Lisa Kiser, DNP, CNM, WHNP
Build wellness practices into your life, because if you hit a health challenge, those practices carry you forward.
That’s the takeaway message from Lisa Kiser, DNP, CNM, WHNP, assistant clinical professor at the University of Arizona College of Nursing. Lisa knows this because she faced one of the biggest health challenges possible: a cancer diagnosis.
While living an active and healthy lifestyle, Lisa knew she was at increased risk for breast cancer because of her family history. She was having regular mammograms, but noticed a small lump in one of her breasts between screenings. After another mammogram and a biopsy, Lisa was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma.
It took an MRI to see the full extent of the tumor. Her physicians noticed it was much larger than the mammogram originally showed.
Lisa’s Uphill Climb
No breast cancer treatment journey is easy, but Lisa credits her healthy lifestyle and support from friends and family for her recovery.
She took Tamoxifen, a prescription medication that helps prevent and treat breast cancer, for months. She also underwent a left breast mastectomy, which required six weeks of recovery time. From there, she had two reconstructive surgeries, each requiring about two weeks of recovery time.
Throughout all of this, Lisa relied on her active lifestyle to support the healing process.
Her routine of running, cycling, yoga, hiking, and other activities had to be modified by her diagnosis and treatment, but she partnered with her healthcare team so she could begin walking and doing recovery exercises immediately.
During this time, she maintained the healthy, vegetarian diet she’d been on for over 30 years. Lisa listened to her body, and she felt good again.
“I kept doing what I loved, which made getting through the breast cancer easier,” said Lisa. “What I believe helped me heal was getting back into my routine as soon as I could.”
Giving Back to Other Breast Cancer Patients
Lisa’s inspiring story doesn’t end there. Just prior to her breast cancer diagnosis, Lisa joined Riders 4 the Cure — a Tucson, Arizona-based cycling group that rides to raise awareness for breast cancer research with an annual fundraiser through El Tour de Tucson. All funds raised support St. Elizabeth Health Center’s Breast Cancer Treatment Program.
Lisa trained for the 102-mile ride with her partner, Joe (riding tandem!) while recovering from breast cancer. It was challenging but throughout the training and ride, Lisa focused on being grateful for the care she received and her desire to help provide care to women with breast cancer who were uninsured. Together, Lisa and Joe raised $3,000 for St. Elizabeth’s breast cancer fund.
“At about mile 75, I thought about all the people who supported us and donated to the fund,” said Lisa. “That helped get me through it. And I remembered: It’s not about how fast you go, it’s about pacing yourself. I knew everyone who loved us was cheering us on.”
A “Common” Inspiration to Many
While Lisa calls herself common, she’s still an inspiration to anyone looking for a more active lifestyle, especially those going through cancer.
“It’s not about doing a lot. It’s not about forcing yourself to get moving. It’s about listening to your body and finding the lifestyle that brings you joy.
“There’s a lot of ‘I should do this’ when it comes to exercise,” said Lisa. “But where is the joy? When we force ourselves to do certain things, they become more difficult to do.”
Lisa has more advice, especially for those with a cancer diagnosis or those in the nursing profession — or both:
- Don’t heal alone. Lisa had her family, friends, and teammates to lean on. Lean on your loved ones to get you through tough times.
- Find something that keeps you grounded. The joy of being outside and being active is what keeps Lisa grounded.
- You don’t have to do something big like a 102-mile bike ride. Even something as simple as walking is a great habit to form.
- Don’t compare yourself to others. Take pride in your own wellness and every step you take to care for yourself.
Lisa Kiser, DNP, CNM, WHNP, is a nurse faculty member at the University of Arizona College of Nursing in Tucson, AZ.
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