My why: This is the reason I am an educator and consultant!

Here I am 1 year post finishing chemo. This smiling happy mom is enjoying time with her family but is also living in fear instead of through empowerment!

Here I am 1 year post finishing chemo. This smiling happy mom is enjoying time with her family but is also living in fear instead of through empowerment!

Why do I consult and help women green their homes and lifestyle? This is my why: 9 Years ago I was diagnosed with breast cancer as a young mom. I had surgery, chemo, more surgery, and learned I carry a BRCA mutation. I was blindsided by cancer, scared, tired, anxious, unwell physically and emotionally, overwhelmed and trying to heal from surgery and chemo. I was working to be the best mother and wife that I could be, while trying to restore my health, and did I say I was SCARED and OVERWHELMED?

When I finished chemo my children were 1 year and 3 years old. My mother died of metastatic breast cancer 4 years after her diagnosis and I wanted to learn and do whatever I could to FEEL BETTER, LIVE LONGER, LIVE HEALTHIER, and to TAKE BACK THE CONTROL that cancer took from me. I thought I had 4 years and I made a choice to do whatever I could to at least have those 4 years!

Empowered at the Carrboro Farmer’s Market. I am lucky to have the best in the state.

Empowered at the Carrboro Farmer’s Market. I am lucky to have the best in the state.

I remember asking my oncologists what I could do to reduce my risk of recurrence (I was lucky and diagnosed at stage 2b and not metastatic.) Their responses were “everything in moderation”. I remember thinking, '“WHAT THE HECK DOES THAT MEAN?” I would ask specific questions and this was 9 years ago so even the studies on exercise weren’t out yet. I wanted answers, I wanted someone to tell me what I could do, what I could control. I knew well enough that I couldn’t eliminate my risks of getting cancer again, from being diagnosed metastatic, or from a secondary cancer. What I did want was to FEEL HEALTHIER, FIGHT SIDE EFFECTS, and to do what I could to REDUCE MY RISK.

This is the book where I first learned that Food can be medicine and could help me with side effects and to heal.

This is the book where I first learned that Food can be medicine and could help me with side effects and to heal.

I started researching and came across a book written by Rebecca Katz, ‘The Cancer Fighting Kitchen.’ Now I was on to something! Steps I could take to at least limit my chemo side effects! I read about certain foods that could help with nausea, building back my cells, nourishment for my sick body! That book became by bible and my stepping stone. I started taking local classes on food and nutrition and my father in law had a generous friend that sent a nutritionist to my house that was helpful with some recipes and quick swap in foods I could purchase when short on time to cook. The more nutritious food I ate the more my energy levels increased and I was somewhat hooked, but…

DID I MENTION I WAS SICK, AND TIRED with two young children? Cooking new foods and learning recipes was exhausting. I spent hours on the computer and then at the grocery store reading labels. No joke, my husband would say where have you been? And literally I was at the grocery store for 2+ hours trying to pick out the safest snack option or cereal option and had to ask employees to help me find vegetables and foods I had never hear of, like Swiss Chard, Kale, Jicama (I asked the grocer where the ji-cama was) , quinoa (I pronounced it queen - oh - a). I would leave exhausted and needed a nap after each food shopping experience!

I ditched my Teflon pans and purchased cast iron, I am grateful there was Le Creuset outlet store by my house! AND I COOKED! I nourished my body and I started to take control for my family. Now I would like to say that this process was calm and empowering but IT WAS NOT! I was anxious, worried, controlling about my food and what my children ate. I was powered by FEAR instead of EMPOWERMENT! And here it is:

Grateful for my FRIENDS that were BY MY SIDE THROUGH THE ANXIETY AND THE CALM and EMPOWERMENT AND WATERMELON Summer SMOOTHIES!

Grateful for my FRIENDS that were BY MY SIDE THROUGH THE ANXIETY AND THE CALM and EMPOWERMENT AND WATERMELON Summer SMOOTHIES!

MY WHY: I WISH I HAD ME AND MY KNOWLEDGE AND SKILL SET AFTER I FINISHED CHEMO! I wish I could have had a professional to come to my house or to chat on the phone to tell me how to live greener and healthier!

I wish I had ME to say the process doesn’t have to include fear. To say, “YOU have more power than you realize. This change is going to EMPOWERING! Don’t believe the story that you are powerless.” Don’t believe that “everything causes cancer so you don’t have any power.” Empowerment is STRONG, fears leave us weak. We can shift our story.

I look back at that SCARED, ANXIOUS, WORRIED mom and I wish I could just tell her to embrace the journey because she was on a path of doing better for herself and her children. It DID NOT have to be overnight. SHE COULD have taken it step by step. She could have realized that every step was a step towards feeling better, towards taking some power back, towards alleviating the collateral damage from chemo and surgical menopause.

I wish I had a young mother that went through cancer and understood how to take some control back for health and to help reframe thoughts from “You have to do this” to “You GET to do this!” That simple statement is more powerful than you could believe.

Each step I took towards a nourishing and less toxic life involved hundreds of hours of research (and some panic attacks!) All that time spent can work for you. I want to help you take action to feel better and have more energy, and make less toxic choices in make-up and household products you buy each week. I want you to bring nutrition back to your kitchen to feel better, feel empowered, stronger, and healthier!

Here is a flashback memory: I remember my husband ordered Chinese Food take-out one night a few months after I finished chemo. I ate it and enjoyed it for about an hour and then had the thought that I could never eat that again and I would bring my cancer back. Is this rational, NO! Was this my irrational thought process then? Yes it was. I was fighting what “I couldn’t eat” instead of empowering myself to nourish my body and take back my power, my health. Self care is how I took my power back!

It’s about educated and empowered choices. So if you want to eat Chinese food, or not, or the bacon or not, it is all OK! Education and EMPOWERED CHOICES is what is important. You GET TO focus on what to add, instead of what you take away. Start with adding a few more bites of vegetables, with swapping out your deodorant or your glass cleaner. Small changes matter!

I have learned knowledge is power and empowerment feels WAY Better and Healthier than fear! I choose to limit my risk of recurrence through nourishing my body and reducing my exposure to environmental toxins and to let go of what I can’t control.

Are you in a place where you could use some help? Does any of this resonate with you? Do you want to make changes but just don’t have the time? If so I would love the opportunity to help you with targeted, time and money saving tips to live a greener, healthier and less toxic life! No judgement, no fear, just empowered choices! Let’s set up a time to chat! katerina@ecothriver.com

In health, love and light,

Katerina