A Story about Juicing Through the Tough Stuff
Stephanie O’Brien has a lightness of being that shines through the moment you meet her, an authenticity and focused presence that puts you instantly at ease. At 40, she is clearly loving this new decade. And when you talk with her, it’s easy to understand why.
First, she is finally doing what once felt unthinkable - combining her love of design, vintage fabrics, and a lifelong pillow fetish into a successful business, She[s] Happy Design. Her vibrant one-of-a-kind throw pillows are spreading the love on Etsy, and Bend has caught the pillow fever as well. Second, she has deep gratitude for the daily practices that keep her mind and body balanced, healthy and happy.
When she was 38, life looked a lot different. Back then, Stephanie was a full time mom juggling three part-time jobs and struggling to find time for herself. The stress was straining her family balance and her health.
“My god, I was so burned out,” she admits. “Totally exhausted and lost. I remember one day standing in my kitchen trying to manage all the crazy details of my life and thinking, ‘How can I keep this up?’ I knew I couldn’t do it anymore, but when you’re in that place you just don’t know how to change it.”
What she did know was that her body was changing. For months, she had felt like she had the flu. No fever, no sore throat, or stomach issues ever manifested, but she just couldn’t seem to recover her energy. And then there were little things she noticed but pushed aside. Small red bumps in her left armpit. Enlarged breasts. And finally, one small hard lump the size of pea.
“It was the day before Valentine’s Day when I felt it. I knew it shouldn’t be there,” she says. “So I scheduled the mammogram and an ultrasound and had my friend come to the appointment with me.” Three hours later, 38 had changed forever. There they were, three tumors in her left breast.
The diagnosis: Stage 2 breast cancer. It was triple negative, an aggressive form of cancer that had moved into her lymph nodes and needed immediate chemotherapy and radiation. “My husband had to tell the kids. I just couldn’t face telling them myself. But I also felt in my gut that I was going to get through it. Through our tears, I told them - ‘I’ve got this. It’s going to be okay.’ And I truly believed it.”
With no history of cancer in her family, the doctors told her it was likely environmentally caused. “The day I was diagnosed, I went home and threw out all of my makeup, my shampoos, and my lotions,” she says. “And I knew I had to take a hard look at my diet. I cut out dairy, gluten, sugar, caffeine - anything that caused inflammation and the acidic environment cancer thrives on. But it was juicing that really made a difference in how I felt.”
Stephanie was working at the restaurant Ariana at the time of her diagnosis. “They were amazing. The first thing the staff did was to pitch in and buy me a juicer,” she smiles. “Ariana was on a mission! She started researching juice recipes, supplements, and anything that would support my immune system through the chemo and radiation and help my body beat back the cancer.”
She juiced three times a day throughout her 6 months of treatment and is certain that the practice had a profound impact.
“I made my first green juice the day I started chemo, and I felt a difference after only a week. One morning I simply woke up aware that my mind and body finally felt in sync. That’s a pretty ironic discovery when you’ve got cancer,” Stephanie says. “Five weeks after my first chemo treatment, they did a PET scan and the tumors were gone. I honestly can’t say whether it was the chemo, the supplements, the juice, or the combination of all three. But the results were there. I never even experienced nausea.”
During the next 6 months, Stephanie underwent 14 chemo treatments, 36 doses of radiation, the removal of 15 lymph nodes and a double mastectomy.
“Food IS medicine,” she says with intensity. “What we feed ourselves creates our physical reality, just as our thoughts affect our emotional world. I decided to take chemo on as an ally. At the same time, I did everything I could to feed my body superfoods that made my immune system strong enough to stand up to cancer.”
Stephanie admits that daily juicing is a commitment and not easy to do when you don’t feel well. “Having a cold-pressed juicery like Juice Counter in Bend is such an awesome resource, especially for people battling disease or chronic illnesses. During treatment I would have loved having someone else make all that juice for me and deliver it for free! When someone we love is sick, we send fresh flowers. Maybe we should think of sending fresh juice instead?”
With two more years until she can feel confident the cancer is gone for good, Stephanie is staying positive and still juicing. “They say cancer is a wake up call, and I definitely woke up to what had to change in my life.”
We love knowing she’s waking up HAPPY.