embarked on a healing journey through yoga.
Studies show that yoga helps cancer survivors, mitigating side effects of treatment. For example, with regular yoga practice, breast cancer patients have been shown to experience decreased fatigue and inflammation. Yoga has also been shown to improve sleep in patients undergoing therapy. Researchers believe that breathing and meditation are responsible for these positive effects. Another study, conducted at MD Anderson in Texas, found that breast cancer patients undergoing radiation treatment with simultaneous regular yoga, showed decreased stress hormones, improving quality of life and promoting better outcomes.
There is so much evidence that yoga helps cancer patients, but their caregivers also benefit too. I can definitely attest to that and I am grateful for my mom every single day. She is a true warrior.
The good news is that childhood obesity can be prevented. In fact, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reports that obesity has dramatically declined among children aged 2 to 5 years - dropping from 14 percent in 2003-2004 to just over 8 percent in 2011-2012 – a decline of 43 percent.
I was sitting on the beach on a beautiful afternoon with my family, surrounded by a beautiful cacophony of sounds - from the waves lapping in the ocean, playful shouts, and laughter. To my right, was an extended family sharing food under a tent. Chairs, beach toys, towels, and coolers flanked them on all sides. Clearly, this was going to be an all day affair. The women sat together chatting. A baby sat happily on her mother’s lap. The children played in the sand and surf. To my left, a group of young men set up a makeshift baseball field and enjoyed their game. Behind me, a group of teenagers lay on beach towels surrounding a fire pit, where they would stay until it was time to build a fire, roast food and share stories and laughter. When we returned home, we had dinner together and played a board game.
Sharing time as a family can be a daunting task in our fast paced society. However, family time amongst working parents is on the rise according to a 2010 study by two economists at The University of California San Diego according to Tara Pope in the New York Times article “Surprisingly, Family Time Has Grown” . There are a wealth of benefits to spending quality time together as a family. The family unit benefits from strong connection, feeling supported and valued as individuals, and learning the meaning of a team. Children thrive in a strong family environment by learning healthy habits and building confidence from parents as role models.
Spending quality time together does not have to be complicated or expensive. From movies, games, or cooking together at home, to trips to the beach or the park, to bicycling or hiking in nature, the choices abound.