Cancer journey inspired health business for Lakeisha
At 21 Lakeisha Burt discovered she had a rare breast cancer that typically affected women twice her age.
She decided to turn it "into something beautiful".
Color Me Green, the business she started as a result of her trauma, offers "cancer nutrition and lifestyle help" to people around the world.
"I took the journey with my health and turned it into a learning experience instead of being a victim to my situation," said Ms Burt, a nurse associate and certified holistic health and wellness consultant and coach. "I said, 'Okay, what can I learn through this process? How can I help others so they do not have to go through this?'"
Her journey started three years ago, when she grew concerned about an inflamed breast.
Only two weeks prior she had suffered a miscarriage. Her doctor assumed the two were connected and prescribed medication for a blocked milk duct.
Ms Burt, who was studying to become a registered nurse, felt certain that she what she actually had was inflammatory breast cancer.
According to the American Cancer Society the disease accounts for only one to five per cent of all breast cancers and is harder to diagnose as it does not always show up on a mammogram.
It most often appears in Black women around the age of 40 and spreads more quickly than other types of breast cancer.
Signs include swelling, redness and a pitting or thickening of the skin that causes the breast to look like an orange peel.
"Because of my nursing background I said I have to be persistent about getting a biopsy with a specialist. The first doctor I went to, she said I was fine – four times in a row. This was weeks going on. So my friend helped me. I researched every little thing I was going through, everything I felt. We kept researching but no one wanted to believe that was my type of cancer because I was such a young age. At the same time everything pointed in that direction."
Ms Burt was aware of breast cancer on her mother's side but earlier testing had assured her that she hadn’t inherited the BRCA gene.
When a biopsy confirmed her suspicions of IBC the mother-of-two was initially sad and "very depressed" thinking her family would have to struggle without her – but then a switch clicked.
"I decided to take this trial that I was facing in my life and make it into something beautiful. I turned 'Why is God doing this to me?' into 'What is God trying to teach me?'
"When I shifted my mindset, it was like the universe started to reveal and teach me so much."
Naturopathic doctors widened her understanding of "health, mind, body and soul"; conventional doctors shared "knowledge from their perspectives".
"I started to detox my body, learning about all types of juice diets, alkaline diets, plant-based diets, chemical cleanses, environment cleanses and so on. I couldn’t stop filling my head with more and more knowledge about holistic wellness and how our bodies were designed to heal themselves," she said.
"I ended up having to do chemotherapy because of the aggressiveness of the cancer. I combined both holistic with conventional treatment and because of this I had a very good response to the treatments."
Despite that she remained concerned about the care other people without her medical knowledge might be getting.
"My breast was inflamed, it was literally burning. So even if she thought it was nothing she still should have done more tests: why is it inflamed? Why is it burning? Why isn’t it more normal? Not just schedule an ultrasound.
"I'm thankful for that but at the same time she should have been more persistent. It seems like, in Bermuda, there are not many who are persistent. It's very unfortunate. "
She continued: "That's another reason why I really wanted to start this, to help people with underlying issues to find out why they're stressed, why they're having high blood pressure [and other health problems] versus just giving them a pill. Let's find out what's really causing the issue."
It is with that in mind she dropped out of the registered nurse programme at the Bermuda College and studied holistic medicine instead. At the moment she is working to being certified as a holistic health and wellness practitioner.
"Especially over this whole Covid period, I learnt a lot of people had turned to holistic health: how can we cure Covid naturally? Even though Covid is a very serious virus people still turn to holistic health for that."
Elderberry, turmeric and dairy-free diets are among the more noticeable trends said Ms Burt, whose services include pantry makeovers, shopping assistance and help with weight loss. She also makes healthy snacks "in a very green/natural way".
Apart from her clients in Bermuda she has coached people in the US, the UK and Europe. Reception, she said, has been "really, really good".
"People have learnt that stress is a major key factor in developing chronic diseases and I think over this pandemic a lot of people had chronic diseases flare up more.
"After you go through cancer it's very sensitive time so I think [someone with my knowledge] working alongside people's doctors would make a better outcome – everyone's diagnosis is different, everyone's cancer is different so not everything works the same for everyone."
For more information: www.greenbykeisha.com; firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Lakeisha Burt on Instagram @ColorMegreenBermuda and Facebook @ColormeGreenbykeisha