Cancer led me to my purpose and passion in life, which is nutrition, mindfulness and holistic health. Without cancer, I wouldn't have as strong of a relationship as I do with my mind and body, and wouldn't have started helping others who are going through cancer treatment or survivorship.
When I was first diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma on August 1st, 2018, I almost felt a sense of relief because I knew there was something wrong in my body. Over the previous year, I would feel random pains in my chest, wouldn’t be able to breathe in deeply, and towards the end couldn’t work out without having a cough attack. I couldn’t pinpoint the cause for a long time and so when I finally knew the reason for these symptoms, I now felt like I could do something about it. I had no idea what the treatment would entail or how the doctors would plan on getting rid of the cancer because everyone kept telling me “this is the good cancer” and “if you have cancer, this is the one you want.” Therefore, I assumed that if I had the “good cancer” then the treatment would be super simple, like a chemo pill I could take once a day for 6 months (of course now I know no matter what the treatment is, it’s never simple).
When my oncologist told me I would have to do chemo and there was really no other option, my heart broke. It truly felt like a heartbreak, which I only ever felt once before in my life. I knew I would have to lose my hair, I thought I would be so extremely sick that I wouldn’t be able to move for the 4-6 months that I was undergoing treatment, and I was so scared of any and all side effects that come with this scary word “chemo.” Nobody ever explains before you are diagnosed with cancer what chemo actually is, I thought it was just one drug that cures all cancers. Now I know it’s actually a cocktail of different drugs depending on the type of cancer you have and all of them have different possible side effects and reasons for being included.
Thankfully my body reacted fairly well to my cocktail ABVD. Although I felt nauseous, I never actually threw up. I was super exhausted and groggy, everything tasted disgusting, I would have random pains, I lost all my hair, but all in all, it was not as bad as I was expecting it to be. The best part was that after only two treatments, the mass in my chest was completely gone! I could walk up a hill again without coughing and take deep breaths without feeling a sharp pain. That’s what kept my hopes up and confirmed that I could do this because it’s actually working.
I had 4 months of chemo and then 1 month of radiation on my chest area. I had to decide between more chemo or 3 weeks of radiation and I couldn’t do more chemo mentally or physically so I went with the radiation even though there are possible long term effects, but we’ll deal with that if we have to.
Once radiation was over and they gave me my Diploma of Completion I didn’t know how to feel. My next doctors appointment, my oncologist told me that I was “cured!” Not even in remission, but cured. Again, I didn’t know how to feel, I was of course so happy, but then this feeling of “now what” came over me. I thought I wanted to go back to my normal 25 year old life and do exactly what I was doing before - work during the week and party on the weekends, but something major changed, I was no longer the same person with the same goals.
I moved back to Austin, TX where I was living at the time I was diagnosed and felt so extremely lost and confused. I no longer cared about my job, I still had a lot of pain in my body from treatment and didn’t know why, I was still really tired, had no confidence and I just didn’t know what or who I wanted to be. I called my mom at least 4 times a week freaking out that the cancer was back or that I didn’t feel like myself because I looked like a boy without my hair and I just didn’t recognize the person in the mirror.
Then I was at a conference for my job and my coworker was with me who was a fitness instructor and was studying nutrition on the side. She told me that she loved her courses and that she helped her dad lose 20 pounds within a few weeks by guiding him on how to start eating a healthier diet. That was it - something clicked and I knew I needed to not only learn for myself how to become healthier all around, but that I was meant to help others who felt this way too and didn’t know where to start.
I joined IIN (the Institute for Integrative Nutrition) in March 2019 and it completely changed my life. Each week we learned about new types of foods, how certain foods affect our bodies and cause disease, different mindfulness exercises and practices, and so much more. We were also taught how to coach others through their journey to achieve their health goals and why being a health coach is so crucial in today’s world. As I mentioned, I still had a lot of residual pain and random side effects from treatment, but after only 3 weeks of not drinking alcohol and eating clean, the pain went away. I was taken aback and knew that I needed to help others feel this relief and happiness by changing the food that they eat and the thoughts that they think in a really simple way.
I graduated IIN in June 2020 and now focus my practice on supporting other cancer survivors in taking back that control of their health again through fueling their bodies with nutritious, delicious foods. I teach as many people as I can the importance of eating foods that actually nourish our bodies down to to the individual cells, and guide you to live a radiant, happy life!
This is what inspired me to start Be Your Health. I provide guidance and coaching for that after period of trrwatmemt (I survived cancer - now what?) I offer 3 and 6 month custom coaching programs to help you feel your best and guide you back to taking control of your health! Whether you want to lose or gain weight after treatment, are experiencing random pains, or just want to start moving your body more, I’m here to guide you through the action steps to get to your goals.
I also started the Cancer Actually F*cking Sucks podcast all about getting through cancer. Subscribe and join the conversation with survivors as we laugh, cry and share stories!
Cancer made me realize that I needed to not take any day for granted to appreciate the little things in life - not just look forward to big moments.
My mantra during treatment was: “I am cancer free!" I am just waiting for my body to catch up with what my mind already knows.