Hi, I'm Heather Cooan, double board certified functional oncology nutritionist, real food advocate, food blogger, micro-urban homesteader, and cancer + autoimmune thriver.
My mission is to teach women suffering from complex chronic illnesses, specifically cancer, and autoimmunity, how to take control of their care, preserve the integrity of their bodies, and live (really live!) life on their terms.
I’m deeply passionate about food as medicine, the health benefits of consuming local, organic, and wild, pasture-raised whole foods, and the sustainability of our food systems. These themes permeate my approach to wellness, supported by up-to-date scientific research for a functional, integrative approach to self-healing.
Investing in optimal terrain is the only approach to healing and health. You must nurture the soil to grow healthy crops, and the body is no different. Healthy soil means healthy roots, which means healthy plants...or, in this case, healthy systems and optimal health.
Nutrition is a powerful foundation, and getting the right nutrition for your body is critical to optimal health. However, it’s not just about the food; it’s about the total alignment of mind, body, heart, and soul.
You didn’t get sick overnight. Complex disease processes like cancer and autoimmunity are the culmination of everything you and your mind and body have been through up until now. Recovery requires the arduous task of unwinding a lifetime of stressors, which requires a multifaceted approach, time, patience, and diligent persistence. There’s no way around it; you’ve got to choose to nourish yourself in every way and do the work deeply.
To find true, long-lasting healing, you must find and address your root cause contributors. It’s not about a prescription, supplement, or restrictive diet to patch the issue, just to see other issues pop up. It’s about a customized holistic approach involving mind, body, heart, and soul rooted in deep nutrition and strategic environmental and lifestyle design.
Root-cause contributors are the things that alter the way your mind and body respond to environmental stimuli. Over time, this undermines your ability to adapt to stress including but not limited to:
- Poor Hydration
- Mineral Imbalance
- Digestive Dysfunction
- Fatty Acid Imbalance
- Nutrient Deficiencies
- Blood Sugar Dysregulation
- Subconscious Programming
- Unresolved Trauma Patterns
- Limbic System Dysfunction
- Chronic Infections
- Nervous System Deregulation
- Psychological Conflict
- Foods that are Inflammatory for You
- Toxin Exposure
- Poor Sleep
- Lack of Joy
- Unfulfilling Lives
- Lack of Purpose
- Unresolved Destructive Thinking Patterns
- Lack of Downtime
My health crises gave rise to a deliberate search to identify what I value most in this world. I value Health, Freedom, Connection, and Peace. Defining my values allowed me to see my why and reason for working to heal myself. These same values fuel my reasons for maintaining my healing by continuing to do the work. I hope that you will also dive into the depths of self-reflection and search out your why. Your why cannot be about other people; it has to be about you and your values.
My Cancer and Autoimmune Disease Journey
So, as it turns out, my health has always been in my hands. The way you treat yourself, feed yourself, care for yourself, and the way you engineer your environment all contribute to your state of health or disease. Unfortunately, I wasn't doing a good job of these things for many years, and it all eventually caught up to me.
I am sensitive to dairy (gluten too), only I didn't know it until I was 30 when my body started to fall apart and I was diagnosed with Hashimoto's Thyroiditis. What I didn't realize at the time was that Hashimoto's was my second autoimmune condition. I developed Lichen Sclerosus around the age of 8 or 12 (I've had symptoms as long as I can remember), a rare and very nasty condition where the immune system attacks genitalia.
Lichen Sclerosus is not only rare but usually present in postmenopausal women. So my symptoms were brushed off as bacteria or yeast, and I went undiagnosed for 25 years, allowing things to progress into vulvar cancer. I was diagnosed with vulvar cancer (stage 1b infiltrating squamous cell carcinoma, moderately well differentiated of the vulva) in August of 2017. My case was Keratinizing, which means it developed from a tear that wouldn't heal from Lichen Sclerosus.
The standard of care for vulvar cancer that has not yet metastasized is to remove it surgically. Often, the area is also 'sanitized' with radiation therapy alongside a low dose of chemotherapy to aid the radiation therapy.
Unfortunately for me, the cancerous lesion was very close to my clitoris, and my gynecological oncologist wanted to remove my clitoris to ensure clean margins. I refused. I was only 37 at the time of my diagnosis, and this particular kind of cancer has a recurrence rate of 12-37%. I wasn't going to compromise the integrity of my body on the first round of treatment with such a high recurrence rate.
It turns out squamous cell carcinoma, like an estimated 90% of all cancers, is a Warburg-type cancer driven by glucose fermentation and inflammation, which I would later learn and use to my advantage. So I went ahead and allowed the surgery but refused to allow them to take my clitoris. Thank goodness my surgeon complied with my wishes. As a result, he was not able to get clear margins, but he did significantly reduce my tumor burden. I was given two options:
- Undergo a second surgery and allow them to take whatever they need to take to remove all of the cancerous tissue.
- Submit to an aggressive round of 35 radiation therapy sessions alongside low-dose chemotherapy.
The side effects of radiation to the lower torso would have included blistering skin, extreme fatigue, and burning diarrhea. Not to mention, I would have fried my reproductive organs and been put through premature menopause. I also could have lost my rectum, burned my intestines together, and damaged my bladder. I would have also lost all elasticity of the vulva and vagina, lost sensitivity and feeling to the area, including my clitoris, and fried the mucous glands. All of this would have equated to sexual dysfunction for the rest of my life. You bet your ass I refused.
Books on The Metabolic Theory of Cancer
These resources helped me through my diagnosis and treatment decisions.
I Refused Conventional Cancer Treatment...
