If you want some easy action steps to take control of your health or prevent and fight cancer you are going to want to keep reading! 

My guest on this week’s blog post is such a beautiful human, she’s just fabulous! You’re gonna love her as much as I do. She has a beautiful story and she is on a mission to create healthy women in this world. Which I can definitely get behind!

In this blog post, we are going to talk about

  • Samantha’s journey from cancer diagnosis to health.

  • How functional medicine and mindset can help you to reduce risk of a cancer diagnosis or other serious health condition.

  • The four of the eight easy ways to take control of your health that Samantha talks about in her book.

This blog post is actually excerpted from a longer Video/Podcast episode. You can watch the whole thing if you click play on the video above.

About Samantha Harris

Let me just talk about her really quickly before we dive in because you probably know Samantha Harris from TV. She was the co-host of Dancing with the Stars and Entertainment Tonight. She’s been on a ton of shows. She’s an Emmy Award-winning TV host and journalist. She’s a breast cancer survivor! She’s also a best-selling author (of a book that we’re going to talk about today). She’s a certified health coach and fitness trainer, nutrition advocate, and promoter of healthy living. She’s been on the cover of many fitness and health magazines including Shape, First for Women, Fit Parent, Muscle and Fitness, HERS, Pilates Style, Wellness, Women’s Running. She was named survivor of the year by Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure in Los Angeles in 2017. She serves as an ambassador for Susan G. Komen and the American Cancer Society. She’s also a member of the Entertainment Council for Feeding America

Samantha welcome!

Your community is amazing, it’s a bunch of kick-ass women who want to take control of their health and they’re doing what they need to do. So that’s why I wanted to talk to you today I want to know, everything that you’re doing with these women because you’re making such an impact. It’s beautiful.

Samantha : Thank you, It’s interesting to have made this career shift and pivot to something that I’m so passionate about, where I never thought I could be as passionate about something as I was about pursuing a career in TV. It’s a more fulfilling passion, because I’m helping so many people in whatever way I can. So they can take control of their health and live the healthiest, healthy life possible.

Tabitha: Yeah, I just love it so much. I think that every struggle we go through has a purpose. And the people who live amazing, fulfilling lives are the ones who dig down, do the work, and figure out why did I just go through that hell, why did this happen to me and make lemonade out of lemons? Like you did? Right? I would love for you to share with my listeners, what happened at 40?

Samantha’s Story of Cancer Survival and Purpose

I feel it’s important to share my story because so many of us are so stressed, pulled in 20 different directions, not necessarily taking care of our health because we are taking care of so many other people. What this cancer diagnosis really gave me the permission to put myself first in many ways. 

It doesn’t mean I’m not taking great care of my family. I am, but I make sure there’s time for self-care. So let me just take you back. I was about to turn 40. In 2014, I thought, you know my dad died of colon cancer at 50. His mom was a breast cancer survivor. I’m as fit and healthy as I’ve ever been. Let’s go get a mammogram just as a baseline. I had a mammogram, the results came back clear (which is what I expected). Only 11 days later, I was changing after a workout. (You know how those sports bras constrict you and you have to kind of shift things around. Well, thank goodness I did, because it was in that that I discovered a lump. I didn’t think it was cancer because I had just had a clear mammogram. 

It’s Nothing

I went to see my OBGyn because she was the only doctor who did a regular clinical breast exam. She did a quick exam and said it was nothing. I’m turning 40. It’s probably glandular. That’s what boobs look like at that age. She sent me on my way. About a month later, that lump was still there. I thought I should get a second opinion. So I went to my Internist. He also thought it was nothing, but said they’d keep an eye on it. Then before I knew it, the holidays came and left. Four months had passed. That snarky pesky little lump was still there. 

The Second Opinion

I finally decided that I should go see someone who looks at breasts every day as their specialty, not for one second, realizing it’s only an oncologist that actually does that. I remember walking into the Breast Center at this hospital in Santa Monica and seeing the words oncology. I think why am I in a place for cancer? 

