Around 1 in 8 women in the US will develop invasive breast cancer in their lifetime, and the month of October is about increasing awareness of this disease.
LUV Founder, Emma Thornton, was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 39, spurring her to dedicate her time to a life of holistic health and wellness. In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we sat down with Emma to learn about her journey, and how the experience can help inspire and encourage others.
Talk us through your diagnosis and how it came about?
I was one of the healthiest, fittest people I knew when I got diagnosed with cancer - but appearances can be deceptive.
My cancer diagnosis was revealed to me in various stages. I found the lump on my left breast first, but it wasn’t the round lump I’d assumed cancer would be. It was more of a cord: rope-like in shape. Luckily my family doctor, despite not being overly-concerned, sent me for a scan right away. Following that, I was asked back for a biopsy, but it was fairly clear to me by then that there was something of interest there - and cancer was obviously top of the list.
How did you process the diagnosis?
I got the call I was dreading the day after my biopsy. I was still at Nike then and I walked down to the Ronaldo Field. It was one of those gorgeous May days, when you notice the warm sun and hear the birds singing.
My world stood still.
I called my best friend in Holland and she was able to offer valuable support and love. My next stop was a colleague who’d been through a very similar experience five years earlier. I walked up to her office and we hugged.
What made you look at holistic health and wellness, and what do you think it added to your treatment plan?
I was aware of how hard chemotherapy is on your body, but since my oncologist recommended it as part of my treatment plan, I wanted to make sure I supported my system whilst I was going through the 8 rounds of chemo.
It’s so important to stay healthy, and get strong in between rounds so that you have the strength for the next one. Chemo doesn’t just kill cancer cells, it kills healthy cells too, and you’re much more susceptible to infection whilst going through treatment.
I realized that although I was outwardly healthy, my system needed to be alkalized and I was suffering from inflammation, which is the cause of so many preventable diseases.
What were the alternative therapies that you also undertook on top of the treatment protocol dictated by your oncologist?
I started with diet and nutrition, as well as continuing daily exercise to keep my lymph system moving.
I tried all the other wellness options I could - from infrared saunas to vitamin IVs and Epsom salt baths. Some were intended to detox and rid my body of the chemotherapy poison, and others were to help me get stronger for the next round.
I also paid special attention to supplements, and in partnership with my medical team incorporated turmeric, turkey tail, cordyceps and essential oils like frankincense into my regimen.
My oncologist also recommended CBD for my type of cancer. At the time, it was incredibly difficult to find good quality, nice tasting CBD - but luckily I live in Oregon, which helped a lot.
How important was the support of family and friends while you were going through treatment?
Cancer can be incredibly lonely, so it’s really important to rally your team and mobilize them in support of you. Whether it’s buddies to take you to hospital appointments, or friends to pick up the children from activities. It all helps enormously.
How did this life experience change you?
It definitely made me more aware of the effect of stress on your body. Inflammation, sleep and stress are all areas that I focus much more on now through diet, nutrition, and activities such as yoga and meditation.
The experience also made me think really deeply about self care and self love. As a busy mother, it’s tempting to put yourself at the bottom of the pile in terms of time and attention. However, if you’re not healthy, then it’s impossible to care for others.
What's the most important piece of advice you can give to a woman reading this who is going through cancer treatment?
You’re not alone.
Stay strong. Breathe. Believe.
You can do this. I will fight with you. Reach out to me directly!
What's the biggest lesson you learned from this experience?
Listen to your body. Pay attention to any changes or signs you see or feel. Get checked straight away if you feel as though something is off, and don’t put off your health checks, whether it’s a mammogram or a colonoscopy. Early detection is key.
Where did you find inspiration?
Friends and contacts who had been through cancer were incredibly helpful. I channeled the mental strength that Navy Seals use (“embrace the suck”) as well as the approach to nutrition and exercise that Lance Armstrong employed. I also liked re-framing: a friend of mine told everyone she was ‘going to the spa’ instead of going to chemo! Finding humor in the darkness was a huge help.
How did your personal experience lead you to LUV?
For me, one of the best memories from my cancer journey was being able to make the nurses smile. I truly believe that my attitude had a huge impact on how my body responded. I’m not saying that I didn’t have dark moments, but focusing on giving love, and sharing love through courage and kindness, made a big difference. Self love and holistic health and wellness makes all the difference. It’s not just about what you put into your body, but also what you put on your body, as well as your mindset, that really counts.
Emma is LUV’s October Woman of the Month - find out more about her here!