Anyone faced with a diagnosis of cancer, has to make some courageous decisions. This story is about one woman whose soul resonated deeply with non-conventional ways to heal her body after being diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer. This is a truly courageous story of how Justine Laidlaw has overhauled how she eats and lives to give herself the best possible chance of having a full and vibrant life. Check her story out below:
- What motivated you to change the way you eat and live?
As a child I hated vegetables and meat, and anything that was good for me. We grew up eating copious amounts of sugar and almost every night after dinner we would be looking for that sweet something to end the meal. Ice cream, chocolate, canned fruit or puddings you name it we had it. Lollies for morning tea was pretty much a daily occurrence from my gorgeous mother (she knew no different at the time) – isn’t that just the craziest thing! I absolutely cringe about the thought of this now.
Through my teenage years my bad habits continued. It was nothing for me to buy a meat pie and a packet of chips for lunch every day, which was washed down with a can of coke. Drinking water didn’t exist unless it had Raro sachets mixed into it.
Fast forward to my late 20’s, fatigue, depression, endometriosis and chronic headaches started to creep in. I was that typical party girl, copious amounts of alcohol would be washed down most weekends where trips to McDonalds, KFC and the likes where just part of my norm!
My health was never flash from that point on. In my early 30’s, I was faced with the reality that I couldn’t have children from the internal chaos created from a hospital bug following emergency surgery while I was travelling in Australia. My internal & external scars had already manifested to a very real outcome that I had to face.
I did not expect that after all the mental and emotional exhaustion that had come with my journey so far that I would be then faced with a Cancer Diagnosis. I was tired from surgeries and had developed chronic fatigue. The journey was rough at times, I can still smell the anesthesia and feel all the IV needle pricks and of course I felt the pain in my emotional body.
With surgery comes copious amounts of scar tissue. Little did I know that right where my appendix was removed, I started to get some nasty pain while my husband and I were travelling through Vietnam & Laos on motorbikes in 2013.
I had just turned 45 years old and I thought I was fighting fit. By this stage I had learnt that gluten wasn’t my friend & neither was dairy, and I had cleaned up my diet of processed packed foods, alcohol and takeaways hugely over the past 5 years however my love for the sweet stuff just didn’t go away.
On my return to New Zealand, I was then faced with the reality of an aggressive Stage 3 Colon Cancer. I had a very large tumor in my colon and the cancer had spread to my small intestine, right ovary and lymph nodes. I initially refused surgery and treatment as I thought I could heal my body by adopting a raw food diet (well that’s what I had read). But 3 months later I could barely get off my couch with the pain and my levels of fatigue were rapidly declining. I had to surrender to myself and accept that I needed surgery to give me the best chance at surviving.
Having previously seen my father pass away some 10 years earlier to colon cancer, even after fairly invasive treatments, I was determined to research how I could best manage my disease with natural options. I certainly didn’t hold any hope in the conventional treatment options of Chemotherapy and Radiation. I had trained years ago as a pharmacy technician and all I saw was more sickness from patients taking what I considered toxic drugs.
- What changes did you make?
This was without a doubt my biggest motivation to make change on all levels. After all, I had only been given a 16% chance of surviving and a 50% chance of survival if I did go ahead with the recommended radiation and chemotherapy treatment. However, my deep inner knowing or intuition told me to listen to my inner voice. I sought help from an amazing natural health clinic who at the time had 17 different practitioners each in their own field of expertise. They put together a healing programe for me which included ozone therapy, supplements, energy medicine, counselling, mindfulness and a diet plan.
Once and for all I had to STOP EATING SUGAR, this was by far the toughest challenge in my life – however I just had to, there was no going back to that way of being.
Eliminating sugar from all forms including too much fruit in my diet was where it was at. I cut all processed and packaged foods and greatly increased my vegetable intake with loads of leafy greens. Grains really upset my stomach as did raw foods, so I included daily vegetable juices with mainly greens and wheat grass which alowed my body to heal gradually with the energy these superfoods gave me. Bone broth became the star of the show to help with the healing of my seriously compromised gut health, along with steamed vegetables and fish as my only source of animal protein for the first 3 months post surgery.
- How have the changes you have made changed over time?
It’s my belief that this diagnosis made me STOP and really take a look at the bigger picture of my life and to look at my past and think seriously about what I was doing, not just with food but with LIFE!. When I started to be more mindful and let go of the negatives in my life and what I was holding on to, I began allowing myself to operate from a place of ease rather than a place of dis-ease. I could now recognise that I had stayed in jobs that didn’t resonate with who I was and who I wanted to be. I had to deepen my spiritual connection and embrace the positive emotions my body was telling me to embrace. This also meant that I needed to follow what I was here for, to start following my life’s purpose and to start living it – I now LOVE what I do.
