In this episode:
In episode 38 of The Fearless Females Podcast your host Tegan Mathews interviews Judith Treanor who shares:
- How she dealt with diagnosis of breast cancer at age 36
- The decision to take the ‘not so popular’ treatment path
- How cancer was the best and worst thing to ever happen to her
- The passion project that she now pours her heart and soul into
- Being the rebel and going against the grain
Tegan's Take Aways from talking with Judith Treanor:
- Knowledge is power
- Your biggest challenge can often be the best thing to happen to you
- Take control and responsibility for your own body and health
- Find the courage to go against the norm if it feels like the right thing to do for you
- There’s only one of you so be you!
About Judith Treanor
Sydney Mumpreneur Judith Treanor is the Founder of Online Curated store Temples and Markets. The store showcases unique artisan made product from S.E Asia, a region Judith fell in love with 20 years ago. She has never failed to be awestruck by the resilience, strength and astounding creativity of the people she met in the region.
Travel, motherhood and serious illness have shaped who Judith is today. In 2006, at aged 36 she was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. Aware how short life is Judith is determined to live hers feeling healthy, contented and fulfilled. Judith feels lucky to have found her life's purpose and that is to make a positive change in the world via her business.
By working with Social Enterprises and Artisan Groups in S.E Asia she is helping to trade women, empowered through training and fair work practices, into a better life. What a win-win for everyone.
Temples and Markets gives a face to the often cold world of E-commerce by telling the stories behind the products and the people who make them.
Aside from business, Judith practices Kundalini Yoga, is a serious foodie and loves nothing more than playing with her dog at the beach.
Contact Judith Treanor
Show Notes: 038: Going against the grain – Judith Treanor
Judith Treanor’s Fearless Story
I was aged thirty-six, with a two-year-old son and I had the diagnosis of early breast cancer. Regardless of what age you are, traditional medicine will throw the usual options of chemotherapy, surgery and radiotherapy at you.
Obviously the shock of cancer diagnosis is horrendous however old you are and whatever stage of life you’re at. But at age thirty-six my intuition told me I’m ok doing the surgery, radiotherapy made sense to me but I just refused to have chemotherapy.
It was a big, big decision, going against the grain. It took a long time to come to that decision. Actually my intuition said it straight away, that was my decision but actually going along with that decision took a few weeks because I had to decide what else I would do in its place.
So at the time, two-year-old son, didn’t want him to know what was going on. If there is anything such as luck when you are going through cancer then I think it was lucky that he was that age rather than now when he is twelve, he would be fully aware whereas he wasn’t aware then.
Terrifying times. Being diagnosed with cancer and when you first hear the word the first thing you think of is, am I going to die and you just tackle it one day at a time.
How did you decide on that choice of treatment?
It’s terrifying on so many levels because you don’t know if you are making the right decision but you have to go with what your heart says and your intuition and just hope it’s the right decision. Ten years down the track I stand by my decision and I’m so happy to say that I’m here to tell the tale.
How did I get to it then? I think, knowledge is power. It’s not a decision you make lightly or you go ahead with lightly. I read, read, read and I spoke to many experts and other women who had made a similar decision maybe in the past ten or twenty years.
I was put in touch with an amazing lady who didn’t even have the surgery twenty years ago before me and had done other natural things and followed different regimes and was perfectly healthy. So, it’s all about knowledge.
That was 2006. Obviously, the internet was around but it wasn’t like it is now. You couldn’t just google absolutely everything and social media wasn’t the thing it is now. There’s an amazing support group, more of a resource type of support group and it was like a library full of books on different treatments available.
I’m being a bit strict about the wording I am choosing to use because I don’t want to be using the word alternative necessarily. I think as soon as you use the word alternative it conjures up images of ‘whakery’ in some people's heads.
So it’s not necessarily alternative, I used a natural regime and it’s just a different way of looking at things. I guess different does mean alternative but I don’t like to use that word because of the images it conjures up for some people.
