Over the past several years, we have been inundated with books and articles on how we can magically turn our lives around simply by thinking happy thoughts. But those of us who have either survived or are currently experiencing any sort of life-altering or chronic illness or event, be it cancer, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis or even menopause, are not exactly jumping for joy. Indeed, any brief surges of bliss are rapidly replaced by fears of recurrence or feelings of hopelessness, uncertainty, isolation, fatigue and even guilt.
As a beauty and health columnist and author of a book on sports nutrition, I knew the positive effects of targeted treatments and a well-balanced diet. But I wanted to extend the concept from therapeutic to quality of life. If I could help people dealing with health challenges overcome the physical, emotional, spiritual, social and psychological traumas they confronted on a daily basis, I reasoned, it would make it easier for them to move forward.
Finding solutions became my passion. I began with cancer survivors because they were an exploding new population thanks to encouraging medical breakthroughs. While it was an unusual endeavor for me, a confirmed hypochondriac who consults a disease-of- the-day calendar (for the curious, today it’s Hives), my goal was to offer survivors an easy-to-follow, comprehensive program that encompassed a variety of lifestyle techniques that addressed their complaints and concerns.
I interviewed doctors and lifestyle specialists—along with survivors themselves—and discovered that the majority wanted to get off that emotional roller coaster and reclaim their lives. Yet a surprisingly large number didn’t know where or how to begin. “What do I do now?” they often asked. And this quandary was certainly not limited to cancer survivors.
Noted internist and oncologist Dr. Rodney Sherman confirms that, whatever their illness, more and more of his patients are living longer with a greater potential for returning to a normal life and that there is a wealth of important information available to them. “However,” he adds, “to truly feel better than before, they must incorporate specific lifestyle changes into their daily routines. “
I soon came to understand that patients had to take a more active role in their own recovery. Yet between magazines, books, and the Internet, the information was at times overwhelming and frequently conflicting. The challenge was to make everything they learned easier to access, organize and process.
To that end, with the help of Dr. Sherman and R.S. Wright, a colleague, life coach and 23-year, three-time stage IV cancer survivor, I created Better Than Before. The program features a unique delivery system—a visualization technique, the highlight of which is a symbolic 12-rung ladder that helps resolve the issues that hold survivors back from achieving the quality of life they so desire but never thought possible. Each “rung” represents a key area that will help survivors effect real lifestyle changes via simple, actionable suggestions.
The following is our start-up, quality of life ladder, an introduction to the program. As you take the suggestion from each of the 12 rungs, envision yourself climbing out of uncertainty, and making each day —and in some cases, each hour—a little better than it was before.