I read a lot of natural beauty blogs and one of them is The Glamorganic Goddess. Danielle has an inspiring story, she is a breast cancer survivor! In the spirit of this month which I think should be Breast Cancer PREVENTION month, I asked Danielle some questions. I’m so happy to share her story with you- read it and be inspired.
Let’s get this interview started!
How did you discover you had cancer?
In 2009, I was trying on a custom made, strapless dress for a Bridal Party I was in… and the top looked crooked and didn’t fit right. Later that day, while taking a nap, I rested my hand on my chest and felt a lump on my left breast, right over my heart, and exactly where the dress didn’t fit right. Terrified and without medical insurance, I went to Planned Parenthood where the doctor insisted I come back in a month because… it was probably nothing, if anything – only a cyst, and… besides, I was too young. Life Lesson number one: be your own advocate! I refused to accept that it was just “nothing”, without further verification. So, 3 hours later, and in tears, I left with a referral. Immediately after my exam with the Breast Specialist (sounds like every man’s dream job, right? Lol.) I was sent for an Ultrasound and Mammogram. Before I’d even gotten home that day, I got a call to come back ASAP the next morning. I just knew. The next day I was told there was a 75% chance that it was Breast Cancer… and my life changed that fast.
Why did you decide not to have chemo?
The day I was diagnosed, I spoke with a close family friend and neighbor who would later become one of the doctors who saved my life. He told me I had 3 treatment options: 1. Totally conventional treatment – surgery, radiation, chemo (i.e., cut, burn, poison), 2. Totally natural treatment – fresh, organic, whole food diet, juicing, herbs, vitamins, etc. or 3. Integrative treatment – which was the marriage of both science and nature-based medicine. I went with the best of both worlds, because it was important for me to have a high quality of life. So, I used everything in my arsenal.
I initially had two surgeries. The first was a lumpectomy, and the second was to get “clear borders” along with lymph node removal to make sure there were no remaining Cancer cells. I also had 33 radiation treatments over six-weeks, which I now regret after finding out that radiation also contributes to Cancer. I had made a decision that any treatments after that would be as natural as possible, unless it was a life-threatening emergency, but that I would do conventional testing to monitor my progress.
Unfortunately, Chemo attacks all of your cells – not just the big, badass Cancer cells. So, it totally didn’t make sense to me to break down my immune system, when I needed it most! I also made another ballsy decision – a big no-no in conventional Cancer-land, and opted against Tamoxifen too! Tamoxifen is an estrogen-blocking drug that prematurely forces your body into menopause. But, two of the side effects, are two other types of Cancer (yep! Endometrial and uterine). I didn’t want to exchange one type of Cancer – for 2 more. I also would’ve had to stay on it for 5 years, while taking a host of other drugs to counter the side-effects. I was single, and only 31 at the time – and I wanted kids someday, which complicated things further. I would need to freeze my eggs and the procedure, not including yearly storage fees began at $60,000. It also wasn’t covered by any insurance – and there was no guarantee. So, after endless amounts of research, none of those were the best options for me.
How did you treat yourself- with juicing, supplements etc?
I did and still to this day am using a personalized combination of therapies under the guidance of a doctor who, luckily, has the same healing philosophy I do. With the biggest emphasis being on my diet – I use the grocery store as my pharmacy, relying heavily on nutrition for prevention. I drink fresh, organic green juice or smoothies for breakfast and have lots of homemade soups and salads for my other meals. I shop the perimeter of the store (where the fresh stuff is) and live on a vegetarian-based, anti-inflammatory diet. No microwave, no fast food, no preservatives, no artificial flavor, color or sugar. Also, nothing packaged, processed, bagged, boxed or canned. I occasionally have minimal amounts of the highest quality of meat and dairy, if any, and we make everything almost entirely from scratch in my house. We’ve gone back to the simplicity of how our grandparents did things. It’s a lot of work, and takes a lot of planning ahead, but it’s totally worth it!
Aside from my diet, I also use systemic enzyme therapy, which helps with inflammation and take pharmaceutical-grade vitamins and nutritional supplements that cost more than my rent! Unfortunately, most of my integrative doctors, treatments, tests and supplements are ongoing, and aren’tcovered by any insurance, so we’ve set up a Green Juice Fund to help with related expenses.
One of the toughest things about natural or integrative Cancer treatment is that it can be extremely expensive, but as they say… you can pay the farmer now, or the doctor later. It’s a complete lifestyle overhaul and an ongoing, lifelong commitment. Unlike conventional Cancer treatment, it’s not over in x number of sessions, days or weeks. It’s about a higher quality of life during the journey, and it constantly has to be managed. There is no destination, so it takes a lot of discipline because you don’t see results over night.
