Getting to experience the amazing country of Iceland and see the slower pace of life, the clean air and water, and the fresh delicious food really go me to thinking about lifestyle and healing.
Does the lifestyle in Iceland lead to less breast cancer?
Did having breast cancer cause you to create the lifestyle you dream about?
In this episode, you’ll hear about a mindset shift to help lower the resistance that comes up with breast cancer recovery and open your mind to the possibilities that life has to offer.
You also might want to get a ticket to Iceland when you’re done!
Referred to in this episode:
This is Laura Lummer, the breast cancer recovery coach. I'm a healthy lifestyle coach, a clinical Ayurveda specialist, a personal trainer, and I'm also a breast cancer survivor. In this podcast, we talk about healthy thinking and mindfulness practices, eating well, moving your body for health and longevity. And we'll also hear from other breast cancer survivors who have reengaged with life and have incredible stories to share. This podcast is your go-to resource for getting back to life after breast cancer.
Hello, and welcome to Episode 145 of the breast cancer recovery coach Podcast. I am your host, Laura Lummer. And I am back from the most amazing vacation ever, ever.
I if you heard if you're a regular listener, then you heard that I was leaving for a vacation to Iceland. And, you know, it was a super special vacation. Actually, I'm not sure that I gave any details about it. But I got a text message one day from one of my sisters. And she said if you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?
And I said I would go to Iceland.
And she said, okay, pack your bags, because we're going to Iceland, the trip is on me. And it ended up that I went with two of my sisters, my daughter, and my niece.
It was an amazing trip. We were so so so very blessed.
And I cannot describe to you how amazing Iceland is.
I mean, it was gorgeous! One of the reasons that I said Iceland was because it is one of the locations that are on my list that I write every day when I say live to-do list, one of those things is traveled to Iceland.
And especially because in the month of June, Iceland, the sun never sets. So the darkest it gets is kind of like Twilight. And that doesn't happen until about 1:00, maybe 1:30 in the morning, and then the sun is back up to 2:30 in the morning, bright as can be.
And I just wanted to experience what that would be like, you know, what would it be like to be in a place that never gets dark? I thought that'd be so cool, and It was so cool.
And I think one of the most amazing things about it is the fact that there's no rush.
Well, let me just tell you in the Icelandic culture, there is no rush. And that's a cool thing, too. And that's something that really was meaningful to me on this trip. As we go to coffee houses or restaurants and people just take their time, you know, they take their time getting things ready for you. The food is amazing, the coffee, the cocktails, like anything you want, they just take so much time with it. And they're so proud of their clean and delicious water, which it really is, and of their preservative-free fresh food, which is incredible.
And I just thought how this is so cool, the slowing down, you know, and it was really interesting to work through the mindset that comes with being an American and going to a place like Iceland, where here in America, everything is how fast can you get it. And there, it's enjoying the experience of sitting there and visit with the people you came with or just take time for yourself.
And that was a part of the culture. And everyone was just so relaxed and so at ease. And it kind of took a little while, you know, to settle into that, especially being on vacation, having five of us there, and all people who are, you know, go-getters and used to going and doing. And it was just really a really, really cool experience to check in with yourself and think, like, why do I expect everything to happen so fast? And why do we miss out on some of the experiences that we're in because of the expectation that it's not happening fast enough, you know?
So that part of it was really, really cool.
And as you can imagine, it got me thinking, Okay, when people live like this, this beautiful life is beautiful food, this clean, fresh air. When we got off the plane, my niece turned to me, and she said, what is that smell like? Something smells different here? And I said I think that's clean air. I think we're smelling the flowers and the grass around us, and it's just clean air.
So I started thinking, I wonder what the breast cancer rates are here in Iceland, because certainly with this great food with this clean water with this slower lifestyle, they've got to have lower rates of breast cancer here than we do in the United States. Right.?
So I looked it up. And I was really surprised to find that according to the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for cancer research on the countries that are ranked for Breast Cancer statistics. Iceland rated number 21 in the world for the highest breast cancer rates, and the United States rated 22. I thought that was really surprising.
So it looked a little more into it and found an October 2020 article that talked about how the incidence of breast cancer increased in Iceland when they started increasing the technology, the mammogram technology. And as a result of that, the incidence of Institute carcinoma, so DCIS, as we call it, increased from seven per 100,000 women to 30 per 100,000 women, and the portion of Institut carcinoma, so DCIS in Iceland, increased from 4 to 12% of all breast cancer carcinomas. So I thought that was interesting because it's really a super high increase of early detection finding DCIS.
