Amy was diagnosed with stage II triple-negative, HER2-positive breast cancer in 2003. She addressed her disease with conventional treatments and emotional healing. Today, Amy celebrates being cancer-free for 15 years.
Amy was diagnosed with stage II triple-negative, HER2-positive breast cancer on October 30, 2003. While Amy wasn’t sick or having any health issues at the time of her diagnosis, she was under a huge amount of stress. She was married to an active alcoholic and describes herself as being “emotionally bankrupt.” She believes this mental state played a huge part in the development of her disease.
Within two weeks of being diagnosed, Amy underwent a single mastectomy with full reconstruction. After the surgery, she learned the cancer had not spread and the margins around the tumor were clear. However, due to the aggressive nature of the cancer, Amy’s oncologist prescribed four months of chemotherapy. She was told her chance of recurrence was 10-15% after chemotherapy, but that taking a Herceptin injection once per week for a year (which she did) would drop the chance of recurrence to zero. This gave her a huge boost of confidence!
That wasn’t the end of Amy’s story, though. As her medical treatments drew to a close, she began addressing her emotional imbalances and continues doing so to this day. Amy credits the following factors as contributing to a healthier, more balanced physical and emotional lifestyle for the 15 years following her cancer diagnosis:
It took over a year for Amy to recover from the side effects of chemotherapy. Amy credits a huge support system, including her parents, sister, ex-husband, friends and extended family with helping her out during that very difficult time.
Amy found much comfort and support in spirituality and spent a lot of time in her synagogue – both during and after her medical treatments.
More than a year after her cancer diagnosis Amy finally began dealing with her mental health. She realized that she could not allow the emotional drain of her marriage to reoccur. Two years after her cancer diagnosis, Amy filed for divorce. More recently, she has begun creating healthy emotional boundaries in many of her relationships.
Amy practices mindfulness to deal with the daily stresses of life. For her, mindfulness does not mean clearing her head of all thought. In fact, she allows herself to feel anxious or depressed. When these triggers hit, she acknowledges these them, but also reminds herself that these thoughts don’t need to control her feelings. Amy visualizes her thoughts as leaves running through a babbling brook. As quickly as they come into her mind, she says, “It was just a thought. I don’t need to give into it and feel… however it’s making me feel.” In this way, she remains in the present moment and does not allow her thoughts to dictate how she feels or how she’s going to handle a stressful situation. This mindfulness practice has been very helpful in helping her find balance and reduce anxiety.
Amy has always been interested in eating healthy, organic foods and focused on a healthy diet after recovering from both cancer and the chemotherapy treatments. While she knows what she needs to do, she says knowing and doing are two different things. She admits that stress does impact her and causes her to eat less healthy than she would like. At the same time, she realizes how important a healthy diet is. To help with this, Amy manages the Nature’s Healing Strategies website, where she writes about living a healthy lifestyle. This has been very therapeutic for her, as well as informative for her readers.
As Amy continues to move forward, she says that half the battle is knowing that she has control over her health and doesn’t have to be a victim of cancer. If her body gets out of balance, she knows she can fix it. This helps her maintain a positive outlook even in the face of daily stress.
Prior to her cancer diagnosis, Amy was into homeopathy and took a lot of supplements. However, she returned to western medicine to treat her cancer. While this was the right decision for her, she reminds us that everyone is different and unique. The important thing is to believe 100% in whatever decisions you make regarding treatment. Cancer is not a one-size-fits-all disease. Everyone’s body is unique and every case of cancer is unique. No one’s treatment is going to be exactly the same, because people’s constitutions are very different. So everyone needs to find the treatment that is right for his/her unique situation.
According to Amy, cancer has given her a new perspective on things, and she now realizes how tenuous life can be. While Amy would have preferred to not have cancer at all, she says it did open her awareness to the fragility of life, and she is thankful for what she learned from the experience.
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