Martina Navratilova: Thanks for joining me for my first live chat on AARP’s website. As AARP Health and Fitness Ambassador, I’ve met many AARP members who are as passionate as I am about staying healthy.
As you probably heard, I was diagnosed with breast cancer earlier this year. I had a successful lumpectomy and will be undergoing six weeks of radiation to finish up my treatment.
I’m pleased to be joined by Dr. Julie Silver, a physician and assistant professor at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Silver is also a breast cancer survivor who took her own journey, perfecting healing techniques to speed her recovery. She is the author of many award-winning books, including the newly released book from the American Cancer Society, What Helped Get Me Through: Cancer Survivors Share Wisdom and Hope.
Comment from Joanna: I am a breast cancer survivor and just want to send you well wishes . . . you are a tough lady . . . and will fight though this.
Navratilova: Thank you very much. I appreciate it. I am getting so much hugging and squeezing I can’t breathe. So it’s all good. I really appreciate your good wishes.
Comment from Eileen: Were you aware that you had any risk factors, i.e., family history of breast cancer? In hindsight, were there changes in your body that could have alerted you to the cancer? I am happy for you that it was found early. I have enjoyed following your wonderful tennis career!
Navratilova: No, no changes in my body whatsoever. I only finally dragged myself to have a mammogram, and physically I have been feeling exactly the same. The biggest changes in my body have been because of menopause.
Comment from Patty Reimerdes: Did you have the option for three weeks of more intense radiation rather than six weeks? My situation parallels yours and I was given a three-week option.
Navratilova: I was hoping three-week radiation was an option but because for my grade three (DCIS), the more aggressive form, the best option was six-week course.
Comment from Linda: I start radiation in a few weeks, I'd like to know what to expect also!!
Dr. Silver: Radiation therapy often causes intense fatigue. Exercise is one of the best ways to combat this. Also, try cognitive behavioral therapies such as meditation.
Navratilova: I gravitated towards yoga these last few months and find it extremely relaxing and calming so I expect I will be doing that as much as possible.
Comment from Karen: Hi Martina, welcome to the sisterhood! Are you HER positive or negative? Will you also need chemo after your radiation treatments?
Navratilova: I am HER negative. No tumors in my body, and DCIS does not require chemotherapy.
Comment from Kim: How does menopause (or does it) contribute to breast cancer as we age?
Dr. Silver: Estrogen and progesterone can be associated with breast cancer, depending on the tumor type. Thus, menopause and hormonal changes also affect breast cancer. Women who are younger may have a worse prognosis, but I am a young breast cancer survivor, so I like to be very encouraging to premenopausal women as well as post-menopausal women.
Comment from Chris: I teach water aerobics, and somehow, through the grace of God, support of family and friends, I was able to continue teaching the classes even during radiation. Not that I wasn't tired, mind you. But, it helped me emotionally . . . and physically!
Dr. Silver: Chris, some women work and some don't. There is no right or wrong way to get through the cancer experience. Do whatever works for you!
Navratilova: My work during the French Open, which is week four and five of my radiation, requires sitting down and talking about tennis so I will need to get my exercise during all the other weeks. But it is good to hear that you were able to work all the way through your radiation.
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