Lori Esarey: Wellness is a practice, not just a word.
Kelly Engelmann: Welcome to the Synergy Podcast, where myself, Kelly Engelmann and Lori Esarey shed light on powerful tools and topics that nourish your body,
Lori Esarey: and most importantly, feed your soul.
Kelly Engelmann: Welcome back, synergy listeners, we are so excited to be back in studio producing today. I have a very special guest and co host today, Lori Essary, that’s going to be joining us. Thanks, Lori, for being here. We’re focusing our conversation today on breast cancer awareness. And I wanted Lori to share her story about her diagnosis with breast cancer a few years ago. She walked through that diagnosis and I just think there’s some richness and some healing potential in her sharing her story, number one. And I think there are some key insights that you guys would really, really appreciate. So Lori, thank you for being here and being my friend and being the voice of functional medicine and the voice of healing.
Lori Esarey: Yeah. I appreciate you asking in. And when we originally started talking about this, it’s not easy to share your story. And I’m used to being a co host with you, right, and asking other people their questions. And yeah, so today a conversation about, where does it begin though, right? Breast cancer. I think we all know that cancer doesn’t just show up. And I think what we may or may not know is that none of us are immune, to disease.
Kelly Engelmann: Absolutely.
Lori Esarey: But I thought. I’ve been doing all these great things for years, right? Like, I’m a functional medicine expert, I’ve been practicing for, 17 years. I’ve been in the field for a long time and here I was in 2019, faced with a diagnosis of breast cancer and so the story began. Now, in hindsight, I realize many, many years ago in my twenties, being diagnosed with, at the time, a lack of blood sugar control, and essentially, my body was in a state of dysfunction for many, many years before the disease state, cancer arrived but back in those early years of my life in my 20’s when blood sugar was not good. I didn’t realize the connection to disease and I think hindsight is always 2020, we know so much more today than we knew then but going back that is where the story began, it’s a story that when faced with the diagnosis in 2019, I think the questions that anyone would ask were no different that I asked myself that probably anyone else asks is why and how, how does that happen and why?
Kelly Engelmann: Yes. So let’s go back to the story because you were obviously, in the middle of your practice, stress was a little bit higher than typical for that period of time. And you were considering doing some reconstruction surgery with breast implants. So tell us about like that whole, how the realization of breast cancer even came about because I think that’s pretty miraculous too. And intuition for you was a big part of that, right?
Lori Esarey: It absolutely was, so I had been really struggling with exposure to mold in my home and had gotten quite sick and as you know, had nearly died from chronic inflammatory response syndrome in hindsight, didn’t even know, right? My body was just completely taxed and burdened and, I was running the beach one day, which is just a profound time for me, I was particularly on the beach, where I can look at the ocean and the waves. It’s a time of reflection for me, it’s a meditation, it’s a prayer time and as I was running the beach. It was, you need a mammogram. And I’m like, what? You need a mammogram. I’m like, where does that even come from? Like where, I just had a thermography three months ago everything’s fine, I don’t feel bad. You need a mammogram and I think that that part of that, the backside to that story was I was, considering prior to that having my breast implants out because I had had multiple surgeries in my 20’s for cysts in both of my breasts that resulted in having such a lack of breast tissue that my breast became very deformed. And I had the surgery back then, right? So that’s the backstory to, I think, where my thought process was going but that intuition of you need to have a mammogram and then as I got back to, after my four mile run back to the tent, I remember saying to my mom who was there, mom, I think I need to have a mammogram. And she goes, what are you talking about? And I said, well, I think I need to have my breast implants out. And she’s like, what are you talking about? And at that moment, I was like, I just think I do. So yes, intuition was a big start to getting the diagnostic testing that led to my diagnosis. And then returning home to get the testing that led to the diagnosis.
Kelly Engelmann: Yeah, so I’m just thinking about you had had a thermography three months prior to that kind of knowing that you needed a mammogram. Right? And that thermography looked normal. There was nothing suspicious on that thermography is my point. And I think there’s a lot of fear, there’s been a lot of fear in the functional space in people seeking out functional medicine. A lot of times they have this fear of doing a mammogram routinely is that exposure to radiation going to increase risk for breast cancer that’s been brought up in the community for quite some time now. Leaning on thermography as a way of screening has been kind of the thought process in, well, if I get my thermography, if it’s not suspicious, then maybe I don’t need a mammogram kind of thinking, right? We’ve all had this conversation, so what would you say to that now?
