Sophie Trew was just 23 when she was diagnosed with blood cancer after discovering a lump on her neck.
After her devastating diagnosis, she realised that cancer treatment in this country is lacking the holistic approach that she wanted, so she decided to forge her own path.
She founded the UK’s first cancer awareness festival – Trew Fields – to create a space for people with cancer to break taboos, connect with members of the community, rejuvinate and learn about the latest holistic treatment options.
‘Being told that I had cancer was a whirlwind,’ Sophie tells Metro.co.uk.
‘Life was so non-stop that I didn’t really get a chance to pause or to notice what was going on with me.
‘I had a lump on my neck and I was getting night sweats.
‘Doctors initially told me that I was too young for it to be cancer, and because I had been in Colombia they thought I had tuberculosis.
‘I was told they were 99% sure it wasn’t cancer.
‘The grump grew to the size of an orange, but I didn’t think too much of it – I gave it a nickname and just kept going. Adulthood was just beginning.
‘Then I got a call one morning telling me I had to come into hospital and I had to bring my parents. That’s where they told me that I had blood cancer, and very quickly I had my bone marrow taken out and they started me on chemotherapy.
‘At that point I had no idea what cancer was. They told me that I was going to get through it, but a nurse did say to me that if I didn’t start chemotherapy I could only have about six months.
‘From that moment, my life was put on hold. Everyone was cracking on with their dreams, finishing uni, finding a job. But I did have a focus. I wanted to know everything I could possibly do to help myself.
‘After the initial shock, I sat down with my doctor and asked what I could do. He told me that there was nothing I could do, that cancer’s a lottery – he told me to keep doing what I was doing.’
But this seemed like strange advise to Sophie. At that point in her life, like lots of 23-year-olds, Sophie wasn’t great at looking after herself and didn’t really prioritise her health.
‘I was eating cheesy chips most night, lots of energy drinks,’ says Sophie.
‘Cancer woke me up to a body that needed help. Which I see as a gift really – to realise that I had a body because of a disease.
‘Doctors telling me that there was nothing I could do to help myself was so disempowering. But I knew I needed to take an active role and really take charge of my own health.
‘It was partially also a self-protection thing. A need to regain some control when everything was so out of my control.
‘I really began looking at what I was putting into my body, how I was moving, how I was thinking. I discovered that 90-95% of cancers are to do with lifestyle and environment – so it just clicked with me that there is so much more that we need to talk about when it comes to cancer prevention and treatment.’
Sophie strongly believes that treatment for cancer should never be ‘one size fits all’. She thinks that the important thing is to empower people with the knowledge and resources to everything they can to help themselves.
‘So many cancers have really high rates of recurrence. I jut knew I wanted to do everything in my power to be here for as long as I possibly could be.
‘When we know we have options, it gives us hope and inspiration. We are all living in such a polluted world, but there are ways to protect ourselves once we get to know that.’
The latest figures suggest that one in two people in the UK will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lives. And yet it is still a taboo subject.
If someone tells us they have cancer, it’s hard to know how to react – and Sophie thinks that’s because we don’t really have the language to talk about it. She hopes that her festival will provide a safe space to normalise talking about cancer and everything that comes with it.
‘People have asked me how I can put on a festival about something so serious, but the more we can talk about and confront these things – the better everyone’s outcomes will be.
‘At the festival we talk about things like conscious dying – last year we had a lady who spent her final weekend of life at the festival. Lots of people come for their own healing paths.
‘It’s a weekend of expert talks, holistic workshops, music, play and different activities on a beautiful farm. There are more than 80 speakers this year – and we have experts in the field from all over the world.’
When Sophie was diagnosed with cancer, she built her own integrative recovery plan alongside six months of chemotherapy, which included gut healing, meditation, juicing, exercise, nutrition and lifestyle medicine.
She thinks it’s really vital for medical professionals to bridge the gap between traditional and holistic forms of medicine and think about how they can work together.
‘I really want to be part of changing the cancer narrative into one that gives people more empowerment,’ explains Sophie.
‘The “battle”, the “fight”, all of that needs to change. For me, cancer was not a battle. I was not at war with my body, I wanted to nurture it back to health.
‘It also portrays people who die as though they have “lost”. But there are no winners or losers with disease, everyone has their own path.’
The festival takes place on a farm, just outside of Dunsfold in Surrey, from Friday 5th – Sunday 7th July.
Tickets are currently available from £75 per person for the full weekend including camping.
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