The diagnosis also made me take control of my own destination. I didn’t want to hand my power away to the doctors and specialists who said I was CRAZY!!! Every clinic appointment found my internal voice saying “NO WAY”. I just had to check into my own GUT instinct and listen to my own internal voice, the voice that said you can do this your own way, a way that resonated with me on a deeper level.
- What positive changes are you experiencing or have you experienced?
Whenever someone asks me about my health and how I’m feeling I say, “I’m awesome, I feel amazing!” because the majority of time I am and I do. I mean I am actually still ALIVE!!! Now that’s positive huh! My surgeon can’t quite believe that I am still alive. I live a very full, happy and healthy life – despite having cancer cells in my body. Every follow-up scan shows just ONE lymph node with cancer cells, however it is gradually shrinking, and I have no spread to any other organs.
- Do you have a food philosophy that you find works for you and your body? If so, what is it?
When I was first diagnosed I went down the path of being a RAW food vegan for 3 months, however my body was cold and not thriving at all and I could feel myself getting sicker and sicker. I changed my way of eating to adopt a more PALEO way of eating including warming slow cooked broths and slow cooked white meats and steamed vegetables. My poor GUT was hankering for this type of food. Every grain, legume or piece of fruit would bloat me and make me feel so lousy, it drained my energy unbelievably. These days my gut can handle more raw foods again. Sticking to a mainly organic or spray diet with virtually NO processed or packaged foods has helped my energy levels hugely. Any animal protein I eat is Organic or free range, I still limit my fruit intake as my body simply does not like the fructose too much. I am predominantly grain free and NEVER eat bread made from wheat.
- Do you have a way of living that you find works for you and your body? If so, what is it?
As part of this journey I have been inspired to find a new way forward with my healing. Taking time to really STOP and smell the roses, go for long walks in the bush, regular YOGA and mindfulness is now part of my new way of doing things. For me, my new way of living also started with retraining as a Life Coach and a Integrative Nutrition Health Coach. I have a deeply embedded passion to help people live to be the best they can be. We have so much more control over our health & well-being than most people realise…at any age. So my way of living is to share my story and embrace my purpose of coaching others and cancer patients. The ensuing transformation has given me the reason to be, a greater understanding of who I am, love and acceptance of my imperfections and gratitude for the opportunity to work with people who want to find greater happiness.
- Who were the key people you supported you to find a way of eating and living that works for you?
I have been inspired by many individuals along this journey, however I have really learnt to listen to my GUT! While I was studying with the Institute of Integrative Nutrition, we were taught all sorts of dietary theories, some resonated with me and others didn’t. I tried many different ways of eating, however I always came back to the basic’s of good quality protein, loads of vegetables and wholefoods as this seemed to sit right for my body.
- What part of your way of living do you find most challenging?
Initially it was very overwhelming having a cancer diagnosis, at the time I had to put loads of TIME into my healing which was HUGE! Now as I start to get busier with my business, finding the time to fit in my treatments, exercise and eating healthy is a challenge. Making sure my food is well organised is still one of the biggest time consuming things for me. It is getting easier these days as far as finding healthier choices when eating from cafes, thankfully the wholefood movement is really starting to become ALIVE with many more options.
- When you feel your body is out of balance, what are the things go to in order to restore balance again (i.e. any foods/activities that you find particularly balancing/energising)
On a physical level I always go back to getting into mother nature and walking and bringing in more vegetable juices into my diet especially with wheat grass and green vegetables, they really help rest my digestive system and give me my energy back if I feel it needs it. I take the time out to eat without the distraction of the Computer or TV, or while driving so my body makes the connection to food as being healing.
On an emotional level I use the NZ flower essences to calm any overwhelming stages I may go through. And I love having BODYTALK sessions with a local practitioner, this gets my energetic system back into balance fairly quickly. Massage is a go to for some ME time and I embrace time with my good friends, they are so healing!
- What would your advice be for anyone wanting to explore their food and lifestyle and the impact it might be having on their health?
Just knowing that food changes everything. It changes how you think, feel and how much energy you may have. How well your digestive system operates, it’s the core basis to GOOD health. I also reckon we have to count on doing something every single day towards making changes for a healthier way of doing this thing called LIFE. Taking some baby steps in a way that makes you feel good about your yourself, in a way that’s not overwhelming, by taking one small step in the right direction.
Just do it, it’s so worth it!
Justine offers guidance to anyone wanting to improve their general health and wellbeing as well as specific support for cancer patients interested in finding out more about cancer fighting foods and guidance for natural cancer treatments.