By Ashley Stead-Morine
My life took a 180 at 27; I’m not complaining.
If you’ve followed my blog posts, listened to my story on Soar Above Cancer and Sickboy podcasts, or tuned to YACC Survivor Conference 2020: Virtual, you’ll know I’m someone who has gone through many changes in life since my diagnosis with ocular melanoma in 2017.
At 24, I graduated from dental hygiene school, got married, and bought a house. I felt I had accomplished everything life had to offer, and I was content.
Then, 2017 brought a new adventure. My husband had been offered a position in the Western Arctic. I was nervous, but had been fascinated by the arctic since grade two Social Studies. That year also brought cancer and the feeling of isolation. Not having any mental health resources, specialists, or family nearby took a toll on myself and my partner.
The day of my diagnosis, I stayed up late researching everything about my specific cancer and how cancer affects lifestyle and mental wellbeing. I was surprised to read that young adult cancer survivors are at an increased risk of divorce/separation than non-cancer survivors. Unfortunately, I wasn’t immune to this and am part of the statistic. For most cancer survivors, the reasons marriages fail probably don’t require an explanation.
Remember what I said above? The part about thinking I had it all figured out at 24? I would’ve been happy with that for the remainder of my life. However, cancer taught me embracing and accepting change is hard, but once you’ve taken the leap, the lessons and experiences change brings are absolutely worth it. This, coming from a previous change-adverse anxious mess.
I’m now 30. For a while, I’ve felt lost. What I had, and what I expected to have (children, a cottage, a dream home, etc.) is at this time not reality anymore.
When I think of the story of my life and what I envisioned, I never would’ve included the chapter December 27, 2017 – “Diagnosis day.” But that chapter is long closed now, and I open the book when it’s time for an MRI.
Another chapter I didn’t expect to write was my current chapter. The 30- something cancer thriving divorcee, writing from her new home in Auckland, New Zealand.
Yep, in the middle of a pandemic I got myself a visa, a licence to practice dental hygiene, and a plane ticket to a place where I know not a single soul, all for the chance to embrace change and start over. I wish I could explain the incredibly freeing feeling in my heart as I took off for this new adventure. The hardest part was getting through the two-week mandatory hotel isolation once l landed.
Cancer taught me to embrace change, it was unexpected, but you’ve no choice but to accept this massive change in your life and ride the emotional waves that a diagnosis brings with it.
In my case, at this moment, the waves are the ones I’ll be riding on a surfboard in the south pacific.
Stay tuned for my next blog post called “OH MY GOD I NOW HAVE TO FIND A NEW ONCOLOGIST: The stress of leaving behind the man that saved your life.”
Day 1 in mandatory isolation in Auckland. I was allowed to have a daily 30-minute supervised walk in a parking lot.
Family and friends kept me occupied by sending me little “I’m thinking of you’s!”
Day one of freedom: The view from my Airbnb! Hi Auckland!
Day 16 in New Zealand, the second day out of quarantine. Can you tell how happy I am?