Surviving breast cancer gives you a new perspective on life and how you choose to live it. For Sage & Ginger founder, Wendy Milligan, her journey highlighted how important it was to support the body and mind to heal and restore after treatment to move forward and thrive.

This was the missing piece in the conventional medical model that led Wendy to become a qualified naturopath and support women like her who wanted to take back control of their mental and physical wellbeing.

In an honest interview, Wendy shares her motivation for focusing her practice on breast cancer recovery and the importance of natural health and a strong community of women.

Q. Wendy, why are you passionate about supporting women after breast cancer treatment?

After women have ‘won’ their battle with cancer, they often feel vulnerable and lonely. The support they had during treatment from friends and family and the regular medical support is often reduced significantly as people get on with their lives.

During treatment, women with breast cancer are so focused on making it through each day, whether that be going to specialist appointments, having treatment, coping with side effects, working, and/or looking after families. They live in the hope that they can beat this disease and go back to living a normal life.

When the active treatment comes to an end, it’s almost expected you’ll resume life as per usual perhaps even with more gusto. After all, you’ve faced a near-death experience and now should be embracing life and ticking off your bucket list, right?

But, what breast cancer survivors don’t know yet is that the effects of cancer and treatment go far beyond the physical. It weighs heavily on one’s mental state for a long time following active treatment.

Speaking from personal experience, I felt isolated and lonely following my breast cancer treatment. It was generally believed that I was ‘cured’ and should be back to myself. But that wasn’t the case.

This sparked my desire to immerse myself in studying and become a qualified naturopath. During this time I discovered a way to nourish my body, mind and spirit to reach a place of peace around my diagnosis and to recover from the turmoil that takes place when faced with cancer.

This resulted in a powerful personal shift and I longed to help other women find that peace too.

Q. After treatment, women generally feel exhausted and overwhelmed. What’s so important about focusing on nutrition?

 Focusing on nutrition is a way to recover and repair from the ordeal that your body undergoes during surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. During active treatment, worrying about eating a nutrient-dense diet is the last thing on your mind. It’s common for you to experience a lack of appetite or a change in taste buds. Your enjoyment of food is diminished and the lingering fatigue can mean you simply don’t have the energy to cook a meal, let alone a nutritionally-balanced one.

Nutrition establishes the foundations upon which you build to restore health, wellness and vitality. With treatment side effects affecting what and how much you eat, often you’ll find yourself finishing treatment depleted mentally and physically.

Establishing your nutrient requirements and gaps is a great place to start in your recovery. Generally, I like to do some testing to produce an individualised eating plan for my clients that addresses underlying nutrient deficiencies and helps them on the road to feeling energised again.

Q. What’s involved in the Sage & Ginger 3-Step Recover, Repair, Renew method?

Fear of cancer recurrence is considered one of the most prominent concerns for women following a breast cancer diagnosis. Even though you may have received the word “remission”, you can never quite shake the worry of its return.

Our 3-step method provides the strategies and a structured approach to regaining health for when crossing your fingers isn’t enough of a plan. We start with an initial holistic Post-Treatment Appraisal. This helps to establish where you are currently in terms of your health and wellness. We take a close look at your previous health history and help you identify your goals for your future. Some testing is done to provide a baseline of your current biochemistry, and depending on the level of support you are considering, we also recommend various types of hair testing if appropriate. In addition, our 3-step method includes:

  • An individualised eating plan used to support your recovery and repair process.
  • Powerful strategies to keep your stress at bay.
  • Education in the importance of detoxification and the correct way to do it for long-term health.
  • A guide in the importance of the lymphatic system for ongoing wellness.
  • A Naturopathic Yoga subscription for your renewal stage.

Q. If you could recommend one thing a woman should do nutritionally after breast cancer, what would it be?

Firstly, I like to see women reduce their chemical load. Introducing as much organic food as possible is a good place to start.

It is also very important to determine what nutrient deficiencies have developed and address these first before you make any changes to your diet. I’m particularly passionate about looking at how we can use food to nurture the body effectively for the long term.

Q. Once recovered from breast cancer, you’re then faced with the fear of it recurring. How can your ‘Life After Treatment’ program support this?

I often find that there is not enough focus or support for women during the recovery phase after their breast cancer treatment.

Many women experience significant challenges after their active treatment has ceased – debilitating fatigue, brain fog, weight gain, scars, menopausal symptoms just to name a few.

This is also a time where you’re having to come to terms with a body you may no longer feel is yours after months of treatment and pain.

This period for many women is challenging and confronting, where every little ache and pain can bring on fear and anxiety at the prospect of a recurrence. It’s important to acknowledge that your breast cancer journey is a traumatic one.

Our ‘Life After Treatment’ program looks at many different areas to help recover from treatment and to get you to a place where you’re comfortable and accepting of the experience you’ve had. Our program equips you with the tools to provide resilience to any future setbacks you may encounter with your health.

We look at establishing healthy habits and how to nurture your nervous systems for ongoing health and wellbeing. In addition to nutrition, we use therapeutic breathing practices, mindfulness techniques to focus on the present and appropriate exercise regimes.

The ‘Life After Treatment’ program isn’t just focused on the individual. We create a supportive and open space for a community of women who have walked the same path. 

Though each of our individual experiences with breast cancer is different, there is a common bond shared and we provide a community for you! It’s different from the support you receive from your friends and family who have your best interests at heart but can’t possibly understand exactly what you’re experiencing at each stage in your journey. Our community of women are there to support you every step of the way. As breast cancer survivors, they understand what you are going through, and it’s a safe place to vent when things get tough and a place to celebrate your wins.

It is my mission that every woman should have the support that THEY need! We will talk about all things nutrition, lifestyle, lymphatics and keep you updated on the latest research with a focus on my magic 3-step formula Recover, Repair & Renew!

If you’ve found yourself on your own personal journey and want to strive for total wellness, get in touch to start our “Life After Treatment” program and join a community of women with a shared experience.