My Story. My journey. my life. and how I can help you
Nutrition is my passion. I am completely fascinated with how the body works and how nutrients from food affect every aspect of our health and quality of life. But nutrition wasn’t always my passion, in fact, I had the absolute worst diet growing up. As a child I lived off of processed foods and sugar. Lots and lots of sugar!!! I loved it! I couldn’t get enough of the stuff. I ate hot dogs on white bread with ketchup and mustard every single day. Well, unless we had pizza or pasta. I grew up consuming the standard American diet (AKA: SAD) loaded with fat, sugar, and empty calories. The first 20 years of my life consisted of this lifestyle. So, what changed, you ask? Cancer.
My Mom was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was in her mid-thirties. I was in third grade at the time and knew she was sick but I did not fully understand the magnitude of her illness…and neither did she. Thankfully she beat cancer and remained cancer-free for seven years. Unfortunately, the dreaded “C” word returned shortly after I graduated high school. My Mom was devastated and in for a tough fight. We were not aware that living a healthy lifestyle may have reduced the risk of cancer recurrence; her doctors did not discuss this with her and, in all honesty, we never considered changing our diet. Nutrition and cancer was never a topic of conversation but when she was diagnosed with breast cancer a second time, our lives forever changed, especially how I lived my life from this moment on.
So, cancer was back and my Mom was really, really sick this time. It came back with a vengeance. My mom received a book titled A Cancer Battle Plan by Anne Frahm from my cousin Sheri-Lynn… this book was the start of something new for me and Mom. We became aware that nutrition could support her immune system and help her beat cancer so we immediately changed our eating habits. We no longer ate processed foods, instead we nourished our bodies with fruits and veggies by consuming a mostly plant-based diet. Not only was she feeling better but she was kicking cancer’s ass!! Yay, Go Mom!! I was in college during this time and after seeing my Mom’s health transform I changed my major from physical therapy to nutrition. I saw first-hand how nutrition was helping my Mom and at that moment I decided I wanted to be a Nutritionist so that I could help others battling cancer.
My Mom was a quintessential bad-ass! She fought hard and defied the doctors when they told her she had only months to live. She stood only five feet tall but was one of the toughest and bravest women I have ever known. How lucky was I to be raised by such as a strong woman! But, God had other plans for her and, in March 2000, my Mom lost her battle with breast cancer. She was only 47 years old.
I was lost without her. She was a single Mom and raised me by herself; it was always me and my Mom against the world. But, she raised me to be strong and to always stand on my own two feet so soon after she passed I immediately returned to school and completed my Bachelor’s degree in Dietetics and Nutrition from Florida International University (FIU). After graduation I decided to enroll in the Master’s program. Heck, I made it this far and I still had so much to learn. I had a mission. I was going to help people battling cancer and I was determined to make this goal a reality.
And I did just that! I became a Licensed Nutritionist/Registered Dietitian and my first job was working with individuals diagnosed with cancer and HIV/AIDS. I got my Master’s degree in 2005 and shortly after I decided to try something new and began my career in academia. I began teaching nutrition to college students and ran the Department of Alternative Medicine at Everglades University in Boca Raton, Florida. Life was good and I was getting ready to marry my fiance, Neil. But cancer struck again.
Six weeks before our destination wedding in Napa Valley, Neil started experiencing severe abdominal pains. I was sure he had diverticulitis but the doctors found something far worse…metastatic pancreatic cancer. That night Neil said to me “just tell me what to eat so I can beat this”. We got married and together we planned to fight this battle. This journey included a vegan, raw food diet, herbs, acupuncture, and chemotherapy. Neil initially did very well and through his diet we were able to maintain his immune system keeping him strong enough to endure the cruelty of chemo. The doctors initially gave him weeks, maybe a few months, to live. He fought a good fight and lived 10 months before losing this battle. He was only 38 years old.
I felt defeated. I hate cancer. I have lost too many people I love to cancer. By 34 years old I lost my Mom and was a widow. Life sure had thrown me some nasty curve balls and I was determined, more than ever, to do something in honor of those that fought so hard to live. I saw how nutrition impacted both my Mom and Neil. Though it didn’t save them it did improve their quality of life. I often wonder if their outcome would have been different if nutrition had been a significant factor in their lives. I had so many unanswered questions, I was no longer fulfilled at my job, and I wanted to learn more about the correlation of diet and cancer. I quit my job and returned to FIU to earn my PhD in Nutrition. I am doing what I set forth to do…I am making a difference.
I conducted a clinical trial, the first and only study using nutrition and yoga to affect quality of life in breast cancer survivors. My study, The Impact of a Nutrition and Yoga Intervention in Breast Cancer Survivors’ Quality of Life, found that using yoga and nutrition together, breast cancer survivors’ could improve their dietary intake and quality of life. Cancer treatments continue to evolve and improve and, as a result, there are more than 3 million cancer survivors today. Cancer survivors all have unique dietary and quality of life concerns and this is where I am going to leave my mark.
On a personal note, I have since re-married. In 2011 I met and married my amazing husband, Rob. We live a beautiful life in Deerfield Beach, Florida. I love spending time with my family and I have two amazing step kids, David and Lisa.
We have three dogs that completely run our lives, LOL. And did I mention my husband, Rob? Of course I did, but he is worth mentioning again. He is my rock, the love of my life, and he keeps me thoroughly amused with his quick wit and sense of humor. Oh, and he is an amazing cook! I am one lucky gal.
I am a nutritionist, a researcher, a business owner, a college professor, and a yoga instructor. I love it all so much I can’t just do one thing. I am so grateful that I love what I do…and do what I love. Each day I get to to make the world a healthier place by educating my students, offering my nutrition expertise to my clients and social media followers, and by connecting with yogis at the yoga studio.
Life has not been easy but life has blessed me with the most amazing people. Every day is a journey and I try to live this journey as healthfully as I can so that I can continue to share my knowledge and experience with all of you.