CANCER THRIVER: Living Healthy With Breast Cancer

By Sari Huhtala

Sylvie Lessard glances up from the collection of self-healing books fanned out in front of her. Her eyes widen and a smile creeps across her face. “The cancer has been inactive for two years now,” she says, propping her chin onto her hands as she releases a deep breath. “The cancer is still there, but it’s inactive.” She has no medical reports of mammograms or biopsies to back up her theory.

In fact, she has not even seen a doctor concerning her cancer since 2007.  Aside from doing a Total Body Modification session to confirm her belief, she just intuitively knows, she says. “My body talks to me,” Lessard, a Greater Sudbury resident, says. “When it was still active, even though I was eating extremely well, it would change.

It would get larger and harder and then it would regress when I could implement a more relaxed state of being.” She exudes the calm of someone who has just spent a month in a silent meditation retreat at a Zen Buddhist temple. And yet she considers herself a work in progress – still learning how to give herself the time she needs to feel she has balance in her life, she says.

The latter part of her last 10 years living with breast cancer has been spent on healing the emotional and spiritual side of the cancer. She would be the first to admit she has come a long way since the day she was diagnosed back in October 2007.  Her doctor had urged her to undergo a complete mastectomy immediately after the diagnosis, followed by chemotherapy treatments.

There was such an urgency to it and she just wanted time to consider all of her options, she recalls. “When you have a cancer diagnosis you want to know what else you can do,” Lessard says. “When I received my diagnosis I was told there was nothing else I could do, but I knew there were so many things I could do. It’s really important for people to realize that there are many things that can be done.

“Every journey with cancer is very unique,” Lessard says. “You need to find what works for you, and you need to find out why your life is out of balance and what you can do about it.” It had taken her two years to even go see a doctor after she noticed significant changes to her breast – a symptom of breast cancer. She had been too busy managing family life and a career to find time for self-care, she admits.

With so many being diagnosed with breast cancer, as women “we need to, at some point, look at our life and see how coherent it is with our own values. What is it that does not sit well with you in your life? Sometimes the answers can be scary because it means big changes, but if you have a cancer diagnosis it means your life is not healthy. “It’s a symptom of something else in your life that’s not in balance.

That’s when it becomes very important to reassess every aspect of your life.” She opted not to pursue conventional approaches for the cancer, and instead delved into researching all possible healing modalities including nutrition. As a “book junkie” her top finds have been Dr. Lissa Rankin’s book Mind Over Medicine and Kelly Turner’s book Radical Remission, which outlines nine key factors affecting radical remission in cancers.

Both are must-reads for anyone going through cancer, she stresses. “You can eat the best diet ever, but if you’re under chronic stress the innate capacity of the body to heal is turned off,” she says. These books did not exist when she was first diagnosed, but understanding this concept has been a turning point for her, she says. Lessard started a free monthly Gathering Circle in Sudbury.

“The purpose of our circle is one of empowerment. Let’s come together to share our experiences with cancer and discover new ways of approaching and actively participating in our healing process.”

Anyone interested in attending can contact Lessard at slessard3@gmail.com.

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