Uniqua Smith, PhD, MBA, RN, NE-BC
Dr. Uniqua Smith, PhD, MBA, RN, NE-BC shares below how her continual fitness journey aided in her successful battle with cancer. Uniqua Smith, PhD, MBA, RN, NE-BC is the Associate Director of Nursing Programs at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas.
In 2015, when I transitioned from working in clinical care to strictly administration, I decided that I needed to start making healthier choices and add in some exercise. Over the years, from working evening shift in the PACU to managing ambulatory clinics, I slowly gained pounds that I did not need. However, I knew that once I went from walking all day around the clinic to sitting at a desk, that I needed to get some type of control over my habits. It was a struggle to figure out what would work best, so for two years I was just up and down with the weight.
At the beginning of 2017, I decided to join a fitness boot camp with three of my friends to get really serious about the weight loss. This consisted of weekly meal preps and at least 5 days of exercise. We utilized the social media app GroupMe to communicate our accountability. Every Sunday, we had to send a photo of our weight on the scale and a photo of our groceries and meals prepped for the week.
We also did monthly challenges to motivate everyone to achieve their goals through competition. I lost a total of 30 pounds that year with consistent meal prepping and exercise. I found that adding more cardio to my exercise aided me in getting the weight off faster.
I also made sure I tracked my food in My Fitness Pal to count calories. The calorie in and calorie out method worked great for me. I also used the NikeRun app to track all of my miles and have friendly competitions with other app users.
I was even able to maintain my weight during the holidays at the end of the year. I allowed myself to indulge in holiday food, but with smaller portions than I would normally eat. Also, I made myself run in the neighborhood while out on holiday break to keep the momentum and avoid gaining extra pounds. In 2018, I made a new goal to lose 20 more pounds and joined a weight loss challenge at my job. My organization actually has a fitness center on campus and I choose to go workout there in the evenings instead of sitting in evening traffic. Doing the challenges really motivates you to stick to your plan if you are a competitive person.
Unfortunately, in February of 2018 I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I was about 6 weeks into the work weight loss challenge and had lost about 9 pounds at that point. I started chemotherapy fairly quickly so I was unable to complete the challenge the way I had planned. I did lose additional weight from being on chemotherapy due to lack of eating. I completed 6 months of chemotherapy and about 2 weeks later I was back in the gym. I started out slow doing the recumbent bike for 30 minutes per day. I did this for about 3 weeks and then had to stop to have my total mastectomy. While out on recovery from the mastectomy, I would slowly walk through my neighborhood to continue to build up strength that I lost during chemo. I would end up having 2 more surgeries within 3 months, so my exercise was limited.
At the start of 2019, I was done with chemotherapy and all of my surgeries. I have now started back walking/running at the track and also doing squats at home to build muscle. I challenged myself recently to complete a 5K and was able to accomplish that goal 6 months post chemotherapy and 3 months post third surgery. People are amazed at my strength during treatment and I credit it to starting a healthy life before I was diagnosed. I know that all of the hard work that I put into 2017 with clean eating and consistent exercise helped me to have the strength to endure chemotherapy and 3 surgeries in 4 months. I cannot imagine going through two different chemotherapy treatments with a body that was not somewhat healthy. My message to everyone now is to get your body in the best shape that you can in order to be strong enough to fight off any illness that may occur in your future. I literally had no major complications throughout my treatment and I really believe it is because I worked at conditioning my body to be strong.
I am so happy to see this nursing initiative (HNHN) continuing over the years. I led our group this year during Nurses Week for our annual Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation walk. I was tasked to end the walk by leading a line dance in celebration of leading healthy lives. Stay healthy!
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