Cancer is something most of us don’t want to talk about, but it’s something that will most likely touch all of our lives in some way. Especially for us moms, it can be a really scary thought as to what happens if cancer does touch our immediate family. To learn more about dealing with cancer as a parent, and how self-care and proper nutrition can help prevent it, we’re talking to Erin Soto, cancer survivor and author of The Mother of All Fights.

In this episode, we’re covering Erin’s battle through colon cancer, and everything that helped her while she was fighting it. Not only are we talking about making it through cancer, we’re also talking about preventative measures, keeping a positive mindset throughout, and even how cannabis can really help people with treatment. 

Erin is passionate about sharing her story and helping other people who may be going through cancer or have someone they love going through it, which made this a truly fantastic and heartfelt interview. We talked about so many great things, and I really think you’re going to love hearing Erin’s story. We’re going to have a great discussion after the episode over on the UM Club Facebook page, so make sure to join us there after!

Want to read and listen to this episode? Make sure to sign up for the UM Club! We cover new topics every week and feature so many great guest speakers, and right now you can join for as little as $3 a month!

Guest Expert

Erin Soto is a motivational speaker, author, wellness activist and Stage 3 cancer survivor. Upon receiving her life-changing diagnosis, and throughout her treatment and recovery, Erin dedicated herself to making meaningful and sustainable changes to improve her physical, mental, and spiritual well-being. With her personal experiences in hand, she is now committed to helping others take charge of their health. She lives in Southern California with her husband and four children. The Mother of All Fights is her first book.

In This Episode We Talk About

00:28 – Who is Erin Soto?
03:14 – Colon cancer awareness.
7:57 – Signs and symptoms of colon cancer.
11:58 – The rise of colon cancer in young adults
13:20 – Cancer and diet.
22:14 – The pillars of health.
28:05 – Lifestyle changes.
34:53 – Going through cancer as a parent.
43:02 – How we can support people going through cancer.
55:52 – Where to find Erin!

Watch the Video

Listen to the Audio

Resource Links

Join the UM Club!
UM Club Facebook page
The Mother of All Fights by Erin Soto
audio book
Learn more about Colon Cancer Awareness Month
How to Talk to Kids About Death and Illness with Michelle McVittie
Erin’s website:
Erin’s email: [email protected]
Instagram: @AuthorErinSoto
Facebook: @AuthorErinSoto
Pritikin Experience

Read the Full Conversation

Hello and welcome to another episode inside the Unapologetic Moms Club. I’m here today with Erin Soto to talk a lot about cancer and how we can really reclaim our health and our self care routines for a better lifestyle moving forward. So thank you so much for being here.

Thank you for having me. I’m thrilled to be here and appreciate the opportunity.

So let’s hear a little bit more about who you are, what you do, your story, what inspired this book, The Mother of All Fights?

Yeah! So not very long ago, 2019, I was jammin through or cruisin through ordinary life as a mom of four kids and wife, super busy, overly committed, we all know the song and dance well. And I had shrugged off really powerful warning signs that something was physically off with my body until I reached a point where I really couldn’t ignore my health any longer. And everything in life as I knew it, my world basically came to a crashing halt, when I was diagnosed with stage three colon cancer at age 37.

So yeah, pretty harsh and unexpected. And I mean, there’s two parts of my backstory that I definitely want to touch upon. March, which is right around the corner, is Colon Cancer Awareness Month. And I like to tie it in because, as you mentioned, I have a book coming out on March 1. And one of the things I intentionally did – because the book isn’t only about colon cancer, it’s more about my life story. But I intentionally coincided the launch with the start of Colon Cancer Awareness Month. And I want to share more about my story really to help raise awareness about what’s going on with this disease on a grander scale, because I think it’s something we all need to be paying closer attention to.

But yeah, basically what happened with me was I, you know, my everything, my life seemed to be spiraling out of control suddenly, and I struggled at first to find meaning with what was happening. And of course I felt grief and fear and heartbreak, and had to process everything about the very possibility of my own death, in life as I knew it, and as a mom, and what that meant for my family. But very quickly, I feel like I came to a healthy perspective or a transition from, I don’t want to worry about not wanting to die so much as I wanted to focus on all the reasons I wanted to live. Which in my case, as a mom, my family was the greatest reason for living. And I knew my life might be cut short, but I wanted to find a way to live today and now with greater meaning and purpose as an example for my husband and my kids, in case of the worst case scenario, but more importantly, just to leave a lasting legacy that I kind of could rest in peace with and be happy with.

And gosh forbid, thankfully, the best case scenario happened, we were able to survive the ordeal. But we incorporated a lot of growth and lessons through that whole journey and experience, which is what the book is really about.

Mm hmm. Just a massive transformation, I can only imagine what you and your family went through throughout that period of time. But when you popped into my email, I was immediately really interested in your story with surviving colon cancer. Because from what I know of it, it has a very low survival rate, and it has touched my family. And it was scary and crazy how fast it consumed that person. So let’s hear a little bit more about colon cancer and the message you want to spread with that?

Yeah, I’m sorry, first of all, that it’s also touched your family. What surprised me, and this is a kind of great kind of segue into that, is I do not have a family history or genetic predisposition. So this was not only a cruel and unusual crashing interruption in life, but it didn’t make sense. And the doctors couldn’t answer why this had happened to me at such a young age. Because no one in my family has ever had this form of cancer before. So it wasn’t hereditary factors, and genetic testing early on in the process proved that I didn’t have a predisposition for developing it. So they basically told me, “oh, this is just a case of really bad luck.” But also a case, like you mentioned, of the third deadliest form of all cancers among men and women combined. So not the kind you want to have a late stage, aggressive form of, so that was really, really confronting to face and so I needed to find answers.

And what I quickly discovered, and really shocked me, very early on I started joining Facebook groups and support groups and I looked around and recognized oh my gosh, I am not the only 37 year old mom in here. There are really young 30s and 20s and 40s, like young adults. And I mean, like more than half of the members of the support groups. And I had always, in the back of my mind, thought that this was a disease that only happened later in life to older men – my dad always joked that this is the part of the process of going into your golden years as a man, you get your colonoscopy.

