Living Well Through Cancer Diagnosis, Treatment and Recovery

We remember our lives in terms of before and after defining moments. For Certified Personal Trainer Annie Rothman, a cancer diagnosis was one of those moments. In 2010, Rothman was visiting a friend on the way home from a particularly long mammogram when her phone rang. The radiologist was calling to tell her that she had breast cancer. He also told her, “You have to take charge of your health, and you have to do it now,” so she exercised throughout her surgery and treatment. When she was cancer-free, she enrolled in a course that gave her two new certifications: one as a breast cancer recovery specialist and another as a cancer exercise specialist. Now Rothman guides her clients through cancer holistically, in body, mind and spirit.

Rothman encourages her clients to try yoga, and she’s not alone. According to one scientific paper, “Nine studies conducted with cancer patients and survivors yielded modest improvements in sleep quality, mood, stress, cancer-related distress, cancer-related symptoms and overall quality of life.” Rothman believes that her clients that eat well and engage in yoga and other forms of appropriate exercise during and after treatment experience positive changes in their physical well-being, metabolism and mood.

This opinion is echoed by Kevin Jacoby, who, along with Kelly Brennan, coordinates the Anticancer Lifestyle Program for Geneia LLC, an analytic solutions and services company that helps healthcare organizations improve outcomes, lower costs and restore the Joy of Medicine to physician practice. The 12-week, 30-hour program is built on four pillars: diet, fitness, mindset and environment. “Changes in lifestyle, nutrition and mindset can positively impact a person’s  life.” In his own life, Jacoby has focused on a reduction of toxins at home. “I learned so much before I even started teaching the class. I immediately made changes in the products my family uses on our bodies,” he says.

The ancient Greek philosopher Hippocrates wrote, “Let food be thy medicine.” Thousands of years later, many people focus on diet as the most important component of cancer prevention and recovery. When Lancaster, Pennsylvania resident Heidi Schutzler’s husband was being treated for esophageal cancer in 2011, he was not allowed any food by mouth. Doctors recommended that she put only a commercial, chemical-based product in his feeding tube, but she resisted. She learned to make her own chicken broth and juices and to supplement his meals with homemade food, adding crushed vitamins for extra nutrition.

Five years later, Heidi’s husband is entirely cancer-free and she serves as an unofficial advisor to friends and family. Her grown children tell her, “Mom, you did stuff with whole grains when we were kids, and now everyone knows that you were right. You were way ahead of your time!”

Kathy Beach is a Connecticut-based health and nutrition coach specializing in cancer wellness support. She believes, “Food is so, so powerful. What we eat and drink is the foundation for our health.” Already a certified athletic trainer, Beach received her breast cancer diagnosis in 2009 and immediately began to modify her diet, fine tuning an already healthy diet to a cleaner, more balanced and nutrient dense eating plan. Now she helps others do the same, working with clients to determine what changes they want to implement and what steps to take to make their bodies inhospitable to cancer. She recommends online services such as for clients that can’t or prefer not to work with a health coach.

For some people living through cancer treatment, letting someone else cook may offer the best solution. Leslie Cerier, “the organic gourmet”, has worked as a personal chef for cancer patients and other clients for more than 30 years. She says that the best tool for preventing and curing cancer is a diet of “real, whole, organic foods that focuses on local and seasonal fruits and vegetables.” Cerier offers private and group cooking classes in which she presents whole foods that are pleasurable, delicious, health-enhancing and nutritious. She invites participants to engage their senses and discover cooking as a means of self-expression. “We use visual cues and aromas to judge timing and taste food to adjust seasoning, so that the entire process of cooking becomes a nourishing experience, rather than a chore,” she says.

Perhaps the best advice on living beyond cancer comes from Jacoby. He reminds us all, “Positive lifestyle changes are not just anti-cancer. They’re also anti-heart disease and anti-diabetes. If you make some good changes, you can’t help but be healthier.”

Annie Rothman, BCRBS, CES is a certified personal trainer who works with breast cancer patients. Learn more at

For more information about Geneia’s Anticancer Lifestyle Program, email or

Kathy Beach, MS, ATC, is a health and nutrition coach in Connecticut specializing in cancer wellness support. She does consultations in person and via phone and Skype. Learn more at

Leslie Cerier is an internationally recognized vegetarian chef, educator, wellness coach, cookbook author, recipe developer, consultant, photographer and farm to table caterer. Learn more at


Terry Wolfisch Cole is a writer and storyteller in Connecticut. Find her at and

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