The Doctor’s Prescription for Healthy Living
Vol. 8, No. 11
By Lori Foster
Mary Bryant knew what she wanted after battling breast cancer at an age when, for most women, the threat of the disease is no more real than monsters in the bedroom closet. The New York model wanted children, and her doctor had finally given her his medical blessing. Bryant met a man who shared her passion for helping others. They fell in love and life was good. Then, at age 41 and with no warning, Bryant’s periods stopped. The hot flashes, irritability and sleepless nights began. Bryant had entered early menopause, a condition caused by her chemotherapy treatments six years earlier.
She already had endured so much since her diagnosis. She lost her brother Don, a quadriplegic and her spiritual mentor, in 2001. Her best friend, Diane, died after 18 months of cancer treatment. She and Bryant were diagnosed with breast cancer on the same day. Bryant had lost one breast and 28 lymph nodes to her cancer and now she had also lost the ability to have children.
For most women, that would be a license to wallow in pity. But Bryant is more determined than ever to find purpose in her experiences. Bryant continues to work as a motivational speaker and, occasionally, as a model. She promotes a healthy diet, soul searching and natural supplements as a prescription for breast cancer prevention and recovery. She works with people who have lost limbs, encouraging them to see beyond their disabilities.
Bryant recently spoke with Healthy Living magazine about her emotional and physical struggles with early menopause and her strategies for coping. As she talked, Goliath, her Maltese dog, barked in the background. She adopted Goliath, who was a sickly puppy, shortly after she learned she was menopausal and nursed him back to health.
hl Were you aware then that early menopause is a potential side effect of chemotherapy?
mb When I went to talk to my oncologist about the chemotherapy … I was initially told it would be my choice whether or not to have it. I was devastated. I started crying and I looked at her and I said, help me understand this. Do you really, really, really believe I need to have this chemotherapy? And she didn’t even hesitate. She said, yes. So then the issue became what kind of chemotherapy are we going to do because we knew it could potentially have a very serious impact on the ability to have children.
hl So she did discuss that with you?
mb Yes. A lot of women who have gone through chemotherapy at a younger age, their periods will stop and, then the hope is that after a while they start up again. I, for whatever reason continued having my period the entire time I was given chemotherapy. Because of that, the doctor felt I was really in good shape. So then I felt even more positive about it. Wow. Maybe I could have children. I kept seeing my doctor and he said to hold off because if a woman gets pregnant, an increased estrogen level could ignite some of those cancer cells to start multiplying again. It’s just extremely, extremely risky. Finally as we were getting further out, like maybe four years out from my surgery and chemotherapy, he said, okay, if you want to try, go ahead. Of course, that was exciting news.
Shortly after that I had a friend say, look, I’d really like you to meet this guy. She explained to me that it was just a man who’d gone through a very difficult time and if anyone would be good to offer him some companionship, some friendship, it would be me. His wife and 4-year-old daughter were on United 175 that crashed into the south tower on 9/11.
Probably about six months later, I remember sitting at the table. We were having dinner, and I felt like I wanted to kiss him (David). I was so nervous that I excused myself from the table. I was like, okay Ruth (David’s wife), Juliana (his daughter), help me with this because this is not why I’m here. I’m here for you guys. I’m here to make sure that your lives have the purpose they were supposed to have. I immediately had this sense that he needs to feel loved if he’s to continue on his journey. We kissed and then we started to become intimate.
From the time we started to become intimate (in May of 2002), my periods stopped. I wasn’t pregnant. Three or four months go by and, finally, I called my doctor. He was thinking it could be stress-related or I could be running too much and I said, no. He kind of let it go because I was way too young. By October, I started having hot flashes. That following spring I went to my doctor and I said, look. Here’s the deal. In the last 12 months I’ve had one period and I’m getting these hot flashes. He said, okay. We’ll check for the hormones. He comes back and he says, whoa, you are way in it. I was, first of all, devastated. He sent me also to have a sonogram just to check my ovaries and they couldn’t find any eggs. I went into such a depression.
hl What have you done to try to keep your body healthy and to keep your mind healthy through all this?
mb I spent a lot of time reading and making sure I was as conscientious as I was before about my eating. I focus on the broccoli, the spinach, the green peas, the Brussels sprouts, the carrots. I had started eating the flax seed that has the lignans and that’s why when I found out about Brevail which is the concentrated lignans.
hl How did you come across lignans?
mb This is a company that contacted me and started sharing the information. I was very impressed with what I saw and when I did start taking Brevail, I thought, oh my gosh, I feel so much better. So I stopped taking Brevail. That did have an impact. I noticed more hot flashes, more irritability. Then, when I started taking it again, I noticed an improvement. So it’s kind of like I did the testing for myself.
hl How have lignans made you feel differently?
mb Basically, lignans are phytonutrients. It’s not real estrogen, but it’s a phytoestrogen that mimics estrogen. They had thought hormone replacement therapy was great at first, and then they found out it was dangerous. That’s why I think when you go to something that’s natural—like lignans—it helps to minimize these side effects, the symptoms that you have.
hl Which symptoms in particular have you found lignans have helped?
mb The hot flashes. You’re more calm. You’re not so irritable. You get better sleep at night. It’s just wonderful. I do think especially women who have gone through any type of cancer have to be careful with anything that’s estrogen or estrogen-like. You need to talk to your doctor. They are still doing clinical trials, but there’s so much proof on how lignans help in inhibiting tumor growth, as well as help balance your hormones.