So, you know, it's interesting, because when I look at it and think, okay, you know, we talk about lifestyle factors and the influence that lifestyle factors have on breast cancer. And then I go to a place like this, where I see this beautiful lifestyle, this very relaxed lifestyle, this, you know, became a joke on our trip when someone would compliment the food. And one of us would say, Oh, my gosh, this is so delicious. And someone else would say there are no preservatives because everywhere we went, people reinforce the idea the servers or places we bought food, that there were no preservatives in their food. And yet, you know, we still see similar rates of breast cancer. So I just thought that was really interesting.
And it came down to me thinking about Lifestyle, Eating clean, all of that type of thing, and our mentality about it here in the US. And some of the difficulty that it causes or the maybe not difficulty, but the frustration that it causes, like taking my case, for example, when I was originally diagnosed in 2012. And I was so frustrated because I made health and fitness and wellness and eating well and exercising regularly a priority in my life my whole life. And so I was so frustrated. The idea that here, I did all the right things, and I got cancer.
But then I realized, of course, over the years and working through all the things I had to work through was that you don't live a wonderful lifestyle, specifically, so you don't get a disease. You live that life, and you live that lifestyle because it feels good. Because you're happy in that lifestyle because your body feels good. And it's more about quality of life than quantity of life.
And so I look at this lifestyle in Iceland, and I still compared it to where I am here in the United States. And I think, you know, this is so lovely to just sit down and enjoy the people that you're with. There was this one day where this was absolutely beautiful. And it must have been in the 70s, mid-70s. It was a perfect, gorgeous day. And as we would walk around the capital city, Reykjavik, a lot of things were closed, shops were closed. My sisters and I and my niece and my daughter wanted to get a tattoo from Iceland.
And we went to these different shops, and the guy at the one shop said, Oh, hey, you know, we're closing everyone's close. They're out enjoying their friends in the sun today.
And I thought that's pretty dang cool, right?
It's a beautiful day. And they closed the businesses and said, we're gonna go out and enjoy this day. And I think that's, you know, that's what life is all about. Certainly, we can all close our businesses every day that it's sunny and beautiful outside. But just the idea that life has a priority. You know, quality of life is important. Enjoying the people you love is important.
And I often think when we deal with this fear of breast cancer recurrence, that it isn't. It isn't the fear of death as much as it's the fear of not living. And yet, we fight so hard to go back to what we call normal before our cancer diagnosis.
And I wonder, is that the way you want to live? Did you, do you do all the things? Is that the lifestyle you want? Are you the person you want to be? You know, are you your authentic, most authentic self? And do you work your life around work? Or do you work your work in your busy things that have to do around life? Do you make life a priority? Or do you feel that or have that sense of what I know I have said myself and when I heard from so many other survivors through the years of that gave me cancer. That job gave me cancer. That way of living gave me cancer. That relationship gave me cancer. And yet, we don't take the necessary steps to make changes in those areas in our lives, even after treatment.
And I know for me that fear of recurrence was really about all the things I wanted to do and hadn't yet done. And I didn't want to leave this planet without doing them, you know.
So I think I did more things after my first diagnosis, I definitely had that mind shift change. That's when I started this business and decided, I'm going to start my own business that offers me flexibility so that I can do work around life instead of life around work. And then again, being diagnosed in 2020, with metastatic disease was even more of an urgency about that, what do I need to change to make sure I'm living the life I want to live?
Because it's quality of life.
And it does include, for me, doing all the things staying active, treating my body well, eating good food. And that's important to me not because I believe I'm not gonna get cancer, because clearly, two times that didn't work, it's important to me because that's what best supports my health. It's what best supports my energy levels. And the clarity in my brain, my way of thinking. And all of those things, as I'm sure you all know, are affected by not only the treatment but the medications that we take forever and ever after breast cancer for 5 to 10 years afterward. And if you have a living with metastatic disease for the rest of your life afterward, and they have a physical impact.
And so I think it's just super important to step back and look at our quality of life and look at our lifestyle and say, ask ourselves, you know, is this a lifestyle that's supporting your wellness? Or are you pushing the envelope and the boundaries with your health to be able to maintain a lifestyle that's just not working for you?
You know, I think that's a really important question to look at. When we decided to take this vacation. I told my sisters, my family, ahead of time, when we went, I said, Listen, I know my limits and my body in the way that it feels and how I get fatigued and the walls that I hit. And so there may be times when I have to go take a nap and just know this ahead of time. That's my thing. And I had to do it, and you guys continue to go and enjoy yourselves and have fun. What I need to support my health should not impact your vacation, so don't allow it to.
And we had that talk upfront.
So what happened is we arrived in Iceland on a Thursday morning at about 6 am. And by Monday, I had hit that wall. Monday morning, we went to a place called the Blue Lagoon, which is incredible. You probably seen it if you're familiar at all with Iceland, or even if you watch there's a Netflix series called down to earth, the first episode in that series is on Iceland. And they go to the Blue Lagoon in that series.
