Conscious, Courageous Choices

Autumn 2017, Living Well Magazine

by Sharda Sethi

On the 10th June 2012, soon after my 41st birthday, I was diagnosed with early stage breast cancer.

My health prior to this had not been very good either. I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia in 2008 and lived with constant pain and extreme fatigue on a daily basis. I had given up my job and devoted the little energy I had to looking after my family and two young kids. Life was difficult but I learned to manage.

After receiving my cancer diagnosis I felt like I was on a roller coaster ride, not knowing what’s coming next… an analogy I am sure many people in a similar situation would identify with. We got busy with specialist consultations, tests, scans, biopsies, hospital visits and organising things for when treatment started.

I had to undergo two surgeries, which were followed by six months of chemotherapy. I had a very weak body and immune system prior to starting so the harsh treatment had me bedridden most of the time.

This period was no doubt the hardest time in my life. However it was also one of great learning.
I used this time to read, research, listen to and follow other people online going through similar challenges.

I read Dr Ian Gawler’s book ‘You Can Conquer Cancer’ first which was very inspiring and very informative, and started making changes to my diet after reading it. I was vegetarian already but gave up dairy and completely eliminated refined sugars from my diet. I was very lucky to have a supportive family around me and was able to introduce juices into my diet on a daily basis. I had a green juice, and a carrot, beetroot & ginger juice daily. I also started growing my own wheatgrass and having a wheatgrass juice shot every day. We started buying more organic produce.

One thing that surprised me was that I did not need a single blood infusion during my chemo. This is something I was told I would have to have especially since I was a vegetarian and my iron levels would inevitably drop due to the chemo. They did fluctuate but never got below the minimum line. I strongly believe that this would have been due to the green juices I was having.
I was also seeing a Homeopath and an Ayurvedic doctor who were helping me cope with the side effects of chemo – I had severe brain fog and memory loss, which continued for a while even after the treatment had finished. I think the herb that I was taking, called ‘Brahmi’, helped to get over this. My homeopath also gave me remedies to help with my WBC count and haemoglobin counts, and to heal the nerve damage in the tips of my fingers.
I started meditating more regularly, and also had a professional energy healer work on me regularly. I found that this helped me immensely – emotionally and psychologically – to face the situation. I continued having monthly body massages, a practice I had started when suffering with fibromyalgia.

Once treatment finished I started a rehabilitation programme at Eastern Health, which was helping me to get some movement back into my life. I slowly started getting some energy back, and in June 2013 I attended the 10-day ‘Life and Living’ cancer retreat at
The Gawler Cancer Foundation in the Yarra Valley, Victoria. This was a life changing experience. I learned so many more things and I think it also started a process of self-discovery within me. I came back even more motivated to look after myself and made a few more changes
in my lifestyle.

I cut out salt intake from my diet and started cooking my food in water instead of oil. These changes were not easy to make especially coming from an Indian background, however I was fully committed to getting better – for myself and for my family. I adapted my cooking to incorporate these changes and going out for a meal became a very occasional thing. I was on The Gawler Cancer Foundation’s ‘healing diet’ for about two years.
I also meditated more often and tried to incorporate daily exercise into my routine. I found that this had a direct impact on my emotional health as well. Utilising the assistance of exercise physiologists at a rehab centre close to home helped a lot in making sure I was on track with my exercise programme. I continued this programme for over six months and was able to start practicing Yoga again.
There were many ups and downs during my recovery. The side effects of medical treatments and trying to adapt to the new lifestyle had its own challenges. During a meditation retreat I attended in 2014, a lot of old grief and trauma came to the surface and with the help of my amazing meditation teacher and counsellor I was able to move through it. This process completely changed everything for me. I began to feel much lighter, more enthusiastic about life and ready to move forward to the next phase.

All my research helped me realise the importance of reducing the toxic load on our bodies. I started using natural household products and personal products, installed a kitchen water filter and shower filter in our house, started consuming organic produce whenever possible, got rid of toxic cookware and stopped consuming foods with additives and flavourings.

I learnt to make fermented foods like sauerkraut and kombucha, and started including them in my diet regularly.

I continually read spiritual & other self-help books and listened to spiritual teachers to help me through. I used affirmations regularly and my favourite one was “I am not alone”. I believed that my angels and the universe were always with me, and would help me get through this, and I often handed my worries to them. Prayers and faith helped a lot.

I also started consulting a naturopath to make sure I was on track and to get advice on the right supplementation for me.

It’s been over four years now since my medical treatments finished and I am feeling better than I ever have before. I no longer wake up with pain each day, and I have more energy and a sense of purpose to life. I have relaxed my diet a little bit now and I do go out for meals occasionally. I just choose the best possible menu option available to me at the time. I do occasionally slack off a bit on meditation or exercise and then remind myself again to get back on track.

I continue to have an integrated approach to healing and wellness and have regular visits to my GP, surgeon, naturopath, massage therapist and counsellor. I am grateful for all the care, guidance and support I have received from my teachers, healers, doctors, nurses, hospital staff, family and friends on my journey. Also to all the people who, by sharing their own experiences have inspired me, and continue to inspire me every day – people like Dr Ian Gawler, Kris Carr and Jessica Ainscough, for that I will be forever grateful.

Cancer taught me to make Conscious Courageous Choices! The dreaded ‘C’ word became a catalyst and helped me discover what it meant to live consciously, stand up for what I felt was right for me and choose it even if it was different from the norm.

I recently started a blog and hope that by sharing my journey, experiences, tips, recipes and more, I might be able to inspire others to make conscious & courageous choices every day of their lives. For more information please visit www.shardasethi.com.