BIRTHFIT Podcast Episode 119 featuring Dr. Elise DeCamp on Loving Herself through Breast Cancer
Lindsey: [00:00:01] I am extremely honored to introduce our next speaker. In BirthFit, if you’re not a regional director we have family trees and our family trees are are exactly like a family tree. These are the people that you are connected to through a common thread and they connect you to the rest of the people who are within the BirthFit tribe. But there–my sisters are Elise and Jill where–I just saw Jill like one second ago. There she is. OK. They’re my immediate little sisters and so I got to kind of welcome them in for their first year as regional directors. And it was really cool because Elise and I actually graduated together and she reached out to me. I think it was in like March or April or something and we weren’t doing applications until December and I can’t tell you how many people reach out to me in March or April about wanting to get involved in BirthFit and then I never hear back from them because they just want to hop on board, but they don’t necessarily have the patience or the drive to wait it out and then actually follow through. And Elise did and she’s followed through in a real big way and her presence in birth it is amazing. And she also has done some up the tree mentoring for me, which I’m very grateful for. I’ve learned a lot from Elise and I think that you’re going to learn a lot from Elise right now. So without further ado, Dr. Elise DeCamp.
Living a Healthy Lifestyle
Dr. Elise DeCamp: [00:01:53] I’m so excited to be here. You guys are awesome. And oh I need this. I have notes just in case cause I don’t want to forget really important things. So a little about me: I am a pediatric chiropractor. I like to work with pregnant and postnatal mommas just like most of the other chiropractors in this room. And I don’t know if you can really see it. This is a picture of my family my wonderful little family. I have three kiddos of my own. There are 1, 3, and 5. This is my husband Brandon. He also practices chiropractic. So you might guess that we lead a really super busy life and we’ve usually got our hands full. This last year has been by far the most impactful and profound year of my life. I’ve learned a lot. I don’t know how much I’ll be able to teach you guys, but I just wanted to kind of share my story and hope that–hope that you get a little something out of it.
After baby number three, I was diagnosed with cancer…
So I’ll take you back to last year. We had just welcomed our third baby into our family. And things were great. I was shocked because when we welcomed the other ones we had like real rough patches. It’s like not easy. And so we had baby number three and my husband and I– our marriage was solid and we were like in love. Stuff was just going awesome. But you know I was in that postpartum period in like a couple weeks and I had a uterine infection thinks and I just felt like crap like I couldn’t get over that hump of ‘Gosh, why do I just I just don’t feel good?’ And then I got mastitis, which is like not fun. And so I kept going back to my provider being like ‘Why don’t I feel good?’ They’re like ‘Well you have three kids you should probably just sleep’. So I finally found out what was going on. And– I’ll be good. Okay. So a year ago today I actually found out that I was diagnosed with a really aggressive form of cancer. So I was sitting there holding my 2 month old baby. And they diagnosed me with stage three triple negative invasive ductal carcinoma. So ‘breast cancer’. Right. And I was like ‘What the hell? I like the healthiest person I know’. In fact everybody told me that when I told them they were like I’ve eaten paleo for years, I exercise, I really liked to be healthy, I tell people all the time out to be healthy, right. So ‘I have breast cancer’? I was like ‘Frickin’, I’m feeding a child with these right now. I’m a little busy. I can’t do anything you’re recommending. So I’ll just call you back in a little bit’. There are recommendations so I– I’ve written a blog. Some of you might have read it but I haven’t shared all of this yet. So I figured why not share it with a roomful of people that I don’t know. I met with a lot of doctors like lots of them I kept trying to find one that I liked and all of them recommended this super aggressive treatment: 20 weeks of chemo with the four strongest drugs they had on the market and they told me how lucky I was that they just came out with more and followed by surgery and radiation it was a lot. I was like ‘Man I’m just trying to like have my kids you know’. And sorry…So After they made the recommendations I mean I was terrified. And my husband asked what I thought at the time was a really stupid question. He was like ‘So yeah you know what’s going to happen when when she follows these recommendations like 15-20 years out?’ And the doctor said ‘Well you know in 15 years the success rate is 50 percent and in 20 years my experience is 0′. So it like well in 20 years I’ll be like 50 and I just thought ’50? That’s like 50s are the new 30s. Thats when my kids are old and older and like cool enough to hang out with and I get to enjoy the fruits of my labor right now’. So I was like I’m looking forward to 50. So I– so I didn’t find many doctors that supported me and my will to live beyond that. When I had asked them you know why did I get cancer? What do you think? What’s going on? They all just told me ‘Oh it’s random chance, just random’. And one doctor said ‘Oh well’ he’s like ‘Are you done having kids?’ Like ‘I don’t know I just birthed this one’. And he said ‘Well when you’re done we’re just going to take those tubes and ovaries too because you know’. Well it’s like ‘Those are mine and I’m going to keep them so I’ll move on’. When I was done there I just did what any good doctor does and I researched. I researched the hell out of something I never wanted to know anything about. I looked up. I looked up cancer and conventional treatment and Kito diet and paleo and vegan. All the things. I looked up Chris beat cancer and all the people that are supposed to know their way around this stuff. I just I put my thinking brain on and I was like I just have to figure out what I’m going to do so I don’t know if you can see these pictures but this is me last year at the summit. I think I had cried for like twelve hours straight. And then I slept for twelve hours straight and it was awesome. But this is just a month after I found out and I was so scared. I had never said it out loud, but I shared with many of you in the room what I was going through and that was like the biggest group hug I’ve ever been a part of. So when I got home from the summit last year I got busy. I got real busy like sunup to sundown. I had a baby that would sleep– don’t hate me. It was my third one, so I deserved it. But he would sleep like a gem and I would wake up at like 3:34 in the morning and just get started on this like routine of all these amazing things that I had read would save my life. I’ll show you another picture in a second.
I get shit done, but the test results showed otherwise.
But I kind of like–I’m like a kind of person like I get things done right. Like I make shit happen. So I kind of took this as like a challenge of my will. I was like ‘I can do this. I can be like super strict on my diet or change whatever I need to do’. I have three babies to take care of so I created a checklist. Man I just wish this was the checklist that I laminated it was on my fridge and from the second I woke up I would just “check check check” and I would get as much done as I could. I spent like six hundred dollars a month on juicing produce alone. It was just insane. I juice green juices before every meal. I went to a completely raw vegan organic diet. I did coffee enemas every day. I moved when I should I took rests when I thought I should. What else did I do? I took supplements out the wazoo like supplements for inflammation and liver function and detox. I drink so much carrot juice. I looked like an Oompa Loompa. I was like glowing orange. I did epsom salt baths, I did– We bought an infrared sauna. I mean like everything. And my goal in all of that was I was I was just trying to make my body heal I just wanted to put forth every single effort I could to make my body healthier. Right. So every chance I could I looked up the next thing of like what else can make me healthy. What–does this look good. I was like ‘Add sixteen more supplements at lunchtime’. But after a few months of you know putting forth all those efforts and changing everything and spending a whole hell of a lot of money doing it, I had gotten new blood results back and I was so excited I didn’t tell my husband that they were in and so I packed up all the kids, I put all the kids in the car and I drove to his office in the middle of the day. I was like What a great surprise this will be. And so I interrupted his work day and I was like ‘Brandon I’m so excited I have these results and I want to open them with you right now’. And so we open them and I was shattered. I fell to the floor and after all that effort I had done nothing but gotten worse. A lot worse. So–sorry. I was just like dang it. I have tried so freakin hard and it’s just not good enough.
What was I missing?