I also went to a conference that I had read about where an amazing man called Dr Ian Gawler, who is quite well known in Australia for surviving terminal cancer in the seventies. He runs a retreat in Melbourne and he said to me that with my type of cancer if I have twenty minutes of exercise and twenty minutes of sun a day I can pretty much rule out having a recurrence.
When people tell you things like that it gives you the courage to go with your intuition I suppose. I also discovered an amazing lady who is also well known in Australia called Patria King and I credit her with an awful lot of the bravery I had I suppose. I don’t feel brave but some people have said I was brave.
Patrea King has books, does these amazing meditations and a retreat and her organisation is called Quest For Life and she survived terminal cancer back in the seventies where she literally went and meditated in a cave in Italy and all these years later here she is helping other people.
I used her CD pretty much on a daily basis and it’s a meditation CD particularly for women with breast cancer and one of the amazing lines that I will never forget is, and I still use it today, and that is, “Use your wisdom and your wisdom will tell you what you need to do.”And that’s what I did.
For my family’s sake I couldn’t just say that I wasn’t having Chemo and that’s it. I had to find something that was going to work that everyone trusted, another doctor I could trust, literally with my life. And I did, I found an amazing man Dr Paul Miasin who was actually recommended by my own GP at the time. He follows a practice called integrative medicine which isn’t very well known in Australia but it is well known in some areas of Europe, particularly Britain.
They are medical doctors, they have gone through the same training as other GP’s. But they also look outside the square at the whole body. It’s holistic treatment.
When I met him for the first time with my husband we just knew that he was someone who was so caring and we just gelled with him and we came away and my husband said, “This is someone we can trust with your life.” He put me on a natural regime of different supplements and one of the strongest treatments of high dose vitamin C via a drip.
Vitamin C has been known to have anti-cancer properties and I do credit vitamin C with my good health then, and today. It is a huge immune boosting vitamin and to me having spoken to so many people back then about what causes cancer, and what certainly caused my cancer. I had been sick from the time I had my son, through to the time I was diagnosed with different infections.
People said my immune system was failing and so it made sense to me to put these strong immune boosting things into my body rather than chemotherapy which is going to kill the immune system.
I actually went to see a Chinese doctor before I went to meet Dr Paul and he even said that my immune system was so weak that if I put chemotherapy into it I am going to be very, very sick.
So it’s knowledge, it’s meeting the right people, going with your intuition and standing by your decisions. Even now, if I feel I’m getting sick and that my immune system is low then I will go and have another IV of vitamin C to boost the immune system again.
How did you deal with the doubts when they showed up?
I did a lot of meditation. Guided meditation as I found it hard to calm the mind. I have also in the last couple of years become a big fan of Kundalini Yoga. It’s a lot about calming the mind, living with purpose and going with your intuition. That all helps.
But when the annual check-ups come or if I get sick or I get a pain in my breast, of course the fear comes back. The fear was…like I say to other friends who have been diagnosed with cancer since, “Yes the physical cancer will go if you go through the treatment and you’ve had the surgery then it’s gone but you are left with that mental side forever.”
It’s about dealing with that fear and dealing with the fear of re-occurrence. As time goes on, it’s a time thing, the fear diminishes. I can now go to a check-up ten years later and not feel as petrified as I did, obviously, in the first check-up.
The lady I mentioned earlier, Patrea King, she does talks around the world, she holds this retreat, she talks on talk back radio, she’s a very busy lady. I emailed her before my first annual mammogram and ultra sound check-up after having gone through cancer because I was utterly terrified. At that point when you’ve been on the wrong end of a mammogram and you’ve got another one coming up.
I emailed her and I’ll never forget it, she actually rang me and this is a very busy lady and she didn’t know me. I had told her how much she had helped me through her cd’s and she spoke to me for about an hour and counselled me through how I was going to get through the check-up and here I am ten years later and I’ve now done ten of those.
How has the cancer diagnosis changed how you live your life now?