But this was happening all around at all ages. And it turns out – and one of the things I think a lot of people will start to hear about this March because I think the media is going to start to shine a spotlight on it, because there’s a need to inform and educate and raise awareness – this disease is skyrocketing at young adults under the age of 35. And actually, where they’re seeing the largest spike increases, ages 20 to 29, which is terrifying, and more than half of all those diagnosed this year will be in the young adult range. And like me, I was a perfect example of that. Often, sadly, with late stage, which is, like you said, harder to treat and not where you want it to go.

So I share my story, and I’ll kind of go into what I’m doing with Colon Cancer Awareness Month, because in my own case, I didn’t go in for four months. And I had symptoms, but I didn’t know that I even needed to have that on my radar. As a woman, I think breast cancer, right? Or I live in California, I think skin cancer. But colon cancer wasn’t ever something I even knew I needed to be aware of. And that needs to change. I think people are dying because we’re not talking about it nearly enough. The media talks about other forms more than it does this one.

But this one is – I mean, this is a really scary recent stat that just came out – by 2030, within the next decade, colon cancer is expected to be the leading cause of death in those under the age of 50. And it’s going to increase by 124%, in terms of those under 35, in terms of cases diagnosed. So it needs to be addressed, so people know, “hey, what are the signs and symptoms,” because I don’t necessarily need to have a hereditary disease or a background. This is skyrocketing for a variety of reasons which we can touch upon. But we all need to be looking out. So if a friend or a family member or a co-worker or someone is exhibiting these symptoms, they learn from people like myself, and don’t ignore that. Because I ignored it for four months, which is a long time – it was dangerously too long.

So that’s kind of where, you know, my book is about my journey through cancer, but I thought I’m going to use the the launch of it and Colon Cancer Awareness Month, because as someone who didn’t think I needed to worry about this disease, I think it’s kind of my purpose, or something I’m passionate about and I almost feel like I need to educate and inform and raise awareness for that reason, to hopefully help someone, maybe who’s listening right here right now, understand and feel encouraged to go in and talk to their doctor if they are exhibiting symptoms and even hopefully save a life.


Yeah, it’s powerful.

So what are some of those signs and symptoms we should be looking out for?

Yeah, so there’s good and bad news. The bad news is it’s often referred to as the silent killer, which is scary, because they’re easy to dismiss, right? There are symptoms that every single one of us has experienced, and often experiences. So it started off, at least for me, and in many colon cancer patients, as a change in bowel habits. And by that I mean diarrhea and constipation. And that’s how it started for me, like the beginning symptoms, and then it slowly progresses. So I just thought, oh, cut back on the cheese. Or maybe I’m developing a food allergy, right. So I didn’t go in. But if you have any of those symptoms for more than a few days, then that’s a red flag. And you need to not just ignore it. Don’t go weeks, even or months.

The other one to look out for is the change in the size and the shape of your bowel movements. So I had a two inch tumor blocking my colon so that changed the way it came out. So then you can have bleeding, or for me, the blood in the stool just changes the color to a dark color, like a dark brown or a dark black, rather than a healthier color. And that’s because you have blood in your stool. And then cramping, or abdominal pain, and fatigue, or also unintended weight loss. So any of those – which, who doesn’t have those things at some point or another, right?

So it doesn’t mean you have cancer, and I’d hate to do the fear tactic message. But even if you have any of these and are exhibiting them for more than a few day days, because of what we now know is happening, doctors and experts are encouraging – and they just reduced the age to 45, and that’s if you have none of those symptoms, and you’re perfectly healthy and no family history. But if you do have a family history, or if you even have one of those symptoms for more than like several days and it’s not clearing up, it’s worth a call, because they think the young adults are getting late stage three and stage four because we still kind of think we’re invisible. We’re busy, like I’ll do it after my kids soccer practice if it doesn’t go away in a few weeks. That was me, the “I’ll deal with it later. It’s not that big of a deal.” But it was. And I sometimes wonder if I had gone in when it started, maybe it wouldn’t have got to stage three, right? So I hope people learn from the mistakes I made, and then use this as motivation.

Absolutely. So just really being aware, checking those bowel movements. And if something’s outside of the norm, it is a sign. Like it’s showing what’s leaving your body, it has a story to tell. It’s weird to say that about your bowel movements. But it’s true, it’s a really good sign for us to know if things are working as they should, or if something isn’t, and we need to just bite the bullet, talk about it. Because if we can get ahead of it, it will be so much better in the long run. And if it’s nothing, that’s okay, too. It’s not like it’s a big giant waste, right?

And then you know, and it’s so easy. Like I can say firsthand, it’s a lot easier to screen than it is to be treated for cancer, right? And like, I never really watched my bowel movements or paid much attention, I’d tend to wipe and flesh. But now I’m like, it’s a major indicator of your body telling you what’s going on internally. So I mean, I talk a lot of poop with my kids. We’re like potty humor masters, because you can’t have this form of cancer and not go there. But it does. Your body is telling you so much. And I think we are so busy in the lifestyles we lead now. We tend to not listen to the cues our body sends in all different manners, not just the bowel movements and, you know, bowel health. So it’s important to slow down and not just disregard something as “oh, it’s probably not a big deal.” If you’re worried about something, just go in and ask and learn.

Absolutely. Yeah. It’s a common theme within our community, there’s a lot in the slowness and taking time to step back and reflect. There’s a lot of power in that and the different things you can discover and learn.

Absolutely, absolutely.

So why is this on the rise in young adults? What’s going on?

So, and that’s the great question. I mean, it’s still something because what they’re saying, there’s a lot of research being done right now. Because like I said, what the trends are showing us and what’s expected to occur, is really scary and really alarming. So thankfully, we’re learning more. The latest research that’s come out very recently points to diet and nutrition being a major contributing possible factor. And then of course, and people already know about that, right? We know what we eat is a huge factor in our health. And then the other being toxic exposure to personal care products, household cleaning materials, and just environmental toxins and exposure.

