Catherine Schopfer, Online cancer coach hiking

by Catherine, October 22, 2022

A Breast Cancer Survivor’s Take On Cancer Prevention

My thoughts on Breast Cancer Awareness Month and the role of prevention

Whether you’re a part of my community or you just happened to land on this article, there’s one thing you should know about me: cancer has been around in my life for a long, long time.

Thankfully, I’m not battling cancer now — but I had to. My parents had to. Many other family members had to.

After putting up a year-long, fierce fight against it, my mother passed away from breast cancer 13 years ago.

10 months later, my dad followed. Acute leukemia took his life in just a few weeks.

At the time, I was already concerned with some of my mother’s habits. She spent 8 years in remission between her first and second diagnoses. 

During that time, her nutrition didn’t seem right to me… The fact that she was constantly stressed, yelling, angry, and surrounded by lawyers didn’t seem like a good idea either.

(Mind you, that was before I knew what I know now.)

Catherine Schopfer, cancer coach on previention

However, I was blind to the fact that I was doing very harmful things in my own life.

It wasn’t until I got my diagnosis that I truly started to dig deeper. The more and more I read and studied about cancer, the more everything made sense…

My mother’s negative emotions running the show. My parents arguing, stressed and upset most of the time. My own stress. My unhealthy habits. My inability to put myself first.

But I forgive myself because I didn’t know better.

And that’s the point of this article. 

While I’ve reconciled my differences with cancer and the pain it brought to my life, there’s one question I still ask myself after being the Online Cancer Coach for a few years:

Why is nobody speaking about cancer prevention?

So, to commemorate Breast Cancer Awareness month, this is what I’m speaking about: prevention.

But instead of telling you to get your checkups, be a ‘good girl’, and let things happen as they should, I’m going to share the things I did wrong so you can avoid making the mistakes I did.

THAT is how I contribute to this day, and to this world.

Catherine Schopfer, cancer coach with a client

My biggest mistake on cancer prevention

Let me start by saying: I never underestimated cancer. This illness had taken both my parents in a very short time span — I was, if anything, terrified of it.

So I took my vitamin supplements. I stayed fit. I helped everyone that needed me. I strived to be the perfect mom, the perfect wife, the perfect employee. I was the textbook definition of a ‘good girl’ because I was sure that was the way to avoid cancer hitting me.

But it did hit me. It hit me when I needed to hear its message in order to go on.

You can probably imagine how upset I was when I finally heard:

Catherine, you have cancer.

My mind started racing. I got upset, then angry, then upset again. I tried to wrap my head around it but it was hard.

I had done SO much. I had worked SO hard to avoid this!

At least that’s what I thought at the time.

The truth is that being a ‘good girl’ won’t help you avoid cancer. And thinking that it did was my biggest mistake.

Now, I’m not saying you should go around being a bad person…

But when it comes to prevention, simply ‘being a good girl’ won’t be enough. (In fact, it can be quite the opposite if it means putting yourself last, but we’ll get to that later.)

Catherine Schopfer in nature practicing the healthy lifestyle she recommends to her clients

I learned the hard way

As human beings, we are prone to resist change. We avoid it because it forces us to leave our comfort zone. Feeling like we’re not in control scares us.

But change is how we become who we were always meant to be! When we resist it, we often end up ignoring red flags or avoiding warning signs. Then, we’re startled when we get life-threatening wake-up calls that force us to change.

Unfortunately, that wake-up call often comes too late, when there isn’t enough time left to change…

I was lucky enough to have the luxury of time. Still, my breast cancer diagnosis forced me to look at everything in my life:

  • My working environment
  • The state of my relationships
  • My nutritional habits
  • My stress management
  • My (inexistent) ’me’ time
  • My priorities

As upset as I was for this outcome, I knew I had to transform my life. I knew it was my own body telling me:

Catherine, you need to stop this. You need to change this right NOW.

I transformed my whole life and for that, I am grateful to cancer.

But I didn’t learn this in the hospital, or from my trusted doctor…

Funnily enough, when I was in the hospital, I was suspicious of the food I was getting.

‘How is bread, coffee and sugar going to heal me?’ I wondered…

But the day I drew a line in the sand was the day I asked my doctor how to make sure the cancer didn’t return. He simply replied:

You can’t. Just go back to your normal life.

Normal life. What is a ‘normal’ life? Working a 9 to 5 job, putting myself last for the sake of my marriage, making sure everyone else was happy and ignoring my own wellbeing?

That cannot be. There has to be SOMETHING.

And there was.

Cancer starts 10 to 20 years before it shows in your body. It starts with the way you treat yourself and how far you’ll go in ignoring your body’s messages.

Cancer prevention is about understanding those messages and transforming your life to support your health.

That’s why I’m writing this today. I want you to take control over your life and your health, because you only have one body — and you’re the only one who can make sure it stays healthy. Don’t delegate your health to others!

Thankfully, things have evolved quite a bit since 2012. There is far more information out there that isn’t strictly about checkups and medicine.

Still, it’s natural to want guidance. That’s why I’m an Online Cancer Coach and why there are other wellness experts helping women get empowered over their own health.

The key to cancer prevention

If you only get one takeaway from this article, let it be that you are responsible for yourself.

Nobody can change your life for you. You are the only one with the power of changing your life so you can prevent illness and live in an expansive, healthy, fulfilled way.

You can get help along the way from coaches, mentors, friends, doctors, partners, family members… But in the end, the final decisions come down to YOU.

So explore embodiment practices to find the one that helps you be better connected with your body. Learn how to listen to its warning signs.

If something isn’t working out, it won’t go away on its own, so don’t ignore it.

Be mindful and work on releasing your stress — don’t let it bottle up.

Take a deep look at every single aspect of your life, even if it feels uncomfortable (especially if it feels uncomfortable):

Aspects of life & healing presented in petals of the flower
  • Your relationships
  • Your body
  • Your environment
  • Your mind
  • Your spirit
  • Your passion
  • Your emotions
  • Your finances

Find your own path to feel at peace with your life. Be kind to yourself, and remember…

There is NOTHING more important than your health.


Catherine Schopfer

Breast Cancer Survivor, Online Cancer Coach

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catherine schopfer.

Catherine Schopfer defies outdated narratives around cancer that don’t serve anyone.

Instead, she offers a fresh perspective: cancer can be the springboard to your best life… If you learn the lessons that it’s here to teach you.

Through 1:1 coaching and support groups, Catherine guides cancer patients, survivors, and caretakers through a difficult time so they can emerge on the other side embracing life like never before.




Content on this website is not considered medical advice. Please see a physician before making any medical or lifestyle changes.

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