Living Life Loudly with Two-Time Breast Cancer Thriver, Victoria Cramer

The Institute for Natural Medicine first heard about Victoria Cramer after her first battle with breast cancer (read her story here). We were so inspired, we checked in with her again, only to find she began round two. As always, she is a fighter who finds joy, silliness and fun no matter the challenge. She recently wrote this article to encourage other women going through the same challenges and for all of us living through the pandemic.

At 41 years old, as a CEO, avid mountain bike racer, and mother of infant twins, I was struck with an aggressive form of breast cancer (read about that here). Now 6 years later, I have battled cancer twice and survived 3 grueling years of chemo, 6 weeks of radiation, and lots of speed bumps and procedures, enough to make anyone’s head spin. I credit my extraordinary mental & physical resilience to my integrated healthcare strategy that blended naturopathic medicine and allopathic medicine.

When I had the wind taken out of me with a cancer diagnosis, I decided on what mattered most to me and wrote it down. I was determined to take this journey and rock it.  How I showed up for the people in my network and the many doctors and nurses I would experience mattered.  I set out to battle with humor, tenacity, resilience, and grace. You cannot accomplish that without choosing joy and being happy.

The most pivotal appointment I had was with Dr. Daniel Rubin in Scottsdale, AZ, a naturopathic oncologist. He was knowledgeable about every aspect of my blood work and the first doctor to clearly articulate how serious my cancer was and how aggressive I would need to be to beat it. He also understood how important it was for me to be able to keep running, biking, and chasing my twin infants around throughout treatment. He was an advocate for my entire being – body and mind.

Let’s Get Our Happy On!

So how are you feeling about this COVID situation? This is the kind of brutal battle that requires mental toughness to lean in and be resilient.  Anyone can fake it until they make it for a short period of time but let’s face it, Costco sized bottles of alcohol have been needed for months now. If we don’t want a bunch of pickled livers, we may just need a slight shift in approach.  I’m going to share with you a few of my warrior tips to choose joy and find happiness.  I can’t promise you won’t have a down day, but you’ll likely be able to bounce out of that negative bubble a touch faster.

My Secrets to Happiness

Just show up – When the road is long, people just stop showing. It’s easy to say “well, what if I just missed one radiation treatment?” and it isn’t about missing one, it’s about not allowing yourself to say you’re done until you’ve finished the work. It’s about the cumulative effort. If you say it’s ok to skip one treatment, you’ll find ways to skip more. If you miss one day of exercise, you’ll feel it’s ok to skip another. If you allow sadness one day, you’ll allow it again.  Warriors don’t do this. They reliably #justshowup These are times that call for the rigor of a warrior, so approach your happiness with this same intention.

Exercise Every Day – Read this as move every day. You don’t have to be a runner or a cyclist, but you do need to incorporate movement of at least 30 to 60 minutes every day of your life or at least of your journey. The best thought leaders on the science of happiness have shared the single most impactful thing you can do to keep a positive happy engine running in you is exercise. If you stay on the couch, then you need to get rid of the couch! To ensure I was exercising every day, I signed up for monthly races. Throughout my breast cancer battle(s) I completed a half marathon, dozens of mountain bike races, and five 24-hour mountain bike races, and even hit a personal best while on the hardest forms of chemo. Warriors realize their weaknesses and shore them up by putting in place accountability partners or apps to ensure compliance. That is exactly what I had to do! I use an app called Strava, I used Facebook posts daily of my exercise, and I used teammates and my husband to keep me moving every day. If someone is expecting you, it is much harder to skip a day. Don’t say to yourself, “I’m sure she means most days of the week or maybe 5, because everyone needs a rest day.”. Nope, that is not what I’ve said or believe.  You get to rest 2-24 hours a day, so giving your body one hour of increased movement every day is crucial. It generates oodles of endorphins and the more intense you can do the exercise the more free your brain will become to make room for happiness and profound thoughts and ideas.

