Cancer made me truly appreciate life and gave me a perspective of how fortunate I am to be alive, especially as I came so close to death.
My life has been a jagged, windy road and I’m grateful for every growth opportunity that comes my way. Seven and a half years ago, my best friend of 19 years died from Leukemia. I was honored to be one of her main caretakers for 22 months from diagnosis to death. Her death helped bring a valuable awareness of my own mortality.
One year after she died, I was diagnosed with Stage 3 Breast Cancer. For 2.5 years I chose an exclusively natural non-toxic approach to healing. During this time, I ran a horse retreat center where people could spend healing time with horses. A very unfortunate event occurred, which forced me to sell my business, horses and retreat center. Due to the immense stress, the cancer progressed to be Stage 4 in multiple areas in my body. After this life-changing event, I decided to move back home to my ancestral home of Kauai, Hawaii with the intention to heal.
When I arrived back home in Kauai, I was literally dying. I had cancer in my breast, liver, spine, hip, lungs and adrenal glands. I was walking with a cane as the cancer had eaten away at my hip bone. I couldn’t lay down to sleep at night as there was so much cancer in my lungs. I was recommended to go into Hospice.
As my body declined, I had to take a hard look at my belief system whether or not to stay committed to healing naturally. Was I going to die for my stubborn choice of not doing chemotherapy or was I brave enough to do the thing I feared the most, which was chemotherapy? After my best friend’s death, I had a large amount of trauma, which fueled my fear of doing chemotherapy. I chose life! The mind is meant to be questioned and belief systems can be changed.
The nine months of chemotherapy treatment was very difficult. I landed in the hospital twice and almost died a few times. Six months into doing chemotherapy I ended up breaking my hip and having emergency double hip surgery.
I finished treatment in February 2020 with the most stellar news! I had the blood of a healthy ‘normal’ person and the cancer in my body had dramatically decreased. I was in remission and was positively elated! Since then all my blood tests have been normal and, in the fall of 2022, I was declared NED (No Evidence of Disease).
I think of myself as ‘thriving’ with a stage 4 cancer diagnosis.
Through-out this experience I’ve learned how strong, vulnerable and worthy of love I am. At times I felt like I would be crushed by the experience, but I just kept going.
My attitude is that every challenge is a gift for my growth. I continually dare myself to face my fears and use it for transformation.
I would have never wished for a cancer diagnosis, but I can honestly say cancer has made me appreciate life like never before. It has been an incredible gift to allow me to truly understand the profound importance of all the blessings in my life!
For those of you who are on the cancer path, I know it is not easy. There are days that are simply horrible. I encourage you to take one moment at a time. The more you surrender to whatever hardship you are experiencing, the quicker it will pass.
I encourage you to find the beauty
Find the joy
Surround yourself with what makes you happy, you deserve it now more than ever.
I want to remind you that you are so much stronger than you think you are.
I am very aware how fragile life is. Living with a life-threatening diagnosis has been challenging, but I have learned the most valuable gift. I now know that every moment I’m alive is precious. I’m truly appreciative of my beautiful body, spirit, heart and soul. It’s usually the most difficult moments that grow us and stretch us to new levels of awareness. Diamonds are birthed under pressure.
You can hear more about my story by reading my bestselling memoir (or listening to my audiobook) ‘Grace, Grit & Gratitude: A Cancer Thriver’s Journey from Hospice to Full Recovery with the Healing Power of Horses’ available on Amazon.
Cancer taught me (admittedly, in hindsight) that I cannot control the course of my life by holding on tighter. The more I try to stranglehold, the less control I actually have.
A cancer diagnosis encourages us to know both the fragility and hopes of life, and with that knowledge to live most fully.
I chose to deliberately and consciously dedicate my life - in and outside of my employment - to educate, advocate, and learn how best to represent the collective cancer community. Through my own experience surviving cancer and working in the medical space, I want to bridge the gap between the healthcare system and the communities that it serves.