Today we’re sharing Allie’s story. After battling cancer while pregnant, delivering a healthy baby boy, and entering remission, she decided to use the Whole30 as a way to start her second chance at life. You can read her entire story on her website, www.twostrong.org, but we’re sharing her Whole30 story in her own words.
A Shocking Diagnosis
At 22 weeks pregnant, I was diagnosed with lymphoma. Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought that this could happen to me, a 33-year-old fitness instructor with no previous medical issues. Due to the aggressiveness of my cancer, I started chemotherapy 5 days after receiving my diagnosis. Working with a highly skilled team, the goal was to have four chemo treatments, wait three weeks, deliver at about 35-36 weeks pregnant, and then finish my last two chemo treatments.
Shortly after I was diagnosed, I learned I was not going to be able to breastfeed as the chemotherapy drugs could pass on to Joel through my breastmilk. When he was in my womb, we had the placenta to help filter it. Although I’m not against formula feeding, this was probably the most disappointing part of being diagnosed. I breastfed my daughter until she turned one, and I wanted Joel to have the same benefits. Ultimately, continuing my cancer treatment took precedence, and I knew that preserving my health was important.
A Healthy Baby
After four rounds of chemo while pregnant, I was induced at 36 weeks and gave birth to my son Joel on March 6, 2018 at 8:04am! He weighed 6 lbs 13 oz and was 19” long. Most importantly, he was completely healthy, passing every test with flying colors!
After Joel was born, I continued my treatment with the remaining chemo and radiation. Thanks to my amazing medical team, I am now in remission. Once I finished treatment, it was time to settle into my new post cancer life. I knew I wanted to take better care of myself. This led me to the Whole30. As I read the Whole30 book, a quote resonated with me:
“This is not hard. Don’t you dare tell us this is hard. Fighting cancer is hard. Birthing a baby is hard. Losing a parent is hard. Drinking your coffee black. Is. Not. Hard. You’ve done harder things than this.”
I had just done two of the three hard things described above. At this point, I knew I could do Whole30 if I set my mind to it.
A Second Chance at Life
Once I entered remission, I strongly felt that I was getting a second chance at life. I wanted to start cooking again for my family and return to some normalcy. It felt like good timing because I had more downtime due to f my maternity leave, and because it’s harder to get out of the house with a newborn!
Secondly, I knew moving forward I wanted to revamp my relationship with food. I’ve been an emotional eater my whole life. I have a hard time saying no to junk food, and once I start, I can’t stop! The constant snacking and sugar cravings are a vicious cycle I could never seem to escape. And like the old saying goes, “you are what you eat.” I wanted to fuel myself with better quality food with the hopes that this may help decrease the chances of cancer recurring too. Plus, like most moms, I would be lying if I said I didn’t want to lose some baby weight from my first pregnancy! I’ve never pressured myself to lose it since I worked out regularly and was pretty healthy (before cancer), so I felt okay in my new mom body. But eventually I knew I wanted to lose it.
Throughout my treatment, my oncologists said I did not have any dietary restrictions. When I met with a doctor at the Integrative Medicine group at my cancer center, I had just started my Whole30 at one month postpartum and four days after finishing my last chemo treatment. She was very supportive of it, and felt that it could help improve my physical, mental and emotional well-being.
An Eye-opening Experience
Thirty days later I feel even more alive than I did pre-cancer. My non-scale victories are vast, but here are a few: I lost some of my baby weight, I am less bloated and have a more vibrant appearance according to friends and family, I feel more optimistic and less anxious. I am more mindful of what I’m eating and how to deal with cravings. I fall asleep more easily, and have sustained energy throughout the day. I’ve learned to read labels and i’ve improved my cooking skills. I am including more color and variety in my diet, and I’m more knowledgeable about nutrition.
My Whole30 experience has opened my eyes to how food makes me feel. No, I will not be eating this way forever (that’s not the program’s intention), but I will be more conscientious about what I eat. After reintroduction, I found that dairy is rough on my digestive system, gluten makes me bloated and sleepy, and I crash hard after eating refined sugar. Those foods I will avoid, but I’ll eat others in moderation as I move into my Food Freedom. Instead of mindlessly eating, I’ll savor off-plan foods on special occasions. I proved to myself that I can have self control with food. I don’t need to eat something just because it’s in front of me. Most people would think I’m crazy for doing Whole30 at a time that would seem stressful. I think it helped me because it fueled my body with what I needed to get through a challenging time.