Choose Joy – This is about consciously choosing to cut out anything negative in your life and choosing consciously to seek out humor and happiness. What I realized when I looked at my days is that the news never uplifted me, so I cut it out. I had relationships in my life that provided me only anxiety or sadness, so I cut those out. I infused excerpts of gratitude into my daily routine, found podcasts of inspiration and discovered thought leaders on the science of happiness. I made room for enjoying a cup of coffee peacefully in my favorite places and I made time for my family and for enjoying the screams and screeches of pure joy from my little kids. I transitioned from “finding one reason to smile every single day” to “find one person to give a smile to every day”. Once I made that shift, joy was all around.

Give Give Give – When you choose to uplift human dignity and do something for someone else, something incredible happens in your mind and in turn it releases endorphins that creates a smile on your heart (and probably on your face). We have so many opportunities right now to do something about the neighbor who can’t go grocery shopping, the one who seems lonely through this COVID battle, or a friend who could just use a note to remind them that they are strong enough to endure this pandemic. When you look around to help someone else, you quickly forget your own pain/anguish. Uplift someone today…not tomorrow.

Live Life Loudly – Eat the cake! This is about choosing deliberately that today will be epic. It’s about declaring that you are going to be epic and do epic stuff. Choose to learn something new. Go on a new adventure, drive a different route, or just put your pants on with a different leg going in first. Change up your routine, make a meeting more fun by asking everyone a hilarious question, be a little unpredictable and passionately be creative. It sounds a bit manic doesn’t it? It is about living every day as if it was your last and I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t take that one last day and waste it with the mundane. I know you can’t avoid the basics in life, but you can choose to make them more fun or turn them into a game. Living life loudly is about putting a little vacation into every day of your life to invigorate you for this warrior mindset needed to battle on tomorrow. Now stop being so serious and start laughing again.

Do you remember your first day of school or thee first job you ever landed? What would your life be like if you treated each day with the same unbridled enthusiasm?  Let’s face it, you probably don’t even remember what happened the first day of school but you do remember how you felt.  That feeling is generated inside of you and nothing but sheer excitement.  Why can’t more of your days be like that? Now go find your latte moment, silly moment, giving moment, or go for a walk and discover the world around you.

By Victoria Cramer, founder of VP Strategies and author, Living Life Loudly – How Will You Face Your Speed Bump? is a woman who runs head first into life, no matter the challenge. Even in the midst of her second fight with breast cancer, her motto is: Do More Epic Stuff & Fight for Happiness Like a Warrior! Contact

INM's team is made up of naturopathic doctors and health journalists.

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Deb Hubers

Debra Hubers is a serial entrepreneur and has started seven businesses; ranging from an advanced genomics to an employer health care purchasing cooperative. Deb has over 35 years of experience in healthcare finance, education, technology, and pharmacogenomics.

Ms. Hubers has dedicated her career to measuring and improving healthcare outcomes. Her expertise is leveraging technology to deliver personalized, preventative medicine. Ms. Hubers co-founded La Vita Compounding Pharmacy in 2007. Collaborating with her business partner, physicians and strategic partners, Deb has grown La Vita to be one of the most respected and sought-after personalized medicine providers on the west coast. She is also Co-Founder of EpigeneticsRx, a leading provider of precise, personalized, prevention which positively impacts genetic expression.

Alex Keller, ND

Dr. Alex Keller, ND, AFMCP is a graduate of the University of Ottawa with an Honours Bachelor in Health Sciences and Psychology. Although originally intending to attend conventional medical school, following a three-month volunteer internship at a rural Kenyan hospital where he observed how doctors used local food to treat patients, he shifted his career goals and pursued a degree in naturopathic medicine at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine in Toronto.

After one year of practicing with the esteemed Dr. Chris Pickrell, ND, RH in a community acupuncture setting, in 2015 he and his wife Dr. Jenn Keller, ND moved to rural Ottawa, Canada where they started an organic farm and retreat center. In the same year, Alex and his athletic therapist sister Jess Keller combined their practices to form Keller Active Health, an integrative physical therapy clinic.

Ever curious and passionate about the education of evidence-based natural medicine, in 2017, Dr. Keller joined a fledgling Ottawa-based health tech startup named Fullscript. He serves as its Medical Director and oversees the development of medical education content for practitioners across North America.

