Elana Swart-Traut Autor & Coach

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The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.

Chinese Proverb

elana swart-traut journey

My Story ....

In October 2020 I was diagnosed with a very rare cancer. BIA ALCL was confirmed after an operation of what we thought was to clean out an abscess that formed in the vicinity of my Allergan textured breast implant. What the surgeon performing this standard procedure found was astonishing. Necrosis to the breast bone and various other concerning observations around the area in question.

Although there has been a number of deaths globally, BIA ALCL is by most accounts considered to be an indolent cancer. But not in my case. The Ki67 marker on my histology showed 80-90% of the cancer cells were dividing at the time of observation. This was an aggressive cancer and it came to visit at the most inconvenient time. We were seven months into a global pandemic, only eight months after marrying my soul partner and a few months after losing my brother to cancer. I had also just turned 50 two months before. I had so many plans for the next stage of my life.

My initial reaction on hearing the diagnosis was to hide and walk this path in private. Initially, the diagnosis was a body blow and I was numb. I was going to die, just like my mom and my brother. This cancer was going to kill me.

I was the saddest I had ever been in my life. I lived a healthy life and looked after myself. I had built lucrative businesses and empowered women in the process. My businesses upskilled so many disadvantaged women over two decades and it just felt like it was all in vain. It felt like I was destined to leave this life before fulfilling all my goals. I was beyond heartbroken. I was shattered. How could I have been so reckless and risk this valuable life for a pair of good looking breasts? 

What made my diagnosis so much worse was the fact that my doctors had no experience treating this cancer. One set of specialists said I am fine and to come back in three months. One team suggested surgery to remove the other implant and to monitor the situation. Neither of these options felt right to me and I continued the search for a medical team that wanted to take this on. My research showed that a haematologist was the best option as this cancer is a lymphoma and luckily for me we found just such a doctor 30 kilometres away. A doctor who was prepared to do whatever it took to help his patient.

It was during the process of discussing the next step that we discovered the Ki67 results. An urgent PET scan and bone marrow biopsy was arranged and although the results of the bone marrow biopsy was negative, the PET scan showed that three lymph nodes were affected. It was becoming clear what the next step in the process was going to be. Chemotherapy!

In order to survive this, I had to die first. Physically, mentally and emotionally. For those who know, chemo is the toughest journey. You kill 90% of your physical body to give yourself a chance to live. You have to die to survive.

I had the biggest fear for the side effects of chemotherapy. I saw first hand what it did to both my mom and my sibling, I was petrified to say the least but I wanted to live. The fear of chemo was paralysing. How was I going to handle at least six rounds of chemo? I had no idea. But I knew that it was my only chance at surviving this. I submitted to the process and held the belief that I will heal this cancer and come through this even stronger than before.

20 November 2020 was scheduled to be my first round of chemo and, at my request, I was to receive an aorta port inserted into my chest to help with the administration of the treatment. It was surreal. It felt like I was living my mother’s life. The first round of treatment was administered through the a-port on the same day that the surgeons inserted it. While receiving the chemo, I felt this immense sadness. 

I am responsible for this, I did this to myself. The level of sadness I felt at deserting myself many years prior and now having to deal with this grave illness was just too much. I had no words, only tears. I am going to have to do whatever it takes to fix my mistake and to survive this. My family needed me to do it. They needed to see someone in our family survive cancer, especially since the historical family track record with cancer was dismal to say the least. And I needed to do it, for me. This did not feel like the end of my story. 

I wanted to find out what was on the other side of cancer and chemotherapy. And that was when my dance with cancer took a new turn. I was going to pay attention and learn what I needed to learn, whether it was for myself or something to share with others. I was in class, paying attention and taking notes.

Initially, nothing out of the ordinary was happening. Or so I thought. 

It was only after the umpteenth time that someone said “I love your energy, don’t lose it. I am rooting for you.” that I realised that something was different.

What was different? I checked in with myself. Nope, the paralysing fear for chemo was still there. So it wasn’t that. What was it?

I discovered that it made a big difference to my overall state of mind and well-being if I chose to feel good regardless of what I was going through. Feeling good mentally was a choice and it empowered me. It empowered me so much that I just had to share what I discovered and this is how “The Feel Good Guru” saw the light.

I had a need to share a specific message with others. “How” we feel is an inside job controlled by external happenings and it is how we react to the external factors that determined our level of internal happiness. It is a simple concept but yet not so easy to manage and it gave life to “The daily check-ins” – a very handy tool that I use with my whole family. This small concept has brought about a huge amount of  healing in our family nucleus and it is a valuable platform from which to start healthy discussions.

