044: Clare Stafford – Breast Cancer & Integrative Medicine

Uninvisible Pod

044: Clare Stafford – Breast Cancer & Integrative Medicine

Clare Stafford is one of Lauren’s oldest friends. Hailing from Melbourne, Australia (by way of Irish-born parents), Clare has built a career as a social justice advocate and lawyer. Having…
October 16, 2019

044: Clare Stafford – Breast Cancer & Integrative Medicine

Clare Stafford is one of Lauren’s oldest friends. Hailing from Melbourne, Australia (by way of Irish-born parents), Clare has built a career as a social justice advocate and lawyer. Having worked in refugee camps in Greece and campaigned for indigenous rights in Australia, her focus has always been on immigration, native rights, gender equality, and climate justice. She is an avid follower of music, traveling the globe to attend festivals and visit friends far and wide. In 2017, shortly after turning 33 years old and subsequently losing her mother to lung cancer, Clare herself was diagnosed with cancer in her left breast. She has now survived this cancer twice, and has been told by her Western medical team that a third occurrence would mean she’d be treated as terminal. When she discovered integrative medicine, her doctors laughed (in a good way!) at these claims. She sat down with Lauren in July 2019 to discuss her recent trip to an integrative medicine center run by Cuban doctors in Colombia (Instituto Medico Cubano) – and how the holistic treatments she received there have changed her perspective on cancer – and on chronic illness. 


Tune in as Clare shares… 


– that she knew something was wrong 18 months prior to being diagnosed with estrogen-positive breast cancer – and had ECGs that showed nothing was wrong despite pain near her heart 

– that she finally put her foot down and was given an ultrasound, which showed two tumors right in the area where she had been experiencing pain 

– the interesting connection between the brain and our experience of pain – because Clare’s tumor was not of a kind that typically causes pain, and yet the alarm systems in her body were somehow alerted that something wasn’t right 

– her perspective change: that cancer is not a death sentence, but a chronic illness – and she will continue to manage its symptoms for the rest of her life 

– that she was originally told she wouldn’t need chemo or radiation 

– her process of discovery: ultrasound, followed by two lumpectomies, and a mastectomy on the left side – though she opted to have both breasts removed and reconstructed (28% of it coming back on the right side) 

– that there was not much medical follow-up after her surgery 

– that she lived the “bad luck broken record” for a while – she kept getting infections and ending up back in hospital after her double mastectomy 

– that she started having abdominal pains and was continually turned away – and it turned out, following laparoscopy to make the determination, the cancer drug she’d been on had likely given her endometriosis 

– that 12 months to the day from her double mastectomy, she was diagnosed again with breast cancer 

– that she endured 3 months of chemotherapy (2 types), and maximum radiation for 5 weeks 

– that she is now on injectable cancer drugs that push her body into medically-induced menopause, as well as an aromatase inhibitor (i.e., stops the production of estrogen in post-menopausal women) 

– that she froze her eggs before chemo and radiation – and this procedure was offered to her at no cost, without insurance, through the Australian medical system 

– that she experimented with diet and Chinese herbs while being treated for her first cancer diagnosis 

– that after her second cancer and endometriosis diagnoses, she began to explore integrative medicine and found NIIM 

– that during chemo and radiation, she used scalp cooling to keep (most of!) her hair 

– that she used integrative treatments to complement her chemo and radiation 

– that her friends and family threw her a party – The Big C – to raise money for her treatment at NIIM, as well as abroad 

– the reasons she chose to travel to Colombia for additional integrative treatment following chemo and radiation 

– some of the treatments she went through at Instituto Medico Cubano – including vitamin drips, hyperbaric oxygen, immunotherapy (targeted therapy), and regressive therapy 

– that her integrative medicine doctor’s third question to her upon arrival in Colombia was: “What is your relationship with your mother?” – and she posits there is a direct connection between Clare’s cancer diagnosis and her mother’s passing 

– a discussion of Dr. Hamer’s findings on chronic illness and disease 

– that she realized after her stay in Cali that she hadn’t looked down the barrel of her trauma – and that this was the next step in her healing work 

– that she had full genomic mapping done in Cali – which will show her predispositions to pathological response to certain treatments and medications, among other things 

– that she’s found a renewed interest in meditation, and was recently introduced to Dr. Joe Dispenza’s work 

– why she is her own advocate 

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