Fitness Fashionista: Breast cancer survivor Amy Tadelis

We’ve profiled some seriously fit, smart and sassy women in the past few months. Being breast cancer awareness month, we thought it was time to introduce you to someone new. Meet the incredible Amy Tadelis: breast cancer survivor, mom of four, yoga teacher and a seriously inspiring lady.

Amy was only 28 when she discovered a lump in her breast. Told by her doctor that she had “nothing to worry about sweetie”. Well, turns out she did have something to worry about — that dreaded word that no one wants to hear: breast cancer. Before spending the next six months in and out of hospital fighting the illness, Amy froze her eggs in the hope that, if she survived, she and husband Jamie could fulfill their dreams of having children.

Though she emerged cancer-free, Amy had her ovaries removed, dashing her hopes of a family. Or so she thought, until her incredible sister-in-law Elizabeth Mines stepped in: she agreed to be a surrogate for the pair. And so it is that Amy and Jamie were able to bring their two beautiful twin daughters, Rachel  and Sophie, 12, into the world.

Moving to Hong Kong a few years later, Amy and Jamie decided to expand their family through adoption. Two has now become four, through the addition of Levi, 8, and Ruby, 5.

“Being diagnosed with breast cancer at such a young age taught me several valuable lessons…. I have four amazing children that I’m not sure I would have had if I had never been diagnosed with cancer.”

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Amy with her family – Jamie, Levy, Sophie, Rachel, Ruby, and the family dog.

Although breast cancer has changed the course of Amy’s life, she is a firm believer in finding the silver lining. “Being diagnosed with breast cancer at such a young age taught me several valuable lessons…. I have four amazing children that I’m not sure I would have had if I had never been diagnosed with cancer.”

Her experience has also ignited her love of yoga. Removing her ovaries led to early menopause, so Amy turned to yoga as a way to manage the symptoms.  “I was hooked.  Eight years later, I enjoy my practice even more, I love teaching yoga and sharing the many positive impacts that it has had for me both physically and mentally.”

Read on to learn more about Amy’s approach to healthy living and her tips for living cancer-free — and believe it or not, it involves wearing colorful yoga pants.

Amy's tips for living cancer free

MM: What are three tips people can follow to clean up their health in one month?

AT: Drink water all day long.  Water is like a shower for your insides.  Carry a water bottle with you, that way you won’t have to look for a drink when you are thirsty.

Carry nuts or an apple in your bag; if you need a snack you’re more likely to choose what is in your bag then buy something unhealthy or processed.

Finally, realise that what you put into your body is just as important as what you don’t.  Look for ways to add whole foods, fruits and vegetables throughout the day.

MM: You mention diet. Personally, what foods do you eat and avoid?

I am very conscious of my diet and also my family’s diet.  The majority of what I eat is whole foods and whole grains. I try to avoid processed foods.  If it comes in a box or a bag it usually has additives and preservatives.  I love sweets, so I prefer home baked goods and granola bars over processed foods– that way I know what is in them.

MM: What are your daily health rituals you can’t live without?

AT: I add chia seeds and apple cider vinegar to my water bottle every morning and then refill the bottle throughout the day.  Chia seeds are my favorite “superfood”, high in fiber, protein, omega-3’s and anti-oxidants.

Another tip: I also floss every night. There is quite a bit of research that shows correlation between gum health and systemic health.  Research shows an increased relationship between gum health, cardiovascular health, decreased incidence of diabetes as well as correlation to a lower BMI — all great things and the added benefit of a healthy smile.

MM: What other advice can you give women on keeping their lives happy, healthy and cancer-free?

AT: Do the things that you love and that inspire you. Whether it’s keeping fit, your career, or your hobbies, doing things that you are passionate about makes waking up in the morning that much easier, and is bound to make you happier for the rest of the day.

Do things that you love, that inspire you. Whether it’s keeping fit, your career, or your hobbies..[it’s] bound to make you happier for the rest of the day.