Lori Esarey: I’ve been asked that a lot and, my answer has been, first of all, I hadn’t had a thermography for approximately two years. And I think one of the things we have to realize is when you initially have your baseline thermography, you’re advised to go back in six months, right? And then you’re there after, unless there’s an abnormality doing it sooner. To fully disclose, first of all, I had a delay in getting my thermography, but when I had my thermography, absolutely it was, it was normal. And so, I would say now that I do believe that there are a multitude of different diagnostic tests that we can do, as well as our own self breast exams, and we all need to be completely proactive. We need to be doing all of those. Absolutely. But I don’t believe that there is one way, like one size fits all. I do believe that we have to work with our provider of care, ask really good questions and determine what’s right for us, whether that be thermography alternating with mammography, maybe it’s ultrasound. But I would recommend just choosing one way. I would have a discussion, right? And that’s what we say about everything that we recommend is have a discussion with your qualified healthcare professional, discuss your history. There are different reasons to have different types of diagnostic tests, sometimes it’s more appropriate to have an MRI. I had had multiple surgeries. I had implants. It was not easy to palpate at all. It was tiny, right? So. Yes, it’s not a one size fits all, diagnostically speaking.
Kelly Engelmann: So let’s dig into the whole topic with your story about, this concept of dysfunction versus disease, because it sounds like in your 20’s, you had some dysfunction of blood shear going on. And that dysfunction over time could have made you predispositioned. There is a connection between dysregulation and blood sugar and cancer risk, right? Central obesity sometimes is a risk factor for patients with cancer, especially breast cancer. You know, breast cancer is the number one cancer for females. So it’s a big deal. It’s something that we should be paying attention to. What would you say about that cascade for you? with blood sugar dysregulation and cancer diagnosis.
Lori Esarey: Yeah. So I think first of all, when I discovered during pregnancy, actually that my blood sugar was dysregulated and then post pregnancy, it maintained a level that was elevated, but not beyond a disease threshold. I was told that there, it was okay, right? Just exercise, change up your food, and it’ll be better. But during that time, there wasn’t an exploration, of what were the drivers of that condition, right? So now functional medicine root cause approach is instead of just looking at the symptom of the blood sugar dysregulation, it’s really looking at that root cause. So if we back up the story even further, in high school, there was a lot of hormone as a whole dysregulation. Hormone as a whole. Not having regular periods, having excessive menstruation, to the point of even talking about birth control use, right? And then I was on birth control pills. And I was on them for an extended period of time, and then came off of them, and then was not able to get pregnant, then had endometriosis. I mean, you hear this, right? Dysfunction, dysfunction, dysfunction. And then had a laparoscopy and had surgery for endometriosis. Then was able to get pregnant, and then after being able to get pregnant had very difficult pregnancies, let’s say, having gestational diabetes ending up having elevated blood pressure, preeclampsia, C sections, early deliveries, let’s go on. So yes, I think that there was an ongoing amount of dysfunction and hormonal dysregulation for a longtime sex hormones, blood sugar hormones, likely adrenal hormones, but not past the disease threshold to which someone would say, doctors would say, you have this, let’s treat with this. And therefore, to me, pre and prior to my education. I did not put that connection together, and so now, in hindsight, there is no doubt in my mind that, and we know this, that a lack of blood sugar control is the primary driver, of inflammation, or, as we say, it’s the primary driver of inflammation, and inflammation, then, is a primary driver of blood sugar dysregulation, and it becomes a sloop, right? So, that state of dysfunction, then, if we stay in that chronicity of that state, we will end up with a disease state, and it could be just about anything, hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes, osteoporosis, Parkinson’s disease, neurological disease, must we go on, but for me? My cards were Breast cancer. So in spite of everything that was done from the standpoint of good nutrition and those things, I think that what I didn’t understand was the relationship between adrenal health and other hormones.
Kelly Engelmann: I think your story, is a very familiar story. In the world that we live in today. There’s oftentimes dysregulation in blood sugar, polycystic ovarian syndrome, endometriosis, dysregulation in menstrual cycles early in life, and we are oftentimes as clinicians not making the connection to those adrenal hormones and the stress response and dysregulation in blood sugar, that if we made that connection early, what could we be preventing when that person hits their forties and fifties where their increased risk for cancer or other chronic disease states go up? So I think my message to get out there is not to produce an element of fear, in any way in patients, but an element of awareness that the things that we do early in our teens and our twenties and our thirties set us up for what we experience later. And having said that, it’s never too late to make those changes, right? It’s never too late to start working on the disruptors of metabolic dysfunction and inflammation.
