Last Updated on June 29, 2022 by Rebecca Huff
Cancer Survivor, Patricia Diaz, has been in remission for over 30 years. We're discussing the therapies she used in conjunction with her cancer treatment, most of which she still practices to this day. Her memoir is the topic of this episode of A Healthy Bite.
Pretty Girls Don't Get Cancer.Patricia Diaz, memoir
Yeah, that was my reaction, too, when I first saw it in print. What kind of doctor says this to reassure a patient? While I'm sure it was meant to console, we all know the statement simply isn't true. We all know a pretty girl who has been diagnosed with cancer, don't we?
My sister was a pretty girl diagnosed with ovarian cancer. I have two aunts and a cousin who are pretty girls and also breast cancer survivors.
Unfortunately, cancer doesn't pick and choose, it spreads its ugly roots without discrimination of gender, race, nationality, size, age, or even looks.
Meet Patricia Diaz
Pretty Girls Don't Get Cancer is the title of a self-published memoir by Patricia Diaz. A touching story of Patricia's journey as a stage four cancer survivor. The title is based on the statement a physician made to reassure her. Sadly, he had overlooked the signs of adolescent and young adult cancer. (AYA)
I imagine no one is ever prepared for a cancer diagnosis.
This was certainly true for Patricia. She was a high school student, intent on spending time with friends and family and enjoying a certain quality of life in Venezuela.
Losing weight rapidly, barely able to breathe as one of her lungs was not even functioning, yet still unaware that cancer was growing inside of her, Patricia struggled on.
Severe nosebleeds, headaches, a persistant cough, and other signs had her parents worried. They took her to a different doctor, who after examinations and testing, diagnosed Patricia with stage four Liposarcoma. Several labs confirmed the results; a diagnosis of Stage IV Adolescent terminal cancer.
Of course, Patricia received the dreaded cancer treatment, chemotherapy. The side effects of which made her violently ill. She later found out that the dose she was given during that first round of chemo was many times stronger than it needed to be.
Unfortunately, she's not the only cancer patient to experience the horrific side effects of cancer treatment. Although, this was thirty years ago, and health care and the cancer experience have progressed somewhat, chemo and radiation are still first-line treatments in oncology.
Hopefully, someday, cancer care will evolve to a gentler method.
While Patricia continued to receive conventional treatment for her cancer, she also supplemented her care with alternative therapies. This is the topic of this episode of A Healthy Bite.
We are certainly not debating whether cancer survivorship was dependant upon one or the other. Anyone who is diagnosed with any type of cancer should be treated as an individual, unique in their experience, environment, and care plan.
Alternative Therapies for Cancer Treatment
Patricia's story involves not only her care team, her doctors and nurses but also her friends and family. Her loved ones are an integral part of her story, and each of her family members had a role in her healing process.
In many ways, these alternative therapies appear to have become part of Patricia's new normal day to day habits.
Patricia found help through learning meditation and through the process of self-discovery. She was able to become more self-aware and see some stories she'd been telling herself and sort of rewriting them in a more positive way. You might find support through chatting with a therapist, a group in a cancer center, meditation, or prayer.
Caregivers may also want to seek a support group as providing care for a cancer patient takes an emotional toll on everyone. The American Cancer Society has a full section for caregivers here.
As we Patricia mentioned, she continues to see a functional medicine doctor and sees health and wellness as a fun part of her life now. Part of her survivorship care plan means that she continues to get regular checkups and follow-up tests, which while they can be scary, she had learned to alleviate that anxiety.
Another thing she mentioned were the long-term effects of her treatments, which is another thing that a cancer survivor will need to adapt to and be informed of after treatments end. Patricia shares plenty of ideas for staying healthy in the podcast episode.
Primarily Plant-Based Diet
We see studies of Blue Zones, areas where a high percentage of the population lives longer, healthier lives, that eating a diet that consists primarily of plants is conducive to longevity. Not only are plant-based diets good for lengthening years of life, but also healthspan, the years we live healthily.
The American Cancer Society recommends following a healthy eating plan that limits or excludes: (1)
- Red and processed meats
- Sugar-sweetened beverages (Quit Soda!)
- Highly processed foods and refined grain products
Mindful physical exercise was one of the things Patricia noted in her memoir. For her, this was practicing yoga. Tai Chi is another great option. According to cancer research, physical activity is linked to a lower risk of several types of cancer. This includes colon, breast, endometrial, bladder, esophageal, and stomach cancers. It may even reduce the risk of colorectal cancer, lung cancer as well as prostate cancer. (2)
Patricia mentions that she was fairly serious-minded and that her family's jokes were usually scientific in nature. She had to learn to find things humorous. Laughter is the best medicine, they say, but how much of an effect does it have on your health?