MM: What’s the biggest obstacle you face in getting in some exercise daily and how do you overcome it? 

AT: Time — isn’t it everyone’s obstacle?  Having young children and teaching yoga, there is always something to be done or someone who needs my attention. But I am careful to make exercise a priority: I’m a much better person and mom if I make the time for myself. Plus I have arthritis, so exercise helps to strengthen the muscles around my joints and helps to alleviate pain and stiffness.

To prioritise, I block time in my calendar to exercise and make a conscious effort to schedule meetings around that time. I also try and exercise or go to class early in the morning, that way the day won’t get away from me. I practice yoga at Pure, my favorite teachers are Patrick Creelman and Rinat Perlman…and of course MAYYA Movement events!

MM: What is the biggest change that cancer has made to your life for the better?

AT: Being diagnosed with breast cancer at such a young age taught me several valuable lessons.  First, it taught me to appreciate each and every day.  It reminded me that I am stronger than I ever knew, and that you can plan your life a certain way but sometimes things happen that change your plans completely. And always look for the silver lining: I have four amazing children that I’m not sure I would have had if I had never been diagnosed with cancer.

Following a surgery to remove my ovaries (to reduce the chances of being diagnosed with ovarian cancer), I went into menopause.  I searched for ways to alleviate the symptoms.  One doctor suggested that I try yoga.  I was hooked.  Eight years later, I enjoy my practice even more, I love teaching yoga and sharing the many positive impacts that it has had for me both physically and mentally.

MM: Is there, in your opinion, a way to do your part in warding off breast cancer?

AT: The two biggest risk factors for being diagnosed with breast cancer are being a woman and getting older.  Then there are other risk factors that we have no control over such as family history and unknown genetic factors. But there are lifestyle choices that have been proven to decrease ones’ chances of being diagnosed with breast cancer (and other cancers):

  • Eating healthy and exercising regularly to maintain a healthy body weight;
  • Exercising three to four hours a week,  where you break a sweat and elevate your heart rate — this has been shown to decrease the chances of cancer;
  • Adding antioxidents, omega -3’s, fresh fruits and cruciferious vegetables to your diet;
  • Limiting alcohol. Studies show that drinking 2-5 drinks per night can increase your chances of being diagnosed with cancer; and
  • Quit, or better yet, don’t start smoking!

Early detection is just as important as prevention.  Breast cancer found in its earliest stages has an almost 100% five-year survival rate, while the five year survival rate of metastatic cancer (cancer that has spread to other parts of the body) is 27%.  Do monthly self-exams!  If you feel a lump or a change in your breast call your doctor.  Nobody knows your breasts better than you do!

MM: Apart from diet and lifestyle, what is your medical routine in terms of staying cancer-free?

AT: As far as my cancer check-ups and routing follow-ups, I see my oncologist once a year for an annual exam and blood work (for general screening and specific cancer markers).  Since I have a history of cancer, I also see a dermatologist for a cancer screening annually.  Personally, I don’t do breast self-exams or go for an annual mammography, because I had a bi-lateral mastectomy. But, as I mentioned, I believe a monthly self-exam is one of the most important things a woman can do for herself.  

MM: For someone going through a hard time health-wise, what instant tips can you share that can make you feel better?

Breathe.  When you’re not feeing your best, or you’re stressed, you tend to hold your breath.  Taking a few deep breaths always makes me feel better.

Another tip? Wear colour. How you look on the outside does actually have an impact on how you feel on the inside. I never miss an occasion to wear something bright. I also find it lifts my mood. My wardrobe is full of colour — if yours is a version of grayscale, my best advice would be to infuse it with colour.


Amy’s picks to brighten up your day

1. Anything tie-dyed, like this yoga bag from Anthropologie.

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2. These Liquidoactive yoga pants. I love how colourful all their patterns are.

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3. Anything from Hard Tail ForeverTie-dye features heavily in their selection. Definitely my pick!

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4. Always carry a colourful water bottle, like this one from Zing Anything.

citrus zinger