Wanda M. Williams, PhD, RN, WHNP-BC, CNE
Nursing professor changes lifestyle for the better after breast cancer treatment
Health is fragile. Sometimes a serious diagnosis, such as breast cancer, can work as motivation to change lifestyle habits for the better. That’s what happened to Wanda Williams, PhD, RN,WHNP-BC, CNE.
Her breast cancer diagnosis was made in an early stage, and her healthcare team treated it through multiple surgeries and oncology medications. Because of Wanda’s knowledge as a nurse, she knew there were things she could change about her lifestyle to help improve her cancer recovery.
“I was in relatively good health before the cancer diagnosis, but I know it’s even more important to maintain my health after,” said Wanda. “That’s why I eat right, exercise, and focus on stress relief to help with my recovery.”
Diet and Exercise Modifications
Since the cancer diagnosis, Wanda made changes to her diet by:
- Avoiding fast food and soft drinks
- Increasing her water intake
- Practicing moderation with sugary foods
Today, Wanda keeps her diet top of mind. For example, she chooses salads or lean meats like turkey sandwiches when eating out. She also drinks more herbal teas with natural honey instead of sugar. These simple choices help her to fuel her body with more nutritious, wholesome foods.
When it comes to exercise, Wanda focuses on getting her steps in each day. She’s discovered that walking around the hallway at her workplace 10 times equals 1 mile. To ensure she holds herself accountable, Wanda sets an alarm on her phone to remind her to get up and walk.
“I always try to at least get my steps in for the day,” said Wanda. “I’ve learned that I have to schedule the time, even if it’s just 30 minutes.”
De-Stressing for Health
Stress relief is another essential for Wanda, especially as a busy nursing professor. Her go-to activity to reset and find calm is quilting.
“When I go in my sewing room and put something together, I feel like I conquered something while reducing my stress,” said Wanda. “It bothers me when I can’t get into my sewing room.”
This quiet activity not only allows Wanda to decrease her stress levels — it also helps her feel productive.
The Drive to Keep Going
What keeps Wanda motivated to maintain these healthy lifestyle choices? A big part of it is the knowledge that what she’s doing is beneficial for her health. She knows a nutritious diet, regular exercise, and a healthy mind help with cancer recovery.
She also knows maintaining a healthy lifestyle means she can be there for the people around her.
“I want to be around for my kids, my future grandkids, and my students,” said Wanda. “To be here for them, I have to be in good health, and that means I have to take care of myself.”
Nurses are dealing with unprecedented stressors and circumstances. Wanda acknowledges this and encourages nurses to:
- Take moments for yourselves: Nurses are there for others, but not always there for themselves. You’ve got to take care of yourself.
- Do the little things: Every little bit helps. You must start somewhere, so take baby steps — it’s better than nothing.
- Be patient: Everyone wants instant gratification these days, but seeing progress from healthy choices takes time. Results aren’t going to be instant.
Wanda M. Williams, PhD, RN, WHNP-BC, CNE, is Associate Clinical Professor and Director of the DNP Program at Rutgers School of Nursing, as well as a current co-chair for Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation’s Advisory Committee.
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