I first came up with the concept of Better Than Before years ago, when I was writing the “Beauty Talk” column for Town & Country Magazine. At that time, I became involved with a cosmetic and fragrance industry initiative called Look Good…Feel Better that I learned helped women cancer patients improve their appearance and self-image by teaching them hands-on beauty techniques. The very valid assumption was that when survivors were able to see themselves in a better light, they recovered quicker, both mentally and physically.
Over the next decade, I saw firsthand the amazing opportunities Look Good Feel Better offered survivors who wanted to improve their quality of life but didn’t know where to begin. I realized that those who were either longtime cancer survivors or were dealing with the debilitating effects of their protocol, knew how unrealistic it was to just think happy thoughts, as many well-meaning loved ones and friends encouraged them to do. Alas, brief surges of positivity were often replaced by fears of recurrence or feelings of hopelessness, uncertainty, isolation, fatigue and even guilt.
Taking inspiration from Look Good Feel Better, after writing a book on sport’s nutrition and, most currently, a health, beauty, and fitness column and hosting a weekly lifestyle program on CBS radio, both with a worldwide audience, I also wanted to reach out to this special group of women. My goal, too, was to help them overcome the physical, emotional, spiritual, social and psychological traumas they confronted on a daily basis.
Finding solutions became my passion. Truth be told, 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). But I wanted to present survivors with an easy-to-follow, comprehensive system that encompassed a variety of lifestyle techniques that addressed many of their complaints and concerns.
To that end, I worked with a renowned oncologist as well as a three-time, stage-IV survivor. I spoke not only with doctors and lifestyle specialists but with countless survivors themselves – women and men. I discovered that the majority wanted to get off that emotional roller coaster and reclaim their lives. Yet a surprisingly large number often asked: “What do I do now?”
They had every intention of taking a more active role in their own recovery, but at times were too overwhelmed to do so. Therefore, my challenge was to make everything they learned easy to access, organize and process. And thus Better Than Before was born.
Better Than Before features a unique delivery system—a visualization technique – the highlight of which is a symbolic 12-rung ladder that works to help resolve some of 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 – a lifestyle discipline –that can be effortlessly incorporated into anyone’s daily routine…
Next in this series, I will talk about the twelve rungs, give instructions on how to use them, and include a lifestyle tip for each. In the meantime, though, I would like to share an uplifting message from Geralyn Lucas, author of the best-selling Why I Wore Lipstick to My Mastectomy: “I never thought of myself as a brave person,” she told me, “but I had to learn courage during my treatment. I still recall the morning of my mastectomy. I saw the EXIT sign in the hospital and wanted to escape, but I didn’t run away. I got wheeled in, and I think a different person was wheeled out. Courage isn’t something we are born with; it is something that can be discovered during the most terrifying times. Whenever I am faced with anything scary in life, I think about that morning in the O.R. And how, since I did that, I can do anything. I am not afraid anymore.”
“Remember,” she smiled, “just when a caterpillar thinks its life is over, it turns into a butterfly.”
Added another longtime survivor: “Someone once told me I’m still here because I wasn’t afraid of dying. No! I told them. I just wasn’t afraid of living!!”
Cancer survivors are members of a very special “club.” No one can have an appreciation and compassion for life more than someone who has almost lost it. Now is the time to spread your wings like a butterfly, emerge from the cocoon that cancer has put you in, and flutter onward and upward to a quality of life that is Better Than Before.
I’ll be back soon with Part II. Until then….stay well and thrive.