Hodgkin’s Lymphoma led me to discover how healing food is

By: Madison Pollack

At 24 years old living in Austin, TX, working at my new, exciting corporate job, starting a new, fun relationship, I remember thinking to myself “I feel like life can’t be this good.” Well, lo and behold, a few weeks later I was diagnosed with cancer. I was having chest pain, night sweats and a consistent cough for about a year before my diagnosis. I always just brushed it off as pulling a muscle or allergies, but after a flight back home from London for work, I could no longer ignore my symptoms. After landing back in Austin, I went straight to Urgent Care, where they did an EKG to test my heart. It came back abnormal so they directed me to go to the ER where the diagnosis journey began.

After lots of tests I was officially diagnosed with Stage 2 High Risk Hodgkin’s Lymphoma on August 1st, 2018. Everyone kept telling me “it’s the easy cancer, you’re lucky” and “if you’re gonna get cancer, this is the one you want.” While yes, Hodgkin’s has a much higher cure rate compared to most cancers, I still had to go through chemo and radiation, and by people telling me that, it made me think that I wasn’t allowed to be fearful or angry at my situation because “I had it easy.”

Once I was done with treatment, that’s when the real struggle began. Your doctor tells you to come back in 3 months for a check up and you’re left on your own…in a whole new world with a new body and new perspective on life. I grew up thinking nothing like this would ever happen to me, so the fact that it actually did, made me think it could happen again. Why not? What would stop it from coming back now that I’m out of treatment?

They tell you the first year is when Lymphoma is most likely to come back, so in that first three months in between my last treatment and first check-up scan, I was a disaster. Not only was I pretty much bald and physically didn’t look like myself, but every single pain, weird feeling in my body, headache, heartburn, any time I had night sweats, itchy skin, anything…I immediately thought the cancer was back. I was having panic attacks and calling my mom in the middle of the night multiple times during the week.

Something inside me clicked and thought, “If I live the same exact way I did before, why would the cancer not come back?” So at my 3 month check up, my scans came back clear, which of course was a relief, but I asked my doctor “Is there anything I should be doing differently? Should I change my diet?” And while I absolutely love my oncologist and am so grateful for him, he didn’t really have the answer for me that I was looking for. He just said to go on about my life and avoid red meat if possible. I had to start looking for answers on my own! I had to feel healthy again and take back control of my own health.

After researching and asking friends who are in the health and wellness space, I found the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and my life was forever changed. I started learning how food, movement, stress, sleep and the thoughts we think actually affect our physical and mental health. I learned how to cook, how to put together easy meals, what nutrients I actually needed, how to feel more energetic, build confidence and just feel like my new, more vibrant self. No more random pains, tight veins, headaches, or heartburn and in turn that reduced my anxiety and stress ten-fold. Food is absolute magic, and my mission became to help everyone I can see it as that too.

I became a health coach to help other survivors get through this tough period after treatment of wanting to be in control of your health, but having no idea where to start. I am now living my dream in Los Angeles as an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, Certified Yoga Instructor, and podcast host, and instead of thinking “I feel like life can’t be this good,” I’ve shifted my thoughts to “I know life can be this good and I am lucky to be here living it.”

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