Research has found that laughter has long and short-term positive effects on your health. “Mirthful laughter can stimulate our immune system, increase our protection against viruses, bacteria, and even cancer.” (4)
In one section of Patricia's book, she shares some of her own risk factors through the lens of hindsight. While it is impossible to determine why one person gets cancer and another one doesn't, certain risk factors have been identified which increase the potential for cancer.
Some Patricia mentions in her memoir include emotional upheaval, toxins in the environment, and food allergies. These, along with genetics, can all be risk factors.
Genetic testing can be useful in determining your risk factors as well as what you can do to turn off those variants. For example, the COMT gene encodes a protein that breaks down not only catecholamine neurotransmitters but also estrogens and their byproducts. Variants with low activity have been associated with increased rates of some cancer types. (5) Genetic testing can determine if you have these variants and if so, what steps you can take to lower your risk.
Carrying excess weight is a major risk factor for many cancers, although the long-term effect of obesity that begins as early as in childhood requires more research. Children should get at least an hour of physical activity daily. (3)
Take Away's from Pretty Girls Don't Get Cancer
- One of my top takeaways from this book is that it is important not to dismiss symptoms. Patricia admits that she and her family, and even her doctors dismissed and overlooked important clues that could have helped her with an earlier diagnosis.
- Another key realization for me was not to be afraid of finding out what's going on. Being fearful of a diagnosis to the point that you avoid seeking answers only delays your ability to treat a problem before it gets out of hand. (This is one of the main reasons I've always avoided the BRCA testing up until recently.)
- Follow-up on abnormalities, and when something doesn't feel right, get a second opinion.
- We live in a toxic world and we all would do well to incorporate a bit of cancer prevention into our daily healthy habits. It's impossible to avoid all toxins, as I mentioned in my most recent email, even though I've eaten organic and avoided spraying my yard, etc. I tested positive for elevated glyphosate levels (broad-spectrum systemic herbicide in products such as round up.)
- Deal with your emotions, don't stuff them, ignore them, or invalidate them.
- Stress is the enemy, learn to manage it in a healthy manner.
Adult cancer survivors, as well as childhood cancer survivors, should check with their care team for follow-up care, in particular, in designing an eating plan as well as food restrictions.
This post and podcast are not meant to be medical advice, always check with your health care provider before implementing any changes in your diet, exercise, or health plans.
Resources for Cancer Survivors
Two-thirds of all survivors will experience one or more late effects from their disease and/or treatment. Late Effects After Treatment Tool gives you results that will tell you about potential late effects, symptoms to look for, provide recommendations for follow-up care, and offer prevention tips that may help reduce your risk for further health issues. Consider sharing your results with your doctor and always seek medical advice if you have any concerns.
About the Author
M. Patricia Diaz is an author, health-supportive chef, and human resources consultant. Her wellness journey began in 1989 when she was diagnosed with stage IV terminal cancer. During the most difficult time in her life, and with the help of friends, family, and life mentors, she turned to yoga, plant-based diets, and other alternative techniques to manage her crisis and then gently restore her health after cancer treatments.
The lessons Diaz learned, and years of yoga practice, led to an enthusiasm for well-being, a search for a depth of knowledge, and provided a compass for her life and career. She trained in a plant-based chef program at the Natural Gourmet Institute in New York City and completed a 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training Program at Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health.
Patricia is passionate about teaching the foundations of yoga and the basics of plant-based diets. She loves to help others connect with their inner wellness coach, and she believes that a genuine practice starts with a strong foundation honoring the principles of “ahimsa'” — first do no harm
For more information, please visit https://mpatriciadiaz.com, or follow the author on Facebook (MPatriciaDiaz); Twitter (@mpatriciadiaz01); or Instagram (prettygirlsdontgetcancer).
You can watch this video on Youtube here.
Cancer Survivors Memoir: Pretty Girls Don't Get Cancer by Patricia Diaz
[00:00:00] Rebecca: Today on a healthy bite. I have a very special guest author, Patricia Diaz, Patricia wrote her memoir and this book pretty girls don't get cancer. When I first saw the title to this book, I was taken back a little. And I thought, what do you mean pretty girls don't get cancer.
