Your food choices and exercise routines can help you fight mental illness and breast cancer. Television and other media advertise the easy way to lose weight and beat cancer or the foods that will help you get out of depression. Many of the newest breakthrough diets require you to give up meat, grains, and other foods. Skinny models are supposed to be the image we want to fight for emulate. All of this seems overwhelming. It’s hard to get motivated to work toward being healthier when you think you have to give up everything you like and when getting off the cozy couch to exercise seem like a chore.


My doctor has been telling me for years to lose weight and eat better. My psychiatrist started me in a healthy diet program where they sent me information through the mail on eating healthy and exercising. I did lose some weight for a little while, but slipped up and gained it all back. I tried to do some exercises at home, but I came up with excuses not to do them. I’m too sore after work, I don’t have time, I don’t have enough energy, and so on. The excuses worked for me. I came up with this mind set, “If they can’t love me the way I am, who cares,” but while I stuck to that I felt awful about how I looked. I thought of myself as a fat slob. This only made me more depressed and made it hard for me to love myself.

After recovering from a double mastectomy due to breast cancer, I started thinking more about my overall health. Even if I have my breasts and uterus removed, there are other places I can get cancer in my body. What if I recover from cancer and end up with another illness like diabetes? How many health battles will I have to face if I don’t do something?


Feeling like I needed to do something, I posted on Facebook, “I’m fat and I need to lose weight.” I got lots of comments on how to lose weight, but one person took it a step further.

Denise, a woman I work with, is into fitness stopped by my register, “What hours do you work Monday?”

“I’m off,” I replied.

“Good. I’ll pick you up at 9 am. Bring a towel and water bottle. Wear shorts, sneakers, and a t-shirt.”

Blue Water Bottle and Towel

I looked at her. “Why? What are we doing?”

Denise smiled. “You said on Facebook you want to lose weight, so I’m going to help you. We are going to work out.”

My stomach fell like a deflated ball. Could I do it? Am I strong enough to do this? Will she give up on me once she sees how badly out of shape I am? Will I have an asthma attack? Do I have what it takes to keep going?

Monday we got together. Denise showed me different types of exercises. I felt like falling over and saying, “I give up” several times, but I pushed. I ran out of breath, my muscles ached, and sweat dripped down my back, but I didn’t give up. Denise encouraged me to keep going when I thought I had nothing left in me. She high fived me and congratulated me when I refused to give up. Her enthusiasm made me want to continue on.


Afterwards I went home, showered, and dropped to the couch. I hurt all over, but I felt pride deep inside me. Denise didn’t give up on me, and I didn’t quit. I dug down inside me for the determination that helped me to reach recovery from mental illness and to fight cancer, to push when I felt too tired to go on. I exercised for a full hour without quitting. That for me was a big accomplishment.

The next time we got together we went on a bike ride. I hadn’t ridden a bike in a couple of years. We have decided to exercise twice a week until my next surgery. Once I’m healed, we’ll start up again. Since I have been working out I can walk long distances with my husband without stopping several times to take a breath. I am very proud of myself and I feel stronger.


I also went to the cancer center to see a dietitian. We went over a normal day’s diet for me. What he told me encouraged me and made me want to continue on my quest to get in shape.

He said, “I’m not going to tell you what to stop eating, because when you’re told what not to eat, you crave it more. What I am going to do is tell you what healthy foods to add and how to break down the unhealthy foods into smaller portions.”


In other words I don’t have to give up the foods I like, I just have to eat less of them and add fruits and vegetables. This was much easier then denying myself the things I like. This was and will be a plan I can follow. I’m confident I can make these changes. The dietitian also gave me a cook book and I started picking out some recipes to try. He told me how green, leafy vegetables help fight cancer.

By working out and starting to change my diet, I feel empowered to be a better, healthier person. I’m more confident in myself. Nothing is going to stand in my way. Exercising and making these changes is helping me feel better not just physically, but also emotionally. I am proud of myself.


Exercise and diet do help with mental illness and cancer, but it has to be your choice. If you can’t stick to a routine, find someone who will work beside you and encourage you. Even once or twice a week makes a difference. You can do it. You’ll sweat, you’ll gasp for air, you’ll hurt, but you’ll feel good because you did it. Push against all odds to get fit for you. Ignore all those who lectured you about your weight. You’re not doing this for them. You’re doing this for you: for a happier, healthier, and stronger you. You can do it.


I’m dedicated to keeping to an exercise routine and changing my diet. I’m already starting to feel better about myself and stronger. I’m determined to fight off chances of getting cancer again and to stay within the light of recovery. Because I’m willing to make these choices, I feel like the light is shining down on me more brightly.



4 thoughts on “GETTING FIT

    • Cheryl,
      Thank you for your wonderful comment and your support. It’s not easy but I’m determined. I’ve never been a quitter.


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