In this month’s Women’s Live’s, Women’s Voice’ feature Sharon Doherty shares her learning experience on the importance of embracing self care and making small changes to support our health and well being.
Hello and Happy New Year!
My name is Sharon Doherty, from Quigley’s Point, Co. Donegal. As we enter a new decade, I think there is so much hope for our health and wellbeing. Here’s a little bit of my life story so far.
I was diagnosed with stage two invasive breast cancer on the 22nd August 2013 at the age of 37. I found the lumps myself but naively thought they were due to hormonal changes and didn’t get them checked out for almost a year.
While I was a little surprised, I knew I had been under a lot of pressure at work, some of it self-inflicted. I was also still grieving for my son who had passed away as a baby nine years previously. I knew in my heart these had been taking their toll. What I didn’t realise at the time of my diagnosis was just how many silly mistakes I had been making that contributed to my illness.
Illness isn’t even a word I really associate with it though because I never felt sick, although I was very tired a lot of the time. Having had breast cancer has brought nothing but hugely positive changes to my life. It was a real wake-up call.
On the day I was diagnosed, the consultant told me I would be returning the following week for more tests. I’ll never forget the look on his face when I let him know I was going on holiday that week and the tests would have to wait until I returned. It still makes me smile. And it was a blessing that I took that time to go away and not be panicked into treatment. I think this is really important. Not to panic or worry overly. Worry achieves nothing positive.
I began to read and research all things health related and I started making some small but significant changes to my life. The more I read, the more I realised just how little I knew. I was fascinated by what I was learning, and still can’t get enough. More importantly, as I implemented the changes I noticed almost instantly, improvements to my health. It was then I began to realise that we have an incredible ability to heal ourselves given the right environment.
When I stopped eating dairy products, headaches that I got frequently, vanished. That was the first and most startling discovery. For years I had been eating painkillers for headaches and simply cutting out dairy prevented them. Too much sugar and white flour products in my diet were contributing to dandruff, candida overgrowth and a mucousy cough in the mornings – lovely. That strong coffee driving to work was making me nervous and on edge all day and seriously damaging my immune system unbeknownst to me. A glass of wine on an empty stomach in the evening was putting further pressure on my body. All of these little things added up and on top of the stress and previous trauma in my life, became too much.
I was able to change so many of these things I and haven’t looked back. I thought I wouldn’t like coffee without milk. Or that I couldn’t live without cheese! But these little changes have been so easy to make. I have also started making a vegetable juice a few times a week which has massively strengthened my immune system. I make bone broth and look after my gut health. I eat a lot more vegetables and I try not to be the stress head I used to be.
One of my friends asked for the bullet points of what I was learning because she didn’t have the time to do all the research I was. From there, the idea for my little book was born. Simple little tips, for general health that people could easily implement into their daily lives. It has taken five years, but finally, You Got This, is in print. It’s available in the Four Masters bookshop in Donegal Town and the Bookmark shops in Letterkenny.
I had a mastectomy at the end of November 2013. By this time I had done enough objective research to know I didn’t want to have chemotherapy or radiation. I was unsure about the hormone drug that it was suggested I take however. I remember clearly the exact moment I decided not to take it.
I had spent the day on my computer and my head was full of conflicting information. Many websites pointed to all the benefits and yet the World Health Organisation listed it as a carcinogen. I simply didn’t know what to do. I looked to the sky and said out loud, “Oh for a moment of clarity.” And the answer came to me straight away. If I took the drugs, I would have absolutely no way of knowing for sure if they caused a recurrence or not. If I didn’t take the drugs, but made changes to my diet and how I was living, then perhaps I would remain healthy and not need any further treatment at all. This is what’s been happening so far.
I have discovered so much through this particular journey. One of the most important things is that prevention is so much better than cure and that everyone has the power to make small changes every day that might just prevent them becoming one of the worrying statistics. I think we live believing that it won’t happen to us, but it can if we’re not looking after ourselves.
The most exciting thing is that there is so much we can do so easily to look after our health and wellbeing. Eat good food and really enjoy it. Laugh and chat with friends, family and loved ones. Get out in the fresh air and breathe deeply. Learn new things and have experiences. Dance, sing, listen to music. Go for regular physio, massage or reflexology to release tension from the body. Have kinesiology, go to a nutritionist or naturopath and find out the root causes of little ailments in the body and make the necessary changes. Stop at times during the day and be aware of life and grateful for it. Pray, meditate, exercise moderately but regularly. Slow down!
You can find me on Facebook @yougotthishealththing
Be well everyone.