What I Learned from Breast Cancer

Julia Chiappetta chose a natural path to wellness after being diagnosed with breast cancer.

What I Learned from Breast Cancer
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I never thought I’d get cancer. I ran six miles a day, and did mini-triathlons and in-line skating; I ate a sensible Mediterranean diet. I managed to take care of myself even while working 80 hours a week and traveling the globe as a successful meeting planner. I thought I was in perfect shape.

Then I felt the lump. I was 45 years old and single, living in Connecticut. It was like a mosquito bite, on the outer edge of my right breast. Since I’d been doing self-exams for years I knew immediately that this was different. I’d never felt anything like it.

My doctors performed a mammogram, but it came back negative. I wasn’t satisfied. My gut told me something was wrong. But when I asked for a biopsy, the doctors gave me a hard time. “You’re fine,” they said, but I insisted, so they squeezed me in the next day. Twenty-four hours later I got a call from the surgeon. His first words were: “I’m very sorry and I learned a really important lesson: I need to listen to my patients more.” Then he dropped the bomb: “You have Stage II Infiltrating Ductal Carcinoma. It’s aggressive, and you need to do something right away.”

Everything stopped. It was the most shocking and terrifying thing I’d ever heard. I immediately thought I was going to die. When I met with an oncologist, he told me that I would die—if I didn’t have a double mastectomy followed by radiation or chemotherapy and a year of Tamoxifen. But I’d watched five people close to me die from what I believe was an overuse of radiation and chemotherapy. I saw them suffer slow, painful deaths—not from the cancer, but from the treatment.

I left the oncologist’s office in tears. When I got home I sank into the sofa and prayed. I said, “God, I don’t know what to do. You’re going to have to help me.” The next day my cousin called to recommend a top breast cancer doctor in Houston. My sister called to say she was sending a nutritional video series she thought would help me. I felt my prayers were being answered and it gave me peace and fortitude.

I decided that before I accepted—or rejected—any medical treatment, I was going to do my own research. With no time to lose, and with the guidance of a scientist friend, I pored over medical journals and abstracts, watched videos, and surfed the Web to learn everything I could about my condition and how it could be treated.

One of my first moves—inspired by my research—was to chuck everything in my house that contained hormones and antibiotics and toxins like lead, parabens, and sulfates that could have contributed to my cancer. I tossed out all my food, my makeup, my shampoos, and my microwave. I threw it all away and started using only organic products with all natural ingredients.

I made over my diet, too, trading my beloved bread, cheese, pasta, and chicken for an all organic, vegan menu. I started juicing—carrots, beets, kale, spinach, bok choy and celery—and doing shots of wheat grass three times a day (just 1 ounce provides the nutrients of 2.5 pounds of organic green vegetables). Within two weeks, I felt amazing. Everything was stronger—my hair, my skin, my nails. I could feel my body healing. I felt so much better that I couldn’t even believe I had cancer.