And they don’t know for sure, certain, but those are the biggest culprits of where they’re thinking, at least for this form of cancer, to be possibly somehow connected to the rise. And that makes sense. I learned a lot. And one of the things I cover in the book are all the things I was doing before cancer that I’ve since changed in my own family after, for those lifestyle changes. And I can share more if you want on, you know, cancer and diet, for example, because that’s a huge way to take back control and reclaim some level of control over your health and well being, or as a preventative measure to avoid.

Absolutely, let’s hear about it. I’m curious too for kind of that before and after, like you talked about, the different habits you did have before and how you shifted things with your family and in eating while you’re going through the treatment and for better health.

Yeah. So I felt like I was relatively healthy before. Obviously, we know there’s a connection between obesity and cancer, right, and higher cancer rates. But basically I asked my doctors, because I was going in for surgery to cut out a massive chunk of my colon (six inches), and I’d said, “okay, I know there’s like thousands of books on cancer and diet, but can you just tell me what I need to do for this form of cancer and diet?” And at the time – and this was only in 2019 and so much has changed already since then. Initially, I was really disappointed with their response, because it was, “well, you know, as soon as you recover from the surgery, and you have to be on a liquid diet for the surgery, then you can go back to eating whatever you want.”

And I thought – you know, my husband’s in real estate. So I joke, I’m like, “yeah, this is cancer, quite literally located in my digestive system for some reason. I feel like there’s something to do with location, location, location.” So I was like, oh, yeah, go back to eating beer and sugary sweets and chips and everything. No, I’m not going to do that.

So it didn’t take long to figure out where, now, the majority of trusted experts in the cancer community and doctors seem to share an overall consensus for best practices on healing cancer or disease, and the connection with diet and nutrition. And even in the last couple of years, my own oncologist and surgeon and doctors have kind of jumped on the bandwagon of the latest research in cancer and diet.

And all the latest scientific research and cancer diet books that I’ve read suggest four primary dietary changes, which are to reduce or eliminate meat, dairy, sugar, and refined foods; significantly increase your intake of fruit and vegetables; obviously eat organic; and drink plenty of clean, filtered water. And that’s really the bulk of it. I mean, you want to try to incorporate a fiber rich, heavy diet, that’s kind of revolving more around plant based. And again, eliminating a lot of meat – you know, there’s definitely, and I’ll share more about this, why not meat – vegetarians and vegans have far lower and reduced cancer rates than meat eaters. It’s just a hard fact.

And while I was diagnosed, I think what stopped me and what helped me transition or motivated me, and I can share more on some of the research. But cancer is the second leading cause of death, at least in the United States. And estimates suggest that nearly a third of all cancer cases could be avoided through the four pillars I just shared of diet and nutrition alone. That’s power on what you choose to put on your plate. It’s a simple change. But it’s a great way to reclaim your health quickly and relatively easily. That’s not so easy to say when you’re telling your family to transition to plant-based!

Yeah, that’s the tricky party, when it’s more than you, and dealing with the kids.

Yeah, and so for me, it was truly like – so there was some really powerful research done, showing the link between cancer and meat. And in colon cancer, which is what I was looking at, like three and a half ounces, for example, of red meat a day can raise your risk of colorectal polyps, which cause cancer by 2%. And just half as much of that, and processed meat like deli meat for your sandwiches, that can raise the risk of developing cancerous polyps by 29%. So for me, I was like, “ooh, okay, this colon cancer, that’s a major change.” Just as much as two servings of meat a day could quadruple the risk of recurrence for women with breast cancer. So I was reading all this going, “ooh, that’s a lot.” There’s a reason for me to be motivated. And then my family helped and joined in on the efforts. But that was a more gradual change in transition.

But one of the studies that I will share, that’s really powerful and motivating for someone maybe who is living with cancer now. or they happen to be listening in. There was a recent study done called the Pritikin Experience, and you can Google this and look it up. But basically, they performed research to see whose diet or what form of diet kicked the most cancer butt for people who already have cancer, to turn your body into like a self cancer-cell-fighting machine.

And they found that in these experiments, they basically took human cancer cells and dripped blood of those participating in the study into petri dishes. And they dripped them on the human cancer cells growing inside of this. And what they found, that women who were placed on the plant based diet for 12 days, less than two weeks, they were able to suppress the growth of more than three different types of breast cancer. And, in some cases, slow down and even stop it. And this also happened, and it held true for men, in the same study for prostate cancer and other forms of cancer. So for me, it was kind of that changing moment going “well, if you can do that in two weeks, what can a month of going on a healthier plant based diet do, or a year accomplish, if you’re living with this disease?” And certainly as a preventative measure, right?

That’s what I’m thinking right now. Wow, that happened within 12 days, how powerful is that, to change your lifestyle towards that.

I mean, it’s not so easy. It’s easy to change what you eat, and yet, not so easy, because we were eating a lot of meat. It was an easy change and a simple adjustment that I made instantly, because I was kind of in a survival mode, do or die. But for my family, we did like a gradual transition. Like let’s have a vegetarian meal, start with one meal a week, and work our way up. And then the kids got involved and helped cook and so now we eat much cleaner. But for them it was like a slower transition, because you can’t do that with kids.

Yeah, it takes time. Now I am curious. You’ve touched on red meat and deli meats, with lean meats like chicken and turkey, is it very similar? Or is there a bit more of a difference?

There is a difference, there is a difference. Like I said, the one that tends to have the highest, in the research connection, is red meat and deli meat. But again, they don’t say that you have to eliminate it. They say you can reduce your consumption of meat. So if you still want to clean meat, you can. But again, in the end, if someone has cancer, vegetarians and vegans are like – I went full blown in – but again, if you’re just looking to reduce the risk or prevent it, yes. I still let my family eat meat and we just reduced how much and how often, and we’re really careful about what form and kinds, so yeah. Have the fish, have the chicken, just be really careful and responsible about where you get it from. But do try to incorporate less maybe than what you’re used to, slowly.


