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My Cancer Healing Journey: What I Did to Take Control of my Health

I get asked regularly what I did to help heal myself from breast cancer. It’s a difficult question to answer because I don’t know if I necessarily “healed” myself, but what I did do was take as much control as possible to provide me with the best possible outcome. I’ve been 10 years cancer free and aiming for being cancer free for the rest of my lifetime, but I still deal with insecurities and fears. When you get diagnosed with cancer, even though we all know we are not immortal, the realization that we will not be on this earth forever becomes real.

So how did I take control of my health during my cancer journey? Well, it involved a holistic approach that included changes to my diet, a new exercise regimen, stress reduction techniques, sleep optimization, some targeted supplementation, and some work with a wide variety of health care professionals that I call my “health tribe.”

In honour of Breast Cancer Awareness month, this is one of my most authentic and vulnerable BLOG posts yet. I’m literally here to tell you everything I did, the good, the bad and the ugly…so read on to learn more.

1. I got conventional treatment

I whole heartedly believe in science. Science saved my life. My cancer was aggressive and had progressed to stage three, so I had a double mastectomy, chemotherapy, radiation and hormonal therapy. Some ask why I didn’t try and heal myself the natural way. My answer to them…because I had cancer. Conventional medicine 100% takes a REACTIVE approach, however the research and history we have is abundant to suggest that conventional cancer medicine saves lives. What is missing in health care today is a PROACTIVE approach, which is where Functional Medicine fits in. The problem was that I already had cancer and needed to get rid of it. Had I been better educated and more proactive, it is possible that I might not have ever gotten cancer. This is why an all-encompassing lifestyle adjustment and functional approach for most people is necessary to be proactive to avoid disease. However, for anyone who does end up with cancer, I would never suggest that they don’t listen to their doctors about conventional treatment. Conventional medicine and alternative medicine don’t have to work against each other.

2. I become super aware of my body and asked my health care providers for what I needed and insisted on it

After I was diagnosed with cancer, I become super aware of every ache and pain in my body and was hypersensitive about it. I ended up in the emergency room a few times, thinking the absolute worst, when in fact I was totally fine. The problem is…after you’ve been diagnosed with cancer, your anxious mind is never the same. It improves with time, but there is always that little bit of “worry” any time you have a medical checkup or don’t feel right. Because of that, I ensure that if I’m not feeling “right,” I see my doctor and ask for the screenings that I know will help alleviate my anxiety. As an example, for the longest time I had a pain in my lower back and lower left abdomen. Normally for my age, a pelvic ultrasound is not part of a typical workup, however I insisted on getting one done and upon receiving the results, found out I had some ovarian cysts. Because of these results, I also insisted on getting regular 3-month ultrasounds to monitor them. This isn’t something that a medical doctor would normally recommend, but I took matters into my own hands and I’m lucky I have a Medical Doctor who is willing to listen to me.

3. I worked with a psychiatrist & social worker for my mental health

No one tells you how much cancer affects the mind. The amount of fear that I had during diagnosis was insane, but to be honest, the post treatment fear was even worse. Dr. Google was not my friend and the rumination about what I read online was constant. I knew I needed help with managing this anxiety, so I started seeing mental health professionals. I started working with a psychiatrist that helped cancer patients directly at the hospital I got treatment at. It was covered by our universal health care here in Canada, so it was great to know that I could see him as often and for as long as I needed to. He helped me to understand my new normal and assisted me with focusing on the positive parts of the diagnosis, reminding me every time that I was XX months or years without cancer. When I found I needed help with my perfectionist personality (which becomes amplified with cancer), I started seeing a Social Worker who specialized in this area. Personally, I think EVERYONE could benefit from therapy. You don’t have to be a cancer patient. We all have “baggage” that we could use the help working through.

4. I found support that worked for me

At the time, group programs were highly encouraged. The group programs I’m talking about were a bunch of breast cancer patients or survivors talking about their experiences and discussing different topics. For many, these types of programs allow survivors to be around people who understand what they are going through and is an opportunity to build friendships. It makes them feel supported! However, for me these types of programs really amplified my anxiety and as a result, I stayed away from them. I didn’t want to hear the negative stories. I wanted to hear about the triumphs, so for me, a one-on-one approach with survivors who had similar diagnoses that were doing well really helped me to cope and to have hope.

