This interview was kindly given by my dear friend Teresa in April 2017.
I didn't know Teresa before this journey began, but now I feel blessed to count her amongst my treasured friends. The interview is not meant as an indictment of traditional methods of cancer treatment, although I do have my own views about that. However, that said, unless I have walked a mile in anyone else's shoes, I will never judge their choices, nor truly know what mine would be were I to find myself in this position. I like to think I would honour my knowledge and my intuition, but who knows; who really knows how any of us would respond.
I hope this wonderful woman's interview gives others hope and strength - that's why we did it. Peace and Love xox
S: When and how did you first know that something wasn’t right with your health?
T: I felt tiredness like I’d never felt before and then I found a lump in my left breast. I had it checked out but they said there was nothing wrong with me, so I went home. Six months later I was in the shower and I felt another lump underneath my arm, and I didn’t pay that much attention to it, but the lump in my breast now felt like it was getting bigger. It felt really uncomfortable at work and at times I thought it would burst; it was a visible, hard lump. On June 3rd 2014 I went back to the hospital and we discovered that I had cancer. This time they did a biopsy, but the first time they had only done a mammogram and a scan, neither of those had picked it up!
S: Were there any other symptoms?
T: Yes, my nails were in really bad condition, I had a lot of dry scalp, my health in general was in very poor condition because I had been overworking myself and my nutrition was really bad. I wasn’t aware then of anything that I was doing and how it could impact on my health. I mean when you go to the supermarket and buy stuff, you don’t automatically know you can be doing something harmful to your body with what you eat, but these food are full of chemicals, so unless you have a diet that’s full of fresh fruit and veg, there’s just no point in only eating the other stuff because you’re just doing more damage to yourself.
S: How long did it take you to act on the feeling that things really weren’t right?
T: Six months, I felt tired at the same time I discovered the first lump but didn’t marry the two together. When the hospital told me there was nothing wrong, I told myself it was all in my head. I never found out why they told me nothing was wrong the first time or how that happened.
S: I believe we generally know when something is wrong in our bodies, do you?
T: Yes, and you know I do remember feeling this really strong sense of fear when I would be in bed at night, it was a feeling something really bad was happening. I didn’t know what it was but I just had a strong feeling I wasn’t right.
S: Do you think that if you’re living an unhealthy lifestyle and eating badly, if you’re super stressed, have negative self talk and self neglect, that this can make it harder to know when something is wrong?
T: Yes for sure - I had no awareness back then of health in general, of diet, nutrition, or self love. It’s not something I would have thought about at all - I just thought of paying bills and work, work work! I never put myself first in any way, always running round looking after others when my own body was crying out to be looked after.
S: Can you describe a typical day’s diet back then?
T: I worked in catering so most mornings it was a bacon, egg and sausage barm, lots of coffee and tea, not very much water if any, and lunch would be something in the deep fat fryer with the odd salad some days. Evenings were crisps and hummus and some wine with a couple of cigarettes. I was so stressed from the amount of work I was doing that was my only way to calm down!
S: So not much living food, or much that wasn't processed, fried or unhealthy?
T: Nothing was consistent except wine, pizzas and crisps!
S: Intuitively, what do you feel was the greatest contributing factor in your illness amongst the lifestyle and habits you’ve described (if any)?
T: I feel I had completely lost track of myself. I couldn’t make decisions without involving 5 or 6 people, I wouldn’t listen to my own inner voice at all. I was definitely aware of feeling “you can’t keep doing this” and I would also think “wow, it’s so amazing how far you can push your body,” because previously when I lived in America I was much healthier so I did know that potential was in me. There, I lived on the beach and was more into exercise and eating better. When I got to the UK I knew what I was doing wasn’t good for me but I was around people doing the same thing, so I just thought, well if they can all do it, so can I! I was much more materialistic then, completely ignoring all the signs and my own health in that way of living.
S: Once you had confirmation of your biopsy being malignant - what happened then?
T: They told me what procedures they would be taking and they booked me in for an operation to remove the lump and all of my lymph nodes in my left arm. They removed 18 lymph nodes and only 3 were infected.