Lori Esarey: Absolutely. And I’m super glad that you said that because, kind of going back to the patients that we get the privilege of treating every day. We say the four pillars or now we say five, right? Nutrition, detoxification, exercise or movement of the body, hormone balance, and then mindset. Mindsets if we’re if we’re talking about a chair, it’s those four legs of the chair and mindsets the cushion, if we couldn’t sit in that chair, it wouldn’t be a useful chair without mindset, but that leg of hormones I think is so powerful, because there’s such interconnection that I agree that unfortunately in medicine historically we’ve done a very poor job at connecting the dots. And when we are young walking through that and I’m speaking right now to girls who are in their teens and 20’s with already having hormone dysregulation and going on the pill for excessive periods and whatever other symptomatology and I too don’t want to create fear. But I want to challenge you, ask questions. Ask the question why, and really poke at your providers of care. In a way that, be curious and ask, because those signs are a symptom of an underlying dysregulation that if you don’t understand, if you just put patchwork on it right now, at that time, which may alleviate symptoms. But that patchwork, unfortunately, can actually create a delay in you understanding, what needs to be done and then a disease state ensues that you had the ability much earlier to change and I think that’s the message more than anything is that I want to get out there is that I’m not regretful, or sad. I’m not. It’s hard, having walked through it, it’s hard, but it’s a story that’s powerful, and our stories change lives, and our ability to share that story, it has the power to get other people aware, and maybe, just maybe, prevent, and even if it’s one. It’s prevention. So asking those questions, those hard questions, connecting those dots, if you don’t have a provider of care that is willing to hear you and listen and connect those dots for you, have those dots connected and the how is? How do you do it? Is blood work, it’s more advanced testing. It’s not just looking at a simple CBC and a chemistry. It’s looking at hormone labs, now it’s looking at Metabolism, urinary metabolism of hormones. It’s working with a qualified health care provider of care that can take you beyond and really digging deeper into that and investigating, to find out what those connections are. And then sitting down with you and laying out a customized, individualized plan, that can help you create, if you will, an executable plan. I mean, at the end of the day, we’re all busy. We are, our lifestyles are crazy. Our bandwidths are limited. We all know we need to be eating good. We just don’t always know what that looks like or more importantly, like how to do it. But if you sit with someone after you understand and you need to make those changes, then invest in what needs to be done to get a plan that you can execute. That is something that you can do and it’s doing it in steps. I mean, there’s ladders to go up for a reason and there’s rungs in those ladders and you got to take every step, right? Every step up is another step in the right direction. And it takes each and every one of those steps to make that change. It’s a critical element is don’t just connect the dots in here, but take actionable steps early, to reverse the risk of disease again, not to make you immune, because let’s be honest, let’s go back to what I said initially, there is no such thing as being immune to disease,
Kelly Engelmann: Right. I think we’re so blessed today in the way that we are able to evaluate patients for a functional medicine stance. Historically we’ve only been able to look at blood labs for hormones or maybe salivary labs for hormones, but now we can actually see how those hormones are being metabolized. Are you at risk based on the way you metabolize your hormones at developing some of these hormone related cancers. And that’s part of the good news that we can see it, and the other good news is that we can help you fix it. So, if you’re not metabolizing well, it doesn’t mean you always have to not metabolize well. We can optimize hormone metabolism through what you eat, how you move your body, staying hydrated, keeping your stress level under control, protecting the adrenal glands. I mean, all of those are very powerful ways of us helping you navigate that hormone imbalance, regardless of where you sit in your life cycle.
