How Cancer Changed Me

A cancer diagnosis changed my life.

It’s been four years. Four years since my life changed completely. Four years since I heard those terrifying words, “You have cancer.” At the time, I was 42 years old and in the middle of living my life.

There are experiences in life that stay with us. Things we go through that change us and leave a lasting impression.

For me, cancer is one of those experiences.

My cancer came in the form of breast cancer, something that impacts 1 in 8 women.

While I found it early and had a lot going for me, it wasn’t the diagnosis I ever wanted to have. My kids were 11 and 14 and this caused me an extra dose of guilt. Seeing them have to navigate the challenging waters of having a sick Mom wasn’t something I had planned. They had to watch me struggle with surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. And, since I didn’t sail through any of it sporting a positive attitude, they saw me at my lowest.

Cancer changes a person.

Being on this side of things, my kids are now 18 and 15, and the experience changed them.

They understand bad things can happen, even to them, and they don’t take our family for granted.

My kids are always willing to help their friends when a difficult situation occurs.  It’s nice to see them offering support, being encouraging and compassionate and helping other people. They understand the fragility of life, and have a deep appreciation of their blessings.

There are many positive takeaways from a cancer diagnosis, and I’m determined to see them.

I’m different than the “BC,” before cancer, version of myself and there’s a lot to learn from what I went through. The life I live today isn’t the one I would have had, if cancer hadn’t knocked on my door. I know what my priorities are, what truly matters to me, and try to make sure the way I spend my time reflects this. I don’t take much for granted and know I’m one of the lucky ones. I’ve met people who haven’t been as lucky as I have: Moms and Dads who had to say goodbye to their kids, way before any parent should ever have to leave their children. This knowledge keeps me grounded.

I know I wouldn’t be as grateful as I am, for all the blessings in my life, if I hadn’t been through a cancer diagnosis.

I would probably be living my life, moving at a fast pace, checking things off of my “to do” list and knocking off the hefty goals I had for myself. Instead, my book, Crush Cancer, and all the speaking engagements and fun things I’ve gotten to do because of it, are the something good that came from something bad. I’m way more intentional about what I do, who I spend my time with and how I show up to the world. I take the time to savor the good moments and mark them for what they are. I’ve learned to see the positive, even when it might be a little hard to find, and this brings me a lot of joy.

I’m also not interested in impressing other people or living up to the expectations of what I should or shouldn’t be doing with my life. I’ve learned to listen to that little voice inside my head, the one that tends to get shut down because maybe it isn’t as loud as the opinions of others. I listen to that voice and pay attention to what it tells me.

I’m stronger than I ever knew I could be and refuse to let fear get in the way of my life. I intentionally push myself out of my comfort zone, to help myself continue to grow. The world is truly amazing and I don’t want to ever take life for granted.

There are so many opportunities in life, beautiful places to go, people to meet, experiences to have, and I want to do it all.

I don’t know what the future holds, for me or for you, and I’m OK with this. As I move forward with my life, I’m committed to remembering what happened and taking the positive lessons with me. And, maybe you will also.

Find meaning each day,




  1. Deanna Wheeler on April 4, 2018 at 1:17 pm

    I’ve heard of Dara’s book. All good things. What I heard here is: be intentional, look for the good, embrace change and that life is moving forward …let’s enjoy the ride! Thanks for sharing Maria.

    • Dara Kurtz on April 5, 2018 at 2:24 pm

      Hi Maria, I’m so glad you like my book and this article resonated with you. Yes, let’s enjoy the ride! Sending you so much love!

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