What I Learned from Breast Cancer

woman's profile
By the time I saw the Houston oncologist my cousin had recommended, all my tumor markers and a lot of my blood work showed levels that were back in the normal range. This doctor recommended a lumpectomy, where they remove just a margin of tissue surrounding the site of the tumor, and a sentinel node biopsy, which removes only the lymph nodes involved. This sounded right to me. He also recommended following up with radiation and Tamoxifen, but at this point I was sold on a more natural approach.

I flew home two days after the lumpectomy and continued my new diet and lifestyle regimen, all while constantly seeking the advice of nutritionists and naturopaths as well as my oncologist.

Was it difficult? It was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done in my life. Was I scared? Absolutely. I had clients and friends and colleagues and doctors all saying, “Are you crazy?” But I felt total peace with my decision.

I also knew that both of my parents had beaten cancer without radiation or chemotherapy. My mother had uterine cancer and a hysterectomy at age 30, after her third baby. When the doctor suggested she get chemo, she said, “I don’t have time. I have three young kids.” I was 5 years old at the time. My father had prostate cancer 15 years ago and chose not to have radiation but to completely change his diet instead. Both of my parents are still alive and healthy today—and they completely supported my decision.

Nine years have passed and now, at 54, I’m healthier and happier than I’ve ever been. I’m still juicing and drinking wheat grass and I’ve added organic egg whites and wild-caught salmon to my diet. I take an array of herbs and supplements and I still exercise every day—power walking and cross training with weights.

I work part-time now and I earn only about a third of what I used to. But I have never felt more free. I’ve learned to live with so much less. Having a big house and closet full of beautiful shoes and clothes means zero when your doctor says the word cancer. You start seeing things through completely different eyes.

Now I see beauty every day. I see how green the trees are today. I see the little flowers growing on the lawn. But at the same time I can also see pain in someone’s eyes, and I get the most joy in my life from counseling other women with breast cancer, which inspired me to publish what I’d learned in Breast Cancer—The Notebook (Gemini Media, 2006).

Cancer didn’t kill me. It woke me up to who I really am and empowered me to make my own choices. Was it a gift? Yes. It helped me find the real me.