Herbie of the Week: Rachel S (She Went Plant-Based & Is Now Cancer Free!)

Meet our Herbie of the Week: Rachel S!

Rachel found herself researching a plant-based diet while recovering from a hysterectomy and lumpectomy.

After her first treatment of chemo, she watched "Forks Over Knives" and decided to stop treatment all together (and with the support of only one of her doctors), and adopted a plant-based diet.

Three years later, Rachel is continuing a healthy way of living and is cancer free!

Read on for her inspirational story!

My name is Rachel and I am 50 years old. I would like to share my journey to the plant-based world.

In 2011 my husband Don and I began a journey to get healthy. We lost weight and became active. The initial weight-loss was from a prepared package food diet plan and we then went to eating a standard American "healthy" diet plan.

In 2012 I was having some health issues, I was diagnosed with fibroids on my uterus. On the day I had my appointment to meet with my gynecologist to discuss a treatment plan, I discovered a lump on my breast.

She recommended a hysterectomy and immediately sent me for a mammogram and ultrasound. The next day I was in her office and her assistant was telling me I had breast cancer. I was in shock, to say the least. She said they would do a biopsy and make me an appointment with an oncologist. I said "What will they do?", she said "Remove it." I said "Remove the lump?," she said "No, the breast." At that shocking news I broke down. The assistant went to get the doctor who came in and hugged me. I said I need to call my husband, you need to tell him what is going on.

While there is a history of cancers in my family, there is no history of breast cancer.

My husband was out of town and flew right home. And all my kids headed over to my house. I went for a biopsy that afternoon. The roller coaster ride began.

Next appointment was with the oncologist and the surgical oncologist. As the two doctors and nurse formed a circle around me to start telling me all about breast cancer, and looking at me like I was an injured puppy, I didn't know what to do. They laid out their plan: 1. surgery 2. chemo 3. radiation, not to mention all the prescriptions.

Thank God the surgeon was all about saving the breast and felt she could remove the tumor and save the breast. I was diagnosed with Stage 2b Invasive ductal breast cancer with extra capsular extension. On July 7th, I had my hysterectomy and lumpectomy (removed a 3cm tumor and sentinel lymph node dissection).

About 3 weeks later I would start chemo. They wanted me to do 6 rounds of chemo followed with 6 weeks of radiation.

During the time of healing from surgery the research began. I did not want to have these treatments and felt there had to be another way. My husband Don, love of my life, started aggressive research. A friend sent us the "Forks Over Knives" DVD, so we started changing our diet. Still not sure about all that was happening and not having anyone to speak with about other treatments we went to the first chemo treatment (reluctantly). Then the day after for the shot (neulasta) to regenerate my white blood cells.

That night I laid in bed crying, I could feel all the poison going through my body. I said to my husband, "I can't explain to you what I am feeling, I just know that it is wrong. I can't do this to my body, I can't fight cancer unless I am healthy and strong."

We continued the research and praying. Before my next scheduled chemo (3 weeks) I told my husband that I decided not to continue with this treatment. He was very supportive and asked what was the plan. I said I don't know. We decided then to change our diet to a plant-based diet, with the help of "Forks Over Knives", Engine 2 and of course Happy Herbivore.

I called the oncologist (he was on vacation). The nurse called me back and she told be that a diet would not help and tried to talk me into continuing on with treatment. I called the radiologist and told him I was not going to be doing treatment. They wanted me to come in to talk but I said no. I called the surgical oncologist and she was shocked. She wanted to speak with both of us, she said she wanted to understand. We did meet with the oncologist to sign off that I was refusing treatment, he was not supportive.

We met with the surgeon and she was very supportive. She said she didn't understand any of it but wanted to treat me the way I wanted to be treated. I told her I was going to see a naturopath doctor for help. My surgeon wanted to know everything we where doing and asked if she could see me once a year . She supported me in all my choices, treatment as well as testing.

My husband found a naturopath who specialized in women's health and breast cancer. I began seeing her in August of 2012. She had me do a detox, natural immune boosting supplements and Vitamin C IVs.

Timeline:

2012

  • May: diagnosed with Breast Cancer and Fibroids on Uterus
  • June: Surgeries and chemo (3 weeks after 1 treatment, I lost all my hair)
  • July: Fully commit to going plant-based and exercising regularly, stop all standard medical treatment, and search for naturopath
  • August: Already feeling healthier, begin detox, natural immune boosting supplements and Vitamin C IVs
  • November: Ran my first 10K
  • December: Continue with plant-based lifestyle and no longer seeing naturopath

During the first year of going plant-based people around me were for the most part very supportive. Even if they didn't understand they could see me getting healthy. My husband and my daughter, who still lived at home, both ate plant-based with me. We all gave up dairy and for the most part animal protein.

Except for my surgeon, I had no support from the medical community.

I could really begin to feel how what you eat affects how you feel. I used to have a lot of headaches and allergies/sinus issues, that was gone. I had more energy and was happier.

I really love ice cream and chocolate, so I guess that was the hardest for me. Surprisingly, my husband being a meat and potato man said he was surprised he did not miss meat. During that first year as well as removing all processed food, meat and dairy from my home, I began removing toxic cleaning products as well.

I did really well for the first year and half to two years. But life caught up with me and I fell off the wagon (as they say). I think that physically and emotionally I simply hit a wall. Unfortunately my husband hit the same wall. So we were both down at the same time. But over the past couple of months we are working our way back. We are exercising again and changing our diet back to plant-based. We definitely feel the effects that unhealthy eating is having on us physically. Not feeling good and putting weight back on :(

In May 2013 I had my mammogram and met with my surgeon for my exam, everything was great. May 2014 I decided not to have a mammogram but still met with my surgeon for my exam. Everything still looked great, but I shared with her how I have gone back to unhealthy eating. She was very encouraging and said, "I know that you will get back on track, I am not worried abut you." Because she has seen what I can do over the past 2 years. And then she told me something that blew me away, she said "I am now vegan" for health reasons. WOW!!

I will say that throughout these past 2 1/2 years having Happy Herbivore there has been very helpful. Some plant-based sites and people are so militant in their ways it is a turn off. However, Lindsay is very supportive, caring and encouraging. Do the best with what you have. This has kept me going and coming back to a healthy way of living.

I am thankful for my family and all their support when I truly needed it. I couldn't have done it without them. I love you all, my husband Don, my kids, Donny, Bevin, Katie, Jason and Jessica and my grandson Logan.

I am not where I want to be, but I am going in the right direction and continue to be cancer free!!!

Thank you to all the Herbies who support each other.

Thank you Rachel for sharing your story with us! You are such an inspiration!

Update (March 2015)

I am getting back in shape....eating healthier and exercising (all with my husband by my side). Feeling strong. I would just like to say that we all need to listen to our bodies. Our bodies tell us what we need, food, exercise and rest. If you listen you will know what foods make you stronger, what foods heal you, and what foods make you sick and tired. Be strong and confident.....it's your life....fight for it !!!!