Surviving cancer: one step at a time

Surviving cancer: one step at a time

When 61-year-old Gabriella Valente was diagnosed with cancer, she started walking.


Gabriella walked daily and changed her diet. (Photo courtesy of the Valente family)



Gabriella Valente, before her cancer treatment. (Photo courtesy of the Valente family)

"I enjoyed being out and being able to clear my head. I am proud to say that I am now cancer-free and intend to keep up with all the lifestyle changes I made as I truly feel that they made all the difference in my body's ability to deal with cancer and come out on the other side," she says.

The Etobicoke resident was diagnosed with diffuse large B-cell lymphoma in November 2012. It grew slowly at first and later transformed into a more aggressive form.

"It was a very scary diagnosis -- lots of people with that kind of cancer are diagnosed in Stage 3 or 4. But all cancer is scary," she says.

Valente says her doctor immediately gave her three pieces of advice: "Lose weight, exercise and don't think of yourself as an invalid."

She had heard about urban pole walking - walking with a pole in each hand - several months earlier through her pilates instructor. After being diagnosed, she decided it was time to finally give the activity a try.

"I just found the easiest exercise was walking. I was able to do it most days outdoors and it was something I could do on my own and it strengthened me and let me deal with stress."

Valente says in the midst of her treatment, she was walking more than three kilometres a day.

"It was my time to meditate and pray. I found as I went on I really appreciated it when I did it on my own, because it calmed me down and became a form of meditation."

In addition to practising a daily walking routine, Valente says she completely changed her diet, sticking to a mostly plant-based meal plan that included organic proteins such as lean protein and grass-fed beef. She says she completely eliminated all sugars, desserts, high and refined carbs -- which helped her lose more than 18 kilogram on her 5'2 frame.

"Most people gain weight during chemotherapy because they are exhausted with a total lack of stamina," she says. Instead, with her lifestyle changes and additional supplements of vitamin D, Valente's stamina kept up and actually improved over the course of her treatment.

Her chemotherapy finished in March, and she was given an all-clear diagnosis two weeks ago. Valente says she's happy to get back in touch with her body now and is now practicing a more vigorous walking routine as well as re-adding pilates and yoga to her exercise routine.

She says that others who are facing a similar experience need to trust their doctor and take their treatment one day at a time.

"A year of my life was taken from me to an extent, but positives do come from it," says Valente.

According to Valente, there are many strides being made in cancer research that are producing results, but people need to be taking care of themselves and proactively doing everything they can to avoid cancer in the first place.

"I'm sure anyone you talk to who has gone through cancer treatment would not wish it on anyone. It's not pleasant at the best of times so people need to do anything they can to avoid it. Eat organic, take supplements, talk to your doctor and exercise," she says.

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