Scars in the Sunlight

With Shelly Vaughn

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Surfin’ U.S.A…



October 11th was my dad’s birthday, my hedgehog’s birthday, and my half-birthday. That means I have just under 6 months until I’m 40. So… I’m excited to say that I’m squeezing in a special “Under 40” experience just in time!

Marquina Iliev-Piselli is the author of the book I shared in my last post. She is also the reason I have this cool opportunity coming up soon. During our first interview for the book, she mentioned a camp that she was a part of- Camp Koru. After talking with her last year, then applying and not being able to go, I’m happy to say that this year I am able to participate in a Surfing Camp for Cancer Survivors…. in Maui!

The camp is designed to bring together survivors who were diagnosed under 40- to teach them a new skill as they learn to accept their “new normal”. So in a few weeks I’ll be trying to surf in Hawaii with several other young survivors!

If it’s anything like snowboarding or water skiing, I’ll be horribly- stiff, awkward, and falling all the time. But I’ll give it a try and see how it goes. It took quite a bit to get to this point. The timing had to work out around my other surgeries. I had to acquire enough PTO again at work. I had to apply and wait for a spot, then get my medical clearance to go. Finally, it’s all working out and I’ll be heading to Hawaii in a few weeks.

I’m extremely excited, but also very nervous because I’m doing this alone. They don’t have camps for “survivor spouses”- though they totally should since that takes just as much courage, strength, and grit to live through. I don’t know who will be there, what they will be like, or how we’ll connect. I’m sure it’ll be great, but this is so far out of my comfort zone I can’t even see it in the distance.

What an opportunity, though, right? Maui, I’ll see you soon.

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TOUGH: Women Who Survived Cancer


Not much bonds people together like shared experience. And not much feels more supportive through a life challenge than knowing someone else can relate to it. Now friends, there is a tangible way to make that happen for any woman who has to survive through a cancer diagnosis.

I’m excited to share that my story has been published… in an actual book! It’s part of a collection of essays written by 37 cancer survivors. My friend, Terese Gavin, who is also a survivor, let me know back in 2017 that she heard about this project and suggested that I look into it. (Terese, I’ll forever be grateful to you for this.)

The project was started by Marquina Iliev-Piselli, a breast cancer survivor who is known for her approach to treatment through “glam chemo”. She was looking for stories of other women who got through cancer treatment in creative ways, so I submitted to the project to share how I used this Facebook group and blog to connect with people and share my story.

Thankfully, Marquina chose my story to be added to the collection, and worked hard to get it off the ground and onto actual pages.

I’m so excited and proud to be a part of this. I feel like it’s exactly what people need when they are diagnosed, going through treatment, or if they know someone doing those because it’s 37 different perspectives on what that experience is really like. Each of us also included our own “best advice” that is honest and inspiring… even as I read others’ advice long after my own treatment is over.

Listen, we’re all human trying to get through tough stuff. So if you know someone who is diagnosed, or in the middle of treatment, I’d suggest sharing this book with them. Not because my story is in it, but because there’s not much more valuable than realizing you’re sharing your experience with 37 other not-so-strangers-anymore from around the country.

I’ve often said about 2017: Though I was more surrounded and supported than ever, I had never felt so alone. If I had this book at the time, those feelings would likely not had been so strong. These women sharing their stories that include all the messy feelings of fear, hope, anger, confusion, and faith- they all give survivors the invaluable support of shared experience.

Here is the link to the book on Amazon. It’s a best seller since it was released.  It means people are reading it. And knowing that people are reading our stories gives purpose to our own struggles.

TOUGH: Women Who Survived Cancer

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It’s October, so get out your pink. I’ve been so hesitant to embrace the pink in the past- I think because I feel guilty that other people don’t get a whole month of recognizing their challenges in life. And I was so determined to not let my experience define me. But the further away I get from the shock and fear of what I went through, the more I can see the value in acknowledging the importance of the challenges and celebrating my cancer-free life.

Today was “wear pink” day at work. I almost didn’t wear my shirt because it said “Survivor” on my back. So I wore my work backpack for a lot of the morning to conceal it. Then at lunchtime, we gathered for a picture for all the employees who wore pink to work. And there, one of my closest survivor friends, Melissa Samulak greeted me with the best hug I’ve had in a while.

There are a lot of really crummy things about 2017. But there are at least as many, if not more, wonderful things. One of them was meeting this woman who would fight her own battle shortly after me. I still cannot clearly explain what it feels like to go through cancer treatment while working at a very public place. But the comradery and closeness of walking alongside someone whose experience is similar is something very special. After catching up with her and seeing her beautiful smile, I was reminded that being a survivor isn’t something that should be covered up by a backpack.

Thanks to everyone who wore pink today at work. And to everyone wearing pink at their own workplaces this month.

I’ve been a little absent from posting for a while. Trying to be online a lot less and not over-thinking everything in life. But I do have some good things to share, and I think this month is a good time to restart the blogging. Stay tuned…