I was recently sharing my story and struggles with someone and they asked me if I blogged about my story. I told them no and it got me thinking – I should share my journey with others. Let me tell you what I have been going through…
About three weeks ago, the day before my 28th birthday, I got a call that shattered my world. My medical oncologost called me to tell me the biopsy results were in and my cancer had returned. This was my biggest fear these days leading up to my 28th birthday. Just two years ago I got a similar call that shattered my world. These two worlds I was living in at the point in my life of each phone call are drastically different. This is the good news. Let me tell you how this is good…
Two years ago when I received the first call diagnosing a small bump that likely was “nothing” to be breast cancer in my left breast. I froze. I cried. I composed myself and I returned to the conference room where my coworkers and I were auditing HCAP files for a local hospital in Columbus, OH. At the time of this diagnosis I was 25 years old. I was studying for the CPA, working at Blue & Co., LLC. I graduated with an accounting degree in 2012 and this was my first job out of school. The money was good and the benefits even better. I got to travel to new cities and enjoyed my coworkers. I honestly was so spoiled in my first job with a boss who set the bar so high. I will never have a boss that great or work with coworkers who make you feel like family. Enough of the job talk.
I underwent a single mastectomy January 25, 2016 and the cancer hadn’t spread so there was no chemo. There was no risk that it may have traveled elsewhere, or not enough risk to undergo chemo. At this point in my life I didn’t know what to do but I eventually realized that I needed to be doing things that fueled my creativity. This realization came to me when I was in the jungle of Costa Rica at a belly dance, yoga retreat. It came to me when I was surrounded by people living their truest life. This realization was big. It helped me to leave this amazing office job for what? To be broke and work as a barista at an Ethiopian coffee shop in Silver Spring, MD? Yep!
So my boyfriend at the time (now fiance, soon to be husband) got a job offer in DC and we took it because we had to run. We had to run away from home and start over. With the highest rent in the country I think it is funny I went from making lots of money and being comfortable to paying more rent than ever before making less than ever before. The days in DC were short but I learned a lot in my ten months there. We realized we can survive outside of Ohio. We realized we can make ends meet no matter our situations. We realized the big, fast-paced city wasn’t for us ( I always wanted that city life). We realized we wanted to be surrounded by nature. We decided to leave the city behind and pack up with the dog we recently adopted to head to the mountains of Colorado. The mountains were calling…. so we went.
*This is Leonidas, Leo for short. He loves the mountains, roadtrips, and lots of bones.
Off to Colorado with what we could fit in our car and the small Uhaul we hitched on. We made it to our new apartment that we had never seen in the state we had NEVER been. We weren’t sure what to expect but we knew we had nothing to lose.
Fast forward to about a year later when I got this dreaded call. I was managing a local, non-profit coffee shop in Denver that employs and trains refugees and immigrants, The Spring Cafe. This place was the first that I ever managed and it was very unique. I felt that my love for coffee and helping people was met with a nice steady income and benefits. I had a flexible schedule that allowed me to travel up to the mountains whenever I wanted or needed. The job was a challenge because I was expected to turn a profit in a cafe that hadn’t made a profit since they opened almost two years back. I had a lot of responsibilities but the payoff was working with refugees and immigrants who had the most amazing stories (and food recipes!). I enjoyed being their contact for life questions or to practice English. It really made me become much more aware of the interactions I was having. I spoke way too fast and used advanced words and phrases I didn’t realize were new to them. I began practicing my communication skills. I wanted them to be happy and have a secure job that they enjoyed and could make decent money. The humans that I worked with at The Spring Cafe will forever hold a place in my heart. I feel that I impacted their lives and they definitely impacted mine.
Unfortunately, after my diagnosis I was unable to continue my job. My scattered brain was unable to handle my survival along with running a non-profit. I chose my health and I left my job earlier this month. I am now unemployed, uninsured, and have stage 4 cancer in my pelvic bone at age 28. That seems scary but the best of all is that I feel in the last two years I have found my true calling. I have found the thing that makes everything better. The mountains. Nature therapy is so real. When I am having my worst day, I drive to the mountains and I breathe in the fresh air. Everything that I am worried about disappears. Everything that doesn’t matter goes away. It is just me and nature.
*This is a shot of elk in Rocky Mountain National Park in March of 2018
The silver lining of my first diagnoses is that I found my way to a whole new life. A life where my happiness and well being are more important than my salary and my 401k option. My life now is minimal. I don’t have as much as I used to but I don’t need it. I need nature, my pup, my fiance, and my family and friends (and my camera). I spend my money on experiences. I soak in every minute I get to spend in the mountains and I love photographing these moments. I would say my true calling is nature photography and now that I know this I am that much closer to achieving this dream. The world we live in is scary. Life is beautiful and death is scary. But when you realize that your time is limited you can allow yourself to open up to the world before your eyes and find a way to cherish it. This is what I have learned. Thank you for reading all of this and I will report back soon with my cancer journey, my yoga journey, my new plant based and organic diet, and my struggles and realizations along the way.
*Here I am hiding behind the camera – obsessing over the mountains in the rear view mirror.
Thanks for listening.
Love Love Love,