HUNTINGTON — Attendees of the 14th annual St. Mary’s Medical Center Ladies in Pink Luncheon on Tuesday were reminded it takes a holistic approach to treat cancer, from the food you eat to who you surround yourself with.

Guests heard from Brenda Hawthorne, clinical nutrition manager at St. Mary’s, and Alex Beelen, clinical coordinator and physical therapist at St. Mary’s Physical Therapy-Barboursville. The experts discussed how nutrition and exercise can help produce positive outcomes with a cancer diagnosis, and possibly even prevent a cancer diagnosis.

Robin Whaley, a breast cancer survivor from South Point, Ohio, also shared her story. After being reluctant herself about support groups, Whaley is now a strong proponent of them.

“It helped being around other women who had gone through the same thing as me,” Whaley said. “Even if you don’t think you need it, you need it.”

Whaley is also a strong proponent of mammograms.

“If you walk away with anything today, it’s, ‘Get your mammogram,’” she said. “(Being) busy could have killed me.”

Whaley said she was a workaholic who only focused on work and her family, including her 15-year-old daughter, and she put off her health care needs. It was only after a bladder infection that would not go away did she go to her gynecologist, who promptly ordered a mammogram.

“I didn’t even have a lump,” Whaley said. “So even if you are doing self-exams, there is no guarantee. Get your mammogram.”

Along with learning to lean on other survivors and fighters, Whaley had to learn to lean on her family. Her mother came from Florida to stay with her after her double mastectomy, taking over household chores and the like.

“She was a godsend,” she said. “I wasn’t worried about me. I was more worried about my house and my family, like many of you, I’m sure.”

Her husband was there through it all as well, and Whaley said she was determined to get better so cancer would not be her daughter’s legacy.

“It took a whole bunch of people to get me well, and I am eternally grateful,” she said.

Hawthorne gave attendees a brief overview of the best foods to fight cancer. The top five foods are raw carrots, red onions, broccoli sprouts, flaxseed and arugula — all rich in antioxidants, fiber or vitamin D. She said she would bet 95% of the people in the room needed to supplement vitamin D.

Beelen encouraged everyone in the room — whether they were a survivor or a loved one — to keep moving. Studies have shown exercise reduces the risk of getting breast cancer and helps those undergoing cancer treatment return to normal life quicker.

“The first day is always the hardest, but you are one step closer to making it a habit,” he said.

Follow reporter Taylor Stuck on Twitter and Facebook @TaylorStuckHD.

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