My name is Cecilia Ayoub and this is my story of how I became a five-year Breast Cancer Survivor. I am sharing my story with other women hoping they will benefit from my experience.
It all started five years ago, when I felt a lump in my breast. I went to the doctor who did an ultrasound and told me to come back in six months as it’s probably nothing, because I was young and healthy, and I heard what I wanted to hear, I went home and did not worry about it. When I went back after six months the doctor saw that the lump did not change. So they told me to wait another six months. A year and a half went by and I felt that the lump became bigger, I started to worry and this is when I went back to see my doctor. After examining the lump, she said that the lump changed in shape and size and that a biopsy was needed. The biopsy was inconclusive, this is when my doctor advised me to remove the lump so it could be examined. Results came back and unfortunately my doctor diagnosed me with invasive carcinoma! The doctors were surprised and told me it was unusual to get this kind of Cancer at my age, I was only forty when I was diagnosed.
Immediately after my diagnosis my husband started researching the best places to receive treatment. I ended up going to California, were I had all my treatments. My treatments consisted of Chemotherapy, bilateral mastectomy, radiotherapy, and oophorectomy a surgery to remove my ovaries. I ended up having my ovaries removed because the tests showed that I had the BRCA gene which was devastating to find out and a complete surprise. All these treatments plus the breast reconstruction surgery took about a year and a half.
During this time, I had great support from my family and friends especially my husband and my mother, my friends were incredibly supportive and helpful. I also joined a breast cancer support group which was great because I felt heard and understood. This help and support from family members and other people was extremely important in my healing process.
Lifestyle changes after my breast cancer experience
I was always a healthy person, but after my experience with Breast Cancer I became even more healthy. I started studying functional medicine. I wanted to find out why I got Breast cancer, functional medicine looks for the root cause of disease. Then, I realized that health is not only about food and exercise, it is about emotional health, sleep, having a community, stress management and so on. Also, I learned to let go of negative emotions, holding grudges, life is too short for all these! and we only have one life to live. It taught me to become mindful, started a meditation practice and became a Yoga teacher.
If healthy people get Cancer, why should we bother being healthy?
This is something people keep telling me. But I will never forget a conversation I had with my oncologist. In one of my appointments with her, I was feeling really upset and overwhelmed. I said to her, I am a fitness instructor, health coach, I am positive, and I love life…Why did I get cancer?! I am a healthy person! and she said: everyone can get cancer, no matter how healthy they are. The difference is that when you have a healthy body prior to a diagnosis like the one you did; it makes a world of a difference! Chemotherapies are no joke! My body was strong to endure the side effects of the treatment. I used to swim in the ocean with my bald head, I used to run and hike! I did it all! and yes, this was because of my prior healthy lifestyle.
During all my treatments I never stopped exercising (except after my surgeries), I never got sick, my body was strong and ready to fight this zombie attack (breast cancer)- My oncologist told me: “Everything that you did prior to your diagnosis was like a savings account for rainy days”. She also said: You need to deliver this message to everyone you know because having a healthy lifestyle can indeed prevent cancer but it can also help you survive, in case you do get cancer.
What I advise women to start doing from now on
-Take care of your mind and body, listen to that inner voice, if you ever feel a lump in your breast or feel that something is not right, trust your intuition consult a good doctor do all the tests you need as soon as possible and don’t wait. If the doctor tells you that it is nothing, seek for a second and third opinion. All doctors mean well but they are not God and they make mistakes. Take responsibility of your own health.
-Be positive and have faith in your health, but never think that you are invincible no matter how healthy you are.
-Manage stress by doing a physical activity with mindfulness and try a yoga practice, Yoga changed my life.
-Sleep well. Your mind and body heal when you sleep. Stress and cortisol levels lower while we sleep. Cortisol levels and stress create inflammation in our bodies and most cancers are caused by high levels of inflammation in our body. Developing sleep hygiene in our daily lives is a must!
-Focus on eating real whole foods, avoid processed and pre-packed foods. Focus on eating the rainbow, all different colors of fruits and vegetables every single day. All these plant foods have powerful nutrients and antioxidants that help prevent cancer. Avoid refined sugars, as you may already know sugar increases the likelihood of cancer and drives the aggressive growth of tumors.
Follow Cecilia and learn more about her healthy lifestyle: @manifesthealth