Lori Esarey: I remember, very early in this walk of hormone dysregulation and I remember I love my gynecologist. He birthed my two biological children and I felt like I had a really great relationship with him and I still definitely respect him, no doubt. But I remember when I was offered, and this was early when ablations were an option, and I remember sitting with him and, due to the irregular bleeding him mentioning, that I should have an ablation. At the time, again, hindsight’s 2020. Let’s keep saying that right hindsight’s 2020, but I remember saying, okay, I’m going to go forward with this is there anything else I can do? Right? And he said, no, you’ve done what we could do and now this is really the next best step unless you want to have a hysterectomy. Okay. I’m quite young, don’t want to have a hysterectomy, so I had an ablation. And I remember going back to my visit afterwards after the ablation and we won’t go into the story of what the recovery of the ablation was but I just remember just a foul smell for days and just how it made my body feel right? And I went into him and I go, I know you’re a man, right? And you’re a gynecologist and a man, but I gotta have an honest conversation with you. As anyone mentioned, what this procedure not only feels like, right? But what it smells like for days, I felt like I was dying. Like my body was just dying. And I said, are you sure there’s just nothing else that could have been done? And he’s like, Lori, this is it. I really feel like this is going to help you and granted, I have not had a period since, but once again, in hindsight, testing that we now have available, to your point, today, that we did not have available to us then, not only serum testing of hormones, they had that, they had that. Which is one point in time, right? Then salivary was available, then the urinary metabolites. What we have available to us today and the magnitude of that would have likely changed, that scenario. And would have really given insight to the fact that my levels and my hormones were so imbalanced for so long that set the stage, to the bad soil I like to say right hormonal dysregulation is it leads a bad soil, right? So when there’s bad soil, unfortunately weeds grow in the garden. Weeds grow in the garden. So yeah, we do have a great amount of testing available to us now and there’s no reason, but again It’s just not offered typically in the traditional realm of care, so you you do have to seek out. You have to seek out, you have to be brave, you have to be curious, you have to read and you know some of my favorite books now that I would recommend is, Dr Lindsey Berkson does a great job and talking about safe hormones smart women. Safe Hormones, Smart Women, right? I think that’s a fantastic book just about hormonal dysregulation as a whole and which voices we do have as ladies and what symptoms, right? What are those symptoms and what kind of symptoms are we having and what do they relate to? And then she’s got a second book that I think is incredible called Hormone Deception. And that’s about environmental, right? Environmental influences that affect our hormones like you were talking about earlier.
Kelly Engelmann: Yeah, and there’s so much we can do to help. navigate that how to harness those hormones in a way to decrease inflammation to allow for proper offloading of those hormones, there’s just so much from a lifestyle perspective that we can do to navigate that piece. So yes, I do believe the testing and thank you for mentioning those books, those would be great resources for patients who are interested in hormone balance and are interested in really keeping their hormones balanced as they go through their different life cycles.
Lori Esarey: And I think that remembering that prevention is the key, right? Prevention’s the key. And how do we prevent? Not only by eating differently, sugar is poison to our bodies. I mean, I think that message is pretty loud and clear, but maybe not to the degree, but sugar is absolutely poison to the body.
Kelly Engelmann: It is.
Lori Esarey: So if there were.
Kelly Engelmann: But I want to say something about sugar. Because I think that we beat ourselves up about sugar, right? We are genetically primed to crave sugar. Back in the hunter gatherer days, you only found a beehive maybe once a year. And you got into some honey, you did not have sugar sitting around all the time, but we’re still have the same genes. We still have the same genetic prime to crave that sugar, right? So to your point, it is a killer, it is inflammatory, but be gracious with yourself and don’t have it in your environment. Right? Don’t think that if it’s in the pantry that you’re going to be able to say no for a long period of time. Trust a friend on that one, right?
Lori Esarey: That’s right.
Kelly Engelmann: Setting your environment up in a way where it’s just not part of your day to day environment.
Lori Esarey: Definitely.
Kelly Engelmann: You have to go find it, to consume it. It’s not just sitting there in your pantry or in your freezer, right?
Lori Esarey: You definitely have to be intentional about that. So, definitely getting sugar out of the diet would be one of the first ways that I believe that you can take an active role in preventing all disease states, not just breast cancer. But we know that cancer as a whole, sugar, feeds cancer. It’s like adding a growth element to your abnormal cells. We all have cancer cells, I think I started out by saying that we all have cancer cells, right? So it’s a matter of are we doing things in our lifestyle and making choices to cause that to duplicate, replicate, or are we doing things and do we have countermeasures? And things like antioxidants and our other lifestyle countermeasures to decrease that risk, so that’s number one. I think number two, something we don’t talk about enough and it’s a work in progress for me, that’s part of the hard part of sharing a story is that there has to be a vulnerability, right? Sleep is a big deal, right? And I was recently listening to a podcast, it’s called sleep is a skill. And I was like, It is. It’s a skill. It has to be worked on. It doesn’t just happen. Maybe it happened easy in your twenties, maybe, but I’m going to tell you right now, it doesn’t happen easy. The older we get you have children, right? And those children have children and then life, lives and hormones become dysregulated and all of those things so sleep is a skill. And at the end of the day, I have to say that one of the pivotal areas that I don’t think gets enough attention, is the role that sleep has in prevention of disease.
