Breast Cancer Survivor
Rebecca Wadey
Fashion Editor of Metro magazine
New Zealand
Stage II Breast Cancer
  • What was your diagnosis?

    When I was 26 years old I was diagnosed with stage II breast cancer in my right breast. I had a couple of lumps in the breast so mastectomy was recommended (I had a reconstruction using the lat dorsi muscle), radiation as the main lump was close to the surface of the skin, chemotherapy in case it had spread into the bloodstream and hormone treatment as it was a hormone receptive cancer.

  • Did you use a mixture of medical and complimentary treatments?

    Yes. I followed all medical advice without hesitation but with all my treatments I sought adjacent alternate therapies to help deal with the side effects. I also made modifications to my lifestyle to make myself ‘healthier’. At one point I went to a support group run by St Mark’s and we were shown an example on an overhead projector of cancer being like a soup – you just need to change the ingredients up to fix it. I loved this analogy and still take solace in it. The ingredients of the soup in my body today are so different to the ingredients of it ten years ago when I was diagnosed, it’s a completely different environment to the one that could allow cancer to grow.

  • What were the main components of your daily regime while receiving cancer treatment?

    With the whirlwind of being diagnosed, operated on ten days later and starting chemo soon after that I didn’t have much time to get my head around a solid regime. I took vitamins prescribed by a good naturopath but stopped these during chemo as they repeated on me (especially the fish oils, ugh!), spirulina tablets during radio and had acupuncture throughout chemo and then again when I went through chemically induced menopause. But I was still a 26 year old who had to grow up really fast and wasn’t ready for massive change. I ate a lot of KFC chips when I was having chemo! I see my road to health and vitality as a constantly evolving process. And it’s a really enjoyable process now I have the time and the headspace to play round with it without the desperation.

  • What were your top healing products at that time?

    I used rosehip oil on my scars and when I was having radiation. I drank green tea. I got a couple of fantastic meditation CD’s that I made a ritual out of doing.

  • What are the main components of your daily regime today?

    I went through a phase of having lots of acupuncture and taking lots of prescribed vitamins but got to a point where I was spending so much time, money and focus on my health that I felt like staying healthy was my full time job. I also got to the point where I became very anxious about check ups and was overly focused about my health to the extreme that if I got a cough or the flu I would panic. I’ve learnt to manage that anxiety over time, firstly by a fantastic bout of hypnotherapy, and secondly by keeping my body as healthy as possible. The easiest way I’ve found to do this is by diet. I rarely drink and I try and get a lot of sleep and keep stress to a minimum. I eat a lot of fruit and vege, do regular smoothies, green smoothies and green juices. I also exercise regularly and, because the road to good health is a constantly evolving process, for the first time this year I’ve discovered yoga which has been amazing for making my body feel more balanced and strong than it ever has (the missing muscle in my back and missing lymph nodes from my arm made strength and movement problematic for a very long time, I wish I’d discovered yoga ten years ago when I was first diagnosed. Or even better been into it beforehand!)

  • What are your top three healthy living tips?

    1. Have a diet low in preservatives and high in whole foods. If you can afford it get a good blender and/or juicer so you can make regular juices and smoothies. Arm yourself with knowledge about food, nutrition and diet – knowledge is power and I believe food is the best medicine, it should certainly be the first medicine.
    2. Exercise. A strong body leads to a strong mind. A strong body is better equipped to fight and deal with what life throws at it - when you are fit life is easier. Also, the quiet, meditative head space time you get from exercise is so important, whether it be yoga, running, walking etc
    3. Always be open to learning. I feel like every year I get new tools to put in my tool box. And things I may have discounted in the past have a way of creeping up on me. A session of hypnotherapy I did on a whim in Australia completely changed my life but is the sort of thing I may not have been open to at an earlier time. (Although at the same time try and keep a good filter on what you are open to learning and people who misguidedly try and force ideas of their own onto you. It can be very overwhelming to have people try and force things on you, just let your path be a very organic one).
  • What was the most valuable lesson you learned from cancer?

    Cancer was a real shit of a thing and took a lot away from me. But I also learnt a lot about myself, about my strength of character. My priorities are completely different. I have two beautiful children now and thanks to the journey that I’ve been on I am well-informed about good health and as a mother I think that’s invaluable. I also learnt an empathy for people and became less self-absorbed!

  • How is your life different today?

    Well it’s ten years, marriage and two children on so very different!!! I am certainly healthier than I’ve ever been in terms of nutrition, weight, fitness levels. The urgency for good health is starting to fade and I realize I live this way now because I prefer to; not because I’m scared of the consequences if I don’t.