Gursimar Sawhney

AstridM4

If I could describe Astrid in one word, it would be: empowered. Astrid has found a way to entwine herself with empowerment for herself and others through her daily work, even before she was diagnosed with Stage IV HER2-positive breast cancer.

She was in the editing stages of writing her book, Permission to Sparkle, half memoir, half playbook, in which she shared how she made her life “more sparkly” when she was officially diagnosed. Astrid packed up all her belongings in one weekend to move from the island of Kodiak, Alaska, to Anchorage, for the winter, where she would undergo chemotherapy for three months. The book was written to help people claim their desires and spark their dreams. But after finding a golf-ball sized lump in her right breast in the shower that wasn’t going away, her own positive mindset was put to the test.

Astrid did well through her first rounds of chemotherapy which she started with right away, one of which was Taxol® and says that the physical and emotional toll that the cancer took on her was minimal because of the mindset tools, creativity, and various natural methods she used to keep herself healthy, spiritually. Her doctors agreed. The feedback she received after her initial blood work post-chemotherapy was astounding. While quality of bloodwork results usually declines after chemo, Astrid’s bloodwork had improved, and was comparable to that of a healthy person after treatment. To this day, Astrid attributes these good results to where she was on the inside, as well as her ability to live life focused on joy.

Afterwards, she underwent a mastectomy, followed by radiation for six weeks.

AstridMAstrid, throughout the process, considers herself a thriver, not a survivor. She continues to inspire people through her work, giving back to people as she coaches and consults on strategy and entrepreneurship for brands and designers. In addition to getting treatment, Astrid focuses on holistic healing, such as using a spiritual mentor, journaling, indulging in arts and creativity, nature, acupuncture, and nutrition, to claim self-love and rebuild herself. Where clinics did not have the auditory and visual signals she needed to feel like she wasn’t sick, she would bring in her own belongings to make the effects of treatment more bearable. She brought healthy snacks, noise-canceling headphones, a feed-good lamp that had a more comforting light than the clinic’s fluorescent ones and plants.

Astrid then changed clinics—she was referred by her chemo doctor to Dr. William Magnuson at the Anchorage Radiation Oncology Center. There, she underwent what she describes as a much lighter form of chemotherapy, by the name of Kadcyla®.

However, there were two other lymph nodes in her lungs that needed to be dealt with, one of which was cancerous. The doctor used targeted radiation via a treatment known as AlignRT®, a non-invasive precision technology that protects healthy tissue and organs during treatment. Studies show that AlignRT® prevents radiation-induced abnormalities in the blood flow to the heart. This was amazing to Astrid, and she was grateful to have undergone treatment that prioritized reduced treatment time, accuracy, and increased patient comfort.

“The [treatment] zaps the growth inside my body with three overlapping rays without affecting my skin or anything, which was really cool,” Astrid shared.

Now that the nodes were disintegrating, she was almost cancer free. However, her doctor clarified that Stage IV cancer can never truly be cured, regardless Astrid remained positive.

“I needed the doctor to believe in me the same way I believed in myself to walk out of the clinic healed,” she shared.

Cognizant that the doctor was careful in his definition of the word “cured” due to legal and medical reasons, she immediately decided not to take the definition at face-value. She wanted to create a reality that was more empowering for her. She urges others to do the same. “If somebody tells you some verdict, don’t let it dim your light. Whatever we believe, we can achieve.”

Now, Astrid must undergo three years of an antibody treatment, Herceptin®, to prevent cancer from coming back. She feels certain she will walk out the other side.

Through it all, she continues to follow her passion through her website, where she supports entrepreneurs in strategy and branding tools and helps them develop impactful stories, mindset tools, creativity workshops, and products to help cancer survivors access emotional empowerment.

If there is one piece that Astrid wants others to live by, it is to “not let any negative fears and beliefs hold you back and question everything. While outer help is important just as treatment was helpful, real healing uses inner empowerment as a foundation to see in the possibility, choose the right treatments for yourself, and support your body with your energy.”

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