You’re reading this because I was diagnosed with cancer.
I am a 30 year old woman living in Pittsburgh whose life was turned upside down in 2014 after finding out I had a rare type of Mesothelioma. To date, I have gone through both surgery and chemotherapy twice. My only goal at the moment is to chase health and happiness each day amongst the uncertainty, fear, and trauma that comes with the hand I’ve been dealt.
I decided to create Cured Life as a space to share the following:
- My personal experiences with cancer: The good, the bad, and the ugly.
- The pursuit of my passions: Creating, cultivating, cooking, traveling, writing, practicing yoga, connecting with nature, and more.
- Strategies for becoming my best self: An endless, yet utterly fulfilling quest.
- Hope, inspiration, entertainment, and connection: For anyone who may need it – no cancer diagnosis required.
Despite the optimism of my mission and tone, where I am today is far from where I was the day I found out I had cancer. Back then, I was a 28 year old who was sabotaging my second marriage, commuting long distances for a job I didn’t jive with, struggling with my body image and sense of purpose, and subsisting on a wildly unhealthy diet that included far too much alcohol and not enough green things. It was a low point in my life where I had lost sight of my dreams, values, and direction. Having to undergo a major surgery and four rounds of chemotherapy completely deflated whatever was left of me. Still, there was no choice but to face my fears and fight for my life. It scared the hell out of me so I documented and shared the experience just in case it was my last opportunity to leave a quasi-positive legacy of sorts. I also realized that my personality contains an undeniable undercurrent of joy which helped to carry me through the worst times.
It took a very long time to fully recover and my initial approach to life post-treatment was reckless and unfocused. Instead of capitalizing on my new lease on life in a healthy way, I was, yet again, completely lost. Every normality in my life had been uprooted and I was bitter that the unwelcome role of becoming a patient had robbed me of the last year of my twenties. Upon recovering from surgery and chemo, I dealt with depression, post-traumatic stress, overdoing it with certain pleasures in life, and not looking before I leapt with big decisions. My year post-treatment included the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, with no sense of equilibrium or direction. I was vulnerable and no closer to figuring out who I was or what I was doing, only sure that I didn’t want my disease to be part of the equation. Unfortunately, my experience with cancer was not a one-time fluke that I could simply sweep under the rug.
At the end of last summer, amidst the height of my haphazardness, I decided to check a few items off of my bucket list. I packed up my Jeep, drove across the country, and arrived in Los Angeles where I lived for nearly five months. Never having been to California, I did not know what to expect or what would transpire. During my time there I completed a life-changing yoga teacher training, grappled with a lot of feelings, and had my quarterly PET/CT scan at the UCLA medical center.
Shortly after this past Christmas, following a year of disease-free scans, I found out that the cancer was back. I was devastated, but slowly becoming better equipped to handle it all. The knowledge I had acquired during yoga training, along with an undeniable desire to return back east, gave me a sense of peace and confidence amidst the fear. I knew, without a doubt, that I needed to go to Pittsburgh to seek care under my original oncology team and also to reconnect with my roots. That meant a second cross-country drive in a rather short period of time, this one bringing with it a long lusted after visit to the Grand Canyon. Staring into the wide abyss with snow at my feet was a surreal and suspended reality. It was bitterly cold but that did not detract from the magic, which I did my best to soak up with every view. The moment I got back into the car my status as an enchanted tourist dissolved and I was one step closer to becoming a patient yet again. Upon my return to Pittsburgh, I endured another surgery coupled with a different type of chemotherapy, this one more brutal than the first.
The reemergence of my disease was a major turning point and I refused to squander the opportunity to do things differently/better. My mission expanded beyond simply surviving and recovering from treatment; I sought a complete recovery in all areas of life including my diet, lifestyle, relationships, priorities, and personal pursuits. That focus allowed me to recover much more quickly and I feel that my life is finally heading in the right direction. I feel no shame in admitting that it took two journeys through extreme cancer treatments to truly open my eyes and acknowledge my shortcomings.
Despite the harrowing nature of the last decade of my life, there isn’t much I would change. Maybe a haircut or two. I certainly would not categorize any moments as mistakes or regrets because what I have gleaned from every curveball and misstep has become an invaluable education. All roads have led to this place I call “Cured Life,” which is my own personal aspiration. I have a very impulsive spirit and a proclivity for enjoying life and love to the fullest extent. Any attempts to stifle or change those characteristics have been futile, so the focus has shifted to respecting and nurturing my unique personality in a positive way.
So that’s where I am today: fearlessly impassioned to employ my talents and become the best version of myself, all in tandem with my diagnosis. I feel healthy and strong, and my last MRI in April showed no evidence of disease. I am back to freely living life in three month chunks between scans, only now with a clear sense of purpose. I aim to pursue health and happiness on a daily basis, to positively impact the earth, to nurture my personal relationships, and to “cure” my life of the negative tendencies and habits that once plagued me. I may never be able to say that I am fully cured of cancer, but I can do everything in my power to live my best life because of it. Welcome to Cured Life!
Read more about my cancer story here.