Emme’s Top Tips for Coping With Cancer
As the world’s leading plus-size model, Emme [Aronson] has always spoken out about the importance of a healthy lifestyle. Yet in 2007, the busy television personality, author and clothing designer found herself fighting for her own health.
Emme first knew something was wrong in 2003 when she developed a persistent cough and began to feel tired and itchy—“like ants were crawling inside my skin.” Her doctors thought she was suffering from allergies, hormonal changes or other common problems. She didn’t believe them. “I knew my body, and I sensed something was seriously wrong,” she recalls.
Blood tests and X-rays eventually revealed that Emme had Stage-II Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer of the lymphatic system. The diagnosis left her feeling relieved—because she finally had an answer for her symptoms—but also scared. Having lost her own mother to cancer when Emme was just 16, she knew what she was facing was serious. But she also knew it was treatable, and that she wasn’t powerless against it.
Emme opted for surgery and chemotherapy, and fought her cancer at home with lifestyle changes. And when chemo left her feeling “emaciated and without hair,” Emme refused to let it affect her body image. She had her daughter help her cut her hair, then dyed the hair that came back platinum blond.
Today, Emme is cancer free and chalks it up to a combo of excellent medical care combined with these fight-back strategies she swears by—strategies that might help you or a loved one:
Eat with health in mind.
“I hadn’t been consuming the recommended five servings of fruits and veggies a day,” Emme admits. So she upped her intake by “juicing” every day (often a mix of kale, spinach, broccoli, parsley, celery, cilantro, green beans, Swiss chard and cucumber) and, when she could, eliminated gluten (wheat), red meat, sugar, caffeine, fried foods and soda.
Why it’s a good idea: A research review published by scientists from the University of Alabama at Birmingham confirms that certain foods have negative epigenetic effects, which means they help inhibit genes that cause diseases like cancer. Vegetables, particularly ones like kale and broccoli, are filled with compounds like sulforaphane that help disarm cancer-causing genes.
In addition to eating better, Emme tossed out all her traditional household cleaning products, and now either makes her own cleaners using baking soda and vinegar, or relies on all-natural versions.
Why it’s a good idea: A five-year study conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency showed that peak concentrations of 20 toxic compounds—some linked with cancer—were 200 to 500 times higher in some homes than outdoors, likely due to use of chemical-laden cleaning products.
“Friends used to tell me they used meditation to de-stress, and I thought it was bogus,” admits Emme. Yet, during her treatment, she found herself exhausted. After that, Emme began meditating for 15 minutes every day, and also scheduled regular massages.
Why it’s a good idea: Often referred to as “complementary therapy,” the American Cancer Society recommends talking to your doctor about using meditation, massage therapy and other relaxation methods to help boost wellness and lessen stress during cancer treatments. In a study recently published in the journal Clinical Cancer Research, research has shown that reducing stress helped cancer patients live longer and boosted their immune response. Patients also had a 45% lower risk of cancer recurrence.
Reach out for support.
At the time of her diagnosis, Emme and her husband, Phil Aronson, were in the process of getting a divorce. “At first, I resisted asking for help,” recalls Emme. “But I realized cancer isn’t something anyone should try to go through alone.” Emme asked friends if they would be willing to give her a hand while she underwent her chemo, then gave each some specific duties, such as picking up her daughter after school or making dinner. Others accompanied her to treatment. “I had 12 chemo buddies,” she says. “And each one of them gave up a day to be with me.”
Why it’s a good idea: Cultivating and maintaining a strong social network is vital to your physical and mental health. Scientists believe this may be partially due to oxytocin, the bonding hormone people release in social situations, that has been shown to relieve stress and anxiety.