5. I focused on ME first and reprioritized my life to pursue my passions outside of work

Some may call it selfish. I call it self-care. I became relentless on prioritizing my life and doing the things I wanted to do. If that meant that I looked after me first, then that is what I did. I ensured I didn’t work after hours so that I could pursue my passions like golf, learning about Functional Medicine and health, reading, exercise etc. I also rid myself of relationships that no longer served me. If that meant breaking up with “friends,” than that is what I did.

6. I started meditating

At first, I thought mediating was a bit “woo woo,” but when I started researching the benefits, I figured it was time to give it try. Studies show that meditation, not only decreases stress and anxiety, but it also has been shown to grow new neural pathways. Meditation it not easy, especially for someone with a very anxious mind. However, I kept at it, and got to a point where I could focus solely on my breath. I’m not going to lie, meditation is something that I’ve stopped and started a few times over the last 10 years. Not because it wasn’t working, but more around my ability to prioritize it. However, in saying that…this is something I recommend to all my clients because I know it works to quiet the mind.

7. I started getting massage therapy for my lymphedema

Because my breast cancer had advanced to a Stage 3 diagnosis, the lymph nodes under my armpit had to be removed. These lymph nodes serve a very important purpose. Lymph nodes filter substances that travel through the lymphatic fluid, and they contain lymphocytes (white blood cells) that help the body fight infection and disease. For breast cancer survivors who have had lymph nodes removed, sometimes this causes something called lymphedema. Lymphedema occurs when the fluid doesn’t move (because of lack of lymph nodes) and it essentially causes excess swelling. It can be very painful and cause many women to feel self-conscious. I wanted to get ahead of this and so I proactively received massage therapy specifically tailored to lymphedema. Over the years, my lymphedema has improved substantially, and I attribute this to not only being proactive with the massage, but also my increased resistance training. I now have very little, if any, swelling in my left arm

8. I went vegan and then I didn’t

My diet over the last 10 years has changed A LOT. When I first was diagnosed with cancer I went on a vegan diet. At the time I had done a lot of research on how going plant based was the only choice for people with cancer. However, after being vegan a few years, I realized that the high number of oxalates (an anti-nutrient in a lot of plant-based foods that can cause inflammation) really had a negative impact on my microbiome. Since then, I have learned that it’s not about going vegan that improves our quality of life and prevents disease and disease recurrence. It is more about the quality of our foods. I know many vegans whose diets are FULL of processed foods and excess sugar and carbohydrates. I also know many vegans who stick to whole foods and ensure they are getting enough protein. The key is WHOLE FOODS, which includes lots and lots of plants, but also for me, this includes good quality animal foods. I also ensure I get enough protein (I eat over 150g of protein a day) to give my body the essential amino acids it needs to function. A balanced approach is a good approach. We need ALL macronutrients in our diets.

9. I then eliminated all food sensitivities, added sugars, processed foods, wheat, cow’s milk and soy

Building on the thought around balanced whole food diets…when I finally came to this realization, I knew dumping processed foods and added sugars was necessary for my optimal health. I also listened to my body and knew that wheat, cow’s milk and soy created havoc. I stopped being in denial and removed these foods as well. I then finally went ahead and did a food sensitivity test which confirmed that wheat, cow’s milk and soy were foods that I was highly sensitive to, but it also identified healthy foods that I never thought could be foods my body didn’t like. For me, that included spinach and carrots, and other fruits and veg that my body was reacting to, causing inflammation.

10. I stopped drinking alcohol

There is a lot of mixed information around cancer and alcohol. Many studies suggest that the chemical compound, resveratrol, found in red wine, is beneficial in fighting cancer cells. However, other research consistently shows that drinking alcoholic beverages increases a woman’s risk of breast cancer and breast cancer recurrence. I chose to be extremely cautious and remove alcohol completely from my diet. I didn’t drink a lot to begin with, so for me this was an easy thing to do.