I know tons of pretty girls who have been diagnosed with cancer. And it's actually a memoir of her life. She was diagnosed as a teenager with stage four terminal cancer, and she has been in remission for 30 years and she is now sharing her story. I later found out during our interview that she and I graduated from high school during the same exact year.
So it was really touching to me Who, whoever knows who's going to get cancer. My sister sadly was diagnosed with cancer and she passed away. So when I read stories like this, I'm just so inspired and I think it's so wonderful that Patricia took the time. And so very thoughtful of her to share her story with us, because it's so personal.
And in the end of this book, Patricia shares some of the alternative therapies that she used in conjunction with conventional medicine to conquer cancer. They weren't sure if she would live. And so she tells her whole story in this book, and I think it was so touching to me because I realized that while I was living my healthy years of the last few years in high school and just going on about my life, there was someone somewhere else in the world who was struggling and going through this horrible battle.
[00:01:41] Announcer: Welcome to a healthy bite.
You're one nibble closer to a more satisfying way of. A healthier you and bite size bits of healthy motivation. Now let's dig in on the dish with Rebecca Huff.
[00:01:59] Rebecca: All right. I have been looking forward to this conversation with you Patricia, for a while. I read your book and I, I found it very touching. And I also really found it inspiring that you shared so much of your heart with us. And also some of the alternative therapies that you have used over the years to stay in remission.
Before we get too far into this, I would like you to tell us a little bit about your story for those who haven't read the book, hopefully after this interview, they're going to want to read this book because it's just so heartwarming. I loved it so much, but without too many spoilers, because clearly we don't want to give everything away.
Can you give us just a brief overview of your story?
[00:02:46] Patricia: Yes, absolutely. Thank you so much. For reading my story and for having me here today, I'm so, so honored regarding the story I was a teenager when unfortunately I had stage four cancer. It started with you know, symptoms or having some symptoms.
And we went to one doctor, you know, got a misdiagnosis from that doctor. Then a few months later, I was diagnosed with stage four. And the story is really about my journey of how I started the, you know, how I found out how I started with all these crazy therapies at the time alternative therapies on top of, or in compliment of the more Western therapy, the chemo and radiation.
And the story tells the whole, the whole thing, right? It's the, it's the journey that I went through, that my family went through, my friends told of course through my eyes, my point of view. But they also obviously had their share and their, their part in their, their own stories throughout. And you know, it's a story about love about obviously the cancer about You know, commitment community it's just a bunch of things together that make the story in, in my mind, a special story.
Not necessarily because it's my story. It's because of the people around me that made it so special. And and thank you for reading it again. I hope that a lot more people read it and find it inspiring or a special as well. And if you know, unfortunately there is a moment where someone does come across cancer, then they find some insights in those pages.
[00:04:34] Rebecca: Right. I did. I think I thought that too, you know, when, when someone sees this book, well, the first thing is I think the title is so very catching. I was like, when I saw the subject line, I'm like, what do you mean pretty girls don't get cancer. Are you crazy? And then I started reading it and I was like, oh my goodness!
So, you know, just for you listeners out there, Patricia's first doctor that she went to was just trying to reassure her and basically said, oh, you know, pretty girl, like you wouldn't have cancer. Well, we all know that's not true. Cancer does not discriminate against looks, ethnicity, gender, or anything.
[00:05:13] Patricia: Right.
[00:05:14] Rebecca: Unfortunately it does not discriminate against age. And you were a young teenager when you were diagnosed, you were just out there trying to live your life and enjoy being a high schooler. And I thought that was a really, really tough time for someone to be diagnosed with cancer. And you had said in the book, I think, you know, towards the end where you're talking about the alternative therapies that you used, that you miss all of the yummy yucky things you could no longer eat, because food and nutrition was one of the things that you changed as an alternative therapy.
It's been 30 ish years since then. Do you still avoid those foods? And if so, has it gotten any easier for you?
[00:06:04] Patricia: So yes, I do still avoid those certain foods, like the fast foods and things like that. I basically don't eat them. I also avoid gluten free and dairy free. So a bunch of foods that I don't have in my diet, by choice.
And also because, you know, I feel much better when, when I do avoid them. So I like feeling good. I like feeling well. You know, a lot of people tell me, well, you know, it's easy for you because you're you like that stuff. I didn't start out liking it. It was mushy, and it was ugly. And back then there was no options other than things that tasted like bird feed and it was awful.
And so, you know, part of the story is, is going through that struggle as a teenager today. The, the huge benefit is everything is something free or there is you know, gluten-free, dairy-free whatever free and, and there's so many options out there that you can really, you know, with the good, good guidance from a nutrition doctor, you, you can actually have a really good experience with, with food and finding that relationship.