So it's basically this huge, gorgeous geothermal pool. And you go there and the water, I don't know what it is maybe 95 degrees, and it's just this lovely, hot tub experience. But it's all this full of minerals. And it's great for your skin. And it's really healing. And you know, there's a swim-up bar, and there's a facemask bar, and there are beautiful waterfalls and a sauna and steam room in there. And it's just absolutely lovely.
And so after spending three hours in this water and doing four different face masks, and you can imagine just the relaxation, having a couple of glasses of champagne, and then we put on our robes and walk over to the restaurant to have lunch. And I can barely hold my head up. I am like, and I am not gonna make it through lunch here I am. I have to go to sleep. It is no longer an option. It's not, I want a nap. It's I have to lay down now.
And our plan was to go and hike a volcano.
I don't know why we planned it that way. Why would you plan a volcano hike after a beautiful three-four-hour spa experience?
We really should have flipped that. So that was poor planning. But that's the way we planned it.
And so I said to my sisters, and actually, one of my sisters looked at me and said, Do you need to lay down, and I said, Yeah, I need to lay down.
And so I said, let's just drop me off at the house, and you guys go on the hike. No, no, no, no, no, they don't want to do that. So they said, Listen, we're all tired. We had had a very big adventure a couple of days before. And they all said let's go back to the house. And we'll all take a nap. And then we had heard about this other spa called the sky lagoon. There was a new spa that had opened in May. And so they said, let's just make this a total spa day. Well, I'll go back, we'll take a nap. And then, when we get done, we'll go over to the sky lagoon. And we'll check out that spot, and then we'll have dinner. And so that's what we did.
And it was lovely to just have that flexibility. And I think it just fits. It just flowed so beautifully, you know, and obviously, going to a spa after one spa is way better than going to the spa and then a volcano.
Like it's so Note to self as far as trip planning in the future.
But it was so lovely. And I have to tell you that the sky lagoon was literally one of the most beautiful places we've ever experienced. It is a geothermal naturally heated by volcanic activity, this water, and it's all built within this huge lava rock encasement. And it is an infinity lagoon that looks out over the ocean. I mean, it could not be more spectacular.
So at the end of the day, it really worked out well.
But I share that because oftentimes, I think we're so afraid as survivors, you know, we have to keep up, we had to keep pushing it, we don't want to let other people down. And yet, when you take that moment, can you just acknowledge what you actually need? You can feel good about that in yourself.
And I think that the people who love you not only respect that, but it creates a safe space for them to also express their needs, right? It starts to create this different life where we can all say, and this is what I need for myself right now, instead of everybody feeling like they've got to push everything for everybody else, right? We have to come back to just understanding ourselves and not feeling like we have to maintain the standard or compete with this person we used to be.
So here's a really interesting quote that I'd love to share with you. On the way to Iceland, I was listening to the book untamed by Glennon Doyle. And I'll put the link in the show notes for this episode, which you can find at thebreastcancerrecoverycoach.com/145.
But I want to share this quote with you because I think it's such an important mindset for not only healing, but for healing our bodies, but for healing our lives as well. And for allowing ourselves the permission and the space to allow life to evolve. And not to put that pressure on ourselves of continually saying we have to be the person we used to be. But asking ourselves the question, why would I want to be that person? What do I want out of my life? And How could my life be even more amazing? If I adopt this mindset, and I allow myself to evolve.
So here's the quote from her book, she says, "I am a human being meant to be in perpetual becoming. If I'm living bravely, my entire life will become a million deaths and rebirths. My goal is not to remain the same, but to live in a way that each day, year moment, relationship conversation, and crisis is the material I use to become a truer, more beautiful version of myself."
I absolutely love that because I feel like there's just such freedom in that. There's such a freedom in the mindset that my life is an evolution. And I don't have to sit here and resist, right? You know that that old saying, what resists persists, or what we resist persists? I think it is. And, and we have there's so much resistance in going through breast cancer, breast cancer treatment, breast cancer recovery.
And of course, there's good reason for that resistance and shitty things that we don't like. But if we can, if there was anything, I could shift, or change or teach after my own experiences with breast cancer, it would be to shift that mentality from this angry warrior on the battlefield to defeat cancer to this loving warrior, you know, on the field, to win the battle of self compassion, that this is the time to learn to love yourself more deeply, to learn to understand your body more deeply, and that the battle isn't to destroy cancer, although it wouldn't that be awesome. But that the battle is to shed all the conditioning, all of the shoulds, all of the" this is the expectation," and I have to do it, and whose frickin expectation was it, to begin with?
And I have to work harder.
And I have to be busier.
And I have to do all the things.
And I have to fulfill everyone's expectations.