What am I missing? What? This is I’m not good enough at making this happen. And then it clicked. Not good enough– oh not ready for that one yet. Did I change it? I’m a great doctor. I have lots of really good advice. But taking my advice was something I had never done. I mean at five days postpartum, I took all three of my kids four years in [unintelligible] to Costco of all places. Like the most stressful place on the planet and why? To fill my house with food to feed my family that was coming there [unintelligible] I never allowed myself the one to be taken care of. So in my defeat, reading those results, I realize that-sorry-I realize that getting cancer was never about like my body’s physiology. It was never about not being healthy enough or not having the juice or not doing enough coffee enemas or any of that. It was about never showing up for myself and for a lifetime of not quite feeling good enough. Oh even though you know I appeared on the outside as a very successful human. I like ran a great practice. And I was happy. I was genuinely like happy, but I was like go go go all the time. And even when I achieved my, you know, my success it wasn’t quite good enough. I still wanted to go do more and I had my three kids and on the outside I looked like I had a picture of everything that I had dreamt up everything I wanted that I wrote down like I had it all. But on the inside I was dying. I was literally telling myself constantly that I wasn’t good enough. And I had a really big fear of failure, of failure in parenting. Always wishing that I had more patience. Always thinking back on the day wishing that I had done things differently. Always wishing that I had been creating more magic with my kids instead of like asking them to put their shoes on for the millionth time and running here and there and trying to get them fed and like all the crazy chaos right. I was really afraid of the endless judgment. I thought that was coming from other moms in public when I would wrangle my three kids. I stopped wanting to take my kids to the grocery store because I’d see patients. I’m like ‘Well that one’s jumping out of the cart and this one is freaking out in the carrier and that one’s like running away with a bag of open chips’. So who wants to parent in public with that, right? So there is just this underlying fear of failure all the time. Failure in my business. Always have– I mean I work part time, but I’m a full time business owner and I’m also a full time mom. There was like 100 percent of all of it. And I felt like I could never do all of it all the way. At home wanting to have like my house perfectly clean and having the laundry done and dishes and like just this league stupid like unrealistic version of what I thought perfect might be. And I mean I’ve always kind of lived as a people pleaser. I mean with good intentions obviously, but I realize that for so many years my everything that I was doing was to try to make everybody around me happy and I didn’t take a moment to take care of myself because I was worried about taking care of everybody around me. So once I recognized that it took me a few months. So I recognized what was going on and once I saw how hard I had been on myself for so long, I started to see me. To really see the inner part of me. And for the first time I had this experience and I was just like surrounded by love. Like this unconditional unexplainable like intense love. And I was like ‘Holy shit that’s me’ like all that love. I was like ‘Oh my gosh’. And I just was beaming and for the first time I felt that in me and I cried my eyeballs out. I’m a crier in case you haven’t noticed. And I apologized to me for always being so hard on myself. For always nit picking it. The way I look or the things that I hadn’t done right or hadn’t accomplished. I opened my heart to to understand me for who I was and not only forgive myself for the unrealistic expectations, but to really understand and love and get to know me. So first I met me and then I fell in love with me. And then you know once I began to trust myself I started to listen to myself. I kept getting this overwhelming message from within. You know I had been busy for hours and hours every single day. I barely saw my kids because I was trying to survive to hang out with them when they were 20. But I got this overwhelming message that everything I need I hold within. And it kept reminding me that it’s not about the juicing. It’s not about the therapies. And for a while I was kind of like everything within me is broken so what? And it took me a while to be able to trust that, the message kept coming. So you know if you ever get messages that keep coming. Listen to them the first or second time. So I put my checklist aside and I began to ask myself what do I need. And I started to give myself what I needed. Judgment free like without a second thought. I was like What do I need right now? And whether it was you know bone broth or juice or no juice if I never saw another juice again I think I’d be cool. Whether it was three Epsom salt baths in the middle of my day or a two hour nap like whatever I needed I was just like ‘K I’m going to go do it’. And I did it without feeling guilty about it. Sometimes I needed a quiet time off to myself just to breathe. And sometimes I needed all of my crazy kids like within arm’s reach so that I could squeeze them in a moment’s notice. Sometimes it surprised me. Like after eating a raw vegan diet for so long, like a barbecue bacon burger with fries legitimately changed my life. Laughter. Often I just needed to remind myself of who I was and the love that I came from. And I just listened and the actions that I needed to do came from there and never once steered me wrong and when things got hard and I felt sick, because it most of the time I felt pretty awful, I pictured