To a certain extent, we all seek challenges in life. From physical to emotional, career to health choices, it is not uncommon in western culture to push ourselves beyond on our comfort level.
Jessica DiLorenzo was no stranger to this way of living. Originally from New Jersey, she led a full life as a teacher - elementary school during the day and yoga studio on the nights and weekends. In 2015, she got her dream job leading the arts integration professional development for Sarasota County Public Schools. Her biggest challenge, however, showed itself unexpectedly in the form of a lump on her breast in early 2016.
“When I was told there was a tumor growing inside me - that I had breast cancer - I thought no, no, there has to be a mistake,” she shares. “I thought I was taking such good care of myself, being physically active, eating a mostly plant based diet, keeping track of where my food is coming from.”
“But when the doctor told me that I had a genetic mutation, and that I had nothing to do with why my body was sick, that I couldn’t help it, I felt myself getting really anxious and a bit angry. This woman [the genetic counselor] took all of my power away.”
Again, Jessica felt like there was something wrong. “First, I couldn’t believe I was sick. Then, I couldn’t believe that I didn’t trigger it somehow. I knew if I could get to the root of what caused the disease, I could prevent it from coming back.”
Jessica began working with a natural doctor, who gave her extensive tests and blood work, getting a complete picture of her body. She found out she was high in mercury, and low in vitamin D - which held a direct correlation to breast cancer. She quickly decided to have a double mastectomy.
“I knew my body was strong, I knew I could get through the surgery. I never had a super strong attachment to my breasts, so it just seemed like the right thing to do. The natural doctor I was working with was amazing with helping me regenerate my body, but when the oncologist came to me with my odds of the tumor metastasizing, he told me 30 was a high number. Mine was 45.”
It was then that Jessica started to become fearful. “I was too scared not to do chemo. I didn’t want to think about things like ‘the odds of your survival’ or other things the doctors were telling me. And it’s not something just affecting me, it’s affecting my whole family, and anyone who cares deeply about me. It all plays into your decisions.”
“Sometimes it does take something to wake you up, and for me, it was cancer. I realized the amount of stress that I had in my life was unmanageable, even though I had yoga and meditation. I was carrying a lot: trauma from life, stress that I created. And my body had to tell me it was unwell.”
Chemo wasn’t easy, and after a seven hour infusion, Jessica would often feel like she had the flu for the next week. Still, she reacted well to the medicine, and over Thanksgiving, began a ritual of Tamoxifen, commonly prescribed to breast cancer survivors. “I always wanted to be grateful for what I was going through - for the surgery, for the chemo, for the medicine — but I began taking this pill, and I just never attached to it. I never felt like it was right.”
A few months later, she stopped taking the drug. “This time, I didn’t give into fear. I trusted my body, my intuition, and didn’t let my mind take over. I had built an incredible team of healers who had been supporting me for months - acupuncturists, herbalists, massage therapists, and natural doctors, and I knew it was time to trust what I already believed.”
Today, Jessica is living cancer free, and healthier than ever. “I’m so dedicated to taking care of my own body and not giving in to the fear the oncologist instilled in me. I am absolutely certain I will never have to put my body through such harsh treatment again,” she says.
“The estrogen that is causing cancer is not the natural estrogen, it’s what’s in the environment, it’s in what we’re eating, it’s in the stress hormones. Bringing my stress levels down has been the most vital thing.” To do this, she finds herself spending more and more time in nature. “I believe in its power, I believe in noticing the life in everything. We are all interconnected. How sweet it is!”
Jessica’s smile has always lit up a room, but now it feels even more radiant. “This experience has made me realize I need to lead as an example, for my family, for those I love, for anyone I come into contact with. I do this by eating properly, monitoring my health, taking one thing at a time, and knowing my worth.”