When I was in elementary school, I used to love to write stories and enter writing contests. As I grew older, I dreamed about writing a book one day, but I never imagined that book would be about recovering from breast cancer.
Health and fitness have been a passion of mine my entire life. When I was a kid I would watch my dad, a Los Angeles County Deputy Sheriff, practice karate and lift weights. He inspired me to be strong and fit. I would read through his body building magazines and play with the weights that he kept in the garage while I watched for any sign of muscle to begin to show in my arms. Throughout my high-school years, I played on every sports team I could squeeze into my schedule. As I grew older and had children of my own, I loved cooking wholesome food, and learning everything I could about exercise and nutrition. In 2004 I was invited to a local yoga studio by a friend of mine and I was immediately hooked. I began to practice and study yoga regularly which motivated me to become a vegetarian and to focus even more on how I nourished my body. I became a certified yoga teacher in 2006 which was also the year that I graduated from the California College of Ayurveda with a certification as a Clinical Ayurveda Specialist. Ayurveda is the East Indian traditional system of medicine. The word itself means, the science of life. Like yoga, I was enthralled with Ayurveda from the moment I was introduced to it at a workshop in the yoga studio I attended. After graduation I began working at a wellness center where I developed lifestyle programs, and formulated herbal remedies for my clients based on Ayurveda principles.
In 2010 I decided to take my exercise knowledge to the next level and I earned my personal training certification through the American Council on Exercise (ACE). I believed that I had a well-rounded understanding and approach to wellness and I was certain that I would live a long healthy life. Maybe I would even be one of those 80-year-old ladies who still looks great and does hot yoga every day because after all, I did all the “right” things to earn the privilege of a long, healthy life.
So, when I rolled over in bed on that sunny July morning in 2011, in my adorable condo thinking about my full, happy life and the fun of the upcoming 4th of July weekend and I felt a lump in my right breast, I was shocked. I had never had cystic breasts, so I knew right away that something wasn’t right. In 1993, my brother lost his young life to testicular cancer at the age of 32, and when I felt that lump, my heart dropped into my stomach as the memories of what he endured, and how it all ended came flooding back to me. How could this be happening? This was not the way my life was supposed to go and certainly not the way it was supposed to end! I had so much living to do, children still to raise, cancer was not a part of my plan…until it was.
I was diagnosed with stage 2, invasive ductile carcinoma on July 11th 2011. In August, after running through all of the scenarios for treatment options with my doctor, I had a lumpectomy because I thought that was the safest choice and the one that I had the time, medical benefits and finances to deal with as a single working mother.
During the lumpectomy, my doctor found that cancer had spread to my lymph nodes. The stage of my diagnosis was increased to 2B, and I was told I needed to have 6 rounds of TAC chemotherapy (Taxotere, Adriamycin, and Cyclophosphamide). To say I was devastated by that news would be an understatement. I just kept thinking about the suffering my brother endured for the last six months of his life. The suffering that I never wanted my children to have to watch anyone go through, especially not me. Fortunately, for me and my entire family, prescription management of the side effects of chemotherapy had come a long way since 1993, and even though my treatment wasn’t easy, it went better than my brother’s had and it had a better ending too.
While I was going through chemo, my post-surgical pathology revealed that I still had more cancer in my right breast. Because I was small breasted to begin with, it would have required as mastectomy to get all of the cancer and clear tissue margins around it. At this point I wanted nothing more than to get this treatment done and never to have to deal with it again. I was concerned that if I had only a single mastectomy, I would be back in that chemo chair in the very near future dealing with breast cancer again. Vanity also played a part in my decision because I wanted my breasts to be symmetrical and look somewhat normal after reconstruction. So, I made the decision to have a bilateral mastectomy in March of 2012 followed by reconstructive surgery.
Between, expansion, infections, and slipping implants, I had four surgeries between March and November of 2012. I wrapped it all up by having my nipples tattooed on and I was officially done with everything in December of 2012. Well, almost everything. I just had to figure out how to deal with the bone and joint pain, 40 lbs of weight gain, the neuropathy in my hands and feet, and accepting the changes that chemo had caused to my skin, my face, my eyes, my digestive system, and everything else in my body, including being chemically thrown into full-blown menopause!
I suppose this is where the real story began for me. During cancer treatment, I just had to follow the protocols, but when treatment was over and I had to deal with the aftermath, the struggle to regain my health was real and it took diligence, research, trial and error and more than a few frustrated tears. However, it led my down a path of healing, growing and fueled a desire to serve others that I could never have imagined. Now, I use my experience with breast cancer, and my education as a Healthy Lifestyle Coach, Clinical Ayurveda Specialist, Personal Trainer and Yoga Teacher, to support other women who have survived breast cancer to find their way back to health.
I believe that balance in all things is the healthiest way to live. I’ve learned to let go of a lot of ideas that did not contribute to my well-being while still pursuing the activities that I love the most including, playing with my grandchildren, yoga, challenging myself physically with exercise routines and mentally with practicing non-judgement (Of myself and others) and mindfulness. Now, I give myself permission to do what I can do, not necessarily what I used to do, or what everyone else is doing. I’m still a work in progress and some days are better, and easier than others, but every day I make a conscious decision to choose happiness and to fully participate in life.
I don’t take any medications now (lucky), and I concentrate on making my lifestyle my medicine and my vehicle to wellness.
Feel free to email me with questions at Laura@LauraLummer.com. Become a part of our thriving community of breast cancer survivors by following me on social media @TheBreastCancerRecoveryCoach or like my Facebook page here , and subscribing to my podcast, “The Breast Cancer Recovery Coach”.
Until Next time,
Let your lifestyle be your medicine,