Yeah, I think our Western diet – and again, and this is more than colon cancer, this is just disease in general, right? Like we’re making so much of a connection between what we eat. And that’s just one factor covered in my book, it’s one chapter. But the Western diet, as we’ve gotten busier, we tend to just buy food in a package that we can throw in the oven. And it’s full of preservatives, but it’s convenient and easy. But it tends to deplete us of our energy and our reserves. And we’re not fueling ourselves the way we used to with the style and forms of foods we used to eat, when we didn’t have cancer at the rates we have now. And we kind of need to get back to that. And it’s a transition. And it’s a little more work to create and incorporate more whole foods and plants and veggies into your diet. But in the end, when you look at the difference it’s going to make for your overall health and well being, it’s worth the extra effort.

Absolutely. And I’ve seen it personally, just in the last two months. So in December, I was diagnosed with ADHD, tried a little bit of medication, but decided what was right for my situation is I was going to give it three months to go full-in and treat this more holistically with a really big focus on nutrition and exercise. And so for me, that was high protein, not necessarily animal protein, and full balanced meals with protein, healthy fats and fiber. And within a month of doing that, I noticed massive changes just to my focus and mood. These things really impact you in such a short time, in such a great way.

It’s quick, right? And, I mean, I think it’s a simple adjustment. It’s like as little as little as you said, two weeks to 30 days, maybe reducing your caffeine intake, or what you eat; you sleep better, which impacts how you perform, your brain fog, all of that, the rest of the day. I believe that wholeheartedly. That’s great that you’ve been able to find success just in that connection to diet, and what you’re consuming, and absolutely can see how that would make perfect sense for that scenario.

Let’s hear a little bit more about the other pillars. So you touched on the meat. Let’s hear about the others.

Yeah, so with the book and what my family went through, I call them the pillars or foundations, if you will, to self care. And, you know, I think Western medicine is great. My oncologists and my surgeons absolutely saved my life. I want to address that because I think, especially in the last decade, there was kind of this shift where people felt like they had to pick aside like, I’m going to go 100% holistic, or I’m going to go Western and have surgery. And then people were like not sure – like when I had cancer, I’m like, “wait, there’s all these conflicting books, it was really confusing.”

I decided to kind of just not put all my eggs in one basket and follow everyone, like my doctors saved my life and they were busy treating the disease. But I wanted to focus on kind of treating the root cause of it, since they couldn’t tell me what that was, and transitioning the rest of my treatment to the whole person, the whole being. So what that looks like, I think, in order to treat disease, and how we treat the whole person, mind, body and spirit, is the pillars of health care. Through well-being and health care is diet, stress reduction – there’s a lot in my book about stress, because in my personal case, yeah, diet was a contributing factor. But I actually believe it was chronic stress, that there was no coincidence, actually. The onset of my symptoms happened after a major mental and emotional meltdown, and boom, I started having those problems. So I don’t see a coincidence there.

So stress, healthy lifestyle practices, like you’re saying, healing movement and exercise, and then limiting environmental toxins. A community, like yours here where you come together with like-minded moms or support groups or, you know, anyone who has interest in that of your own. And then for many a higher power or just deepening a spiritual connection, and connection to your body and the world around you.

And I think those are the pillars that help you find beauty in the little moments, and help to live with more purpose and meaning for whatever time you have left. So like you said, we talked about what you eat, what you drink, what you put in your body, what you put on your body, and then making sure that you, you know, slow down. And for me stress was a huge factor. So I talk a lot in my book about how to rest, how to renew, how to play more, how to connect more and be more present every day. Because I was churning and burning through life on a hamster wheel, and cancer turned out to be a great teacher for me to slow down and pause and just kind of relish more in the moment with my kids, or just walking outside on the sidewalk, and kind of taking in and seeing everything around me at a slower pace and really soaking it in and changing that.

How was that shift for you, because that can be quite hard when people are very used to being so go go go, and to actually step back and rest. There can even be a lot of guilt for it as mom’s being, like I should be doing all these things instead of just resting or playing.

Yeah. I think at some point, there’s so many different articles written on this, but when you’re dealing with, sadly, the very real possibility of your own death, they often talk about interviewing hospice patients right at the end of their life. And you go into some crazy places in your mind when you’re living with late-stage cancer. And the worst part was I had this during the pandemic, so I would have to go in for an eight hour chemo infusion without a family member or moral support friend by my side, I was all alone, so I had a lot of time to go into my head and think about these things.

And I reflected a lot on my life very quickly. And it wasn’t that I necessarily had regrets about everything I had done in my life up to this point. But when I physically lost the ability to do, like you said, the things I wanted to as a mom, and as a wife, and just as a person, the things that brought me joy in life, because I physically wasn’t capable anymore. I thought about the things I would do differently in my life, if I ever had the opportunity for a second chance. And that’s kind of a motivation in itself, where you look at, you know, during my time in the hospital, I made a promise: if I were to make it through cancer, I’m going to tell my story, set an example for others along the way, and show my kids here and now what that looks like. Because they need to learn through this example. And so – did that answer the question? I hope I did.

Yeah, I’m sorry, I got caught right up into what you’re saying about slowing down. You definitely have extra motivation, going through all of the treatments and dealing with cancer, it can be a lot more motivating to make those changes right away.

Yeah, I mean, I feel like kind of you want to instantly change and improve your mental, physical and spiritual well-being because it’s got a way to quickly just give very crystal clear perspective that maybe you didn’t have the day before, right? When you’re realizing your time might be limited, so you’ve got to get this right.

And so I was always – we like to joke, my husband and I about what we had been going through. And when you read the book, you find out, like I say, the chronic stress; we had been going through a really awful, stressful ordeal in our life, before cancer, which I think led up to eventually the distress, which eventually caused my disease. But all of the things that I allowed to really upset me as a mom, and as a person, in my 30s and 20s, that I used to get triggered or stressed by, suddenly seemed so insignificant when I had cancer. It was like, man, I was wasting a lot of time and energy on the wrong stuff.