I guess I'm making peace with that relationship with food. Because we are meant to eat a lot of plants and, and eat less meats and things like that. It's, it's key for healthy or, or wellness and recovery.
[00:07:29] Rebecca: I know in the book you talked a lot about the food. And how it was so integral to your family, and I think that's, that's how it is with a lot of us families, you know, we, food is love and it's, it's so social that it can be hard, especially when you come from a family where meat is one of the mainstays of the diet. And so you totally transformed and to a primarily plant-based diet and you eventually learned to cook, right? So you still avoid cheese and stuff like that. So when you say dairy free, you don't do yogurt or no dairy whatsoever.
[00:08:08] Patricia: I do detox every once in a while. But yes, I do avoid anything related to dairy, Hmm. Yogurt, milk and anything like that. And I substitute with how do you call these dairy alternatives, almond, cashew, oat..
[00:08:24] Rebecca: And now there's so many more options than there was back then.
[00:08:29] Patricia: Exactly. Yes, no options before there were none..
[00:08:33] Rebecca: Right. I mean, this is back in the late eighties, right? Late eighties, right? Yeah. So I know, I mean, I started doing like gluten-free, sugar-free, preservative-free coloring free, all of that stuff in the early 2000's and it was hard to find stuff then so I can't even imagine in the eighties. But switching gears a little bit, one of the things that really I related to a lot that you talked about in your book was that you said that you were a bit, you were a bit serious and reserved. You come from a family of like very highly educated people, they're scientists and, and they're also very serious.
And so maybe your jokes weren't, you know, Exactly causing these roarous laughter, that you had to learn to appreciate funny things and actively seek out stuff to laugh at. So how important do you feel that laughter and being lighthearted really was to your beating cancer and staying in remission?
[00:09:41] Patricia: You know, the first time I heard that laughter had anything to do with recovery was a study that had to do with little children with PAC playing Pac-Man and or watching videos. I remember that at some point we heard that during that time
right. It was, it was pretty cancer is pretty traumatic and hard and invasive. So the times that I was okay, the parts of about the pyramid in the story where my father would like knock off the pyramid or, that was just funny. Yeah. We found a little thing in life to laugh about and yeah, and I still do. I still do. That's something that I w that I love doing. Whether it be funny books funny stories even those memes that come in the internet sometimes just make me laugh. And you think about the last time you actually belly laugh and how you felt afterwards. You just want more, you want another reason to laugh, laugh like that. And it's just relaxing. And then.
[00:10:42] Rebecca: It is I'm very much like you, I tend to be a bit more serious, but I have kids who say funny things and they always show me funny stuff. So I can find things to laugh about, but if it weren't for them, I do feel like I would be a bit more serious, but they say, you know, laughter is the best medicine and I've heard.
Stories of other people who used laughter to get better. So I thought that was pretty amazing that you put that in your book and the fact that you actively seek it out, you know, because a lot of people just, you know, they just don't find a lot of things humorous or they're just not, you know, around funny things.
You know, my sister was diagnosed with cancer when she was about 40 she had ovarian cancer. And she always laughed at everything, you know? So we're not saying exactly that if you laugh, you'll be cured of cancer and you're, you know, we're, we're not at all saying that and I, I do want to point that out that, you know, it's not like, oh, you can just spend all day laughing and, but it is good for you and it helps you physically and mentally.
So. I did think that was really interesting. And I do actually do what you said. I try to find things to laugh at because I tend to, you know, when I watch things, they tend to be more drama style or I read memoirs or self-help type books and things like that. I don't read a lot of funny stuff. So I do try to make it a point. And I appreciated that you pointed that out.
Another treatment that you mentioned in your book that we all know is super important, but I liked the way you put it mindful physical exercise instead of just exercise. A lot of people focus on exercise, but you said mindful physical exercise. Can you tell us a little bit about what you meant by that and why is that particular type of exercise so beneficial?
[00:12:38] Patricia: Yeah. So after cancer or during cancer, you get treatment, right? You get chemicals and radiation and all kinds of different things done to you. And that's, that's already a big stress on the body and bringing more stress on the body by exerting, heavy physical exercise builds an additional layer of complexity to your body to actually be able to recover.
Right. So when, I mean, mindful physical exercise, I mean, exercise that actually is supportive to the recovery process and that will help you get well, like lubricating your joints. I did at that point in time, I did psychophysical exercises, which is basically a precursor to yoga one. I was so frustrated because I wanted it to be in yoga.