little me. Like little Elisse, like my 3 year old daughter. And I thought to myself if she was sick right now and not feeling well would you yell at her and be like ‘Why are you still sick’? Well how–what haven’t you got. Like why can’t you get over this. No I would I’d hug her and love on her some more and tell her I love you. And you’re going to be OK because I’m here. And so that’s when I started to do for myself. We we hired an incredible nanny who, because all of while we did all of this, I was still maintaining working a few hours in my practice a week. And you know trying to do everything else and we hired this nanny who came in to help me with my kids and she has taught me so much. She taught me how to receive help and how to accept graciously and she said ‘Fuck perfect’ but she’s British so it sounded really classy. And you know I just welcomed people into my life who could see that the perfect version of me. And let me express that in myself. I started to show love for myself in a way that my soul was craving mostly time, like intentional time. And you know in the past of course I’ve heard people say ‘Oh fill your own cup first’, like put your own face mask on before you help other people that kind of thing and I’ve made time for that you know. And I mean of course I’ve gotten pedicures with my friends are going out for coffee, but I didn’t realize that filling your own cup means finding something that sets your soul on fire. Like it really makes you feel like you’re coming to life. Finding a purpose for me that’s bigger than my career or my family. I know a lot of moms especially in my practice because that’s how I like to talk to moms about everything going on. And I said What have you done for yourself today? And I know most people are like I can barely find five minutes to go to the bathroom by myself, let alone take hours a day just to hang out with me. Right. But I promise you once I accepted and loved me, I had no guilt for taking time to hang out with me. And once I started giving that time to myself, my husband my children everybody around me seemed to enjoy me a whole lot more too kinda worked out well for everyone. So letting go of that checklist was really really hard for me. My husband has been very supportive through all of this but even he was like ‘Are you sure? You’re not really doing anything anymore’. And I was like ‘No no I’m fine. I got this. I have everything inside of me that I need. That’s what I keep hearing’. So originally I thought if I am not doing everything I can do all day long then I might not make it, right? And if I die anyway. Well I want to make sure that they knew I tried my hardest. But once I let go of all of that and the moment that I surrendered and the moment I gave hope to what I knew was possible. Was the moment that everything turned around. So after I started asking myself what do you need and like giving it to myself and just kind of like seeing how things went from there. I got some more blood work back and it got a little better. And I was I called Muma and I was like this freakin works like I’m going to keep doing this okay. And then I thought to myself I’m like ‘Oh what do I love. Like now I’m going to indulge’. So I found that I love going to a little like hole in the wall bookshops and like peeking around at these old books that other people have already read it’s just kind of like an interest of mine and I love sitting outside first thing in the morning in my swing chair and just listening to the birds. It’s one of my favorite things to do. And the birds here sound different in Austin. They’re like humidity birds.
Audience: [00:25:07] [Laughter].
Dr. Elise DeCamp: [00:25:07] They are. I love–every morning I love drinking my hot cup of coffee with dark chocolate and eating chocolate in the morning. It’s like my favorite thing ever. What else? Hang on. I’ve got a lot of good stuff in case you want ideas. Oh yeah. So I journal every day. Everybody kept bringing it up like ‘You should journal why don’t you journal stuff’. And I was like ‘If one more person tells me to write something in a journal I gonna smack em’, but I’m so thankful I did because it’s like one of my favorite things. Now it’s it’s kind of an outlet. And I started indulging in sound baths and walking in the woods. And I like to go to Reiki and I like to spend time on myself and I don’t feel badly about any of it. Which is the best part, I hang out with people that I love. We laugh. Laughter is huge. Laughing is like one of my favorite things to do every single day. I embrace myself for who I am in this moment, which was a hard one for me. I used to only like me when I was like happy and bubbly and like things were going well. But I started embracing the me who got frustrated with my kids, the me I used to call myself a crybaby because I was like tanked like get it together Elise. But now I embrace that I’m sensitive and it’s nice and I like it. So I just I found ways to love me in every aspect of where I am. I started limiting the things that I wanted in my in my circle. Sorry I don’t get on social media very often. Not a part of my daily rituals. I don’t watch the news. I’m kind of a hang out in the moment a whole lot more than I used to. So the first few months they told me I was going to die the next few months. I tried everything I could do not to die. And in the last several months I’ve just really started to live. I changed my entire outlook on who I am and what my purpose here on earth is. And then I came to a crossroads hang on, wait for it. A literal crossroads. So every morning when I sat outside taking time for myself Wait watch this “technology” boom! You it circles pop up, it’s big for me. Technology is not my thing. Not good at it. But I came to a crossroads as I saw every morning. A couple of months ago I did the most courageous