SAUCIER, Miss (WKRG) — Surviving cancer once is challenging enough, but imagine getting a third cancer diagnosis. A woman in Mississippi is taking those lessons to heart– transforming her body and her lifestyle to stay cancer free. Gretchen Holmes spoke to me in her Saucier, Mississippi home. She dealt with thyroid cancer twice and thought she put cancer behind her until 2020 when she was diagnosed with endometrial cancer.
“I thought I had more than my share I think having cancer three times is a lot, I wasn’t as worried because I’d been,” said Holmes. “Once you are told you have cancer, nothing is the same, it doesn’t mean it’s all bad,” said Holmes. After a radical hysterectomy, she was cancer free and also sat down with her doctor to talk about a sometimes uncomfortable topic–a healthier lifestyle and losing weight. She made diet changes and became more active. Holmes says she lost 107 pounds in 15 months with diet and lifestyle changes. These changes helped keep her cancer, diabetes, and high blood pressure under control.
“It’s really that one chance to find motivation in a cancer diagnosis that really pushes you to make a lifestyle change,” said Holmes doctor, GYN Oncology Professor at USA Jennifer Young Pierce. Pierce points out doctors have a responsibility to help patients when lifestyle choices may contribute to bad health outcomes.
“What are you going to do now, how are you going to be a cancer survivor, what are you going to do to make sure you take care of yourself,” said Holmes. Holmes says, in her experience, the way to get cancer survivors to go along with important lifestyle changes is to be encouraging and be their partner
“We’re here for you, let me help you there was no judgment, my feelings weren’t hurt because I really felt like she was rooting for me,” said Holmes. Those changes were inspired, in part, by the death of her younger brother Eric Norling who also had diabetes. The changes are a challenge but worth it given what was at stake.