And they often say this, people who are dealing with terminal disease or illness, you just kind of exist in an altar, it’s like an awakening, if you will. You just kind of wake the heck up. Because you recognize you don’t have time to kind of sleepwalk through those mistakes anymore. And you’ve got to get really connected with the world around you and engaged to live with meaning now.

Absolutely, so what are some of those changes that you made and how you’re doing things differently?

Yeah, so again, the book is like where I really dive into it. But I basically, like the pillars of wellness that I’ve covered, I took everything that I use to help recover and heal from cancer. But I feel like anyone – I think at some point, we all face crisis in our life at some point or another, and can lose meaning. And it might come in a different form. For me, cancer was the greatest teacher and the motivating factor to embrace life transformation and these changes, and incorporate healthier lifestyle practices that have led to being happier as a person. But now that I’m recovered, these are the same practices I will never let go of, and I consider it near and dear to my heart, and I want my family to learn to live by. Because I hope that maybe they will never have to get to the point that I went through, because we can either improve the quality of life they have while they have their health intact, or avoid them ever getting there.

And it’s really just everything we talked about in the pillars of wellness, but I just think that, you know, for me, it took cancer crashing into my life to be kind of this survival do or die mode, but I think we all have life at times where it seems to spiral out of control. It could be through divorce, or a loss of a loved one, or a variety of forms. And you don’t even need to have a crisis crash in. You could just be someone, like you said, searching to live with more meaning today.

And I think it takes – for me I always say to everyone who asked it was an inner journey, you know, traveling to depths within myself and becoming. I had to sit, like I said, in some really uncomfortable places in my mind. I had to grieve and I had to let go of controlling the life I thought that I was always guaranteed to live in the way things were supposed to be, and quickly get the heck over it. Because there’s some traumatic things in life, or life-altering permanent changes, that you don’t get over. You’re traumatized by them. But you gotta get through.

So for me, I was able to do that in what I say is like the darkest season of life. I brought the light into that moment, and there was no guarantee I was going to make it to the light at the end of the tunnel, but I did that. And again, that’s the inner journey. And I talk a lot, like you and I were talking a little bit about mindfulness. I always said mindset from day one; mindset is the greatest form of medicine there is. And what I think and feel about what I was going through was going to play a very substantial part in how I got through it, and how I processed grieving and then moving on to a place of acceptance. Not meaning I’m accepting cancer, but meaning I’m able to pick up the pieces and get through this – maybe not get over it, but get through it.

And for me, this was very much a mental and emotional and a spiritual journey, as much as it was the physical journey with diet. And that’s what that looks like. So there’s so much to say on that. I kind of go into that in the book in greater detail of, you know, giving examples of what that looked like in my life. And I think, for me, the purpose of the book is to say, well, look, cancer was my greatest teacher, here’s everything it taught me about living a more full and vibrant life. But I think every one of us has life – our life is like a chapter and it takes place in lessons, and your life is probably trying to teach you something in whatever you’re going through. And it’s just helping you recognize through my journey, we kind of go on this together, but so that you recognize the ones your life is trying to teach you. And that’s kind of the goal.

Absolutely. And like you said, it had forced you to really dial in to what is important, and slow down and focus on what you want. And I think through doing that, and you touch on you have the extra motivation, of course with going through the cancer. But to let go of those things that are bringing you down and establishing those boundaries, and letting go of relationships that keep putting you in that more stressed place, and just let go of the things that are no longer serving you and focus on what is bringing you joy, and what does make you feel good.

You kind of get – they call it the cancer card, when you have cancer, you kind of get a Get Out of Jail Free card where the rest of us don’t. We sometimes feel like we have to – we don’t have the courage to be really protective and set those boundaries, like you said, because maybe it’s a family member, or like a childhood trauma memory. I mean, it could be someone you feel bad about kind of getting distance from or protecting for yourself. But I had a free pass of being really mindful about who I let in during that time and kind of setting boundaries. And then I’ve continued to use that, because I think you definitely hit the nail on the head.

They always say the five people you spend your time with the most absolutely impact and reflect upon your reality and how you experience life. And so be mindful, have people there that inspire and uplift you. And if someone regularly is kind of sucking you out are causing misery, then you got to pay attention to that. And if they can’t work with you on fixing it, then – doesn’t mean you necessarily have to like cut cords, right? Sometimes it’s family members who are doing this. But you can definitely restrict or limit your interactions or do things so that when you are meeting up with those people, you’re kind of mentally prepared. And then you can kind of let go of whatever, release it.

Because you can’t, like I say – and it’s funny, because in this book, I start off with the physical and kind of the stress, the more commonly associated forms of what people feel develop disease. But then I go into the mental and the emotional part and how I really believe our mind and our body is connected in letting go of and processing traumatic experiences, hurt, pain. And then finally for me, the spiritual side, which all of that kind of boils up to, and that connection with yourself of how to; it’s kind of a practice of self-love and self-care, right? Self-care is healthcare. And so you have to, it’s your job to take ownership of.

Yeah. And like you said, in touching on the social aspects, how important having that sense of community and those good relationships are. And that it continues to uplift you and push you to do better when you have those good relationships and sense of community with those shared interests that you’re chatting about. It feels so much more uplifting and better compared to the relationships that are draining you.

Absolutely. And for me, I was really blessed because I have good friends. A lot of people – I mean, it makes me sad, because cancer comes in at all different phases of life and seasons of life. But it was awful to go through cancer as a parent because that meant my entire family went through this ordeal with me. But on the bright side, I had a family, and that was for me my greatest motivating factor and reason for living. And that was who I fought to be surrounded by with more, because I wanted more time with them.

Absolutely. And what was that like going through cancer as a parent and parenting while you’re going through all of these treatments, and like talking to your kids about it?