I did a battery of exams. We did the clinical breast exam. We did the ultrasound and a needle biopsy. Eventually an MRI. The craziest part is, not one of the tests actually diagnosed that it was cancer. I firmly believe we have to be our own best advocates. I kept listening to that inner voice that I pushed away for a while. Finally, I got really quiet because sometimes we have to really quiet ourselves to hear the whisper of our inner voice. They’re not always screaming at us, right? The constant nagging of my inner voice is what propelled me into action to go get this opinion of the oncologist. 

Thankfully, this incredible oncologist listened to her gut. She said, I have good news and bad news. The good news is it’s not cancer. The bad news is I don’t know what it is. I advise we take it out, anyway. I had never had surgery in my life (outside of my wisdom teeth being removed). I went in and had a lumpectomy. The initial results of the lumpectomy also said no cancer. A week later, I went for the final pathology results. I told my husband “stay home, it’s not cancer, we’re good.” That’s when I found out it was not only ductal carcinoma inside the duct, but also invasive breast cancer. 

That’s Where my Journey for Answers Began.

Dr. Tabatha “What an important point, you need to trust your intuition and listen to yourself, because you above everyone knows your body, and you know when something’s not right. I hear that all the time with my patients. “I keep telling my doctor and they just aren’t listening. But I know I don’t feel right.” I love that you’re telling women to go find another opinion, keep searching, get the answers you’re looking for because it saved your life.

Samantha: That’s why I love what you do! You went to medical school, but you have this functional medicine approach. You’re not just going to treat the symptoms and try to just patch things up. You’re looking for the root cause. I didn’t even know what a Functional Medicine Doctor was. I didn’t know what an integrative doctor was. Now I have a whole slew of medical practitioners who go beyond what the traditional med schools teach them. Thankfully, there are so many great resources online. Now, we can do virtual appointments if you don’t have a great functional doc in your area. You’re giving your listeners and private patients a real gift.

Dr. Tabatha: Thank you. It’s so important and I would much rather intervene before someone gets a diagnosis. If we would have talked to you maybe at 37 or 38 we would have found out that you were having symptoms of estrogen dominance or other inflammatory conditions. Something was driving this process. 

The cover of Samantha’s book.

Let’s Talk About Your Book

Dr. Tabatha: I love your book, I think it’s super important that everybody reads it because you are breaking it down to help your readers get healthy before they have a diagnosis of something like cancer. Right?

Since my diagnosis, I’ve been a National Ambassador for Susan G. Komen. From working so closely with them, I learned that one in eight women will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime. I thought, okay, my dad had colon cancer, there’s a colon breast connection, my mom had breast cancer it must be genetic. Only five to 10% of breast cancers are actually hereditary. I had a battery of extensive genetic testing done. Granted we haven’t found all the genes yet, but there are a lot of them out there and I had no genetic link to my cancer. 

I began reading everything I could and spoke to as many experts as I could. I found out, it really is what we put in, on, and around our bodies that affect our overall well-being. This can turn on or off dormant cancer genes or other autoimmune or chronic disease genes that we carry. I love the study of epigenetics. It talks about how your environment and your behaviors affect what’s happening inside. We can be in control, we can take control and change how we are living our lives and in turn affect our health.

Tabatha: You created this whole community of women that you educate and empower. I can’t even explain what I think is the most important piece that you bring to the table is your mindset, your positivity, and your beautiful quest for just living a happy life, that supersedes anything that you can do physically, medically, all of that I just believe in the power of positivity and you just take it to the next level. Could you speak about that a little bit because I really do think that’s why you are thriving as well as you are? 

Mindset Played a Huge Part in My Cancer Recovery

It’s so true! Mindset played a huge part in my cancer recovery. Another key was understanding that we have the power to take control of our health. I want to share that with your listeners. I don’t for one second want your listeners to think well gosh, she was just Miss Polly positive all the time. No big deal here. It was a walk in the park. She just changed her mindset. I am a positive person. Cancer struck that down so hard that I thought I was going to be crushed under the weight of it. 

