10 Ways to Cope with Breast Cancer
Staying Physically ActiveExercise
Lanita Moss had an unexpected bump in the road while training for a marathon in 1996: a diagnosis of Paget's disease (often referred to as Paget's disease of the nipple or Paget's disease of the breast; not associated with Paget's disease of the bone), a rare form of breast cancer, at age 32.
Since she did not have lymph node involvement, Moss opted for a double mastectomy and continued training for the New York City Marathon, noting her plans would have halted had she undergone chemotherapy and radiation.
For Moss, the Vice-President and co-founder of the Young Survival Coalition, an advocacy group for women 40 and under living with breast cancer, having something to focus on outside of her disease helped her tremendously.
"It gave me a focus outside of myself," the mother of two says. "I had a bigger thing to think about... It made me feel better about myself."
Since she couldn't run while having stitches, Moss opted to finish reconstruction after her marathon, adding that not having to wear a sports bra (avoiding the nipple chafing that comes with training) was a positive part of her diagnosis.
She acknowledges that breast cancer changes one's body image, though she found that exercise helped her stay positive while dealing with the changes she underwent.
"You feel your body let you down at first," says Moss, who lives in Kansas. "[Exercise] gives you faith back in your body."
For Moss, a big believer in living a healthy life, having a cancer diagnosis helped her step out of her comfort zone.
"I don't think cancer is the end of your life, but the beginning," Moss says. "Breast cancer gave me the courage to say 'I want to put myself out there on the edge and run that marathon, do that 200-mile bike ride.'"
Although she always enjoyed listening to music, Monica McAghon never considered taking up dancing until a friend gave her classes as a gift.
Doctors diagnosed McAghon with infiltrating ductal-lobular carcinoma in fall 1998 at the age of 46. Prior to her mastectomy and chemotherapy, she had always considered herself a sports-oriented person. Though short on experience, McAghon decided to attend a "Healing Dance" class offered by a Middle Eastern dancer, Tahya (who goes by a single name), in Phillipsburg, New Jersey. Tahya's Web site calls dance a healing tool to help you rediscover "a heightened sense of creativity, femininity, and self-esteem."
"I liked that all shapes, ages, and sizes of women attended the lessons, even a pregnant woman, and that we were all encouraged to find our own inner well-being in movement and inspired, creative expression," says McAghon, who lives in Pennsylvania.
She began to bond with the other women in the group through dance and started participating in parties and festivals with the dance troupe. McAghon, who teaches critical reading at a community college, considers the experience of dancing as one that helped her to transition into healing, calling it "a state of physical and psychological well-being."
Dancing didn't end with her treatment. She continued dancing for several years after her diagnosis, including appearing in a "Healing Dance" DVD with Tahya, her dance instructor.
"The dance preoccupied me for several years afterward, as I renewed my comfort with myself and the changes brought by the mastectomy and the chemo treatments," McAghon says. "I took active pleasure in keeping myself fit, focused, and confident through the dance."