Amy Rueda and I first “met” on Twitter, and then began discussing her passion for natural skin care and healthy living. When I read about her battle with Neuroendochrine System Cancer (the same cancer that claimed the lives of Audrey Hepburn and Steve Jobs) and her determination to help others understand how we can choose prevention over cure, I had to interview her.
Todra: Thank you so much for agreeing to speak with me. I know you’re really busy giving talks all over the country. As an educator for The Breast Cancer Fund and EWG’s Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, you’re committed and out there in the trenches helping women understand that we need to take an active role in our health. I so respect that.
Amy: I’m honored to be here. I love your site and your mission.
Todra: Thank you. I feel the same about your mission – and your amazing skin care line, but we’ll talk about that a bit later. I’ve heard a lot of your story, but let’s start at the beginning for our readers. You were 35-year-old with a high powered job with Microsoft. A wonderful marriage to a man who was also a high achiever. You were a mother of a 3 and a 4-year-old. And for most people looking in from the outside, you definitely had the good life. Then you got a diagnosis of a rare form of cancer. How did that hit you? What were your first thoughts when the doctor told you?
Amy: The words knocked the wind out of me, dropped me to me knees. I remember bawling in my mom’s arms telling her “I don’t want to die, I am too young, I have two babies.” You can never explain the feeling that overtakes you when you find out you have a scary, unpredictable, angry disease like cancer. You feel scared, you feel angry, you feel depressed, you feel like your body has betrayed you.
Todra: What stage were you at when they discovered it?
Amy: Stage three because it had leaked into my Periappendicial fat. It was in all my lymph systems. It had gotten into my bloodstream. When they found my tumor, it was already larger than 95% of people who have it, so I’d probably had it for a long time.
Todra: What was going on in your life prior to that? Would you say you were relatively health conscious?
Amy: No. I was traveling for work and shouldering a lot of stress. Because of my high powered job, I was eating bagels out of the vending machine. I drank alcohol at night and coffee to fuel me in between. I didn’t think about my diet or the products I used, how little sleep I was getting. I had expensive clothes, a mercedes, and all sorts of “things” but inside my health was crumbling.
Todra: What happened after you got the diagnosis and it started to sink it?
Amy: I didn’t have a lot of time for things to sink in. The next morning, my husband, my mother and I had to drive to the surgeon’s office. I hadn’t slept at all. So many thoughts were going through my head – I didn’t want to explain this illness to my kids, I didn’t want to lose my hair, my life! When I walked into the surgeon’s office I saw a pamphlet on the table about colon cancer and Rt. Hemicolectomy Surgery. I found out I’d have to have ½ of my colon removed the next day. I couldn’t believe it. I felt like I’d been punched in the gut.
Todra: Oh, god. That sounds so scary.
Amy: It was. The surgery had complications. I was losing a lot of blood following surgery and they found I was internally hemorrhaging. I had two blood transfusions and finally it sealed up on it’s own. I spent the next few weeks at home healing.
Todra: How were your children doing through all of this? Did they understand?
Amy: My boys definitely knew something was wrong with Mommy. We tried not to scare them but my fragile state and loss of weight tipped them off. I will never forget my 4-year-old son, Diego, saying to my mother during those first few weeks, “Gramma, how old will I be when I get to drive a car?” My mother told him he’d be a teenager – 16.” My son’s answer was, “Hmm..that’s too bad, mommy will be in heaven when I am a teenager.”
Todra: Wow. That’s so hard. Were you afraid you were going to die?
Amy: Anyone who has a cancer diagnosis has to consider you could die. You are staring down a gun barrel. Some people see it as a wake up call, while others fall into a dark place. I decided cancer chose me to do something about it.
Todra: What was that “something” you decided to do?
Amy: Well, the first step for me was educating myself. I learned that Neauroendochrine System Cancer rates have gone up 500% in 20 years. It’s the fastest growing cancer diagnosis. It’s 90% caused by the environment. There’s only a 5-10% genetic tie. Chemicals in the environment is the cause. That’s a really important point. It’s not about genetics. It’s about lifestyle. Most of us have thyroid issues. Many women are battling infertility. Why do you think that is? I think cancer is a symptom of something you have to fix or change – our homes, our diets, our beauty items. I don’t think people think about it until something drastic happens. I can’t believe that discussions aren’t around prevention. The cure is prevention. There will never be a cure until we change. It’s like we’re all waiting for this magic pill.