I say there is no convenient age to have cancer. It’s a devastating diagnosis at any season of life. But I think parents or young adults, but especially parents in particular, do juggle a unique set of circumstances, in dealing with cancer in that family phase of life, because it can feel so confronting. Your bills still need to be paid, homework needs to be done, meals need to be shopped and prepped and prepared. Life doesn’t stop, right? Susie still has to buy that birthday present for the party. Life keeps going on around you, and you need to find a way to get through it.

And what I found was, as a parent, obviously, you’re juggling that unique set of circumstances which is challenging. But what really hit me was, as a parent, we try to protect our kids from life hurting them. And we want to kind of give them this wonderful exposure to life. And what I found out was as awful as this whole experience was, we definitely went through this as a family. No one fights alone. And it impacted every member, from my husband to all of my four kids deeply and differently, depending on their age.

But we came out the other side, you know, with wounds, emotional and physical wounds from what this did to us and how it changed us. And thankfully, in hindsight, now I can say looking back, as much as I wanted to protect them, they taught me so much about how resilient they are. Through this, every one of our experiences was different. But in many ways, as awful as it was, and I couldn’t prevent my kids from going through this, I think they’re all much more compassionate. They had to grow up a little faster.

My daughter, I talked in the book how she kind of became the mommy to her younger brothers, because I was physically not able to. So she would give baths, or if my youngest was having a hard time because I was at the hospital, she would rock him to sleep and calm him down, because he was acting out because of the changes. The younger ones, you know, you can say mommy or daddy has cancer, and they’re not going to understand what that means, depending on their age. So they really reacted more in real time seeing us go through it. But the older kids, it hit them really hard. And they knew what it meant. And they asked the hard questions. You know, if you’re a parent, and you have to sit down and have this tough talk, man, I’ve been there.

And I did a lot of research, and everything I read said to be really open and really honest, in case this conversation comes on to take greater meaning someday in the future. And so I had to say, “well, yeah, there’s, there’s a possibility, I won’t make it. But there’s a lot of people who do restore their health, or they live with cancer for a really long time. And we just are going to do our best. I promise you, I will do everything in my power to survive and get through this. But no matter what we’re gonna get through this together as a family. And even if I’m not here, your family will always be there for you.”

And I mean, those are tough conversations. My older kids struggled with a little bit of depression and anxiety. And they didn’t – we tried to keep open communication in our house, like, come to mom, come to dad, talk to us. And what I found was the older kids were going to teachers, or a friend of a parents house, because kids are so receptive, and they pick up on our energy and what we’re going through, whatever it is. They didn’t want to add to mom or dad’s plate or stress us out any more than we already were. So we had to recognize they’re going to other adults, maybe they’ll go to an adult who can’t handle this conversation. So you get them therapy, right? Or you get them counseling, and I think it was a learning experience.

One of the reasons I was so compelled to write this book – and like I said, I could write a whole book just on the parenting with cancer topic – is because a lot of the books I read didn’t answer those questions. The people didn’t have kids yet, they were young adults, or they had a baby. And those were questions I very much wanted. And I don’t necessarily have the answers, I just share what it was like for my family in hopes that if someone is now dealing with this circumstance themself, they can maybe learn from what I learned from it, or incorporate and pull from some of the lessons I used for themselves to make it a little easier to navigate. But in the end, we’re okay, we came out stronger and closer. Like I said, my kids showed me how strong they are. And I think they’re more compassionate and better people, in hindsight, because of it.

Yeah, it sounds like you took a very proactive approach. And we actually have an episode all about talking to kids about death and illness. And that’s what she recommends, is just really being open about it and exploring all the possibilities. Like you had touched on, yes, this could just go badly, but these are all the things that lots of people do fight through, and kind of explaining both scenarios, because it’s going through their minds anyway. And so let’s talk about it because they’re going to think about it, and like you said, they’re going to talk to other people. So we need to still have these conversations because they’re going to happen with or without us.

Or imagine the worst.


Without you being there to help them through that, yeah. That’s great that you had that episode.

Yeah. And to even have these conversations before these big things happen, like work it in. And my kids are two-and-a-half and four. And what I kind of do is, there’s like, say, a dead bug, on a window sill, and kind of having a little bit of a conversation about it when we have these small little instances where we can weave in this different information when something does happen. Because inevitably, at some point, something’s going to happen, whether it’s with us or an extended family member or friend.

A pet.

Yeah. It’s not as much of a big shock, because they do have a little bit of understanding drift through.

Yeah. And it’s gonna touch them. And like I said, we lost our dog recently. And one way I taught that concept to my kid was I took a balloon. And I blew air into it and said, “well, this is your body and the balloon, and here’s the breath of life-” and that’s the energy, lifeforce, chi, spirit, whatever, wherever you live in the world, how you connect with it. “But at some point, the impermanence of life is, we’re going to have to take our final breath,” and I let the air out of the balloon and I said, “when it was in the balloon, we could see, touch, feel, when the air was inside it. We couldn’t see it was inside, and we still can’t see it. But the air didn’t stop existing. It’s just left the balloon. And it’s in a different form, but it’s not gone.” And that was a good way to kind of talk to the younger kids about when our pet passed. Well, our pet is still kind of here just in a different way. And it makes it a little less scary. I like to use a lot of props when I’m talking to the kids about this stuff.

That is such a good idea. I love that for really showing them in a way that they understand.

Yeah, it helped them, because my youngest one really struggled when our dog passed. He was like, “I don’t understand. So I can’t see Dexter and pet Dexter, but Dexter is still here?” That’s what we believe at least, and again, everyone’s different. But we believe in life after death just in a different form, and Dexter’s energies around you and you can talk to Dexter, but no, you can’t hold. And with the balloon, you know, the balloons over. But Dexter is still very much alive.

That’s another thing we touched on in that episode and talking to kids about it, is it’s very important to communicate the permanence of it, so that their body is no longer with us, we can’t pet and touch them. Because in different scenarios where it’s really focused on, they’re still with us. They had like kids where it’s like, “okay, I’m gonna fly up and see them,” or “where can I visit them.” And so we can still have the comfort and safety that they are still with us while still communicating the permanence and that their physical being is no longer with us and that we can’t touch them and see them.