Prior to medicine, Alex worked in the renewable energy sector, where he developed a deep passion for sustainable agriculture and environmental stewardship. This connection between medicine and agriculture now drives Alex to focus much of his energy on bringing awareness to the quality and sourcing standards in the supplement and organic agriculture supply chains.

Today, he splits his professional time practicing as a clinician, working for Fullscript, and expanding the farming operation while chasing his kids with Jenn and occasionally running ultra-marathon trail races. He is also currently completing an Executive MBA through the Quantic School of Business & Technology with a focus on supply chain innovation.

Pamela Snider, ND

Pamela Snider, ND, is Executive and Senior Editor for the Foundations of Naturopathic Medicine Project, producing a first of its kind international textbook of Naturopathic medicine through a series of international retreats and symposia. A nationally recognized integrative health and policy leader, she is active in both national and regional integrative health initiatives. Dr. Snider serves on the Board of Directors, was founding Executive Director and co-founder of the Academic Consortium for Integrative Health (ACIH/ACCAHCa consortium of the councils of schools, accrediting agencies and certifying bodies of the licensed, traditional and emerging integrative health professions, and is currently Vice Chair and co-founder of the Integrative Health Policy Consortium (IHPC).  Dr. Snider served as a founding Board Member of the Academy of Integrative Health & Medicine from 2014-2016. Her public policy work includes completing a two year appointment to the DHHS Center For Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) Medicare Coverage Advisory Committee (MCAC); serving as a Steering Committee Member for  the HRSA funded American College of Preventive Medicine NCCIM Integrative Medicine in Preventive Medicine Residency program, co-directing in USPHS Region X the Building Bridges Between Provider Communities Group, an exploration of interdisciplinary collaboration and common ground between public health and CAM; serving for 22 years on Washington State’s Health Professional Loan Repayment and Scholarship Program Advisory Committee (HPLRSP); providing technical assistance to and developing key language for the enabling legislation for NIH Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCIH/NCCAM); and staffing Joseph Pizzorno ND during his appointment as Commissioner on the White House Commission on CAM Policy.

From 1994-2003, Dr. Snider served as Associate Dean for Public and Professional Affairs and Naturopathic Medicine at Bastyr University, dividing her work between academic and public affairs activities, including chairing the Naturopathic Medicine Program Curriculum Review Committee.  Dr. Snider has been teaching, publishing and lecturing widely on Naturopathic philosophy, theory integrative health, public policy, and other topics for over 30 years. Currently, an Associate Professor at National University of Natural Medicine (NUNM) in Portland, OR, Dr. Snider also continues at Bastyr University in her 22nd year as a faculty member teaching naturopathic medicine history, clinical theory, and global context. Among her Naturopathic medicine professional roles she serves on the Institute for Natural Medicine’s Leadership Council.  In 1989, she co-led the naturopathic profession with Dr. Jared Zeff, in developing a unifying definition of naturopathic medicine and its principles of practice adopted unanimously by the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP) House of Delegates. She was a co-investigator in the 2004 NIH NCCAM research study, the North American Naturopathic Medical Research Agenda and CAM Advisor in NIHCCAM’s Financing Integrative Health Care (University of Washington).  Her areas of experience include healthcare education; naturopathic and interdisciplinary clinical theory, curriculum development; clinical practice; government and legislative affairs, public policy, interdisciplinary collaboration, and community organizing.  Dr. Snider has received the Ontario Naturopathic Physician of the Year Award, the Physician of the Year Award from the AANP, the President’s Outstanding Vision Award and Distinguished Alumnus Award at Bastyr University, AANP’s President’s Award, an honorary Doctorate of Naturopathic Philosophy from the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine (CCNM), the William A Mitchell Vis Award from the AANP and The Gathering – NMSA’s Beacon Award. She received her ND degree in 1982 from Bastyr University of Natural Health Sciences and is a licensed naturopathic physician in the State of Washington. She lives with her husband and children at their homestead in North Bend Washington, in the beautiful mountain to sea landscape and home of The Revival – Restore the Vis, an annual student-led community gathering.