thing I’ve ever done. More courage than–it took more courage than you know refusing conventional treatment. It took more courage than trying every holistic treatment known to man. It took more courage than anything. I knew I had it in me to do. I had to let go. I let go of hang on. There we go. I had to let go of the physicality of the cancer itself. Cancer taught me to value my time. It taught me to love myself and give to myself, so without the diagnosis there would be nothing that would make me take care of myself. And in all honesty I was a little bit worried that I might go back and like you know not continue living that way. No I would need to make myself a priority simply because I was worth it and I was deserving. And was I ready to maintain and elevate my level of self care simply because I was worth it. And I finally was like ‘Yeah I am. And once I let go and I said you know what I’m bigger than this I know who I am and I’m going to be here, the healing happened rapidly. I started changing like massive amounts at a time. So back in March, I was asked to speak to you all here today. And at first I mean I was so excited and really flattered. And then like maybe just a little bit of self doubt started to creep in. I was like OK I can get up there and tell my story. But I mean do I really know what I’m talking about. Like can you really cure cancer with love alone. I don’t know it’s kind of–is it really that simple, right? And then I thought back and I’m like ‘I don’t know I still like had the diagnosis then is is what I have to say really that relevant’. And while all of those doubtful thoughts were kind of circulating in my mind, I was on the floor playing with my baby and this is what I saw when I looked down. Do you see it? I had no idea how, but on this day I knew that by the time I was speaking to you here in Texas today, nobody would have to worry about where I’ll be in 20 years. So I’m telling you if you take the time to listen then you’ll get an answer. Here’s some pictures of my family we also started taking vacations. So we went to Hawaii in November and we were just in Mexico a couple of weeks ago and since we returned from our family time I’ve had more testing done. And just kind of updating and finding out where I am and for the first time I spoke with a medical doctor. Most of them have thought that I was crazy and yelled at me. But for the first time I spoke with a medical doctor who said ‘What have you been doing’? He looked back at my bloodwork for the last several months and he said ‘What’s your secret?’, This is the same medical doctor yelled at me in December when it was not good. He said All right. He’s like 85 years old and he’s like ‘What’s your secret? Are you going to tell me what you’ve been doing’? And I was like ‘Yeah, I stop doing everything’. He’s like ‘Okay’. And I was like ‘And I just started loving myself and hanging out with myself and telling myself I was amazing and giving myself whatever I wanted’.
Audience: [00:32:38] Laughter.
Dr. Elise DeCamp: [00:32:40] And he’s like ‘All right. Well you just keep doing what you’re doing because it’s working’. And I was like ‘Yes’. So what I learned through all of this is just to love yourself and trust yourself. You’ve got it in you. Whatever challenge you’re going through right now. You hold the answer inside of you. And you deserve. You deserve time for yourself as women, as mothers you deserve that time. I saw this post on social media. This mom who looked anything but relaxed she like had her toddler all climbing up on her and her caption was something like “morning meditation time with my bestie”. One day I’ll have time for myself I was like ‘#blessed’ ‘hashtag I love meditation with someone crawling on my face’. I just thought seriously like that’s the message that we give people is that ‘I’m trying to take time for myself but I have to love my kid while I’m doing it’. I was really sad for her I just thought you deserve time for you. Because don’t fool yourself into thinking that you can give to yourself when you have tiny humans pulling your hair vying for your attention. So with all the just like the crazy beautiful chaos that comes with motherhood you know with one kid on your boob and the other kid like running down the hall and everybody’s screaming. I don’t know if this happens in your house but we’re at like volume 11 all the time. It’s very loud in my house. With all of that going on, I don’t know that there’s one person that can even think in like a full sentence of a thought let alone take time for yourself. If there is if there’s one person who’s mastered that please raise your hand. I will hire you as my life coach, but to my knowledge I just don’t think that you can truly connect truly go within, find your intention and listen to your soul. While meeting the needs of other people. So my intention is to invite you all to take that time for yourself, whatever it looks like. Quiet time, time going to do whatever you need to do, but to take that time for yourself to get to know yourself. And to listen to yourself because it might not only just serve you well, it could save your life. Because had I not taken that time for myself, to meet myself in love and then start to really listen to what was being asked of me, I may have made a lot of very foolish decisions out of fear because there are some really really loud voices out there. But once I was able to hear me it spoke so loud and so true and so clear that I knew what to do in those moments. I didn’t heal my body of cancer, cancer has healed me. It taught me how to love myself and appreciate and listen to what I have inside. So I’m actually very grateful for this last year. Even though it incredibly hard and I’m really grateful to have had this opportunity to share all of these things with you guys today. Thank you.