Samantha Harris, Emmy-award winning television host and journalist, has always appeared to be the pinnacle of health. However, her career pivoted to advocacy for healthy and nutritional living when she was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 40.
“When I first heard the word cancer, I was absolutely floored and blindsided,” Harris says. She recounts how she felt a lump in her breast eleven days after she had a routine mammogram. Her OBGYN and internist repeatedly told her that she had nothing to worry about, and that the lump was nothing, but Harris was plagued by a constant worrying at the back of her mind.
“I listened to the little voice whispering to me, and it was telling me to get a third opinion,” she says, though she also adds that she never for a minute thought she had cancer.
A personal journey
Harris decided she wanted to see a breast oncologist directly, who ran several tests and ultimately diagnosed her with stage II invasive breast cancer. The diagnosis was crushing and unexpected, but her work wasn’t over.
“I wanted to be as informed as possible, and to do that, I had to seek out the opinions of three different surgical oncologists,” Harris says. “I had to decide whether I would try radiation or reconstruction based on the pathology findings.”
Harris notes that this is an extremely personal decision for women who are diagnosed with breast cancer. She decided after weighing several pros and cons that the right course of action was a bilateral mastectomy with two-stage reconstruction.
Despite being a generally happy and positive person who prides herself on healthy living, Harris was hit with an intense feeling of anxiety after her diagnosis. She knew recovery would be a long road, and the reality was daunting. But on her journey, she learned life lessons that would go on to influence the rest of her life, as well as the lives of others.
The power of gratitude
“I didn’t understand the power of gratitude at the time,” she says. “It’s something I practice daily now as a certified health coach.”
Harris says that there are three pillars of health that she shares with her clients, which she refers to as the Your Healthiest Healthy Community. One is positive self-talk, where you acknowledge the good in a situation, even if reality feels bleak.
“The second is to worry when you have to worry,” she says. “I’m someone who always wants to plan ahead, but that that leads to a lot of worry. And we oftentimes worry about things that never come to fruition, so if we put aside the worry until the moment where we truly need to be concerned, it will help alleviate a lot of the unnecessary added stress and anxiety.”
Harris also urges her clients to focus on controlling what you can control, and to try not to worry about things that are out of their control. “I couldn’t control that I had a breast cancer,” she says, “So I looked at what I could control. I could change my eating by adding more plant-based whole food nutrition to my daily intake. And I could control what was putting in my body and using in my home that had been filled with toxins and carcinogens.”
“The one thing that I want to share with others is that the most important thing is to truly be your own advocate,” Harris says. “We know our bodies better than anyone else, and if something doesn’t feel right, it’s imperative to seek out two or three opinions. I get that this can be overwhelming and dizzying, but it can save your life.”