I Was Crushed at First

My daughters were three and six at the time. My husband thought I don’t know how to raise girls, what the hell am I going to do if you’re not around? How am I going to live without you? You lost your dad to cancer. What are we going to do without you? I was so riddled with anxiety that I could literally feel it like this very uncomfortable energy vibrating through my body. 

I knew I had a long path ahead of me. I had three surgeries in 2014. That also came with three long recoveries. I said You know what? I can’t feel like this. I can’t go on feeling like this. I can either drown myself in drugs, alcohol and negative behaviors, hateful attitudes, and negative mindset, which is a really horrible way to live. It was not the path that I wanted to model for my kids.

I’ve got to choose the other path. I need to flip this cancer diagnosis on its head. Anything that comes at me, I need to look for the silver lining. Some days, it wasn’t easy, but positive self-talk really got me through. I didn’t even realize that was a thing back then. 

What Did Your Positive Self Talk Look Like?

I thought well you have a cancer diagnosis, what’s good about it? Well, we caught it pretty early actually so I have a great prognosis. That is fantastic. What else is good? I have a wonderful support squad. I have great health insurance. Okay, so if you’re on a roll, Samantha keep going. And literally saying these things out loud or looking in a mirror and saying them into the mirror and really feeling it

Tell us About the Easy Steps to Transforming Your Health That You Talk About in Your Book.

In your book, you talk about eight easy steps to really transforming your health. Can you kind of go over those quickly? Yes, absolutely.

Step One Eat More Plants

When it comes to nutrition, we don’t have to do a 180 overnight. We’ve been eating however we’ve been eating for however many decades, right? Is it going to prevent cancer, heart disease, and type two diabetes if we don’t change overnight? No. What we need is slow, small manageable steps because it’s about long-term success and sustainability. It doesn’t matter if you want to be a vegan, keto, paleo or pescatarian. It doesn’t matter what dietary theory you subscribe to. You have to figure out what’s right for you. We’re all individuals so what works well for me might not work well for you, etc. But every guru in the nutrition space would agree that starting with a plant-based whole foods foundation is key. 

So when you sit down to your next meal, think how can I get more veggies into this meal? How can I add more leafy greens? Green foods are at the top of the whole nutrient density pyramid. How can you aim to fill your plate half full at every meal? It doesn’t mean you have to start today doing that. Maybe just start with your breakfast. Maybe you start with a green smoothie, maybe you find chia pudding recipes because that’s a really easy way to get a lot of healthy, wonderful, nutrient-dense foods into your life.  I have my Samantha’s signature smoothie. It’s basically a kitchen sink smoothie. I put everything in there that I wouldn’t necessarily eat on its own.

Step 2. Movement

You have to start moving your body. One point I’ll make on that before I move to the next is that our bodies crave movement. We are not that far from our hunter-gatherer ancestors. They moved all day long hunting for their food, eating, you know, whatever they could when they could. They would only have big meals when they could get a good kill. Otherwise, it was a lot of berries and veggies and vegetation that they were grazing on as they were moving their body every day. Our body is about growth or decay. We need to move, when we do this, our cells are growing, they’re proliferating, and the good way, not the bad. When we are sedentary, whether it’s sitting in our car, watching TV, driving to work, we’re just sitting all the time. When we’re sedentary, we’re not regenerating, we’re just dying off. We need to move. This tells our bodies, oh, wait, I do need energy, I do need to move and the more you move, even when you’re tired, the more energy you will actually have.

Step 3. Mindset

We talked about mindset already. It’s another huge part of health. It’s not just what you’re doing internally, but also who are you surrounding yourself with? Are you surrounding yourself with other positive people? I call them positive Polly’s in the book. Or are you surrounding yourself with the negative Nellies? Sometimes we have to really assess who they are what we can do to either set boundaries or extract them from our lives completely. 

