The New Normal

Adjusting to life as a breast-cancer survivor
By Cara Lucas

The diagnosis was made and successful treatment administered. Although it seems that the immediate battle with breast cancer was won, most survivors will tell you that it’s not over—in fact, it’s only the beginning of a longer war.

Living under the cloud of recurrence is stressful, and, for most of the 2.5 million breast-cancer survivors in the United States, life will never go back to the way it was before. Anxiety and fear are everyday emotions that a breast-cancer survivor experiences and must learn how to manage as they rebuild their life.

“The possibility of ‘The Big C’ crashing my party again is something I’ll always be conscious of. Cancer is only 10 percent genetic, but in my case, it wasn’t [genetic],” says former professional figure skater and breast-cancer survivor, Danielle Messina. “The hardest part for me was when I realized that nobody could tell me what caused it or how to prevent it from returning in the future, especially since I had no family history. What about the other 90 percent? This forced me to take a look at the choices I made every day—most importantly what I was putting in and on my body.”

Messina maintains a sense of control and purpose by serving as an advocate for healthy, clean living. She is the creator of the successful blog Glamorganic Goddess, which blossomed into a large community of cancer survivors adamant about promoting change through the beauty products they choose.

“In the United States cosmetics are part of a multi-billion dollar industry that offers some of the least regulated consumer products on the market today,” Messina explains. “By law, there is no pre-market testing for safety required before a beauty product hits store shelves. Environmental toxins from many of these products can accumulate in our bodies over time, making us sick, causing disease, and contributing to what’s known as our ‘body burden.’”

Being careless is not an option post-cancer, according to Messina. Being strong and disciplined is even more vital now than it was during her ice-skating days—because her life depends on it. Practicing calm in the midst of a storm is one part of her disciplined formula.

“One of my favorite mantras is ‘You are so much stronger than you think you are,’” says Messina. “For me, this is still a work in progress, and probably always will be. It’s so important to stay calm because stress kick-starts the cortisol levels (fight or flight) in your body and can increase cancer cell production along with other issues. It’s also important to learn to make time for yourself. Many of us are always so concerned with the needs of others that we forget about ourselves!”

Her final piece of advice for cancer survivors is to do what makes you happy, be a part of the solution, and turn your pain into purpose. While this isn’t easy, finding the right balance can be the key to unlocking your life’s purpose post-cancer and turning your new normal into a blossoming future.

Editor's Note: Danielle Messina was profiled in the October 2011 issue of Natural Solutions as a breast cancer survivor and founder of her glamour blog.