Actually, I’ll go back to the day I was diagnosed through my GP. She said something to me which, at the time, I thought, “This is insane!” She said that she had a friend who was an ex-patient who had breast cancer over ten years ago and she had given her the diagnosis that she was delivering to me that day.
This patient moved to Byron Bay which is a beautiful part of Australia. There are lots of organic farms and kind of a relaxed life. She moved there and she even has an organic farm and she had said to my GP, “Cancer was the best and worst thing to ever happen to her.”
At the time, on the day I was diagnosed I thought, “Oh sure! How can that ever be possible.” But I don’t think I was even really listening at the time in fact I think I collapsed on the floor when I was diagnosed. Anyway, it’s hard to explain but it is, it really is the best and worst thing to ever happen to me.
Obviously, I don’t want it back, that would be horrendous! But, corny as it is to say, it does put a different slant on life. It makes you wake up and smell the coffee, you live your life (if you can) with purpose and to be fulfilled, to enjoy the sunny days, walks along the beach with my dog, having a dance and a sing with my son. You just notice those moments, even ten years later, I still notice the good things.
And if I can use the experience to help other people and friends, which I have, who have gone through similar experiences then again, it’s a good thing.
I guess I consider myself as a bit of a rebel in terms of the treatment I chose or the direction I went in but if friends, and several of mine have, were diagnosed I would never say to them that this is what they should do. Or that they should go and get vitamin C drips because it worked for me.
But I do say that they have to take control of their own body. There has been research that I was told by the breast care nurse, that if you take control of your body and you make your decisions and you don’t go along what I call the conveyor belt. The results have shown to be a lot more positive for you.
So those would be the types of tips I would give to people going through it and I have given to my friends. Take control, do your research and do what literally works for you and hopefully you’ll have a better result.
I’ve also been able to sit with friends and if you have a friend that’s been through it then you can talk about your worst fears. They can be more honest with me than they can be with their friends and family. But for me, it was really the other people that I mentioned, other ladies who had gone through twenty years before me. I didn’t actually know them but I was able to connect with them through the support group.
There are support groups but there was one particular online group that I left fairly quickly because I was getting some emotional blackmail. One person said, “How can you not think of having chemotherapy and what the doctors suggest. Do you not want to be alive to see your son grow up.” Those are the words I remember to this day that were said to me.
Absolutely I want to be here to see my son grow up and that’s why I’m choosing this way and you can choose your way and that’s fine. So it’s a matter of finding those who support your decision, once you have made it, not go against it. So that when you do have doubts you will have the support there.
Even recently, there’s a documentary coming out called ‘The Cancer Conflict’ which shows one gentleman who has bowel cancer and he is choosing the traditional route and a lady who is going through breast cancer and isn’t having any of the traditional treatment. I’ve seen the trailer and there’s a Facebook page dedicated to it with some very expressive views on there for one way and the other.
People obviously get very passionate about this as it’s a very emotive subject but just as a result of something I put on there a lady in the UK private messaged me. She had obviously searched me out and she asked me what I had done and what my treatment was as she had thyroid cancer and she didn’t want to have chemotherapy.
So I’ve had quite a few chats with her over the virtual airways and if I can just support one person, how amazing! Other positive things that have come out of the cancer is my diet for one.
When I saw Doctor Paul he is very much about diet and I try to eat as organically as I possibly can. But cutting out wheat, cutting out sugar, cutting out dairy, I’ve kind of stuck to those things for ten years. People might not agree with that and it might not work for everybody and people might say it has nothing to do with not having cancer but for me, hey it’s worked so…and it’s kept the weight off too so that’s a bonus.
What was the reason for starting your business www.templesandmarkets.com.au ?
I find life very interesting and it tends to go in full circles, well for me it does anyway. Twenty-five years ago when I was still living in the UK I started off my working career in buying and merchandising in a department store group. I then left there to go travelling through south east Asia.
