Turning Pain Into Purpose: One Breast Cancer Thriver’s Story 1 of 4

Hello there, lovely! I’m Lauren – a breast cancer survivor turned holistic nutritionist. I founded my company Nutritious Delicious Life to bring attention and awareness to the tremendous power that making holistic lifestyle changes can have on a woman’s breast cancer risk. For years, I immersed myself in research learning everything I could to prevent my own breast cancer recurrence. When I emerged from behind my mountain of books, I was frustrated that this life-saving information wasn’t easily accessible to the women it could help the most. Ever since being diagnosed with breast cancer at 26 and discovering the healing benefits of holistic health, it’s been my mission to connect, inspire, and empower other breast cancer survivors to live their most nutritious, delicious lives. Now, nearly 5 years after diagnosis, my life is radically different in the best possible way. I’m a health coach and I work closely with breast cancer survivors to transform them into thrivers! First and foremost you need to know that you are not alone in your pain, struggles, worries, or fears. Rather, you are part of a community who understands, loves, embraces, and supports you. Whether you are newly diagnosed or well into survivorship, I hope that reading my story today provides you with information as well as inspiration. I’ll be sharing a blog post each week with the Tigerlily community on topics that help me live my best life after cancer and my hope is that they inspire you to do the same. I can’t wait for us to get to know each other!

Let’s start at the very beginning. I was diagnosed with breast cancer when I was 26 (I’m 31 now!) At that time, I was living a life that was everything but holistic. I was a chartered accountant and the hours I worked invariably took a toll on me and I was stressed out and burnt out. I was eating what I thought was healthy according to mainstream media, but really eating this way wreaked havoc on my already stressed hormone levels. I was also exercising excessively and destroying my body at the gym. On the surface, I was living a “healthy lifestyle” but deep down I was in a lot of pain. I had a really negative self-image and nothing I did was ever good enough. I created impossible standards to live by, and I would punish myself for not being able to reach them. In spite of all this, I was still very aware of my body. For this, I am eternally grateful, because I felt the lump in my breast when it was still very small; otherwise I may not have detected the lump until it was much too late.

One morning, while showering, I felt a small lump in my right breast. It’s interesting because I was such a stress case about everything in my life at this time – I stressed about my career, I stressed about not being able to find a “good guy” to settle down with, I stressed about money… I was a straight up emotional basket case who stressed about everything, but for some reason I didn’t stress about the lump in my breast! The conversation in my head went something like: “Ok, if it’s still there next week I’ll go to the doctor, but there’s no way this can be anything serious!” A week later, I went to my doctor, who sent me for an ultrasound; the ultrasound came back “suspicious”.  You’re probably all familiar with these steps and how exhausting and unsettling it is going for tests and waiting for the results! I continued to tell myself that everything was going to be fine and that there’s no way this could be anything serious.

Because the ultrasound was suspicious I was sent for a biopsy. It was while I was laying on the table in the hospital waiting for my biopsy procedure that the thought of having cancer overwhelmed me. I could feel it with every fiber of my being. I couldn’t deny the thoughts anymore and I just broke down crying. I cried during the entire biopsy (which took forever!); then I went into work and pretended like everything was fine. When I came home from work I bawled again. All. Night. Long. It was a very emotional and frightening time for me and I didn’t share any of this with my family or friends. I didn’t want to worry anyone or burden them until I knew the results of the biopsy. That’s actually a huge regret of mine and something I’ve spent the last 5 years working on – I’ve learned the value and power of leaning on others for support, and asking for and accepting help when I need it. Can you guys relate?!

Well you can probably guess what happened next. The biopsy confirmed I had cancer and thus began the seemingly endless emotional roller coaster ride of doctor appointments and treatments. I chose to have a lumpectomy and after my surgery, I learned that my cancer was grade 3 and very aggressive. My oncology team recommended I have 8 rounds of dose-dense chemotherapy followed by radiation, and hormone treatment on tamoxifen for 10 years. And THIS is where my story gets interesting!

During chemotherapy, I was confronted with some pretty hard truths. Let’s just say for now that losing my hair and seeing myself so bare for the first time was both eye-opening and humbling. I lost my hair, but I also lost my insecurities, negative self- image, and self-doubt. I gained perspective, self-confidence, and a whole lot of self- love. This was such a turning point in my life that I’ll explain fully in a separate blog  – stay tuned for next week!

Just before starting radiation, I learned about naturopathic medicine. I had never heard of a naturopathic doctor before and couldn’t wrap my head around using vitamins, minerals, herbs, and plants to protect my body from cancer let alone using them as a form of complementary treatment. I was very intrigued though by this branch of medicine and I started working with a naturopath. I’ll be the first to admit it; I was skeptical at first. This was all new territory to me and it took me some time to acknowledge this form of medicine as legitimate and accept that it could work. But my energy level improved significantly (I even rode my bike to some of my radiation treatments) and my very fair skin didn’t burn at all from the radiation. I couldn’t deny these results and this propelled me to learn more and more about natural medicine which employs non-toxic natural therapies to treat people. I eventually took myself off of tamoxifen and I now manage my entire prevention strategy completely naturally.

I wanted to be able to do more for myself when I wasn’t seeing my naturopath and this is what brought me to nutrition. I wanted to feel like I had some control over my health and the way I chose to take that power back was to show up for myself in the kitchen. I learned what foods could harm me and which ones could help me. The more I learned, the more I wanted to learn and I realized my true calling in life. I left my career in accounting, moved to a new city where I didn’t know anyone, and enrolled in holistic nutrition school.

Now, I lead the cancer nutrition program at a leading naturopathic clinic that specializes in oncology. I have my dream job where I get to be of service everyday, doing what I love. My practice isn’t just about nutrition. As important as the food we eat is to our overall health, THRIVERship is about so much more than physical health. I can’t wait to dive deep into some of these topics in future blog posts. But for now, I hope you gained some insight into who I am as a person and your take away from reading this blog is feeling lighter, happier, and inspired.

I’d love to connect with you outside of this blog! If you have questions, comments, or want to hear more from me, connect with me on Instagram @Nutritious_Delicious_life, on facebook Nutritious Delicious Life, or through my website www.nutritiousdeliciouslife.com.

Until next time!

Lauren, Tigerlily ANGEL Advocate