And for me, the battle is to overcome those thoughts, that way of thinking, and to come back and be that love warrior for yourself and learn how do I love myself and live the life I actually came here to live? What would that even look like? What is my life supposed to be? And if I'm continually evolving, and if I use this crisis, and this anger and this devastating experience to evolve, what will I evolve to and let go of that resistance of wanting to stay the same?
And it's interesting as I hear myself saying this, I think Glennon, well I know Glennon Doyle first book was called Love Warrior, and here I'm using that terminology in becoming that love warrior for yourself in order to heal yourself and your life, to allow you to evolve.
There are so many times that I hear the phrase, you know, I just don't feel like I fit in my life anymore. And I think that is a red flag for us ladies. Stop there.
What isn't fitting?
What isn't fitting because this veil has been lifted, right?
This veil of immortality of I'm here, and life goes on forever has been lifted, like holy shit. I don't know when life is gonna end or not. And now I feel like I don't fit into this life. Why? What does that life suppose to look like? What are your thoughts on it? And what is the lifestyle that you want to lead? And how can you begin to make those changes that help you feel like you fit in your own skin, help you feel like you fit in your own life?
And as amazing as that would be, it's not an easy thing to do.
That's what I work with and coach with my people on all the time, you have this feeling that I don't fit in? And how do I begin to fit in? How do I begin to discover what I need to do to feel good about the life I live and not live in fear and live in joy and fulfillment?
And that brings me to another quote that I heard in the book untamed. And I know I say heard instead of reading because I was obviously listening to an audible book as I was flying.
But here is another quote out of that book. And I really thought this was a very powerful statement. She says, "If you are uncomfortable--in deep pain, angry, yearning, confused--you don't have a problem. You have a life. Being human is not hard because you're doing it wrong. It's hard because you're doing it right. You will never change the fact that being human is hard, so you must change your idea that it was ever supposed to be easy." End of quote.
And isn't that a beautiful way to wrap your head around the constant and perpetual becoming the change as we go through crisis and the understanding that, why do you think it was supposed to be easy?
It is hard. Going through treatment is hard. Getting a diagnosis is hard. You are not alone in that recovering is hard. You were managing the emotional trauma after recovery is hard. Figuring out what it is that feels like a jacket that doesn't fit anymore and then changing that and finding a jacket that does fit that's hard—or just removing that jacket completely and feeling free in your life. It is hard.
But like I've said before, and like Glennon Doyle says, we can do hard things.
If you're listening to this, after you've been through breast cancer treatment, you've already done hard things. And if you're an adult in the world, you've already done hard things. We do a lot of hard things. And I think that perhaps the most powerful lesson for me throughout my experience of breast cancer. And I think reinforced by the experience, even on this vacation, being with my family and having their support and caring and understanding around me is that when we have to do these hard things, the community is so very important. Knowing you are not alone, you are not crazy. It is not just happening to you, and reaching out to other women who have gone through this experience and connecting with them and feeling safe asking them questions and receiving their support. And allowing them in, I think it is just such a powerful part of navigating the space after a diagnosis of breast cancer.
And I see that in my Empower groups, I see that in my Revived group, I see that in the Breast Cancer Recovery Group.
And so I just want to encourage you, as you go through this perpetual changing of life, this evolution and transition, and you're going through all the hard things and figuring out how to manage them, reach out and become a part of a community that supports you in the way you need to feel supported.
And I know for some people, that sounds really scary, and that's okay.
I think that's a great thing about Facebook groups for those people that, oh, I don't want to talk about this or it's uncomfortable, I'm not sure. Because you can join a Facebook group and just kind of hang out, you know, and you can see what other women are talking about. And I think, just like in my coaching calls and workshops, you learn so much from hearing other people being coached and supported. And so you can find your own comfort zone.
So I think, you know, in some ways, having virtual groups and virtual support groups, people say what's missing that human element and of course, it is not person to person, but in other ways, I think it can really fit, how we like to engage and whatever level that is.
Some people like to put things out there more frequently, get more feedback, contact more people, and some people like to be able to be in the background, kind of in the shadows, and just watch and wait for them to get to a place where they're feeling comfortable expressing their emotions.
So for that reason, I think that Facebook support groups, as long as they're geared towards constructive thinking and solutions and moving forward and creating life and not ones that are really stuck in the misery of cancer and cancer treatment because that can be an awful place to be.
So if you need that support, I hope you do reach out to the breast cancer recovery group. You can find that that's my free Facebook group. Just go to Facebook and Google the breast cancer recovery group and get the support you need to create the life you want and have other women who understand your experience with you as you go through this perpetual transition and create a beautiful lifestyle that fits you.
All right, I will talk to you again next week.
And until then, please be good to yourself and expect others to be good to you as well.