Kelly Engelmann: Yep. And I’ll say one of the biggest tools that we have today that we haven’t had for very long. One is the Oura Ring, there are many devices that track sleep. But I do think if you can see, objectively measure your sleep, then you’re more willing and able to make the changes that you need to make. Because we can fool ourselves into thinking we’re getting away with six hours of sleep and we’re functioning fine. But at what price? Sleep is your time to restore and repair offload cellular debri, cancer cells. Offload while we’re sleeping, our immune system upregulates, sequesters those things and gets them out. If we’re not getting good quality sleep and we’re not protecting especially that deep sleep, we may not be doing that efficiently. So don’t fool yourself into thinking you’re getting away with, it is costing you something, so I would encourage you to use a device to track, the Whoop is a good device. It does a great job of tracking sleep Oura Ring, does a great job of tracking sleep, and there are several others out there that I haven’t tried out, but those are tools we have sitting right in our toolbox that we could grab and use.
Lori Esarey: And the third thing I would say is that, I think there is some fear, historically, maybe not so much now, about understanding your predispositions. And we have to remember that genes do not predestine us for a disease state, they predispose us. And I do feel like there’s a lot of power in understanding your genetics. Genetics affect the way you methylate, the way that you detox. Genes affect your predisposition to blood sugar dysregulation. Genes set the stage for a higher risk for inflammatory conditions. And there’s a lot of access now to quality, quality genetic testing that you can get and gain an understanding. And again, through a qualified healthcare practitioner and doing some testing, pairing that information with other information is powerful, very powerful.
Kelly Engelmann: So we’ve got sugar, we’ve got sleep, we’ve got genetic testing, we’ve got hormone testing that we’ve talked about.
Lori Esarey: Detox as a lifestyle, I think. I mean, there’s so much we could talk about, but detoxification as a lifestyle, I think we often talk about detoxification as an event. I’m going to detox, right? I’m going to detox for 7 or 14 days and although those things can be very powerful, and very helpful, liver cleanses, very helpful. What we do know is that, we need to be intentionally focused on limiting our toxic exposure, on a daily basis, and not just waiting for the event of Liberty Talks and so, what can we do to really increase our awareness of environmental exposures and toxins from the cookware that we cook with to, used to be a runner on and living here where I live right on the golf cart paths and the the gasoline smells in my house, the plugins historically that and the candles yes
Kelly Engelmann: I can’t tell you how many times I would visit and I would unplug all the plugins. Finally, she got the hint that we need to change out the plugins, but yeah, all those things are bio, they bio accumulate in the body and they do, they are hormone disruptors. They’re nice. They do smell nice, but again, at what price?
Lori Esarey: Yeah, they do. So, when you put all those things together again, it’s not, a prescription for elimination of a risk of disease, but it is truly, it’s the intentional efforts on a daily basis that reduce risk over time. And so just recognizing there is a very significant difference between disease and dysfunction, and I just urge everybody not to wait until you are then the proud owner, or not so proud, let’s say, of a disease state, that you are actively pursuing or in pursuit of health and looking for and preventing disease through what you eat, changing what you eat, what you drink, how you sleep, how you move, and how you think. And that way, I tell everyone now not only am I thankful, that God allowed that to happen in my life so that I could learn so much. I also say that period of time has really intensified the urgency for me of the need to work on things that, maybe we all can do this to say, we’ll wait on that one. That one’s too hard. I’m not going to. I can’t do that one just yet, it’s really, we have to understand that it is a process. It is something we have to work through, and it is something that we’re not going to be perfect at. We’re gonna have speed bumps in the road, we’re gonna have detours, we’re gonna have challenges, but it works. It pays. And so, I really encourage, everyone to take an active ownership of their health, I work hard every day to prevent get in the hands of or in the office of a qualified functional medicine provider and don’t wait until you have a disease, and get it checked out.
Kelly Engelmann: Well, Lori, thank you so much for sharing your story, again I know it’s not easy. I mean, it puts you in a very vulnerable position, but it’s so powerful. Like we heal when we tell our story. We help others heal when we tell our story. And so thank you for doing that today.
Lori Esarey: You’re very welcome, Kelly.
Thanks so much for listening to today’s episode. You can find more information about Synergee at Synergee for Life. That’s S Y N E R G E E the number for life. com.
Kelly Engelmann: And then Synergy Connect is our Facebook. And then please make sure to follow us on your favorite podcast app so that you make sure you get future notifications of episodes.
Lori Esarey: The purpose of our Synergy podcast is to educate. It does not constitute medical advice, by listening to this podcast you agree not to use this podcast as medical advice to treat any medical condition in either yourself or others, including, but not limited to patients that you are treating. Please consult your own physician for any medical issues you may be having.
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