Central Florida breast cancer survivors share their paths to healing

Breast cancer survivors advocate for people to take part in program promoting plant-based diets, daily exercise, mindfulness

ORLANDO, Fla. – When Terri Schon and Vanessa de la Rosa met, they shared a terrifying diagnosis.

“No one really knows what you’re going through except the women in HEAL,” Schon said.

Breast cancer brought the two women together through an AdventHealth Cancer Institute Program called HEAL — Healthy Eating Active Lifestyle — led by two Central Florida oncologists. Dr. Nathalie McKenzie, a gynecologic oncologist, and Dr. Amber Orman, a radiation oncologist, divided the program into three segments including HEAL at Home which is open to the community.

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“It’s a deeper conversation than just motivation. It’s awareness, awareness that what you’re doing today can affect you 20 years from now, 10 years from now, tomorrow,” De la Rosa said.

Both women credit the program with helping them to stay motivated to work toward remission. De la Rosa said she has helped other women, who are not even dealing with a cancer diagnosis, make lifestyle changes.

“No one talks about what can you do in your own home to prevent you from needing that medication,” De la Rosa said.

Dr. Amber Orman said the HEAL program has had a domino effect with patients sharing the resources with other members of the community.

“You know, a lot of times the person that I’m talking to is that matriarch. They are kind of carrying the family — caring for everybody. They’re trying to do it all and they’re trying to do it all perfectly, and this isn’t the time for that,” Orman said.

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