‘Look after your body like you have nowhere else to live, because the reality is you don’t’

Close-up of Flowerbed of daffodils

World Cancer Research Fund have just revealed a review of the latest evidence on how diet, weight and activity affect the risk of dying from breast cancer. We spoke to our supporter Nikki Bednall about her life after diagnosis and why she’s so enthusiastic about making healthy choices.

Nikki BednallIn the spring of 2017, at the age of 48, I was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer – only two months after a car accident that left me with a very nasty whiplash injury. Psychologically, it felt like being hit by a truck.

When I received my diagnosis, the daffodils were in full bloom, and it seemed wrong to receive it on such a beautiful day. I obsessed over those daffodils, wondering if I would ever see them bloom again.

I believe it’s important to try and live as healthily as possible to prevent cancer in the first place, and other diseases for that matter. I wouldn’t wish for anyone to go through what I have been through. However, having always been very healthy, I understand more than most that cancer is a numbers game and it’s not always possible to prevent cancer.

Preventing recurrence

Nikki Bednall

I have had cancer, that’s my reality. So now I look to the future and for me that means doing everything in my power to reduce my risk of disease recurrence. My motto is: Look after your body like you have nowhere else to live because the reality is, you don’t.

However, it’s never easy to know what to do and the research out there is scarce and sometimes hard to find. Personally, I became confused as to what I should eat and avoid, and had a sense of urgency to “get it right”. One thing I did do straight away was to stop drinking alcohol. This has been linked to an increased risk of developing breast cancer, as well as other cancers, so was a no brainer for me.

Like so many others I try to read up on everything; I mean EVERYTHING – whether that’s online or published papers. If you’re like me though, please do make sure you apply due diligence and avoid scare stories and miracle cures, which are not based on fact. Thankfully I came across World Cancer Research Fund and their information is based on science!

Major review on breast cancer survival

They have just carried out a major review of published papers that looks at the links between certain lifestyle factors and the risk of death after a breast cancer diagnosis.  As the evidence from these reviews gets stronger, it gives me greater confidence that there are things I can do to help improve my chances of living beyond my breast cancer.

My main takeaways are that it’s important to maintain a healthy body weight after diagnosis – I know that’s not always easy! Eating healthily can help – this includes soy and fibre, and being active is also a plus. World Cancer Research Fund do stipulate that we should always consult with our healthcare team before making any changes.

There are unfortunately still many unanswered questions. I’d like to see more research being carried out on cancer recurrence and alcohol, as well as on the reduced risk of lymphoedema. And, in particular, how saturated fat overloads the lymphatic system to create a metastatic breeding environment. This is especially important to me as I had significant lymph node metasteses when I was diagnosed.

Since my diagnosis, I continue to see those beautiful daffodils bloom and I will continue doing everything in my power to keep seeing them.