Exactly, exactly. Yeah, it’s a good conversation to have. And that’s great that you’re incorporating those lessons so early on, because inevitably, it’s going to happen in some way, shape or form, you know.

Exactly, that’s what this community is all about is talking about those real things. Because it’s going to happen, we need to have those conversations, right? So I’m curious, as a way to end this, how can we better support those, or how can we support those that are going through cancer?

Yeah, so I can talk about how we can support those or I can talk about some of the steps I took to help kind of ease like side effects or cope with cancer, because I think that’s something I’d like to touch upon that I think is helpful regardless, in case someone has a family member, or they themselves are dealing with disease. Because especially on the topic of cancer, it’s as bad as you’ve heard, when you’re dealing with cancer treatment, right? If you know someone who’s been through cancer, you maybe have already been exposed, sadly, to what that looks like. And it’s as harrowing and awful and debilitating physically, mentally and spiritually, as you’ve heard.

And I don’t want to horrify you with the stories, but at many points, you know, I lost control of my body, and it reached a point – anything and everything can happen during treatment. I grew really tired of suffering very early on. And I will say the first few rounds of chemotherapy were brutal, and willfully continuing with treatment was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. So it took every ounce of grit and courage to keep showing up and kind of put my body back through this next phase of chemo. And it takes a while to adjust and get used to it. But there were steps that I learned to help tolerate and cope with what I was going through.

Doctors and infusion center nurses, like I say, they’re so great at treating the disease, and they’ll give you as many steps that they can, often in the form of pills, to make it so you’re not suffering more than necessary. But what I found was, despite the many combinations of medicines that were intended to help ease the common side effects that I was dealing with, like nausea, vomiting, constipation, all of the common cancer symptoms, they were actually leading to more problems, at least for me. Or not helping tackle many of the problems I was dealing with, a pill wasn’t going to be a magic fix for that. So the best way to prepare and help tolerate ongoing treatment, which was the question I think, for me, I got off to an unusually brutal start, I ended up hospitalized in the emergency room, just it was terrible.

So I decided – first of all, my dad’s like, you know what, you have cancer. Let’s just go there and talk about it. You know, one of the – and this is a fun topic I like to bring in, but I think we can’t write a book about cancer and not go there. So it’s a little controversial still, but I do think it’s important to say. After not knowing how I was going to get through the final six to seven months of chemo, I decided to try, and it sounded like more generationally based advice that my dad was suggesting when I was reluctant at first, but it turned out to be really sound and change the trajectory of coping with treatment. And it goes by many names, but basically Mary Jane, pot, cannabis, hash, marijuana.

For me, that was a major turning point in helping to deal with all of the side effects I already mentioned above nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, but also with the anxiety, and the struggles, like the mental and emotional struggles that I was dealing with. And it’s really important, I like to share that, because I talk about in my book about a lot of ways to ease other common side effects, like fatigue and hair loss and exercise.

But this is one that I do want to talk about, because I think we often call that a drug. And it’s more of a plant based herbal supplement. It’s a great way for some, not for everyone, to help tolerate ongoing treatment. And for me, of all the alternative and complementary therapies that I practiced and incorporated into my treatment plan, that was how I survived and got through the final six, seven rounds of chemotherapy that I don’t know I would have gotten through without, because all the potent pills the doctors were prescribing me, the chemical based actual drugs, were not helping them, were actually making things worse.

That’s so powerful.

So that’s a topic that I think – I hate that it’s still controversial in certain parts of the world. Here in the United States, depending on where you live – where I live, it’s legal, but not everywhere in the US. And I think having that access to that approach and being more open minded, I can say with firsthand experience, it helped me. Also like mentally with the anxiety and everything. So I think that’s one way to talk about tolerating it.

And then, like I say, I used diet, I had taste changes and sensitivity to even just the temperature of foods. So I changed the way I ate, I was really mindful of the medications. And then you’ll notice a lot of cancer patients, even COVID patients talk about having brain fog. And it impacted my short term memory, it’s basically gone. I failed a test. And so I talk about kind of ways to help treat that. Hair loss, there’s so many, and fatigue. Exercise during treatment is so funny. Fatigue is real when you have cancer, because treatment breaks you down. But exercise is actually something I continue to do throughout cancer and it improves your odds of recovering more quickly from each phase of treatment.

So I go into a lot more detail in the book about what each of those looks like. But if someone is thinking or dealing with cancer and trying to find a way to help better tolerate it, which was your question and ongoing through treatment, those are all ways that you can take some control in addition to what your doctors are doing for you to help make it a little more tolerable.

Yeah, there’s a couple things I like about what you said. With exercise, that’s a big one for mental health and things like that, as well. And it’s one of those things like you feel like you need to have energy to be able to implement and start doing. But in actuality, when you’re in these situations battling for your health, whether it’s physical or mental, it really takes just pushing yourself to do it in whatever capacity you can at that time, and get the ball rolling and get moving because your body needs it before you have the energy to do it.

Studies have shown – at least for cancer patients in my oncologist office, there was a big sign that said you should at least try to move for 20 to 45 minutes a day. We all should, actually, but you’re right. Like when you’re having cancer, fatigue and treatment has you broken down. Like you said, you’ve got to listen to your body and do it. This isn’t the time to start training to run a marathon or anything.

And I was always a runner, so before cancer I asked my oncologist “can I keep running” and he said “well, it’s gonna get hard for you to do as you go through, but by all means if you want to continue running,” and I did. I did exercise and I ran and it felt like I was strapping cinder blocks in place to my jogging shoes some days. But I got out there, even with just a walk, like even the day after chemo for 20 minutes, like you said, and that helps mentally, emotionally and also physically in recuperating recovery. I think exercise and healing movement is one of the most powerful things – it’s part of my pillars of self care – that we all need to prioritize time to do more of.

