Looking back on everything I’ve been through in life, it has really been quite the journey. Sometimes I feel like writing a book, so I can share with others what I’ve been through and how I learn from all my experiences. Realistically though, I’m not going to write a book. Not now, anyway.

I’m not going to bore you with my life story, so let’s start with the important schtuff. When I was 17, I battled anorexia. No one knows this except for my closest friends and family. For the longest time, I was ashamed to tell people. Because to me, it was a sign of weakness. It seemed like a disease that people often mock. “Oh look at that stick skinny girl. I bet she doesn’t eat.” Or, “Look at that skinny girl. I bet she throws up after every meal.” I was stick skinny and I did eat without throwing up afterwards. Food became an unhealthy obsession; I counted every calorie and every fat gram. On extreme days, my body survived on only 300-500 calories.

One week before my high school graduation, when I was about to hit the gym, I noticed I was short of breath. I told my dad, who took my pulse and blood pressure. He thought his blood pressure machine wasn’t working because it had measured out my pulse to be 30. He was nervous though, so he rushed me to see my doctor. The machine was indeed inaccurate, because my pulse was actually 25. They raced me to the emergency room. I spent one week in the hospital where they fed me a lot, and I mean A LOT, of food. I didn’t want to admit that I was anorexic though. And for some strange reason, my doctors believed me. I was discharged from the hospital and was left trying to gain weight on my own. If you know anything about anorexia or any eating disorder, it isn’t usually something you can overcome without professional help from a team of dietitians, psychologists and doctors. Although I gained weight, my first year of college was still tough for me, as I was still trying to battle my obsession with food. At some point during my sophomore year, I grew up. I took an intro to nutrition class and realized what eating healthy really meant, and slowly learned how to take care of myself. This was when I decided to pursue a career in dietetics. I wanted to help other people develop a healthy relationship with food.

Fast forward to a few years later, I was running my own volunteer programs at Syracuse, mainly trying to educate low-income children how to eat healthier. It was the greatest time of my life. I had a boyfriend, I had best friends, and I felt like my life was actually going somewhere.

Two months before my college graduation, I was forced into a battle with cancer. Everything I thought I had, was gone. In a month, I found myself laying in a hospital bed with IV’s sticking out of my arm and toxic chemo going into my body. Reality didn’t hit until my hair started falling out. My boyfriend left me, and for about a week, I wasn’t sure how I was going to survive the next few months of my life.

But life can be funny sometimes. It can surprise you when you least expect it. With the loss of my hair, my boyfriend, and pretty much my health, I gained so much more. Greeting cards and phone calls came in daily. One of my best friend’s grandmother even wrote me a card. In it, she told me that she will always be there for me, even though I have never met her before. My family became my lifeline. I looked to other cancer survivors for inspiration, and decided not to dwell on the negatives in my life. I found myself even happier than before I was diagnosed with cancer. I turned silly, cracking jokes at the dinner table and making my parents laugh everyday. My dad nicknamed me his little monk.  Their smile and laugh was my motivation to keep going with my treatment.

Fast forward to January 4th. It’s been the day I have been looking forward to for about a year. Four surgeries, 6 chemo treatments, many radiation sessions (I don’t even remember the number anymore, which is a good thing!) later, I found myself sitting in my new apartment, writing only a mere line in my journal: “I finally made it.”

Although most of the major hurdles were life threatening, not once have I ever thought everyone else’s problems were less serious than mine, which is why I decided to post this. Recently, I’ve been having mental fights with Facebook. I cherish happiness so much that I hate reading sad statuses, and I even hate reading when people are having a bad day.

Here is my life lesson to everyone: to a certain extent, you have control over almost everything that happens to you in life. Train your mind to seek the the beauty in your life experiences. Never stop learning, and more importantly, never stop growing.

Six months ago, it took me five minutes to get to and from the bathroom while using a walker. Six hours ago, I was at the gym and on the elliptical. The scars on my leg will forever be with me, the fuzzy white hairs on my head aren’t even an inch long yet, and the memories of every single battle I fought will never leave me. After everything, I think my life is absolutely amazing…and I wouldn’t change it for the world.

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3 Responses to Growth.

  1. Amy A. says:

    I love you Tori and I’m so proud of all that you’ve overcome. You are an inspiration and have had such a positive attitude through everything. I’m so happy to have you back in Syracuse!! P.S. I’m STILL working on adding that variety into my diet..LOL :-) Love you!

  2. Angie says:

    You’re so brave for sharing this, Victoria. Thank you for inspiring us to seek what’s truly beautiful and worthy of our attention in this world. You’re one of them!!

  3. Bri says:

    Well put, dear one. Thank you for sharing your trials and tribulations throughout this ordeal.

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