For Sophie Wedlock-Smith, hers had as much to do with positive thinking, affirmations and visualizations as anything else. At the time, she was confined to a wheelchair, having suffered a catastrophic stroke that left her brain badly damaged. “My neurologist said it was the worst brain injury he had seen in 30 years of practice,” said Sophie.
Three years on, she is almost back to full health, and no one would guess this is the same woman who spent five months in the hospital after the stroke, unable to move her left side or her neck. She undergoes physiotherapy, reflexology and Pilates most days, and has dramatically changed her diet and eliminated all processed sugars and gluten.
All of this has helped, but Sophie, now 37, believes her mind and thoughts played a significant part in her recovery. “I have stayed positive, and I remain determined to overcome my disability and will continue with this mind-set until I have made a complete recovery.”
Sophie says she has learned how to “reprogram my brain” to regain her ability to walk. Techniques have included affirmations and visualization. “I kept visualizing myself walking at a time when I couldn’t walk at all, and I imagined myself raising my left arm until, one day, I could.”
It wasn’t Sophie’s first health challenge. At the age of 24, she was diagnosed with leukemia, and the radiotherapy she was given was directly responsible for the stroke she suffered nine years later. “I had been warned that the treatment could narrow the arteries and make blood stickier, but I never believed it would happen to me.”
But it did happen one day while she was drinking coffee with a friend in a coffee shop. “I had woken up that day with a mild headache, but thought nothing more about it. I was meeting a friend and we were going on a bike ride together.” The friend immediately recognized the signs of a stroke before Sophie passed out, and she was rushed to the hospital for emergency surgery to remove a clot on her brain.
Surgeons were able to remove most of it, but they kept her in a coma for a week to stop it from doing more damage.
When she finally woke up, she was told she was paralyzed down one side. “I just didn’t believe it, so I tried to feel my side and move my arm, but I couldn’t feel anything and I couldn’t move,” said Sophie, who lives in Ascot, Surrey, UK.
She was kept in the hospital for five months, and had physiotherapy every day to try to get some movement back into her left arm and neck. “They had me sit up, using my core muscles, because I couldn’t use my neck.”
Today Sophie still walks with a stick and has Botox injections in her calf, but she estimates she is now “90 percent” back to full health. She visits the local gym several times a week, and she supplements that with regular Pilates, reflexology and acupuncture sessions.
She’s also made radical changes to her diet. Gone are the sweet things, along with gluten, and with it has gone the ‘brain fog’ that seemed to be a feature of most of her days. She’s also lost around 20 pounds and is now at her ideal weight. “I no longer struggle to maintain my weight. My digestion and bloating problems have gone, and my lack of energy and constant fatigue have disappeared.”
A new direction
Sophie runs a successful website and blog called Sophie’s Kitchen, where she passes on her nutritional tips and ideas to others; she is now in her second year of a three-year course in holistic nutrition at the College of Naturopathic Medicine in London. “An athlete wrote to me the other day and said my story had completely inspired him,” says Sophie.
Paradoxically, it was the health challenges that helped Sophie find her true path, she says. When she was diagnosed with leukemia, she was a high-flying real-estate agent helping high-net-worth power brokers find their dream homes in expensive Kensington. She was also writing a regular property column for London’s Evening Standard newspaper.
It was a very high-pressure job with big targets to hit each month, but she was good at it, and had been rewarded with a partnership in the firm. She looked after her health—or thought she did—and was a regular at the local gym and was watching her weight.
Her life began to unravel one morning when she woke up feeling very tired and breathing was suddenly difficult. She went to her local doctor, who diagnosed a case of the flu and told her to stay in bed. But bed-rest didn’t make any difference; she felt as awful as ever.
Her doctor finally commissioned a series of tests, as he was puzzled by her persistent symptoms. A CT scan revealed a mass in her chest, and a biopsy confirmed it was cancer. Despite the tumors on her chest and on top of her lungs, and a nodule in her throat, the oncologists diagnosed stage III leukemia. “I discovered that there are hundreds of different types of leukemia, and mine came with tumors,” said Sophie.
Looking back on her lifestyle at the time, she believes that her daily diet of 10 cans of diet soda every day had a part to play in the development of the leukemia. “There is no cancer or history of stroke in my family, so I’ve come to suspect that the large amount of diet soda contributed to the cancer,” she says. Oncologists were also surprised by Sophie’s young age when it was diagnosed.
She received eight courses of chemotherapy and one month of radiotherapy. “They told me the cancer was in remission. I felt like I’d just won the lottery,” she said, although she put on 20 pounds as a result of the chemotherapy. Everything she ate tasted acidic as well, another feature of the chemo.
She went to see a nutritionist to try to fix her weight gain, a move she says “completely changed my life”. Not only did the nutritionist help her lose the weight, but her hormones were also put back into balance, mainly by adding turmeric and ginger to drinks. “I had all my old energy back, my hair grew back, and I felt—and looked—amazing.”
The guidance was so effective that Sophie knew she wanted to leave the real estate agency and retrain as a nutritionist, “but I was too scared to leave the job”.
That decision was made for her nine years later when she suffered the catastrophic stroke. During her recovery, she graduated with distinction from a nutritional college in 2013 before deciding to go deeper with the three-year nutritional course at the College of Naturopathic Medicine.
“I decided to retrain as a nutritionist, as I know what I’ve learned and personally practice is astonishing. My philosophy is that I will always be continually learning the newest and very best nutritional advances.”
Family and friends have been astonished by Sophie’s remarkable and speedy recovery, so much so that they have wanted to know everything she has done to regain her health. This has been her inspiration for setting up her Sophie’s Kitchen website, where she shares tips on healthy eating as well as recipes for preparing meals free of sugar and gluten. “I’m passionate about assisting others to be the very best versions of themselves possible,” she says.
Sophie’s Kitchen website: www.sophies.kitchen
Sophie’s super smoothie cleanse
5 minute preparation time; serves one
1 cup plain unsweetened almond milk (or purified water)
2 apples, your choice, cored & quartered
3 cups spinach
1 avocado, peeled & pitted
Several tsp maple syrup
Half-inch fresh ginger, peeled & chopped very finely
Juice of one small lemon
4–6 ice cubes
Optional: pinch of kelp flakes for extra iodine
Put all of the ingredients into a food processor and blend until smooth.
Sophie says: This really is an immune-boosting, cleansing smoothie. The apples are full of wonderful nutrients and add a natural sweet taste. You get fiber, vitamins, minerals, and many beneficial phytochemicals such as d-glucarate, flavonoids and terpenoids. All of these substances are used in the detox process.
One flavonoid, phlorizidin, is thought to help stimulate bile production, which helps with detoxing the liver and helps to eliminate toxins through bile.
Apples are an excellent source of soluble fiber pectin, which can detox metals and food additives from your body. It’s best to eat organic apples since they contain 15 percent more antioxidant capacity than non-organic ones.
The avocado is a wonderful fruit packed with antioxidants; it lowers cholesterol and contains glutathione, which blocks at least 30 different carcinogens while helping the liver detoxify synthetic chemicals.