Santé Barley TriTeam’s Sheilla Gagui shares how she deals with cancer amid the new normal
Pasig City, Philippines – [July 7, 2021] – When you are at your fittest, you would not necessarily think that you can get sick, especially if you are an active person who leads a healthy lifestyle. But, at the height of the pandemic last year, Sheilla Gagui, a mom of two and a fierce triathlete-member of the Santé Barley TriTeam, faced a massive challenge in her life.
Early last year, Sheilla noticed a tiny lump in the left side of her chest area. At first, she thought it was nothing to worry about, but she knew that she needed to seek proper consultation.
“I got a little worried because I wasn’t breastfeeding at that time for me to have lumps in my chest area. So, I consulted my OB-GYN,” Sheilla recalled. “The doctor told me that it looks benign but, I need to come back for some tests just to make sure that everything is okay.”
And then, the pandemic started in March 2020. The strict lockdowns and community quarantine kept her from visiting the hospital to do the tests. The COVID-19, then, was still unknown so, she was reluctant to go out. She noticed, however, that the lump got bigger.
‘Good thing, even amid the lockdown, a friend referred her to a clinic where she can get an ultrasound and biopsy. A few days later, the clinic texted, and the doctor told her about the test results—she was diagnosed with stage II breast cancer.
“It seemed like my whole world stopped. I was so shocked because I thought there was no reason for me to get sick. I just got back from doing a full Ironman in Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain, with my Santé TriTeam. I was leading a healthy and active lifestyle. My training load was even high because I was preparing for upcoming races all scheduled in 2020 so, I thought I was at my fittest,” she said.
Racing against time
For Sheilla, fighting cancer is like a race. “One late move, and you’ll find it harder to treat. I don’t want that to happen. It almost felt like I do not have time to process it. In just a matter of weeks, the lump got bigger. Its size was already 2.1 cm that is why it was considered stage II. I’m lucky because cancer did not spread somewhere else.”
So, she got treatments right away. Having been diagnosed with cancer at 39 years old, she underwent a mastectomy; then, after a month, she started undergoing eight cycles of chemotherapy, which, according to her doctor, was necessary to prevent cancer from reoccurring.
“The first four cycles were okay. The medicines were not that strong. There were no side effects, no vomiting, no headaches. I was even playing with the kids—running and biking, too. But the last four sessions were a lot different. I was too weak every after the chemo session. Just a little walk or a slight movement, I was already tired,” Sheilla said.
At first, it felt very frustrating for her, coming from an active lifestyle to experience fatigue every after the chemo session. But as she regained her energy, she would do some light workouts two days before every chemo session as if preparing for an actual race.
Through it all, Sheilla never lost hope and faith, especially with the strong support of her family and the people around her.
“My family was very supportive, especially my husband. He was always there to support me—when I was flight attendant, in every finish line of any triathlon race, and now with my fight against cancer, from chemo, the operation, and post-op, he was always there,” added Sheilla.
Her kids, in their little ways, also showed their support. Her son even volunteered to shave his head just like his father to show his love for his mom. “We didn’t want him to shave it because he has beautiful hair, but every time we ask him if he is sure, he just says yes. I was so touched because he believes that it was his way of showing his love and that he cares a lot for me.”
Eating right when diagnosed with cancer
As per the advice of her doctor, Sheilla continued leading a healthy and active lifestyle. She still does some workout routines but is now even more particular with her diet.
“There were slight changes in my diet, but, of course, it always has to be well-balanced. So now, no more sweets. I also cut my rice intake, but I do not deprive myself of eating carbs because I still need it for a balanced diet,” she added. “I also refrain from eating meat and, instead, opt for fish and vegetables.”
She also did not stop taking supplements like Santé Barley because she believes it helps her deal with fatigue, particularly after every chemo session. “Santé Barley is not a cancer treatment, but it can help your immune system. It helped me make my body stronger and ready to take on the treatments that I have undergone.”
Santé Barley™ is a certified organic barley grass powdered drink. Blended with one of nature’s most potent sweeteners, Stevia, this product is best taken before meals. It also readily dissolves in water and contains minerals like Zinc, and vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B6, B12, C, and E (per serving).
And since it is made from organic barley grass, as certified by BioGro, New Zealand’s leading organic certification agency, it is also rich in powerful antioxidants like superoxide dismutase (SOD) that protects cells and prevents disease, reduces inflammation, and speeds up healing.
“If you eat healthily and take care of your body by taking less sugar and less fatty and oily food, your body will be healthier. Some food can help fight cancer, like barley, tomatoes, broccoli, and more. So, eat lots of them to lessen the chances of having cancer,” she added.
Sharing her story to inspire others
Sheilla finished her treatments in November 2020 and is now in remission. She is also sharing her story so that others will become more aware of the importance of checking their chest area for lumps.
“The survival rate for breast cancer is high but early detection is key. So, every time you take your shower, you might as well check your chest area. Regular checkups with your OB-GYN every after six months also help in early detection,” Sheilla said. “And it’s not just for women. Even if breast cancer is more common to us, men too should check their chest area for lumps.”
Sheilla also noted that a positive mindset is crucial when you are battling cancer. So, for those who have similar experiences, particularly amid the pandemic, her advice is to allow themselves to go down that state where they feel down and know that it’s okay. “When you feel down, take your time. Be sad. Cry it all out. But remember to pull yourself up and go back to the brighter side of things.”
Once she is already fully recovered from cancer, Sheilla Gagui aims to continue joining triathlon races with her Santé Barley TriTeam family. Founded by Joey Marcelo, the chief executive officer of Santé, the team has been competing as individuals or a group in major triathlon, duathlon, aquathlon, and running events with numerous podium finishes in local and international competitions.
To learn more about Santé, visit its website at santebarley.com.