I know you mentioned your cancer was not genetic- why do you believe you got it, especially so young!?
Before I was diagnosed, I had no idea that only about 10% of Cancer is genetic, meaning the other 90% is environmental and lifestyle related. I was a professional figure skater with no family history, and tested negative for the BRCA genes, so I didn’t see it coming! While I’ll probably never knowexactly what caused it, I now believe it was a combination of lifestyle factors – poor diet, high stress, lack of sleep, toxic beauty + cleaning products, etc. I lived on bagged salad and canned soup, worked my ass off 7 days a week with two jobs (one being my own business), was sick and tired all the time, had no health insurance, and would spend my last cent on the latest beauty product at the MAC counter. And the list could go on. Although I thought I was doing all the right things at the time, the combination created dis-ease, and since we don’t know what caused it – I needed to change everything I did in order to have a different outcome.
One of the things that really hit home for me was when I began reading labels and realized that beauty product ingredients in the US weren’t regulated. It was that instant that my bubble burst and I realized that my beauty products were probably what pushed my body burden right over the edge! Like most Jersey-Girls my age, I was a glam-obsessed beauty junkie, who bought and used tons of products, went tanning, wore a lot of makeup and perfume, always had my hair and nails done, etc. The product-layering and long ingredient lists used in combination with each other were most likely creating a hormone-disrupting, carcinogenic cocktail – that my skin had been absorbing for years on a daily basis! The bigger problem was that like most young skaters, dancers, cheerleaders and pageant girls – I had been wearing it for competitions since I was 4 years old (not like they do today though).
Other than skating, my dream job had always been to work for MAC.Makeup was always my passion, and I had been a loyal customer for 15+ years – until I noticed exactly how toxic the ingredients in their products were! I was devastated, but it was a no-brainer that they had to go… along with everything else I’d ever used – including my ivory soap, which was in fact, not 100% pure. Who knew? Totally crushed, I created The Glamorganic Goddess to hold myself accountable so I couldn’t cheat and write about my experiences of finding clean beauty products that worked, without carcinogens and without sacrificing my standards. It’s been a crazy ride, and while I still mourn my MAC, I’ve greened my glam and found tons of FAB products I don’t know how I ever lived without! I’m always on the hunt for the next best thing though.
How do you feel about seeing the Pink washing going on every October?
In one word, disgusted. Pinktober reminds me of how much Cancer, Inc. profits off of me, and the hell I’ve been through because of it. Most pink ribbon products contain carcinogens, and research money from them goes to Big Pharma companies who – patent a “hope” drug, that they sell back to us, at astronomical prices. Prevention also isn’t as prevalent as it should be with the amount of pink ribbon money raised. None of that money goes into nutritional research, because you can’t patent nature. It’s really just sick and twisted to think about – but without Cancer, a lot of people would be out of work. I mean, we’re all aware of Breast Cancer already, so we need to stop buying pink sh*t and educate each other about prevention! It’s the only cure we have right now.
If you could give advice to young women on the topic of breast cancer, what would you say?
More and more younger people are being diagnosed with Cancer these days, so age doesn’t matter anymore. You know your body better than anyone, including your doctors… so if you feel like something isn’t right, let somebody know!
No test is as accurate as a monthly self-breast exam. Use the Your Man Reminder app, to help you remember when to do them.
If you find a lump, get a second and third opinion before making any major life-altering decisions. Chances are, you have some time, so weigh out all your options, and don’t let anyone pressure you into rushing things. Read everything before you sign it, as there may be irreversible consequences for your body down the road. Be open to treatments and things you never thought you might be. Ultimately, you are the one who has to live with the decisions you make, so make sure they’re what’s best for you – not anyone else.
When donating to a cause, ask exactly where the organization’s funding comes from, and exactly where the money goes and how it will be used – “awareness” and “research” are such general terms. It’s often going to administrative expenses or pharmaceutical companies who profit off of it, instead of actually helping patients and survivors. You can help a Cancer patient in your community by going to your local Cancer center and asking if there’s a patient that’s struggling financially. A bag of fresh, organic groceries or grocery store gift cards can really be a huge help!
Prevention is key! Simplify your life and read your labels. Make sure you understand what you’re putting in and on your body. If you aren’t sure, don’t buy it. Take small steps in the right direction, instead of doing it all at once. Start with the Environmental Working Group and the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. If you need help, find an expert who can educate you, so you can make informed decisions.