In her PEOPLE.com blog, Diem Brown, the Real World/Road Rules Challenge contestant recently diagnosed with ovarian cancer for the second time, opens up about her desire for a child and the ups and downs of cancer and fertility procedures.
It has been said that the third week of January is when most people start slipping or giving up on their New Year’s resolutions. In the past, I always fell into this category too, but for the first time in my life I am holding onto my resolutions with a firm grasp. I believe the main reason for this is … fear.
I received some scary news on Jan. 4 about my last CT scan. Given the weird type of ovarian cancer I have, the blood tests were not showing a change after chemo, so the doctors wanted to look at a CT scan to check my progress. When the scan showed too much scar tissue near where my ovary was removed (a result of the four surgeries), it became a “cross your fingers and hope all is well” situation. And then (gasp), my doctor spotted some sort of mass in my liver.
This is when I realized my New Year’s resolutions were more important than ever. The doctor told me I had to wait until Jan. 25 to try another round of tests, and until then I needed to detox and pause chemo.
The 25th could bring scary news, but in my mind, if I could stay on a certain health path, then maybe it could be positive news approaching my “done with cancer crap” finish line.
My New Year’s resolutions were sparked by two different but relatable books. One worked on me from the inside out, and the other from the outside in. My first goal was to accept who I am today. I had read Feed Your Face by Dr. Jessica Wu, and it sparked the notion that the self-acceptance journey had to be actionable. It started with what you put into your body, which shows up on your face. Basically, if you want to love yourself, start by loving yourself enough to be aware of foods that help you attain the best you.
Her book was awesome, and anyone going through chemo/steroids knows that the drugs do crazy things to your body and skin. From the face and body sores, rashes, bloating, weight gain, hair loss and more, the changes make it hard to look in the mirror some days and see the beautiful fighter that you are. So I started on her regimen, and made it my goal to become happy with who I am today.
Randomly, one of my guy friends – who happens to be this insanely talented professional photographer – asked me if I would want to do another “bald” photo shoot. Now the last time I did it, I loved the feeling of overcoming a fear, but it was emotionally hard. So, to be honest, the idea of doing another one didn’t make me jump for joy at first.
However, I made a resolution to become okay with who I am, and the last time I stepped out of my comfort zone, I grew so much as a person. With that, I agreed to do a bald shoot again.
The night before, I finally took action on getting over my stupid insecurity crap and for the first time let my boyfriend see me with no cap on to hide my bald head while we sat on the couch and talked. He had seen me with no cap before (in pictures), but never when it was just us in a regular setting. I know this might sound silly, but it felt so, so, so good as I could feel myself letting go of my mental blocks.
Appreciating the Fighter in the Mirror
I took that liberating feeling into the shoot with me – and I’ve never had so much fun taking pictures. I could look the photographer, Matt Sayles, straight in the eye while holding conversations, and I never once felt the urge to grab my hat. I am finally, finally loving and appreciating the fighter in the mirror. It just felt so unbelievably great taking action toward a goal I have wanted to achieve for so long!
The second book, Younger Next Year, is actually one I got for my dad, as it has to do with men over 60. That said, I got bored on a plane and started reading it with the thought that I could give him the Cliffs Notes version if he didn’t want to read it.
People, listen to me: I was STUNNED! This book basically tells you that at 60 your cells start to decay at a fast pace. However, if you do three things, you can trick the cells to make them feel 50 years old, and stay that way until you are 85.
As I read the book I thought, “If you can trick the cells in your body to get younger and not decay, then can you also trick the cells in your body to get healthier?” Basically, what if I followed the same rules? Can I maybe do something that will give me a better chance at getting a clear CT scan on Jan. 25?
By following the Feed Your Face and Younger Next Year mottos, I started looking at food like, “What can you do for me?” It’s strange because those six words have changed my life like nothing else! Anyone who knows me knows I’m that a Snickers, Doritos and bread-with-butter-aholic. I would always say: “If you work out, you can eat whatever you want, so give me candy!” There have not been two days in my life when candy, chips or bread with butter haven’t been a part of my diet.
Now my world is different. Since Jan. 4, I haven’t wanted or craved junk food or bread with butter. I look at food with “What can you do for me?” eyes, instead of looking for the quick enjoyment high.
Surprisingly, I haven’t felt deprived with this new regimen yet, because if it can benefit my health in some way, I can have it. Dark chocolate squares, almonds and fruit are all healthy for you, so I can get my sweet craving high and still be giving something to my body to help the cells hopefully be healthier and stronger.
The second thing is my view on working out: It’s not for aesthetics, but for survival. I don’t look at working out now as something I do for a certain weight goal. I look at it as something I do to fight for my body’s health. I try running more and lifting heavier weights with the hope that I can trick my body into thinking I’m healthy enough to do so.
All that said, I feel that I am fighting any way I can, but at the same time loving and appreciating who I am today. As my test on Jan. 25 gets closer, this quote comes to mind: “Always hope for the best, but have faith you can handle the worst.”
I love that quote because it can apply to everyone and everything. I made a resolution to accept my current self and to become healthy. I could “hope” for those two things to come true all I want, but by pushing my limits and stepping out of my comfort zone, I feel I’m making my “hope” become an actionable word.
So here’s to the third week of January! Instead of allowing this to be the week that you fall off your New Year’s resolutions, take action toward the goal of loving yourself today and becoming a better you!🙂
Check back for updates every Thursday: Diem will be chronicling her journey through fertility treatments, chemotherapy and her quest to educate others about ovarian health exclusively for PEOPLE.com. You can also follow her on Twitter @DiemBrown.
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