COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — For Laurel Komarny, the breast cancer diagnosis she received in January of 2021 still hasn't completely settled in, but the fear that came with it is something she'll never forget.
"I was terrified. It was a very surreal moment. My father passed away from lung cancer when he was 61 years old and I had lost a very dear friend to breast cancer, so I think those two losses really framed my reaction in that immediate moment," Komarny said.
At 49, the Colorado Springs mom was active and relatively healthy
"I had about 48 hours where I was in sort of a panic mode," Komarny said. "Then I went into, 'OK, what can I do? What's my role in this?' That's where I kind of dug in and started my work."
That work included reinventing herself and it started with her diet and mindset.
"I think it was important for me to take control of things I could take control of, and that was my diet and my mental state. So that for me started with meditation," Komarny said.
At the recommendation of her breast surgeon, UCHealth's Dr. Laura Pomerenke Komarny read the book: Prepare for Surgery, Heal Faster by Peggy Huddleston. The book would change her life.
"I started to research a bunch of books around the things you should and shouldn't do when you have cancer. It became very clear that diet is huge... Things like cutting out wine every day and fried foods, so I kind of started there."
Science backs it too. The American Cancer Research Institute has 10 recommendations for preventing cancer and nearly all have to do with diet and exercise. It recommends cutting out sugars, fast and processed foods, and alcohol.
"The combination of the diet and learning to meditate, my whole being changed. Anxiety that I had suffered from for years was slowly going away. Pounds that I had gained in middle age that you just attribute to middle age had also started to fall off and even just aches and pains that existed prior to the diagnosis had also remedied themselves," Komarny said.
Komarny said changing her diet and meditating helped her prepare for surgery. UCHealth doctors preformed a successful lumpectomy to remove the cancerous tumor before taking out her implants and doing a breast lift.
Today, Komarny is cancer free. She's climbed three 14ers and in July, she celebrated another big milestone — her 50th birthday.
"I think the combination of changing my diet and changing my physical being, losing weight and not having those health issues anymore, and then the mental aspect, has been huge," Komarny said.
Molly Hendrickson anchors Denver7 in the mornings from 4:30-7 a.m. She also features a different 7Everyday Hero each week on Denver7. Follow Molly on Facebook here and Twitter here. To nominate a hero in your life, click here.