As my physical chemo journey continued so did my internal journey. I discovered that the way you feel draws to you the types of life experiences you encounter. In other words, the worse you feel the more you draw negative experiences to yourself and the happier you feel the more you draw good experiences to yourself. I just loved playing with my personal energy in different situations, testing different outcomes and every single time Newton’s law proved itself. It was an awesome place to hang out in and I used it to facilitate a better outcome with every round of my treatment.

I am now nearing the end of the two year observation period post chemo and with every day that goes by I feel better than the day before.

Chemotherapy has been a gift to my life. Not only has it gifted me with life but it has also gifted me so much more. I discovered my own power and I have learnt that we are all here for a purpose. We all have a “Blueprint” for this life and even when we make the “wrong” choices, they are still the “right” choices. All our decisions are embedded in our blueprint and we cannot fail. 

The only requirement is for us to be BRAVE. 

Brave enough to overcome our fears, the very fears that are preventing us from living the life we are born to live.

My Healing Journey...

Conquering BIA ALCL and Discovering “The Feel Good Guru”

In October 2020, my life took an unexpected and life-altering turn. I was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive cancer known as BIA ALCL (Breast Implant-Associated Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma). This diagnosis came as a devastating shock, and my initial reaction was to hide and endure this challenging journey in private. I felt as though this cancer was going to claim my life, just as it had taken my mother and my brother. The fear and sadness were overwhelming.

At the time of my diagnosis, the world was grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic, and my own personal life had already faced significant challenges. I had just celebrated my 50th birthday, recently lost my brother to cancer, and married my soulmate eight months prior. I had big plans for the next chapter of my life, and it seemed like all my dreams were slipping away.

What made my situation even more daunting was that my doctors had little experience treating BIA ALCL. Some suggested waiting for three months, while others proposed surgery to remove the breast implant. Neither option felt right to me, so I embarked on a journey to find a medical team willing to take on my case. Eventually, I found a haematologist who was determined to help me in this battle against a lymphoma.

My journey to recovery became even more challenging when we discovered the aggressive nature of the cancer through the Ki67 marker on my histology results. A PET scan revealed that three lymph nodes were affected, and it became evident that chemotherapy was the next step.

To survive, I had to confront the daunting prospect of chemotherapy, a treatment notorious for its severe side effects. Witnessing its effects on my mother and sibling only intensified my fear. However, I knew it was my best chance at survival. I had to “die” in some ways – physically, mentally, and emotionally – to have a shot at living.

My first round of chemotherapy in November 2020 was a surreal experience, and it was marked by overwhelming sadness. I felt responsible for the situation, having made the choice to undergo breast augmentation years ago. The sense of deserting my own well-being was profound. However, my determination to overcome this ordeal for the sake of my family and, most importantly, myself, began to take root. I refused to let this be the end of my story.

As I ventured into this unexpected chapter of my life, I resolved to learn from it and share my experience. What I discovered was that I had the power to choose how I felt despite the external circumstances. This choice significantly impacted my overall well-being. The more I focused on feeling good, the more positive experiences I attracted into my life.

This revelation led to the birth of “The Feel Good Guru,” a concept I was eager to share with others. I realized that our inner happiness is primarily determined by how we react to external factors, and this insight gave rise to “The daily check-ins,” a tool that fostered healing and healthy discussions within my family.

My journey through chemotherapy was not only a physical battle but also an internal transformation. I learned that our emotional state influences the life experiences we encounter. Embracing positivity and happiness helped me navigate the challenges of each treatment round.

Today, I am in a better place physically, mentally, and emotionally. Chemotherapy, as daunting as it was, gifted me with life and a newfound understanding of my inner strength.

I have learned that life’s challenges, even the choices that seem “wrong,” are all part of our unique blueprint. We cannot fail; we can only learn and grow. The key is to be brave enough to confront our fears, which often hold us back from living the life we are meant to live.

My journey through BIA ALCL and chemotherapy has been transformative, and I am grateful for the strength I’ve discovered within myself. It is my hope that my story can inspire others to find their inner strength, choose positivity, and, above all, be brave in the face of life’s challenges.

I learnt...

One of the many things I learnt during this journey was that our bodies heal better and quicker when we are mentally in a good space.

Chemotherapy kills all cells to ensure that you have the best chance to overcome the disease and with every round your body is weaker than the previous round but yet your dosage is unchanged. You still receive the same dosage as the initial round when your body was at its strongest.

This has a massive impact on your state of mind.

Going through this process I learnt a number of ways to keep my mind strong and I share this in the workshops I host.