Absolutely. And then on the cannabis front too, it almost seems to me one of the silver linings of cancer is opening up learning more about cannabis and its actual health benefits, and breaking through the stigma with the person how colon cancer had touched her family, and it actually ended up being kind of an intro to cannabis for them. One of the people supporting that person had previously been very anti-cannabis. But towards the end of it, they were going and talking to the different medical dispensaries, and getting all of the different things for them, and helping load up their vaporizer so they could consume, because they saw and broke through of that stigma they were raised with, and saw how much it really does help.

Yeah, I think people just need to be educated on that. I was being prescribed actual drugs, chemical pills produced in a lab. And I took them for nausea and like the first couple days of chemo, but I was supposed to take those pills for five days. And I kept ending up in the ER, after day two or three on those. But when I transitioned off those and used the plant-based herbal supplement, in the form of for me, it was medical marijuana, I was able to take off the nausea pills that were causing a lot of problems for me, and then actually help with appetite, mouth ulcers, all of that.

And I think there is – it’s so sad that there is this stigma. And I think, especially when you have someone, like you said, in your family, or when you’re going through this – if there’s ever a time in life where no one is going to blame you or if you’ve always wanted to wonder what trying it is like, now you can find out, but certainly no one’s gonna blame you. I mean, there’s a long connection of why those with debilitating disease, particularly cancer, do use this, because it’s so helpful in so many ways.

And it doesn’t have to necessarily be through just cancer as a disease. I think, like you were talking about with ADHD or anxiety, I no longer have cancer and there’s different forms, right. Like as a mom, when I was on chemotherapy, I went in – I always joke here we have dispensaries and you can go in. And my dad said it was “high time,” pun intended, to meet with a potista, which I always explain to people who are new to this world are like a barista is to a coffee shop, or a bartender to a bar. It’s someone who has everything you need to know, all the 411 about 420.

And so I went in and said, I’m a cancer patient. I don’t want to smoke it, I would like to use edibles or oils. Because, again, just as a mom, I think that’s just a safer way to go about doing it. I didn’t want to smoke in front of the kids. But I needed a different form for when I was sick with cancer, and really like in the midst – I infused chemo for three days. So I took something pretty powerful and strong because physically speaking, I needed it. But then when I was in between treatments, I needed something that would still let me function as a mom, and I didn’t want to be in the same state that I was on the days when I really needed it for nausea and pain.

And even after, you know, one of the things – actually 25% of cancer patients suffer from, at the onset of diagnosis, and certainly what surprised me after, is anxiety and depression and PTSD. And I continue to self-medicate or use it at a much lighter form, more like CBD oils with my coffee. But it keeps me, from an anxiety perspective, I was just talking to my next door neighbor who’s a mom. One of my neighbors is suffering with a lot of anxiety or ADHD issues, and saying you should try CBD oil in your coffee because it will calm you.

And it doesn’t necessarily – it won’t interfere if you just do CBD oil and that. But I mean, even if you want something stronger in place of alcohol. I mean, alcohol is a cancer causing carcinogen. And if you have an edible or a drop of oil and you’re trying to relax on the weekend, it’s actually far less harmful for your body. But mentally and emotionally speaking, it’s a great way to combat all different forms of disease. And I think, you know, cancer kind of opened up – I’m not gonna lie, I had tried recreationally before then, but I didn’t use it that often. And now I actually prefer that as a way to help when I do have anxiety attacks. I think it helps more than prescription medication.

Yeah, I microdose with small edibles, like every sixish hours throughout the day. And I don’t even necessarily really feel it, it is THC. But the dose I have for my body, it just really chills out the anxiety, and I noticed that even this morning actually, as I had a bit of a break time in between my previous interview, I felt really anxious, and it’s like, “oh, I didn’t have my chocolate yet.” And I had it, and I can feel now that it’s working, it’s set in. And it’s such a low dose, but can really have so many health benefits to it. It’s pretty incredible.

Yeah, it’s not like you’re – I think that’s what people need to make the connection from, that it’s not necessarily being used for that purpose. You can use a micro dose, like you’re saying, and it can help so many people in so many ways. And that stigma, I hope conversations like this, and not necessarily just cancer patients having to share how it helped, but I hope that we continue to make the progress we have over the last decade and then some moving forward, because it can help so many people in so many ways.

Yeah, I completely agree. And that’s why I continue to share so much about it, is that education piece. A lot of people just don’t know or don’t understand.

Absolutely. Absolutely.

Well, thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us and share all of that helpful information and your inspiring story. Where can people find you, and find out about your book, and all that stuff? What do you have going on?

Yeah! So I’m on social media, Instagram and Facebook, @AuthorErinSoto. The book (The Mother of All Fights) launches March 1, but the audio book is out now. So you can purchase and listen to it. And it’s basically distributed globally at all major book retailers and stores, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, everywhere. So you can order a copy and it ships next Tuesday, March 1. And yes, send me an email. I always tell people if you have questions, if something we talked about, we didn’t go into enough detail and you want to learn more, shoot me an email directly because I’m always passionate on sharing. I definitely cover a lot more in this book of what we touched upon. But shoot me an email to [email protected] or come check out

Fantastic. That’s so nice that you’re willing to answer people’s questions. I’m sure it’s very helpful for some.

Yeah, I enjoy that, actually, I’m passionate about it. Thank you for having me today and letting me share a little bit more about the story. And I hope all the aspects we talked about, and especially this March, if people learn even just the symptoms and signs of colon cancer, don’t forget that part of the message, because my hope is we can maybe help others avoid what I had to go through.

Absolutely. We’ll incorporate that and spread some awareness, and we’ll give away one of these books.

Yay, thank you so much.

Yeah thank you, and thank you to everyone who is tuning in. You can head on over to the Facebook group or group chat and we can chat about things further. Till next time, take care!

Thanks for listening this week! If you want to chat about this episode with me and other moms, check out the exclusive UM Club Facebook page! Thanks again, and we’ll see you next week!