That region of Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia etc found its way into my heart and has literally never left. Over the last twenty years I’ve gotten back there as often as I can and I’ve now explored Vietnam, Cambodia and Lao as well.
There’s just something about that region, the creativity and the people are just so gracious even though so many of them have so very little. Our lives are so very charmed in comparison. They are just so creative and I’ve seen so many beautiful things that they make and I’ve come back wearing gorgeous jewellery or a unique hand bag and I would be asked, “Where did you get that?”
I would answer Thailand for example and their faces would drop because they couldn’t get it here (in Australia). So it’s been something that has been formulating in my mind for quite a few years, “How do I get these beautiful things to a wider audience outside of South East Asia?” and “How do I give those lovely people who I’ve met and who have such amazing stories, exposure outside of South East Asia?”
After having the cancer, I didn’t work for quite a few years because I wanted to avoid stress and so I was an at home mum for quite a few years. Then I set up an interior design business, I had studied interior decoration and I did some renovations. Which was interesting because I was wanting to avoid stress in my life and yet I ended up in the building industry.
That didn’t work for me but I have always been creative in a way and sourcing products in one way or another and travelling back and forth to South East Asia and then it culminated into ‘Let’s open an online store’ and bring these beautiful things to a wider audience.
My passion is travel and shopping for beautiful things and so that’s what I’ve done and it has evolved. I’m not helping the artisans I’ve met to trade into a better life. I support social enterprise and artisan groups who empower women by training them in certain handicrafts or making jewellery or beautiful bags. I support them and those are the products I am selling on the store.
For the first time in my life I feel I’m actually fulfilled through work and living my life on purpose. I get to give out and it comes back to me ten-fold.
I had been thinking about my business for some time and in 2015 I was in Siem Reap in Cambodia. Cambodia is one of the poorest countries in the world and even though it has a blossoming tourism industry people are still really poor. Human trafficking is common, prostitution, child labour, it’s all there in Cambodia and yet these are some of the most beautiful people you are ever going to meet.
In January 2015 I stumbled across a beautiful little jewellery boutique and had it not been for a bar next to this shop in a lane way I would never have met a lady called Rhani who makes this amazing jewellery out of the local seeds. Long story short, she has an amazing story of resilience.
She married an Indian man and left Cambodia and lived in India for five years. It didn’t work out and she was on the streets because her parents didn’t believe in divorce. Over time she learnt how to drill into these tiny, tiny seeds to make this amazing jewellery.
That was a catalyst for Temples and Markets because I met her, heard her story and it was so inspiring because she is now quite successful. Having said that, you wouldn’t know she existed unless you happen to be in that laneway. So I thought, ok, she has a story and I know there are so many other stories out there like hers of resilience and creativity that has come out of hardship.
That is an ah-ha moment because it was life changing. I met her, I heard her story and I now have this business and I am able to feature lots of people with stories like hers.
Last November when I launched it was another great moment because it’s something I’m really proud of and I’ve had so much amazing feedback. Every day, it’s running this business that makes a difference and I’m doing something creative and selling gorgeous things.
I call it the win-win because you buy something beautiful, something unique and something meaningful and at the same time you can effect positive change one purchase at a time.
What is something in your future plan that scares you?
There are a couple of things. One is the fear of failure. I’m incredibly passionate about this business and I’m in my forties and I don’t feel that I have enjoyed success in terms of work and I do fear failure. I’m putting my heart and soul into this business. If you look at the website there’s a lot of my heart in it.
I feel like it’s my time now. Yes I’ve been through illness and I’ve avoided stress for many years but now it’s my time and I literally want to get out into the world and I want people to know about what I’m doing. Sometimes it’s over reaching and I have spoken to a counsellor about this absolute tangible fear of failure.
The other fear is that I have one son and he is an amazing boy, he is an actor and we are like two peas in a pod and we are very, very close. We do a lot together and being an only child he gets to travel with me, we go to great restaurants and we get to chat, very maturely. I do make sure he has lots of kids around as well because he is an only child but he can also chat like an adult.
