16, 18, 21. All hallmark years that are forever etched in your memory. My first car was a 1974 Super Beatle, metallic green. Can still smell the motor. It carried me to college where my actions were truly my own. Almost. Still had the distant safety net of home - but didn’t want it any more. Then came adult time. A right of passage of sorts. You are now looking at the world with wider eyes. Wondering what will be next.
Cancer has a way of tossing a wrench in things. More like a wrecking ball if you want to really get down to it. Difficult to face at any age - but as a young adult - to have your resolve abused and put to the ultimate test. It can break you.
But only if you let it.
Dori has a sparkle in her eyes. Bright and beyond her years. She has a quick smile and a thoughtfulness to her answers that only comes from someone who has been down some dark roads. To hear her say “the scariest part of my diagnosis was the doctors sort of expected me to die” - it shook me to the core. Such a matter of fact statement coming across the table. But true to that sparkle - Dori added “before they knew me.”
This was her 21. Wondering what will be next.
Cancer and the doctors underestimated who they were getting to know.
“Without the knowledge I have now I probably wouldn’t be writing this. I didn’t realize it at the time but my body was more afraid of chemo than the cancer. They continued anyways, they used a chemo that was meant to kill every cell in my body without killing me in the process. They killed a lot of good cells but the bad still remained.
Since that day they told me there was nothing left to be done. Since that day they told me I should just keep doing more chemo. I remember in that moment thinking - I am determined to prove them wrong. I wasn’t going to die. - not on my watch.
I was able to control my diet and with supplements I worked hard to reverse everything. When I tell this to random doctors and nurses they act shocked, it makes me laugh. It’s so simple it’s stupid. You cut out cancers food supply, (sugar) - you cut out the cancer. And with my type of blood cancer - it worked.”
AN ATHLETES MIND.
Knowing how to suffer is a badge of honor in the sports arena. Pushing your body to the limit and then asking more. Basically, you get used to being an exhausted sometimes vomiting mess. All in the name of getting better, faster and stronger.
Minus the badge of “athlete" - this isn’t much different than becoming a survivor. Sports helped Dori to understand her body and how hard it could be pushed. The love for the outdoors kept her going.
“Cancer free,’ I’ve heard that twice during the last two years and have gone through 5 different chemo treatments since then. Is there really such a thing as cancer free? It’s the main struggle everyone battling cancer thinks about at one point or another. Being able to live life, and hopefully enjoy life, to the fullest.
Every time I feel a bump or have my lymph nodes swell, my heart sinks. Even if it’s not cancerous you always have that thought in the back of your mind no matter how many people tell you to think positive or how may prayers go out. Just living every day to the fullest is at the same time the most corny and yet the truest thing I’ve learned.
Genuine love and experience with people I love is what matters most. I don’t like the dated stereotype where everyone who has cancer has to look sick or can’t move. That’s why I haven’t limited myself based on what people think I should do or how a “cancer patient” should act. Most of society has no idea what it’s like and that’s a blessing. Every day is different, some days I feel like my old self and other days I feel like I got hit by a bus - but the one thing I refuse to let cancer take away from me is my passion to live. I’m not going to let it take away any life goals or traveling or having fun with friends or being the person I want to be; the goals most take for granted.
Everyone has their opinion on how everyone else should live their lives but I’m focusing on making myself the best version of me I can be. I don’t want to be treated like anything other than what I am. A determined, sarcastic, strong willed, caring person that knows her purpose in this life - and that is to live it to its fullest.
And that’s all I gotta say about that.” ~ Dori
Knowing who you are now - would you change things? This is one of those hypothetical questions that can be sort of hokey. No one in their right mind is going to answer - I love cancer and wouldn’t change a thing.
But with the ability to look at life through the lens of life changing circumstances - I will leave you with three things.
“Cancer has really changed me. It is much less about me and is now about finding purpose to help other young adults dealing with the same issues and challenges.”
“My heart has connected with so many incredible people, the thing I’m most thankful for is everyone’s amazing will to live life and not just survive. There’s nothing more motivational than to see someone who has had a harder time but still has more will to live than any other person I know. My heart will always be with every single one of them, and for that I am greatful.”
Be quick to smile, search for the sparkle in peoples eyes, give till you can’t anymore and then give more.
Go because you can.
Thank you Dori for an inspiring afternoon.
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