Susan Haeger

Susan Haeger is Founder/Principal of Transformative Health Solutions Inc. She has applied her twenty plus years in executive leadership to help shape and drive adoption of progressive health policy for whole person healthcare. She was a section contributor to the 2021 INM/AANP published professional white paper, Naturopathic Physicians as Whole Health Specialists: The Future is Whole Person Health Care that provides supporting evidence for the profession’s significant and unique contributions to preventive, whole person care and models of integrative clinical practice.

Bruce Barlean

Bruce Barlean is an owner and founder of Barlean’s, a global dietary supplement manufacturer located in the Pacific Northwest in Ferndale, WA. Bruce has been actively involved in the Natural Products industry since 1989 and is passionate about making a difference in the world and positively impacting the lives of others.

Bruce believes that people can make a difference in the world through ordinary purchases. He is committed to improving the quality of life for every person on the planet by making the best products and by using the profits to support outreach programs. Bruce summarizes it simply, “We make good stuff to do good stuff”.

In the late 1980’s Bruce became passionate about how health could be dramatically improved with Flax Oil Supplementation. Bruce along with his entrepreneurial parents saw the potential to improve the lives of many people and in 1989 they began selling Flax Oil under the Barlean’s name. From 1989 – 2000 the business grew an average of 40% year over year. While most companies saw a decline in business in the 2001 recession, Barlean’s continued to grow and soon became America’s #1 selling flaxseed oil and continues to be to the present. The brand has since expanded to include additional oils, green food concentrates and other premium supplements. Bruce continues to drive innovation and over the years his products and company have won countless awards including: Eight consecutive Vity Awards for #1 EFA, Six consecutive Vity Awards for #1 Greens Food Supplement, Natural Choice Award for Best Specialty Supplement, Best Product of the Year, Best New Product, Gold Medal Taster’s Choice Award, Gold Medal American Masters of Taste Award, #1 Health Food Store Brand for Consumer Satisfaction by Consumer Lab, and Manufacturer of the Year.

In 2013 as the company was on the eve of celebrating the 25th year in business Bruce and his parents decided to take their desire to help people to a new level that they call Pathway to a Better Life – which is now seen in the Barlean’s logo. Bruce and his parents had always been generous in their giving and support of charities, but as part of the Pathway to a Better Life they decided to increased partnership with charitable organizations such as: Vitamin Angels, Compassion International, KidsTown International, Autism Hope Alliance, Engedi Refuge, Project 92, and others. And because so many people are unable to meet basic nutritional needs, Bruce created a comprehensive Omega-3 and multivitamin formula that he distributes free-of-charge to local food banks. In addition, Bruce decided the company would supply food banks with organic coconut oil to provide people with a health alternative to standard cooking oils.

Always generous with his time Bruce has served as a youth leader for his local church for several years and continues to mentor youth. He has been on several not for profit boards including; Whatcom County Pregnancy Center (2003-2006), Natural Products Association (dates?), and the Institute for Natural Medicine Leadership Council (presently).

The Barlean family have been avid supporters of Bastyr University since the 1990’s and in 2013 were given Bastyr’s most prestigious honor, the Mission Award, which recognizes their leadership over time in improving the health and well-being of the human community.

Bruce currently resides in Ferndale, WA with his wife Lisa and their two dogs: Heinz & Shadow. When he’s not helping others he can be found fishing (catch & release).

Get Involved!

Michelle Simon

Michelle Simon, PHD, ND

President & CEO

As president and CEO of INM, Dr. Simon brings her passion for working with organizations dedicated to improving the quality and delivery of healthcare. This desire stems from her years of practice as a licensed naturopathic physician. In addition to holding a Naturopathic Doctorate from Bastyr University she also holds a PhD in Biomedical Engineering from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

She has served on boards for the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP), the Naturopathic Physicians Research Institute (NPRI), and several advisory boards. Dr. Simon served nine years on the Washington State Health Technology Clinical Committee, as Ambassador to the Academy of Integrative Health and Medicine (AIHM) and was recognized as 2018 AANP Physician of the Year. Dr. Simon shares with her husband a passion for adventure travel, preferably by boat or motorcycle. She also enjoys teaching a women’s off-road motorcycling class.