Instead, I chose the metabolic approach to cancer. I was treated by a naturopathic oncologist and my primary care naturopath, who put together a complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) treatment protocol.
- Blood Sugar Dysregulation: Insulin Resistance and Pre-Diabetes
- Hormone Imbalance: Estrogen Dominance (excess estrogen, progesterone suppression due to inflammation), Obesity
- Gut & Digestion: Leaky Gut, Low Stomach Acid, Fatty Liver, Sluggish Gallbladder, Gallstones, Opportunistic Bacterial Overgrowth, Insufficient Beneficial Bacteria
- Food Sensitivities: Gluten, Grains, Dairy, Soy (and a million other things due to leaky gut)
- Mental & Emotional: Childhood Trauma, Chronic Emotional Stress (toxic workplace, high profile job, overachieverism, perfectionism), Emotional Eating, Food Addiction, Stuffing Emotions, Living in Trauma Response/Fight or Flight/Hypervigilance
- Genetic Mutations Affecting Detoxification, Hormone Clearance, Stress, Vitamin Synthesis, DNA Repair, Fat Metabolism
- Toxic Burden: Alcohol, Tobacco (second hand, direct usage), Junk food, Radioactive City Water Full of Heavy Metals, Conventional Personal Care and Cleaning Products, Aluminum, Amalgam Fillings (Mercury)
- Nutrient Deficiencies: A, D, and Iodine
- Histamine Intolerance
- Epstein Barr Virus
- Systemic Inflammation
I worked through each area of my life. I changed everything, including leaving a very lucrative and high-profile job as VP of Growth and Demand Marketing, where I was shouldering an immense amount of stress, and I opened my marketing firm. I did a lot of emotional work, dug into and processed long-standing traumas, learned to manage stress, began learning to identify, feel, and process emotions, and worked hard to recover from burnout and regulate my nervous system.
I’m Cancer-Free and in Autoimmune Remission…
I have been symptom-free of cancer (NED) since February 2018. Bonus side effects of my healing journey included both of my autoimmune conditions (Hashimoto’s and Lichen Sclerosis) going into remission. My fatty liver and gallstones went away. My hormones balanced, I lost nearly 70 lbs, and many other ailments disappeared. I’ve been working to maintain and optimize my newfound health ever since!
I’m Paying it Forward…
I learned so much while reclaiming my health that I enrolled in formal education to help others. Now, I am focused on maintaining my healing and consulting with and educating others.
I work one-on-one, providing customized nutrition and lifestyle interventions and support specialized for oncology and autoimmunity. I provide evidence-based approaches to nutritional care. I focus on bio-individuality and empowerment in my personalized client protocols driven by lab and genetic data.
I continue to share my story and advocate for self-directed healthcare, agency, bodily autonomy, and real food.
I approach my client cases holistically. I am not simply swapping conventional labs and meds with functional labs and supplements. My recommendations are geared toward supporting the whole being - mind, body, heart, and soul.
The most integral component of healing is the head and heart work, and as a result, my approach is trauma-informed. It’s not fair to assume that we are not physically affected by trauma; the body responds, and often the response sticks with us. We must account for experiences that mold behaviors, emotional patterns, unconscious beliefs, learning styles, relational dynamics, and the ability to handle stress and regulate ourselves.
My approach is terrain-based, meaning that my ultimate goal is to teach you how to recognize what is putting stress on your body and disrupting your terrain, the levers you can pull to make corrections, and how to pull them. There is no cure for either cancer or autoimmune disease. However, you have the power to manage these chronic health issues and thrive.
My approach is highly customized to your specific needs based on your labs, genetics, mental and physical health history, family history, environment, tumor pathology, personality type, etc. Each body is a unique combination lock of factors, and each case is different. I utilize a test, assess, and address model and work backward from the person to the protocol. No two self-healing protocols are identical.
I work with you as a team. You are in charge of your health and your care. I am here as a guide and mentor to teach you how to care for yourself.
My Qualifications and Credentials
- Bachelor's Degree in Philosophy
- Bachelor's Degree in Anthropology
- Certificate in Ethics
- Master’s Degree in Business Administration
- Nutrition Therapy Practitioner
- Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioner
- Oncology Nutrition Consultant
- Terrain Certified Advocate
- American Association of Drugless Practitioners
- American Association of Wellness Practitioners
- National Association of Nutrition Professionals
- Association of Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioners
- Nutrition Therapy Association Practitioner Network
- Metabolic Terrain Institute of Health Terrain Network
Additional Training and Experience:
- Alison Gannett's AntiCancer Personalized Nutrition Practitioner Training
- Alison Gannett's Lead Personalized Nutrition Consultant 2022-Current
- Wellness Code Academy Holistic HTMA Pro
Disclaimer for Cancer Patients
I don’t consult on cancer treatment as I am not a licensed medical professional. I am a Functional Nutritionist. My services are reserved for folks interested in working with me on nutrition and lifestyle changes to optimize their terrain and undermine cancer by creating a non-cancer-friendly environment alongside your chosen treatment plan. This approach can help mitigate side effects, amplify treatment effectiveness, and protect healthy cells. I do not treat anything specifically and treat everything non-specifically.
You can find the protocol I used for my treatment here. I do not divulge doses as they were specific to me and my case and are not helpful to others. In my opinion, the best way to address a cancer diagnosis is by doing as much research as you can and building a robust team of both conventional and alternative practitioners.
Here are some additional resources I can offer:
- Therapeutic Ketogenic Diet for Adjunct Cancer Support Facebook Group
- Books on The Metabolic Theory of Cancer
Once you have decided on treatment with your team, if you would like to hire a nutritionist to help you with your nutrition and lifestyle to support that treatment, I would be happy to discuss working together.