Stage 4 Cancer at 24: Channeling My Reroute into Purpose

It started with a lump that multiplied. Then came a diagnosis, a flood of emotions and the realization that I'd been here before.

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In late 2020, a lump appeared on my body.

It was nominal in size; maybe a half inch or so. Until, of course, it swelled and multiplied.

At first, I willingly tried to forget about it. After all, I was a perfectly healthy 24-year-old living in New York City. What did I have to worry about?

As a former DI athlete, fitness and nutrition were (and still are) two integral parts of my identity. I was working out an hour a day to distract myself from the overwhelming boredom and anxiety induced by the Coronavirus pandemic.

I’d also recently begun my dream job at Google, and had thrust myself into the foreign world of digital advertising. Stress levels were high, and in adjusting to working from home, there were days when it wasn’t easy to get out of bed…but it was 2020 and I knew that didn’t make me an exception.

Within months, it became uncomfortable to go about my day-to-day. Although I felt perfectly fine, my intuition told me it was time to see a doctor.

The rest is history. In the months to follow, I’d come to intimately know the nuances of a rare, vicious, pediatric cancer called alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma.

Me, sporting the bald look in Central Park (which is, in fact, a trend in NYC)

It’s fascinating being at odds with your own body. Meditation helps calm the psyche when dark thoughts inevitably creep in. Epsom salt baths help too. But what’s the greatest gift I’ve given myself throughout the process of grieving the life I used to know and love? Purpose.

One week after my diagnosis, I underwent surgery for fertility preservation and to get my chemo port placed. Recovery mandated I avoid showering for several days.

On day four, I finally took my first shower. When the water hit me, I began unearthing my emotions. Although this situation was unlike anything I’d ever experienced in 24 years – why did I have this gnawing feeling I’d been here before?

In that moment, I realized a human truth: the discomfort of the unknown is universal. At 21, I’d felt similarly after an awful breakup that left me single, confused and alone on the other side of the world. Even at a young age, I’d felt these emotions when my house burned down in 2003. And when I lost my previous job amidst the pandemic earlier in 2020, I felt the same way too.

My emotions didn’t feel new because they weren’t. Here I was, amidst a massive reroute in life. I was literally parked at the fork in the road, looking to my left, right, and trying to figure out which path was mine to take. And this wasn’t the first time.

I knew everything was about to change, but the challenge was grappling with having no clue what the future held. Was it medical school? A memoir? Speaking engagements?

A lightbulb went off. If detours in life are inevitable, we all experience that uncomfortable state of suspension between life as we know and life as it will be. Imagine how much there’d be to gain from talking about it, in real-time!

So often, we hear success stories from the other side. They’re hopeful tales about how someone overcame adversity to get to where they are today.

Seldom do we walk through the muck together, sharing insights from the perspective of the person experiencing pain, while they’re experiencing it. Such power do these perspective provide; a dose of reality, humility and the reminder that we’re on our way even when it feels like we’re lost. This is the unique point of view that we could provide.

Thus, my purpose was born: The Reroute podcast.

On The Reroute, my sister and I interview badass people about the events that shifted the trajectory of their lives. We infuse these conversations with insights gleaned from our own reroutes, including, of course, my cancer journey.

The podcast has allowed us to laugh, cry, and be reminded that connection, joy and love are the trifecta of what matters in life. Our guest list includes reality TV stars to athletes, authors, mental health advocates and beyond.

Everyone has a story. The Reroute opens the door to the humanity behind a person’s pain, reminding listeners that even in the deepest depths, you’re never alone.

I’ve taken a scalpel to the chest and put my heart on display with this project. Equal parts terrified and elated, the first few episodes of The Reroute drop on February 17th, 2021.

I hope you join us for the ride!


If you or someone you know has a story that yearns to be shared, please reach out to us at [email protected] For updates and silly behind-the-scenes action, follow us on instagram below & sign up for our newsletter.

https://www.instagram.com/the.reroute

https://www.the-reroute.com

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