And they, the instructor was basically kept me in psychophysical, exercises. They knew my history and they kept me in that lower end of the, of the learning process for a longer time to make sure that I actually gained a little weight. My, my body got stronger. I learned how to breathe properly and all of that.
And then once they saw. Okay. She's, she's getting better. She's eating better. She seems like she has more energy, then they allowed me to go into yoga one. So it, you know, that's mindfulness, that's mindful exercise. It's knowing that your body just went through it. Went through hell and back and you need to be careful.
And so I honored that and to me that was, that was something that I did that I, that I really like and that worked really well, for me.
[00:14:22] Rebecca: I feel like a lot of people who go through cancer treatments probably aren't going to feel like weightlifting or CrossFit, but in the case that they did it probably wouldn't be the best type of exercise for any time you're in recovery.
And I know a lot of people want to push themselves, they don't want to like maybe lose progress or something like that that just want to stay strong, but part of recovery is allowing your body to rest. And I thought it was really important that you pointed out that there are specific types of exercise that are more beneficial than others when you're recovering.
[00:15:00] Patricia: And, and I would say find the ones that are so are supportive because yoga you would think that yoga is helpful and supportive. Well, there's a lot of yoga, the pretzel kind in the hot yoga that is probably not favorable for your body than one that would basically be nurturing to your body like chair yoga, or maybe some Hatha yoga beginner's level, something like that.
So I would encourage people to go and slick seek out those options that are a little bit softer, more gentle, also gentle yoga is really, the other there's also sleep therapy. It's really, really nice. Yoga Nidra so a lot of options out there. You just have to find those, those options that work for you.
[00:15:48] Rebecca: So when you said sleep therapy, are you talking about a type of yoga?
[00:15:53] Patricia: So it's called yoga nidra. It's a, it's a basically going into deep relaxation and just relaxing. And there's also, what's it called restorative yoga. That's also very that I would recommend a lot it's it uses a lot of props and all you do sleep during the yoga class, but you sleep in, in yoga poses.
And, and not sleep, but you rest in yoga poses and they're very gentle yoga poses of course. But it's very relaxing and nurturing to the body.
[00:16:32] Rebecca: That is new to me. Very interesting. I'll have to look into that. And what about Tai Chi?
[00:16:39] Patricia: Love it Tai Chi's amazing. I did several years of Tai Chi. I wish I could do more. I just love the, the whole concept of movement and yeah. Meditation and learning how to connect the two. Oh my goodness. It was, that was one of the best times of my life. And you ended up almost like feeling the energy around you. It's, it's unbelievable. You get to that state of, of deep connection with whatever it is that's above us, right. Or, or beyond us. It's just wonderful. So highly recommend Tai Chi. With a good instructor.. Of course.
[00:17:17] Rebecca: Yes. Yes. Always. You mentioned in your book about consistency, that being consistent was one of the challenges for you. I also have found consistency to be one of my roadblocks too. I have all of these healthy habits that I want to practice on a daily basis, but consistency. It's the thing that always gets me. So that's like my stumbling block. So I'm curious, have you found ways to be more consistent? And if so, what kind of techniques do you use?
[00:17:51] Patricia: The holy grail? Right. Quoting Nike, just do it. We learn about so many things and yes, this is good for you. And the other thing, is not good for you and just making it a point, almost like brushing your teeth, right. Making exercise As important or mindful exercise as important to your day, then waking up, going and brushing your teeth or having a meal it's, you know, giving it that value and that weight in your day.
That's important. And making a schedule has worked and also variety. You know, if you're a person that gets bored easily, then you know, find variety of let's say today, I'm going to do Tai-Chi then tomorrow I'm going to do yoga. And the next day I'm going to do, you know, get up on my bike and go for a bike ride.
So depends on what you like and what your interests are. Find things that, that you like that are fun for you and that you can stick with.. And and do them regardless of what other people do. If you see a bunch of people going to the gym and you don't like going to the gym, that's okay. Find what you like to do and, and just enjoying it. Right.
[00:19:04] Rebecca: Yes, making it easier to stick to it. And I have found for myself, at least one habit stacking helps. Like you said, with brushing your teeth, one of a past podcast guests, I have, we were talking about longevity and she said that every time she brushed her teeth, she did 10 squats. And that was just like a thing, you know?
