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Lessons in Wellness from Inspiring Survivors


What does a 50 something woman recovering from breast cancer treatment look like? I can tell you, because I met her after teaching one of my aqua classes at Glen Ivy.

Jill was a woman who approached me with a story she was eager to share. She told me that she had been taking aqua fitness classes over the past year as part of her recovery from breast cancer surgery, and the warm, therapeutic aqua environment had been extremely helpful in improving her flexibility and range of motion. It also helped to alleviate a painful condition she had developed called lymphedema.

Jill’s voice was strong and confident. Her demeanor was upbeat, empowered, and life affirming.

To be honest, my first thought was, “What’s wrong with this picture?” This perky, fit, youthful woman, in her mid-fifties, did not look like she had just endured the rigors of cancer diagnosis, treatment, and recovery. Instead, she looked like a picture of health!

Then it hit me. The question I should be asking is not, “What’s wrong with this picture?” It should be, “What’s right?” I began to think maybe there’s a wellness lesson in Jill’s story. Perhaps the strategies she and others like her use to vigorously recapture their precious health and quality of life, would also work for the rest of us simply trying to make better choices in ours.

Like many of you, I have people in my life who have faced the challenge of serious illness. I see them navigating their path with courage and strength, but I also see them making conscious choices that lead to favorable outcomes. Here are my top picks for what I think these wellness warriors are doing right. Maybe you’ll connect with a few to help you along your wellness path:

  • Engage in your wellness. Survivors decide to face the problem by being part of the solution. They take specific steps each day to play an active role in their recovery. They rest, eat well, exercise gently, and embody positivity. Embrace healthy choices as if your life depended on it–because it does!
  • Gather your tribe. Survivors can’t go it alone and they know it. Any wellness journey requires the help of a supportive team of cheerleaders and people willing to listen. Find two people who support your journey. Spend more time with them. Think of two people who don’t. You got it . . . Nice knowin’ ya!
  • Have a winning attitude. Sure, cancer survivors “fight” for their health. But more importantly, they are in it to win it. Negativity doesn’t serve them, so they move forward with an openness that invites new ways of thinking and being. Invite more positivity to your wellness path. It really does work.
  • When you’re down, get up! Cancer survivors endure an unpredictable path throughout their recovery process. While they may become tired or discouraged at times, they remain focused on their wellness mission and are able to stand up, dust off, and get back to the business of healing. Any wellness journey is like this. One minute you’re chopping carrots for the week, the next you have your spoon in the Ben and Jerry’s. You’re not a failure. You just had a hard day and ice cream seemed like the best way to go. Get over it! Move on!

Cancer–that big, bad, demon of a disease we really need to find a cure for, often gives people the permission they need to finally put their wellness first. When they begin to take care of themselves, they often emerge on the other side looking like Jill, the shining star of this story.

I say it’s time to let go of the limiting belief that it’s selfish to take care of ourselves until we are sick.

One of my students put it this way. She said, “When I say NO to some of the extra things I am doing for other people, it enables me to say YES to the things I need to do for myself.” Amen sister! Her words were so inspiring; I’m stealing them for my new wellness mantra. I’m sure she wouldn’t mind if you did too!

Meg Root is the resident wellness expert at Glen Ivy, where she teaches weekly fitness classes and wellness workshops. Check our activities calendar for times and dates, and follow her weekly “Well-spirations” at Megroot.com or her Instagram @wellnessacts

Posted in: Learn & Grow |

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