He is starting high school next year and you know it wont be long, maybe another two or three years and he wont want to hang out with me during school holidays any more.
To be honest, you can hear that my voice is breaking, that probably scares me more than anything. Not scares me, because I know it’s going to happen but how will I handle that? I guess I will just throw myself into the business. I will have done all I can and there will be no more school pickups and drop offs and he will be more independent then.
With that fear of failure too, everyone has it, anyone who starts a business and the difference between those who succeed and those who don’t is that those who succeed don’t let that fear of failure stop them from doing what they need to get done to succeed.
Five Fast Fun Fearless Facts about Judith Treanor
- Who inspires you? A lady who I have connected with online and her organisation in Cambodia also supplies to me. Her name is Sally Maree Hetherington. She is an Australian lady who went to volunteer in Cambodia five years ago for a few months and five years later she is still there. She is very happy to have put herself out of a job. She works with this ground roots organisation called Human and Hope Association. It’s a very poverty stricken area in Siem Reap in Cambodia. They educate people, they have a pre-school and a sewing program where they train women to sew and when they graduate they can set up their own sewing business. They are doing amazing work. Sally was the operations manager and she has brought it to a point, which was always her intention, where they can look after their own organisation now, without someone from overseas. She is still present on the board and does fund raising and social media. I am going to meet her in January when she moves back to Australia but we speak every day and she’s written some amazing blogs which I am sharing on my site. She writes a fascinating blog about volun-tourism where she talks about people who volunteer and think they are doing the right thing but aren’t necessarily. She’s very inspiring and insightful so please have a read.
- Favourite thing to do each day? Play ball with my dog Lollie. She’s half Kelpie and half Cocker Spaniel so she just has to run, every day. So I love to take time out and throw the ball with her.
- What's something that still scares you? Yes, 150% dentists. I didn’t go to a dentist for twenty years and it was something else that I took control over. I had hypnotherapy to get me to a dentist because I knew my wisdom teeth needed to come out and I needed a lot of work done. I got to the point of not even opening my mouth in photos because my teeth were so awful which is embarrassing to talk about now but that’s what fear does. It was a phobia because if I saw a dentist I would cross to the other side of the street. But now I have found a lovely dentist, just a block from where I live who gradually worked with me one step at a time and now I go every few months for my check-ups but it still scares me. If I need work done though I do have sedation and can highly recommend it.
- Favourite technique, app or book you’d like to share? One is an amazing book called, ‘Mum’s not having chemo’ by Laura Bond. It’s a fascinating read with lots of different case studies of people who have been in worse situations than I was and have found alternative ways to get through the cancer. Another one, if you’d like some insight into what I’m doing with Temples and Markets and why and if you haven’t travelled to Cambodia there’s an amazing book called, ‘First They Killed My Father’ by Loung Ung and she is the exact same age as me and she writes about growing up during the horrific times of the Khmer Rouge in the seventies in Cambodia. She is now in America and Angelina Jolie is making a movie about her life and her book. It explains why there is so much poverty in that country and why the population is so young, because so many of them were killed during those five years in the seventies.
- If you could wave a magic wand and fix one thing in the world right now, what would it be and why? Racism and intolerance
Final Question for Judith Treanor
If you could turn back time what's the one piece of advice you wish you could give your fourteen-year-old self?
I was a punk back then when I was fourteen with the spiked hair and part of the gothic punk movement so I think I’m going to say, keep being a rebel and always be a rebel. Why not! I was a rebel then and I’m still a rebel now and a lot of things I do are slightly off the cuff or against the grain. Keep on being a rebel throughout. Which is about being yourself really. When you are in your forties you are ok with being yourself but at fourteen you doubt yourself. We say in yoga, there’s only one of you so be you, you’re the only person that can do that so well.
Where can people reach out to you? www.templesandmarkets.com
Facebook – Temples and Markets