So habit stacking that has helped me a lot. And the other thing is just what you mentioned doing something you like, I. Hated CrossFit and that type of exercise, but I love dancing. I love Latin dancing. I love ballroom dancing, freestyle, any kind of dancing. And while it's not going to build muscles like a body builder, maybe, you know, it is a good form of cardio.
And you know, you are, you can build your leg muscles and your derrier with some good dancing.
[00:19:54] Patricia: Yeah, that's sort of a ballroom dancing with those shoes that have heels. You're building your calves.
[00:20:00] Rebecca: That is for sure. When I first took ballroom dancing lessons with my husband, my calf muscles would be so sore from wearing those heels and making sure I did all the steps right. So that is one way. I totally agree. Consistency. It's so much easier to be consistent when you don't have to depend on your willpower because you're like, I like doing this and you obviously still enjoy yoga..
[00:20:25] Patricia: Yes, I do. I love it. And the other part of consistency is building your environment. So consistency is the, for example, buying foods, the healthy foods and putting them in your, in your shelf. So when you get hungry, you have no other option, but to eat healthy putting the snacks in a place that are, that, that is like high rates. So you really have to work for getting it. You have to go and get the stairs and you don't want to get the stairs because you're in a rush so you get to go and get your apple because it's right there. So just tricking yourself into into healthy habits. Yeah. Has also worked for me. I also have little spaces in my house for certain things. Like this is the space of my workout routine, and this is where I teach yoga. And this is where I do this.
So having spaces with them, I guess the, the energy of what I'm gonna do there has helped me.
[00:21:19] Rebecca: So you had mentioned, and I thought this was really interesting that you brought this to light is the fact that you know, our emotions can be really intense, intense emotions have a lot to do with our health. And I think a lot of people don't connect it or have even if they do, maybe don't realize the severity of psychological stress. I don't want to go too far. I don't want to give away anything in your book, but you went through a lot as a teenager with your friends, with your family.
Have you maintained your ability because I know you learned when you were a teenager, how to manage your emotions and cope with stress. Have you maintained that? And can you share a little bit about the techniques you use?
[00:22:07] Patricia: So yes, definitely. Stress in itself may, may or may not be the cause of, of illness in itself, right? Because there's other factors. The environment, DNA, and all of those things. And, but yes, when we are stressed something happens in our immune system that we, we become more vulnerable to those genes to express or to the environment, to cause havoc on our, on our bodies, in our bodies. So yes, I did go through a lot and at that ;time, I had help from a psychiatrist or a psychotherapist who helped me really go deep into myself and understand myself and where I was in life and what I wanted out of life and all of those things; present past the now and all of those things.
Right. I, today I continue to use yoga for example, and alternative therapies to continue to be, to keep my emotions in check. Right. I it's not that I don't get angry or mad or get frustrated. Yes I do. But now I have a lot of tools in my, in my toolbox, right. To utilize once I do feel I'm getting angry about a city circumstance situation and I start to breathe.
So yeah, so you just breathe and, and the body just immediately relaxes calms down and then you can think with a clear head and I use writing a lot to get the things that are bothering me into paper and then just put it away and look at it later to see, you know, what was bothering me and what I can do to make myself feel better.
So there are multiple techniques that I've learned throughout my journey to, to manage them. And at times I've had, I have had visits to the doctor to Counselors to just bounce ideas off of them and see, Hey, am I thinking straight here? Just to get a second opinion of where I'm at, right? Sharing your thoughts, your emotions, I think is very healthy and doing it with somebody that is trained that can give you unbiased opinion. I fully recommend anyone regardless of the circumstance that you're going through, you know, we, we don't need to carry the world or the weight of the world in our shoulders and having unbiased opinions about our, our wellbeing and and, and our approach is very healthy.
[00:24:50] Rebecca: I totally agree. And I use that breathing thing. I know it sounds to some, oh yeah, of course we all breathe, but I do that sometimes while I'll get anxiety about something and I mean, I'm not like saying diagnosed anxiety, but you know, you can just be like, and I'll start feeling anxiety. And, and I will do some, whatever breathing technique comes to my mind.
Usually it's 4, 4, 4, because. It's so easy to remember, you know, inhale to the count of four slowly, hold it for four, then exhale for four and then wait for four and then repeat. And usually by the second or third time I've done that. I'm already just like, okay again. I do that a lot when I can't sleep and I don't know why, but it works every single time.
And sometimes like, I'll wake up, you know, maybe you've had a bad dream or you're worried about something. Maybe even worried about my health, because I try not to worry about my health, it happens. So sometimes when I wake up and I'm thinking, oh my goodness, what if something's wrong? Or that thing that happened, you know?