11. I got my hormones and gut tested

This was a game changer. It wasn’t until I had these functional tests that I understood 1) that I had excess estrogen in my body which lead to a breast cancer diagnosis and 2) the reasons why. Functional testing gave me insight into my body’s ability to detoxify from toxins and hormonal by-products, and I learned from working with a Functional Practitioner what I could do to improve this process in me. A sluggish detoxification system has HUGE implications when it comes to hormonal cancers like my breast cancer. The amount of information you can gather is astounding and this information isn’t anything you can receive from standard blood, urine or stool tests that your medical doctor runs.

12. I started taking supplements to help balance my hormone and gut

As a result of learning that my body suffered from a sluggish detox system, I researched and worked with Practitioners to find supplements that worked for me. In particular, related to my breast cancer diagnosis, I started taking DIM, Liposomal Glutathione, Calcium-D-Glucarate and Vitamin D. DIM has been shown to decrease estrogen levels in women with excess estrogen and it also works to push estrogen by-products down a more protective metabolic pathway. Liposomal Glutathione is one of the most potent antioxidants available and it helps to detoxify and eliminate poisons and toxins in the liver, lungs, intestines and kidneys. Similarly, calcium-d-glucarate is also important in the detoxification process. Calcium-D-glucarate has been shown to inhibit beta-glucuronidase, an enzyme produced by colonic microflora and involved in Phase II liver detoxification, reducing the excretion of toxins and steroid hormones, including estrogen. Vitamin D is a vitamin we get from the sun. For me, living in Canada meant that I was often deprived of the sun for long periods of time. Research suggests that women with low levels of vitamin D have a higher risk of breast cancer. Vitamin D may also play a role in controlling normal breast cell growth and may be able to stop breast cancer cells from growing, so vitamin D was a no brainer for me

13. I started going to bed between 9-10 pm

Did you know that for every hour of sleep you receive before midnight, it is equal to 2 hours of sleep after midnight to your adrenals glands, hormones, immune system, brain function and detoxification systems? Getting proper sleep also provides the body with the ability to rest and recover so that the immune system can do its job. Prior to my breast cancer diagnosis, sleep was something that I loved, but my social life took priority and going out on the weekends and staying up till 1 or 2am was a constant occurrence. I knew it was time to change that and so I now prioritize getting to bed by 10pm

14. I started seriously lifting weights

I’ve always exercised. I’ve always known how important it was to my health, however, I always prioritized cardio. It wasn’t until recently that I decided to switch my focus to resistance training. Any exercise will help with cancer recurrence risk. Recent research published online on April 2, 2020, in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute found that women who met the minimum federal exercise guidelines of 2.5 hours of moderate intensity exercise per week, before and after being diagnosed with breast cancer had a 55% lower risk of recurrence and a 68% lower risk of dying than women who did not exercise. However, resistance training also helps prevent osteoporosis, which as a breast cancer survivor who was put into chemical menopause, this was a risk factor for me. It also improved my lymphedema, improved my posture and helped me to build some solid muscle that in the long run will prevent sarcopenia (progressive muscle loss as we age) which will allow me to age gracefully!


Honestly, my breast cancer diagnosis at such a young age was a shock, but I didn’t waste any time taking action. I knew I wanted to be on this planet for a little while longer and so I did everything in my power and control to make myself better. I didn’t know if my cancer was going to come back (and it still could), but I knew that if I didn’t do everything I possibly could, I would regret it later. If you, or someone that you know has been diagnosed with breast cancer and needs support, reach out. Sometimes talking to someone who has been through a similar experience really helps.

Stay healthy friends!

**Disclaimer: Information provided in this BLOG is for informational purposes only and is NOT intended as a substitute for the medical advice provided by your personal physician or other healthcare professional, or any information contained on or in any product label or packaging. Do not use the information provided in this email for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing medication or other treatment. Always speak with your physician or other healthcare professional before taking any medication or nutritional, herbal or homeopathic supplement, or using any treatment for a health problem.

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