Todra: Where were you finding your information? How can other women find out things that maybe mainstream medical community isn’t going to tell them?
Amy: I’ll start out by saying I’m not against western doctors. I’ve had to see an Internist, an Endocrinologist, a Gastroencologists, an Oncologist, a Cacinoid Specialist , and a Surgeon. I’ve had exhaustive testing — double ballon endoscopy, colonoscopy, endoscopy, barium xrays, regular xrays – you name it. I currently take a thyroid medication. But, I use plants and food whenever possible. I use essential oils. I always try natural first. At this stage of my life I’m 90% holistic. As for where I got my education, I found some amazing books like Crazy Sexy Cancer, Not Just a Pretty Face, and Anticancer by Dr. David Servan-Schreiber. That last one really changed my life in a huge way
Amy: David Servan-Schreiber is a scientist and a doctor who discovered he has brain cancer. He had an idea about diet and lifestyle being linked to cancer, so he studied cultures that didn’t have cancers. He started putting concoctions together and injecting rats. He found that certain foods fed cancers while others shrunk cancers. He developed a diet called the Anti-cancer diet. As a result, his own brain cancer went dormant for 19 years. Hearing his story empowered me. I felt like “Oh, crap. I can do things to help myself.” I can change my food. It’s such a simple step towards healing.
Todra: So food was the first change for you. What other lifestyle changes did you make?
Amy: I needed to take an inventory of everything in my life – my diet, my exercise (or lack of it), my stress levels, even the skincare I used. I learned from researching the cosmetics database that many of the products I was using on myself and my children were dangerous. There are toxins in many of the daily products I was using to clean my house. I knew as a mother, I needed to become educated on what I was putting on my small boys as well.
If our government isn’t regulating the 12,000 ingredients in skincare on our shelves, we need to take ownership of it for ourselves and our children.
Todra: Was there a turning point in your health where you felt your lifestyle changes had really made a significant difference?
Amy: When I got pregnant with my daughter. It made me feel healed and healthy. Every day when I woke up, I thought there’s no way an unhealthy body can grow this baby. I had fertility treatment to get pregnant with my first two children. Now when I look at my daughter I think I’m doing everything for her. I don’t want her to have a 1 in 2 chance of getting cancer. I want my children to be healthy from the beginning of their lives. I’ve taught my kids how to read labels. They don’t eat corn syrup and other junk. It’s part of their life.
Todra: You have three children now and a business. What about your corporate jobs?
Amy: We both quit our stressful jobs and sold our expensive cars. We are going for broke, trying to make our skin care business (Authentic Skin Remedies) work. I’m not making a lot, but I’m so happy. I’m so fueled by the people who ask questions about wellness every day and I feel like I have a purpose. I know the money will come eventually.
Todra: I’m currently using your skin care. I am so impressed. There are a lot of good natural skin care lines out there. I get boxes of it every week from different companies. But it’s hard to create something that really differentiates itself. Your Enrich Nourishing Lipid Serum is my hands down favorite natural primer. I use it every morning under my makeup. My boyfriend and I give each other massages once a week and we use your Gloss bath, body and hair oil. And your Balance Seawater Facial and Body Spray is awesome! I love that I can use it as a natural deodorant or as a hair and face mist. Great concepts.
Amy: Thank you! I’m really excited about my line.
Todra: You should be. I’m actually going to do a giveaway with Gloss because I want readers to get a chance to try it. Okay, what parting wisdom do you want to give our readers?
Amy: You can make monumental changes to your life and your health. You’re not going to change the water and the air overnight. But you can change what you put on your skin and what you eat. And don’t think you have to be perfect. My mascara scores a 4 on the database. It’s Maybelline Greatlash. And even though I don’t feed my kids junk on a regular basis, once in a while we go by In N’ Out Burger. It’s about balance.
Amy is now in remission and goes for check-ups/testing once every twelve months. If you’d like Amy to speak at your event, contact her via firstname.lastname@example.org