And then I'll do that. it's just so simple, but so helpful.
[00:26:03] Patricia: Yes, absolutely. My it's my, my go-to my breathing technique and that's one of the first things I learned when I was in the hospital. You know, the, I had no idea that we didn't know how to breathe, that I didn't know how to breathe the, that I breathed only with my chest.
And who knew? And then when I heard about diaphragmatic breathing, that you actually can breathe with your belly and then your ribs and then your collarbones and in the back of your lungs. And then you exhale longer than your inhale. So that your, the effect of the relaxation is longer. It's, it's a beautiful thing when you actually achieve it.
[00:26:45] Rebecca: Right. And I think, you know, they teach you about breathing in, in voice lessons and it's surprisingly healthy to sing. And if you learn to sing, you'll learn to breathe. So there you can just, you know, get two things done at one time, learn to breathe and be a better singer. That's a fun habit.
[00:27:04] Patricia: I don't know if I can sing
[00:27:08] Rebecca: Everyone can sing. Do people want to listen? Maybe, maybe not with me. I'm just like, if you're here, you got to hear it. So that's one of the things that I did because I needed things that weren't so intense because I tend to be a very intense, like I kind of do all the things I'm just gotta be productive and I had to actually pursue hobbies that forced me to slow down. Yoga was one. Knitting is one, and voice lessons is one, because I know it sounds crazy, but you really have to stop and breathe for all of those things. With knitting, it's very rhythmic and counting. And with yoga, you can't rush through it, you really can't. And my voice instructor often says that, you know, it's like yoga, you have to slow down.
You have to be mindful. You have to use your breath. And so it is very similar that that's free, free, extra stuff for you, all that wasn't planned at all. I'm just throwing that out there. Because Patricia is so inspiring.
Let's see, I had other things that I wanted to, when you were talking just then I wanted to ask you, because when I mentioned that I worry sometimes about my health.
And I think because when my sister was diagnosed with cancer, I really didn't think she would die. I was just like, she's got cancer, she's got to go through the treatments. It's going to be okay. I intentionally did not Google it or try to find out what the survival rates were, and then when she kept getting sicker and sicker and towards the end, when we knew that she wasn't going to make it, it was kind of weird.
Like, I mean, I, I guess. I wanted to kind of put my head in the sand and I'm wondering, you know, how relatable this might be for you, because I was Zoe in your case, you know, you had a sister who was there for you, my sister passed away. Yeah, I didn't want to know the details I wanted to just, pretend it didn't exist and kind of like be in denial, I suppose.
Afterwards then every little thing. Oh, that little pain, I probably have colon cancer. Oh, that little pain. I have bone cancer or every little thing, you know, so I have to intentionally remind myself not to worry. So I'm curious, how much do you have to remind yourself? Not to worry. I mean, cause I know it has to come into your mind sometimes.
[00:29:46] Patricia: Especially when I'm going to get a doctor's checkup or something like that. Yeah. Anxiety can build up and, you know, because I've made health and wellness, such a fun activity for me, as a fun thing as, as a fun task that I have to do. Right. I go to for example, I get functional medicine exams, and I just love that the functional medicine side of, of science so much that I'm just excited to learn more and learn what my body is doing and what, you know, the food is doing to my body and what my body's doing to the food. And it's almost like a science project for me. So I find excitement in, in being healthy and being well. So that doesn't mean that I don't worry because some things have come up and, and yes, I mean, I'm not I'm 17 years old anymore.
Of course. And as we age, and if you've also in addition have had the, the amount of, of medical treatments that I had, things do happen. Right. And so, and they're scary and they're were, they can be scary and it's, you know, breathing again, breathing going through the emotional way. And, and that for me has been very helpful acknowledging that I am scared or I am anxious that I want to see what the results are and I, I'm hoping that they're okay.
And all of that is just a roller coaster ride in a wave that I I've learned to navigate with as gracefully as I, as I can through breathing and through just mindfulness.
[00:31:34] Rebecca: Hmm. And how about Zoe? How has she, does she ever, have you even talked about this? Does she ever wonder, you know, don't have the cancer gene or what are my risk factors? Do you talk about that?
[00:31:48] Patricia: Frankly that's a chapter in the book that, where we don't necessarily go and talk about too much. So I would say. I'd probably ask her, in terms of how, you know, how she deals with her own fears and, and concerns. She she's a scientist, so she knows a lot about the field. She'll give you an earful.