S: So they had to remove them all?
T: Well back then I wasn’t educated so there was no question of ‘can I keep any’? They just took them all, and at that point I was so upset, confused, and scared with no idea if I was going to live, so I never thought about the consequences of losing all your lymph nodes. Now they actually do operate and only remove infected nodes so I feel upset about the impact that’s had. I am massively scared of infection now, and in fact if I listen to the medical world, I wouldn’t do anything or go anywhere! They say if I get bitten (by insects) I need to take antibiotics immediately, that I can’t do certain types of exercise, and yet I had numerous bites in Bali and it was completely fine, so that’s just fear and fear completely holds you back. I do quite a bit of exercise too to be fair.
S: What other feelings came up for you at the time?
T: I felt scared and very angry that they didn’t find it the first time because then maybe it wouldn’t have spread. I also felt really lonely because I always felt needed before that, but when you get really ill and can’t give like that, you realise everyone’s life is still going on as normal but you’re the one home in bed, so that was really, really hard for me.
S: Were you in bed a lot?
T: Yes, I couldn’t even dress myself, I had to get much bigger clothes to be able to get in them. I lost the use of my arm and had to learn how to re-use it all over again.
S: Did you have chemo or radiotherapy.
T: Yes, about 8 weeks after the operation I had 6 rounds of chemo which was the most horrendous experience of my life - it was terrifying. I did feel I didn’t want chemo and had stated that, but again I didn’t know then what I know now. My body had definitely been telling me not to have it, and after the first one, I truly don’t know how I took myself back there again.
S: Did your care providers ever mention to you at any point the things you could do for yourself holistically, or anything you could do around diet and nutrition?
T: No, never! The only thing holistically that was offered was reflexology given during the chemo because I was wearing a cold cap which is a cap that allows you to keep your hair longer because it freezes the scalp and draws out the hair loss process. It was the most awful thing ever, I would get really severe headaches and tunnel vision after wearing it. I had 30% of my hair left at the end though so I did still lose it
S: When I first met you and you used to wear the wooly hat all the time, had you cut your hair by then?
T: Yes I cut it short but it was still full of bald patches.
S: How and when do you feel like your real healing began beyond those sessions?
T: I had been living in Glossop and a few things happened which thankfully brought me back to Chorlton. I had lived there before so I new about your juice bar, and when I lived in New York I used to go to a juice bar most days too. I’d started reading a bit about holistic health when living in Glossop but I knew nothing like I know now, so when I came back to Chorlton, my daily trip out was to your juice bar. When I started going there I met you and Hannah and I ended up telling you my story; I felt really drawn to tell you and ask for your help. From there our friendship started to grow too and you started giving me more and more knowledge which opened up a big, amazing, beautiful world to me.
S: I think people with an investment is this kind of business, often have investments in other kinds of health and wellbeing practices too, and I remember seeing you start to take all this on as we shared more. You were trying things out, meeting even more people who supported those changes and supported you. Obviously when one starts to do that, all kinds of healing begin to take place; we have different support networks to call upon. I remember seeing you start to really flourish as you embraced it all.
T: Yes, I would never have associated cancer with coming from an emotional place, and then when I came to your 9 week Transform Your Life course I realised I was holding on to so much stuff that wasn’t making me well! There was just so much knowledge Love Juice gave me…the turmeric was the big thing!
S: That’s my next question actually - what would you say were the things that made the most difference to you?
T: The Alkaliser Green Juice helped me grow clean from the inside, and the turmeric of course. I’m a huge fan now, and ginger, wheatgrass shots and clean eating. There were so many little books lying round in there too and I’d often read them - there was one which was full of positive affirmations and I really started to use those too. I would take a little bit from that book every time I came into the shop.
S: So you started to notice connections in all areas of your life? What you were eating, thinking, and holding on to, what you hadn’t come to terms with yet - you started to make all those connections?
