Thriving With Cancer: Meet Jenny Bradley

Jenny Bradley’s life changed in an instant when she heard the three short words none of us ever wants to hear: You have cancer. The holiday season was just around the corner, and Jenny had spent the last two years with a lump in her breast that her family doctor had declared benign. Now a specialist was telling her it wasn’t. This unexpected news set Jenny on a path that transformed her health, led her to cook and begin a business that supports cancer patients and their families.

A life-altering diagnosis, collaborative treatments and living with cancer

Jenny’s breast cancer was hormone driven and, based on her pathology results, chemotherapy was off the table. Radiation was a no-go, too. Surgery was possible, but not for at least six months. A single drug offered potential, yet it had several dangerous side effects (including an increased risk of several more cancers). Jenny asked her oncologist for some time to think about her treatment path.

This interlude allowed Jenny the bandwidth to launch into research mode for additional options that could help. Her career as a pastor and college-level instructor in Christian education meant she was familiar with reading, analytical thinking and interpreting dense texts. She applied those skills to anti-cancer research, while also connecting with an integrative clinic near her home in Kansas.

“I knew I wanted to bring in a holistic perspective and support my body in addition to the allopathic recommendations,” she says. “I was intentional about building a team with a variety of perspectives.”

Jenny was only in her 30s at the time of diagnosis. Over the course of six months, she tried a litany of treatments as well as supplementation based on deficiencies in her blood work.

She also began incorporating therapeutic anti-cancer foods, as well as avoiding certain foods that could potentially contribute to tumor progression and overall poor health. With very little background in nutrition or cooking (she grew up eating meals that came from a can or a box), Jenny soon discovered the vast impact food could have on her cancer journey.

“I wasn’t ever taught the importance of nutritional choices until my diagnosis,” she points out. “I began to make intentional dietary choices, choosing to nourish my body. I always consider, ‘What can I eat in my next meal to give my cells information to help with healing?’”

At the end of her six-month self-imposed trial period, the results were so impressive Jenny decided to continue along the path she was on, adding new alternative therapies as indicated along with some medical treatments like cryoablation to keep her cancer at bay.

Four years on, while Jenny is not considered in ‘remission’, her cancer hasn’t spread or advanced – something Jenny and her entire health care team celebrate.

“People are so used to the traditional story of diagnosis, chemo, radiation, surgery and then getting to say ‘I’m cancer free’,” she points out. “Yes, I’m thriving, but I’m still living with a chronic disease.”

Her journey prompted Jenny to consider traditional cancer narratives and how she could help people navigate through the experience.

“It seems like people hear the word ‘cancer’ and think it’s a death sentence. In reality, it’s more like an opportunity to reboot one’s life and learn how to better care for ourselves,” she says. “I don’t want to battle myself. That sounds exhausting. So, I am on a healing journey; not a battle. How we frame our disease is just as important as the treatment we choose.”

Pursuing culinary education and discovering her own potential

Thriving with Cancer

Jenny enrolled in Everyday Herbal, one of the short online courses offered at the Academy of Culinary Nutrition, because of her interest in herbs and a desire to learn more about their health-supportive properties. She was hooked on the learning and soon signed up for Everyday Culinary Nutrition, which teaches students how to cook simple, nutritious meals from scratch.

After the confidence she gained in those two courses, Jenny knew she could successfully handle the 14-week Culinary Nutrition Expert Program certification.

“I had almost zero cooking skills before I joined the Culinary Nutrition Expert Program. I knew I shouldn’t cut my fingers off,” she says laughing. “I had already started to learn about nutrients and why they matter, but I needed someone to show me how to do things better.”

Jenny relished the program modules, tackling new recipes and culinary skills, gathering instantly applicable knowledge, and working with her program coach (who she stays in touch with to this day).

“You reap the rewards of what you’re learning every week and this course is definitely not boring,” she says. “Since I like to learn, I’ve been in a lot of online courses. The way you do things is unlike any other course I’ve ever been in.”

Jenny completed the Culinary Nutrition Expert Program in 2020 alongside her treatments. Some days, she would drive three hours one-way for specialized therapies, lugging along her laptop to watch modules, work on homework or participate in live classes. Amid the hard work, Jenny discovered an unexpected source of inspiration: the Academy of Culinary Nutrition community.

“There’s so much of a personal touch in the program. Our whole community is really supportive and there’s a lot of camaraderie,” she says. “I didn’t know I was looking for community – but I found it.”

Jenny didn’t join the Culinary Nutrition Expert Program to start her own business. A few weeks in, she recognized she had an immense amount of knowledge, tools and insights that could help others on their cancer journey.

“The program assignments helped me realize this and create content that I could use in my business,” she says.

“There’s so much of a personal touch in the program. Our whole community is really supportive and there’s a lot of camaraderie,” she says. “I didn’t know I was looking for community – but I found it.”

Launching Shrink The Mutant School, resources and coaching

Thriving with Cancer

Jenny has fielded numerous questions from friends and family about living with cancer over the last few years. Shortly before joining the Culinary Nutrition Expert Program, she launched her website Shrink The Mutant to provide resources that empower people living with cancer, and to teach friends and family how to support their loved ones during the process.

By taking the Biz Rocking Insider Program, an optional add-on component to the Culinary Nutrition Expert Program, Jenny was able to crystallize what she had to give, refine her services, and explore ways to showcase her personality and make it fun.

Jenny offers one-to-one coaching services for cancer patients to guide them through the overwhelm, and help them to become their own advocates in the oncology world. For friends or family of cancer patients, she offers a detailed guide for friends of patients, along with message templates you can customize and send to loved ones when you’re not sure what to do or say.

She writes regular blog posts and newsletter content for the Riordan Clinic, where she receives her integrative treatments, and recently began guest hosting their Real Health Podcast.

In Fall 2021, Jenny launched The Anti-Cancer Meals Workshop, an online, on-demand course that teaches patients how to make easy recipes, particularly ones they can have before, during and after their treatments and appointments.

Plus, as cancer health care can be expensive, she has a Fundraising Framework workshop that teaches tips and strategies to raise funds for treatments.

On the horizon, Jenny is planning for a lengthier online course called The Confident Cancer Thriver and hopes to launch her own podcast. As a cancer thriver herself, navigating the disease and its challenges day to day, Jenny knows how crucial support, hope and advice can be.

“In my coaching, I empower people to nourish their bodies, and help to filter information and guide them to evidence-based supports,” she says. “Seeing a cancer patient smile when they realize there is hope and they can thrive is so rewarding.”

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