If you talk about science and she, she is a, like a book of knowledge. So You know, whether she's there's fear in her or not. I, I don't know. She also practices yoga and she's a yoga teacher as well. So she, she practices more, probably, with more intention with more intention the, the mindfulness side then than even I do.
[00:32:37] Rebecca: She was your cheerleader for sure. Wasn't she?
[00:32:39] Patricia: She was the one that introduced me to all this. So really she's, she's a teacher. I was a student.
[00:32:46] Rebecca: And how did she feel about you writing this book?
[00:32:49] Patricia: Well she gave me the shape of brought me the. My journals from back then. So she, she was pretty supportive.
Now whether or not she's read it, I don't know. We haven't even talked about that. And I'm not going to ask because you know, she, there is an emotional charge if you will, and emotional content in there. It's not necessarily me. It's what she did.
Right. So I don't know that she would want to read the book or that, or she has, we haven't really talked about.
[00:33:17] Rebecca: Mm. Mm, well, I just loved her and your dad and your family. I just fell in love with your whole family reading your book. One of the things that I kept thinking as I was reading through this book and. You know, your friends were being diagnosed and you had friends that had passed away and all of this and I kept thinking, I wonder if there's something in her environment that's causing this. And as I got towards the end of the book, I was like, oh, she thought about that too.
There's so many factors, you know, there's usually not one thing. That triggers cancer or other illnesses. There's usually a cascade of things, just a blend. But you did get around to mentioning this at the end of the book. So I was curious if you had ever had any kind of confirmation about the possibility that there were things in your environment there, that played a major role in your diagnosis.
[00:34:13] Patricia: Yeah. That's a great question. Other than data that's Circumstance data, or how do you call that? Like just data points that people talk about. I don't have any concrete data that would probably be in medical files somewhere, not accessible by by the regular people and that's 30 plus years ago.
So I'm not sure that they would even be there. But I do understand that other, other kids, and other people, even within my block, got sick with similar illnesses around the same time we're around like a five-year span. So there was, there was something in the environment that was potentially triggering.
So was that the cause or were, was it the multiple factors that played in, plus a depressed immune system? Yeah, who knows? I don't, I don't have all the answers to that.
And frankly, is it really worth while going back there and seeing what the cause is or was? For me it's more helpful to just continue to live day to day, and I wrote the story. It's there. Like, I feel like I checked one of the boxes that I needed to do in this lifetime. And I'm done. It's a story.
[00:35:34] Rebecca: Well done. You hinted at maybe another story in the future. What are the chances that we're going to hear? Another story out of you?
[00:35:44] Patricia: I think very high starting to play with the, with some ideas. And I do love writing. I don't know if any time soon, but because I still have a regular job. But yeah, I, I would love to write another book and let's see what else.
[00:35:58] Rebecca: Awesome. I enjoyed your book so much. And I, like I said, I feel like I got to know your whole family and you, when I was reading it. And it was just, it was really inspiring and interesting. And I just, like I said, your family, I just thought, I just love them. They're so supportive in their, you know, different ways and each role that they played and the things that they said to you.
And I don't know, I just thought it was really wonderful. And I, for one am so happy that you wrote this book and I hope you'll put me on your email list. If you decide to write that second book, I definitely want to read it.
[00:36:36] Patricia: Thank you so much. And thanks for all the support, all the great comments. I do hope that that the book reaches anyone who needs to read it right now.
This is not a book that I'm actively going out and marketing it everywhere. But a book that definitely hope that it just reaches a person that really, really needs to read it for any reason. So thank you for the support and for having me here. And just, just the fact that you had such thoughtful questions.
You, you basically read my book and I'm so honored. Thank you.
[00:37:11] Rebecca: Oh, of course. I read your book! Again, “Pretty Girls Don't Get Cancer,” I know. So hard when you self publish a book. And I think this is amazing and I just want to recommend it to anyone, everyone listening or watching, make sure you get a copy of Patricia's book. Thank you so much for being here, Patricia.
[00:37:29] Patricia: Thank you so much for your time and for having me here.
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Pretty Girls Don’t Get Cancer
Available from Amazon.com, BN.com, Apple Books and many other online retailers
1,2,3, American Cancer Society
4 – Mindful laughter: A mind-body health practice https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/laughter_can_benefit_your_physical_and_mental_health
5- Yager, James D. “Catechol-O-methyltransferase: characteristics, polymorphisms and role in breast cancer.” Drug discovery today. Disease mechanisms vol. 9,1-2 (2012): e41-e46. doi:10.1016/j.ddmec.2012.10.002
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