Inflammatory Breast Cancer, and Head and Neck Cancer, 12-year victor
Founder of NuGenesis
Author of E.A.T.: An Unconventional Decade in the Life of a Cancer Patient
1. What was the darkest moment in your cancer journey?
There definitely wasn’t just one. My battle was more of a roller coaster. Sometimes I was up, sometimes I was down, sometimes I was careening towards death, and other times I was chug, chug, chugging out of a quagmire of depression. That’s the thing about cancer, it challenges us to rise up even from the deepest pits of despair, and by rise up, I don’t just mean be strong. It’s going to be different for each of us and the opportunities will change based on our circumstance.
But for me, it was about rising up to advocate for myself in the face of treatment that didn’t “seem” right. It was about rising up to be strong for my kids. It was about rising up to evolve my thinking to match my soul’s purpose. It was even about rising up to accept and embrace the possibility that I could die.
But, if I absolutely had to pick just one, it would be the inflammatory breast cancer diagnosis itself. At that point, I had yet to learn what my ultimate path was and just how strong I could be in the face of adversity.
2. If you could go back and talk to your pre-cancer self, what would you say?
YOU ARE YOUR OWN BEST ADVOCATE! Embrace all challenges in life as an opportunity to grow. Walk through any door that presents itself, trusting that each step you take on your path is designed to move you closer to the person you were meant to be. If you don’t like what you find on the other side of the door, just walk back out. Meditate every day and connect to your inner voice – your soul. If I hadn’t trusted the little voice deep inside me that disagreed with my prognosis, it’s likely I wouldn’t be here to write this blog post.
3. How has cancer changed you?
How hasn’t it changed me? I move through my days with the intention to be at peace with whatever happens, and I’ve discovered that my stress has melted away like the Wicked Witch of the East. The only people that can raise my ire now are my teenage daughters. LOL Actually, they can’t even pull me too far out of my peaceful, little bubble before I snap back like a rubber band and resume my lighthearted demeanor. Everyday my goal is to be better than I was the day before, transforming into the person I was made to be.
4. What motivated you to pursue your 2nd Act?
After being diagnosed with a second cancer, I embraced my inner voice and jumped all in, eating only cancer fighting foods with the intention to heal instead of relying solely on modern medicine. My continued healing left my doctors perplexed while patients were drawn in, seeking answers on how it was possible that I was doing so well.
I gave each of them the rundown on my strategy (which you can read in my book E.A.T. An Unconventional Decade in the Life of a Cancer Patient), but most took it to their doctors who retorted, “There’s no real data on that. Don’t waste your energy.” Of course, they were wrong, and tragically, more of those folks died than lived. Nearly 12 years later, there are still so many doctors that have neglected to keep up with the research on integrative ways to beat cancer, but I am heartened by those who have.
Losing so many people I cared about to the beast was more than I could stomach, so I asked my surgeon to help me teach other patients in the hospital. He was very supportive, recognizing that my recovery was clearly out of the norm. It wasn’t long before I found myself in the office of the CEO of my hospital, confidently pitching a four-page summary of my “plan.” As if I really knew what I was going to do.
In the end, I founded a non-profit organization called NuGenesis, which was designed to teach food as medicine. The positive outcomes I witnessed through coaching and our other educational programs left me incredibly motivated. The organization had a tremendous impact on our region, but through my meditations it became clear that I was to step back from it and write a book.” After stubbornly ignoring my inner voice for nearly three years, I finally embraced it and wrote my story in hopes of reaching many more people struggling with chronic disease and searching for a boost of inspiration.
Through my 2nd Act, I’m lighting up a viable path that will lead to changing the toxic way we live our lives, treat disease and provide sick instead of wellness care. My story exposes the backstage of cancer treatment, and if anything can motivate a protocol shift, it’s got to be the true tale of what each of us endures in our battles to overcome “it all.”
5. What has been your brightest moment in your 2nd Act?
My brightest moments happen every time I hear my kids coach their friends on eating organic, non-GMO foods to prevent cancer and other chronic illness such as diabetes, obesity, and heart disease. It’s stunning to me how much they absorbed through my struggles. In the thick of it, they seemed constantly annoyed with our new mantra of “eat with the intention to heal.”
Our early dialogues went something like this:
Them: “Can we get cupcakes for a snack after school?”
Me: “Is there sugar in cupcakes? Do cupcakes fight disease?”
Me: “Then, no. Sugar causes inflammation in your body, which causes blood vessels to grow, which can lead to terrible diseases. How about I make you some popcorn?”
Them: “Groan. Everyone else gets cupcakes.”
Ha! Worst mom ever, or was I? Today, my 18-year-old has dubbed herself “GMO Queen” (not realizing it should be “Non-GMO Queen”) on Instagram. Meanwhile, my 13-year-old shares with her friends pictures of the meals she cooks, including a killer salmon dinner and a sugarless, dark chocolate cake chaser. She packs her own school lunch, which could include homemade soups, salads, quinoa, egg salad, homemade hummus or veggies. Whatever floats her boat that morning.
It really warms my heart to know they are modeling for their classmates a new way of eating, which has been embraced by their school district. After working with NuGenesis, our high school adopted a program of teaching food as medicine, working to improve student lunches and overall health. I am so hopeful that those kids and the kids in other districts that have worked with NuGenesis will never have to suffer a chronic disease diagnosis they could have prevented.
6. Where do you see yourself going from here?
Now that my book is out, I’m excited to get it in as many hands as possible. Of course, I’ve discovered I don’t know the first thing about marketing a book, and pathetically pray every day that someone will step into my path and help me out!
I’m looking forward to adding more speaking engagements to spread my message of eating with the intention to heal. I’m looking forward to playing a role in achieving a more equitable distribution of research money to encompass promising studies on the most effective way to use food as medicine to prevent chronic disease, support our bodies through a diagnosis and prevent recurrences. With more than half of cancers being entirely preventable, prevention is the name of the game and the only true health care reform.
7.What’s your favorite quote and how does it fit into your 2nd Act?
I’ve lived my entire life by these words: “A vision without a task is but a dream. A task without a vision is drudgery. A vision and a task are the hope of the world.”
I kept these words front and center throughout my life to remind myself that ideas are just ideas until you make them happen. Only then do they become meaningful.
After my diagnosis, I discovered another set of words that were even more powerful: “That which you give attention to grows.”
I haven’t a clue who first said it, but it resonates in every part of my life. If I want to be positive, I need to ignore the negative. If I want to be healthy, I need to ignore the harmful temptations. If I want to be loved, I have to love.