Today, we have a guest blog from our Colon Cancer Awareness Month Ambassador, Stacy Hurt aka Big Stace aka one of the biggest butt kickers we know! She’s gonna drop some truth and knowledge on you from her experience as a colorectal cancer fighter/survivor/advocate. Take control of your health, friends. Get screened on-time. For those of you fighting colorectal cancer right now, we’re so happy you’re getting to “meet” Stacy. She’s the best sort of person to have in your corner.
Take it away, Stacy!
Hello everyone! I am honored to be chosen as Colon Cancer Prevention Project’s Ambassador for March! My husband is a golfer and we recently watched a “Feherty” program about Phil Mickelson. Phil is one of the best golfers in the game. Phil goes into every single golf tournament firmly believing he is going to win. Obviously, he doesn’t always win, but the point is if you think you are going to win, you may. If you think you are going to lose, you most certainly always will. I am a person who believes that everyone can beat colorectal cancer. I give it all I’ve got with everyone I counsel. Anything less for me is unacceptable. It’s this kind of unabashed confidence that helps Phil and I be winners a lot of the time.
I am a “list” person – I like to make lists, follow lists, and delegate lists. Lists are short, easy ways to distribute useful information. So a few of my blog posts will be in list form. These musings are my “gut instincts” (pun intended) as a 3 ½ year Stage IV colorectal cancer warrior/survivor and now national advocate and spokesperson for the cause. If you know anything about me, I am a very direct, straight talker – I keep it real and tell it like it is. And I get to the point quick! Just thought I’d warn you! So let’s get started!
Top Five “Big Stace” Survival Strategies for Colorectal Cancer:
- Fully Commit – I can’t stand when I give people good, solid advice from actions that have worked for me, and they don’t take it. If I tell you to do something, I expect you to DO IT! I had cancer in 27 places in my body and a less than 10% chance of living for five years, and I don’t plan on going anywhere anytime soon! So I *may* know what I’m talking about. Fully commit to doing all you can to beat this disease. Before I start dishing out tips and tactics, you have to agree to do as many of them as you can; mentally, physically, financially, and emotionally. You don’t want to look back and say, “I could’ve/should’ve/would’ve done this differently.” If I can manage to do these things while raising a totally disabled, special needs child, then you can too. I need your full attention and your full focus to be all in. Do we have a deal? GREAT!
- Movement/Exercise – while you are undergoing treatment, move as much as possible. I know the fatigue is beyond overwhelming, but move. Why? For a few reasons: first, it circulates the chemotherapy to saturate the affected cells via bloodstream. Second, it accelerates your metabolism to expel the chemotherapy from your system more quickly thus decreasing overall toxicity and feeling “yucky” to enable a shorter recovery. Third, it increases the oxygen levels in your body (cancer HATES oxygen; oxygen kills cancer!) Fourth, it releases endorphins which are mood boosters. Do what feels good to your body-if you can tolerate getting your heart rate up, then that’s fantastic. If you can only do gentle movement such as yoga, stretching, or walking then that’s wonderful. Don’t beat yourself up if you can’t do as much as you used to do. The point isn’t comparison; the point is to move and not lay around all day. You’ll have to push yourself, but you can do it!
- Eat Healthy – notice I didn’t say “eat all organic” or “go vegan” or “be gluten free” or even “give up all sweets.” Just use common sense to make healthy choices. Moderation is the key. Of course during treatment week, I want you to eat whatever tastes good so you keep your weight up. But when you aren’t nauseous, I want you to consume a mostly plant-based diet with a lot of lean protein. I DO want you to give up processed meat, as per World Health Organization guidelines (do I hear you saying it’s un-American to not eat a hot dog on 4th of July? Ok… I’ll grant you that request). But if I see you slugging around drinking soda and eating French fries all of the time, I WILL call you on it, and remind you that your body craves goodness.
- Be Your Own Best Advocate – educate yourself as much as you can about colorectal cancer from data based sources. Twitter is an excellent social media platform for subscribing to all of the major colorectal and general cancer organizations for the most up-to-date information about our disease. Make sure you know your biomarkers and general mutations (if any). If you don’t know whether you are MSS or MSI-H or what your KRAS, NRAS, BRAF status is, PLEASE ask your doctor to have them tested. These genetic indicators can help dictate treatment options for possibly better outcomes. You should trust your doctor fully but also be insistent that he/she is taking the most aggressive approach possible to treating your disease (see #1). Do not be afraid or intimidated to ask a lot of questions. You are your clinicians are teammates, and teammates keep each other in check.
- Stay in Your Lane – you will talk to or interact with many people on social media who have various levels of response to treatments. Yes, people do die from colorectal cancer. DO NOT compare your battle to anyone else’s! Also, you are not a statistic – you are a human being! You don’t know what these other patients are dealing with, what their comorbid conditions are (diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, etc), or what their journey has been like. Just concentrate on YOU and have the best possible day you can have today. Maybe the most you accomplished today was getting out of bed to go to the bathroom. Guess what? That’s OK! Tomorrow you will go one step further. Just keep moving forward at your own pace. Look ahead, not side to side. You generally move in the direction you are looking. Make sure that is forward and upward!
All about Stacy:
Stacy Hurt has spent 20+ years in healthcare and physician practice management in such areas as sales, marketing, training, operations, customer service, strategy, and human resources. Her experience and knowledge on the care delivery side have advantaged her on the patient side as an advocate for not only herself as she battles Stage IV colorectal cancer, but also for her disabled, special needs son. Her professional and personal worlds have synergized to fuel Stacy’s recent work as an advocate, public speaker, and fundraiser for those with all types of cancer and disabilities. Her mission is to raise awareness and inclusion and exemplify a positive, “keep it real” approach. Stacy holds a B.S. from Penn State University and an M.H.A. and M.B.A. from the University of Pittsburgh. In her free time, Stacy enjoys laughter with friends and family, and exercise. She lives in Pittsburgh, PA with her husband and her two sons, Griffin (13) and Emmett (11). Find her on social at: www.stacyhurt.net / Twitter: @stacy_hurt / Facebook: stacyhurt17