Poster promoting early diagnosis and treatment...

Poster promoting early diagnosis and treatment for cancer, showing a rooster crowing at sunrise. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Annette Leal Mattern is a two-time cancer survivor.

First, ovarian cancer. Then, eleven years later, ovarian cancer again, masquerading on her pancreas.

She wrote her memoir, Outside the Lines…of Love, Life, and Cancer, in 2003, after her second bout with cancer in 1998.

I was captivated by her dynamic presence at the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance Conference in 2010.

What Else Did She Do?

Her book, while it provides an overview of the surgery and chemotherapy journey, dwells instead primarily on things that she, as a cancer patient, had control over – her mental health, diet and nutrition, her life’s priorities and defining the goals for her future.

She called on a psychotherapist to stabilize her mental state.

She renewed her commitment to her faith.

She visualized her body fighting off the cancer cells and healing itself after surgery.

She allowed a family member to monitor her medication and help keep track of the dozens of phone numbers of various doctors, hospitals, clinics and pharmacies.

She wrote a journal and illustrates the book with drawings and excerpts from the journal.

She followed the advice of a professional mentor, “Draw bigger circles,”  meaning, share a difficult problem with others who can help,  letting friends and family help.

How Did She Change Her Diet?

She used a nutritionist to focus on the best cancer-fighting diet, avoiding processed foods, alcohol, greasy foods and carbonated drinks, in favor of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Fish, chicken or pork were boiled, broiled, baked or sautéed with olive oil.

She outlined her sample daily diet, based on American Cancer Society recommendations:

7 AM: Breakfast: egg scrambled with cream, 1 slice toast, butter, tea or juice

9 AM: Snack: 1 oz. cheese and 4 crackers, or 4 oz. yoghurt

Noon: Lunch: 2 oz roasted chicken breast, ¼ cup cooked vegetables

2 PM: Snack: 2 oz. cheese, bread or fruit

4 PM: Snack: 6 oz liquid protein supplement

6 PM: Dinner: 4 oz fish, ¼ cup potatoes, and ¼ cup vegetables

8 PM: Snack: protein-rich liquid supplement

Did She Exercise?

A friend set up an exercise regimen and researched the effects of the drugs she was taking in chemotherapy.

One of them had the potential effect of limiting lung capacity.

After conversations with her doctor, who thought the effects would be minor and temporary, she asked for tests.

On learning that, in fact, she was losing lung capacity, her exercise regimen was adjusted to build it back up again.

What About Family?

She surrounded herself with family, not only her loving husband, but her rambunctious grandchildren.

She speaks movingly of her stepdaughter’s sensitivity in bringing her children to the hospital to visit.

“I would look at these two beautiful children and wonder if I would be here as they grew up….But, Tracy knew. She knew with wisdom beyond her years that [her children] would leave me with more than artwork on my hospital room wall.

“They would leave me with a longing for more time, time to be a grandmother to children of the children I didn’t have. She had brought the greatest gift of all: the immortality that comes of loving and teaching another generation.”

If you want to read this book, you can order it here through, by  clicking on “Outside the Lines…of Love, Life, and Cancer.

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We will continue providing overviews in our series of cancer survivor stories on Thursdays.

To you and to the generations that are lucky you are here.

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