T: Yes, totally! I started to realise how much I could change myself. I met Kate at that time too and she introduced me to Tropic and taught me about how many chemicals there are in most skincare. At the hospital they told me to use Simple, but I realised that’s full of chemicals too! So now I only use chemical free products. I also learnt how to make superfood bliss balls and healthy food on your course too - everything about Love Juice changed everything for me. It was my only trip out, especially when I was in the radiotherapy which hugely burned all down one side of my body. I was given that because they said they wanted to “mop up everything” so they used the radiotherapy as a precaution rather than because it was needed at that point.
S: I guess that’s understandable but also it’s sad and perhaps unnecessary
T: yes, you are totally left with the damage that’s been done as radiotherapy completely affects your internal organs too, so you have to really get them back in shape after that kind of thing. Chemo also really affects your heart, so I think if I’d known of the side effects (they don’t really tell you) I would have chosen differently. When you’re in the middle of it and crippled wth fear, you don’t really think about choices or options, but I think it would be better to make people aware. My chemo was precautionary and what I went through to have those 6 shots was awful. I ended up being rushed into hospital, where I was told it could have gone into my brain (the cancer) but I was then left overnight waiting for a brain scan and psychologically some of that was so traumatising.
S: Did they have a reason to tell you it may be in your brain?
T: Just because I was getting really bad headaches but that was the reaction to the chemo! My mother came over from ireland to help me get everything working again as she’s a breast cancer survivor too. She had me doing so many exercise to prevent me getting lymphedema and there is always a fear of that with no lymph nodes. I still exercise my arm as much as possible and try not to lift much, that said I’m living proof that you can get the odd bite as I did in Bali recently, and treat things naturally. I treated all of my bites with turmeric elixir and locally made herbal remedies and it was all perfectly fine! Much better than flushing antibiotics through my body as I’d been told to, which is actually bringing down your immune system rather than strengthening it.
S: Are you fully well now?
T: Yes, I’m completely cancer free and have been since January 2015.
S: What do you do now differently to maintain your health?
T: I don’t have any routine in my life now. I live very much in the present and take each day as it comes, I avoid stress, I keep an alkaline diet, lemon water and raw cider vinegar in the mornings with green juice, loads of green veggies and healthy food. I don’t ever overwork. Since Bali I have loads more food ideas too! I’m so blessed to have had you as a mentor going through this Steph. Once I got back on my feet I came to your first course which was massive for me, because at that time I was like a little frightened mouse, but it totally changed my life. Some of the women I met there I made lifelong friendships with and they’re also into holistic healing, so I got so much more from that. More recently I started doing the Alchemy of Breath practice which oxygenates the body really rapidly, and by breathing like that I feel I can listen to myself so much more. I’m much more aware of what feels right or wrong of me now. My self love is great and I can make my own decisions! Your retreat in Wales was also a massive shift for me. I burnt my cancer hat on that retreat and felt a level of freedom that weekend I’ve never felt before. Burning my hat felt like I was closing the door on my cancer. As a cancer survivor, I can’t recommend all of this work highly enough. I can take so much more responsibility for me now.
S: Is there anything you would say to others who may be going through this?
T: All I would say is completely try and take responsibility for your own health. The NHS or any mainstream health system like that have their own guidelines, rules and regulations which they have to follow, but it’s not set in stone. There are a lot of other options out there for people that aren’t as severe or have less consequences. The holistic route is a beautiful world, and it’s a full world, a world where you don’t just approach health, you approach every aspect of your life, which allows you to be who you are and it allows for personal growth and happiness. I really believe if you’re happy you’re not going to have that stagnant, stale energy in your body; things are going to be moving, and you’re less likely to get diagnoses as bad as cancer or other really bad illnesses.
I feel like cancer has been a complete gift to me, and I feel blessed to have had the support from so many amazing people who came into my life. I want what was given to me to be available to everyone. If I hadn't been on this path, I wouldn’t know half the stuff I know and I’d still think life is really difficult when it’s actually so beautiful, and magical. I’m just so grateful.
*Teresa has now trained in non surgical face lift using the access BARS method, and has recently trained in Balinese Massage. She is about to undertake the Alchemy of Breath facilitator training, and I am delighted to be doing that journey alongside her. Our friend Suzie recently completed this training with us whilst we were all in Bali. We hope this story gives you some healthy food for thought!
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