I actually take you through a process of asking yourself different questions about specific people to assess the people in your life. I’m not telling you to cut off a relationship with an important family member completely. I have clients who had to do that because it was too negative. It might simply be that mom that you see at school drop off every day, who every time you leave a conversation with her makes you feel less than, makes you feel stressed. Maybe you decide that you will just say hi and extract yourself from the situation when you see her again.

Step 4. Clean Up Your Routine

I spent my TV career in a hair and makeup chair every single day being made up and having my hair done. A lot of us are aware of the pesticides in our foods and perhaps starting to buy more organic and definitely non-GMO. But what about the toxic effects of your daily makeup, your shampoos, your cleaning products? There are carcinogens and endocrine disruptors in there. Endocrine disruptors mess with our hormones. 

It’s not just estrogen and testosterone. Hormones regulate so many important parts of your entire system. So if you have lots of products you’re putting on your body, it tends to lead to chronic diseases and autoimmune disorders. I started getting rid of harmful self-care products slowly. I started first with my deodorant. I had a lot of cancer survivors say, are you still using aluminum in your deodorant? Start small, you don’t have to dump out your whole makeup bag tonight. But maybe just start with your concealer or ideally your foundation because it’s going over your whole face. Then start to level up what’s in your eyeshadow. Thankfully there are so many wonderful clean brands out there that a lot of people probably already know about. This is crazy, but the European Union bans over 1300 ingredients as possibly carcinogenic or harmful or a known carcinogen, or endocrine disruptor. And the US bans just 11.

This is crazy, but the European Union bans over 1300 ingredients as possibly carcinogenic or harmful or a known carcinogen, or endocrine disruptor. And the US bans just 11.

Samantha Harris

If you want to find products that are clean for self-care or to use in your home, visit the Environmental Working Group. They have a list of produce that has the most pesticide and heavy metals and the least pesticide heavy. It’s called The Dirty Dozen, which is the 12 most pesticide-heavy fruits and vegetables. They have a full list as well of like the 40 or 50 that they test every year. If you don’t want to buy everything organic to save money, choose to buy the things on the Dirty Dozen list organic or replace them with conventionally grown items from the Clean 15 list.

They actually have a database called Skin Deep which has tens of thousands of different makeup, skincare and shampoo products as well as cleaning products. They rate them from one to ten. One being the cleanest and 10 being the most toxic. You can look up a specific item and make an informed decision about whether or not you want to buy that product.

Do you have any makeup companies that you love and trust and promote?

My favorite is called Crunchi. It’s only sold through Crunchi representatives. I also like Beauty Counter. 

I think pretty almost everything that I have on my face is made by Crunchi except for my mascara. It’s the one thing that’s still dirty because I can’t find a mascara that will do the job. 

Clean Beauty is something that I spend a day on during my retreats. If any of your readers are interested in attending one of my retreads, they should send me a DM on Instagram @SamanthaHarrisTV. I will give them a discount of $100 or more toward one of my retreats and free consultation with me. Make sure to let me know that you heard me here on the Functional Gynecologist Podcast

To Wrap it Up

Wow, isn’t Samantha just a wealth of knowledge? I love her spirit and her energy. She has it all figured out so I encourage you to get her book and really start to take those baby steps to implement a new way of life. If you’re not moving your body regularly, start moving it, start swapping out the dirty beauty care products for cleaner products, start adding more vegetables into your diet. I know these steps seem basic but they can have a profound impact on how you’re feeling and what’s happening in your body. I don’t want you to get to the point of getting a cancer diagnosis to make these changes. My biggest takeaway from this interview is to listen to your body. 

Really hone in on what your body is trying to tell you especially when something’s not right. Like Samantha was saying she just knew that lump didn’t belong there. She was persistent with her doctor, but it was because she was listening to her intuition that her cancer was caught when it was. Ask questions, keep searching for answers so you can be your best version of yourself.

Keep working on being your best selves. Share this with every woman you know, because we are a sisterhood. We need to lift each other up and support each other. It’s not a competition. So share this with all the women you love and know. Shoot me your messages.