University of California San Francisco
Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center

Taking Charge of Your Health

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An Introduction to Lifestyle Change

There are as many breast cancer stories as there are women with breast cancer. There is no single right way to heal, to feel better, to cope or to change one's life. What seems to be important is to spend some time learning about which ways of healing and feeling better are the best match for you.

Questions to Ask Yourself

Imagine a process of self-inventory:

  • What are my self-care skills? Do I take care of me last? What advice would I give me if I were my best friend, sibling, or child?
  • How am I eating? Am I dieting, feeling deprived, sneaking "junk," feeling guilty about eating the "wrong" stuff, feeling confused about what are the right and wrong foods to eat? Do I drink enough water?
  • Do I sleep well? Can I sleep well? What interrupts sleep and rest?
  • Do I smoke cigarettes? Do I drink excessive alcohol?
  • What are the stressors in my life? What can I change? What can I respond to differently?
  • Do I move my body? In which ways of moving do I feel the most pleasure? How, when and where do I fit it in my life?
  • What is making me feel badly? What are the barriers to changing that?
  • What do I love? What moves me and gives my life meaning? Do I make room or time for that which gives my life meaning? What stirs my creative juices?

There are no clear cause(s) of breast cancer, and therefore, no proven ways to prevent the disease or its recurrence. This can provoke uncertainty, fear and anger. It is this fear of the unknown and people's passion to find causes that fuels breast cancer advocacy and research. Even though there is no proof, there are some principles of healthier living which, at the very least, help people to feel less ill. At their best, these principles may help improve your health, energy level and overall sense of well being.

At UCSF, there is research examining lifestyle issues such as diet, exercise, support, and stress management. We are examining whether a diet low in fat and high in vegetables, fruits and fiber can reduce recurrence rates for breast cancer, whether participation in support groups (and what kinds) can improve survival, and whether exercise can reduce fatigue.

As of now, we do not have answers. However, given the evidence that does exist, and the experience of women who feel better when taking good care of themselves, we want to highlight some recommendations to help you to shape your individual recovery plan.

Lifestyle change is not a written prescription that never changes. It is a dynamic process that is in flux throughout breast cancer diagnosis and treatment. The first and biggest step is to care for yourself. This is self-care.

At the Carol Franc Buck Breast Care Center, we hope to provide you with information and support that will enable you to explore ways of feeling better. You can teach us what works for you. This will enable us to hold your experience and communicate your teachings to other women with breast cancer.

For more information on taking charge of your health, visit our Wellness at UCSF page to find programs, courses and events that fit your schedule and interests.