There are Only Two Ways to Live Your Life

I want to thank everyone SOOO much for all of your kind words about me finishing my half ironman on Saturday! I do feel like it is a big accomplishment, but you guys make me feel so special! A lot of you talked about inspiration, so I thought this was a good time to share with you a story about someone in my life that inspires me. This post is another long one, but good stories deserve to be told in full:).

This has been a big part of my life the past few months, but until recently my friend was not ready to share her story, which I understand and respect 100 percent. Now that she has decided it is time to share her story with the world, I wanted to share it with you all.
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“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” – Albert Einstein

This is the heading on my friend Dana’s blog. Dana is one hot momma.

Dana and I met in high school, and she has been one of my best friends ever since.

We have literally watched each other grow up. In high school we, along with our friends Karen and Joanna, were inseparable.

We experienced everything a person goes through in high school together. First serious boyfriends, first big break ups, and many, many great nights with friends.


We celebrated turning 18 together.

We went to prom together.

(So many embarassing high school photos, I can barely stand it!:)

We graduated together.

And celebrated together at beach week.

Through college we stayed close, even though it wasn’t always easy.

We celebrated 21st birthdays together, and college graduations together.

We watched each other meet our future husbands, and Dana was the first to get married.

And the first to get pregnant.

(It’s hard to tell because she’s so tiny to begin with, but yes, she is preggers in this photo:)

And the first to give birth–to a beautiful baby boy!

Of course, it’s not too hard to look at your life as if everything is a miracle when you’re young, and life is just one new and exciting adventure after another. But all of that changed on January 6, when Dana called me with some devastating news. A lump she had removed the week before had turned out to be malignant. It was cancer.

In seconds, the C-word turned her life upside down. Dana would later find out it was Triple Negative breast cancer, Stage 2, Grade 3. Triple negative is a very aggressive type of breast cancer that does not respond to hormone therapy.

Only a week after her diagnosis, Dana was in the hospital getting all kinds of tests and her first round of chemo. She had to shave her head, find wigs to wear, and make life-altering decisions about her treatment plan.

Through her six rounds of chemo, Dana has faced some unbelievable hardships. In addition to the already grueling side effects of chemo, Dana experienced a staph infection that caused her to wake up partially paralyzed one day and have to be rushed to the hospital (luckily she was treated quickly and although it was a long, difficult recovery, she overcame the infection and temporary paralysis).

She also had to deal with blood clots in her lungs that caused severe chest pain. She had to overcome her severe fear of needles, to be poked and prodded almost every day and spend long periods of time in the hospital.

Even though we tried to do everything we could to support Dana–cooking for her sometimes, bringing food, visiting as much as we could, offering to babysit, etc.–it never felt anywhere close to being enough. We all wished we could do more, but this was her journey that she would have to go through (even though I would have taken those chemo treatments for her if I could have!!).

But amazingly, Dana has maintained her beautiful smile and her amazing outlook on life throughout her journey. She always tries to find the positives in every situation, and her strength and ability to find joy in life truly inspires me.

A while ago I wrote a cryptic post about a friend who was going through a tough time, and how she inspired me to find happiness in my every day life. Well, I couldn’t say it at the time, but that friend was Dana!

This is a quote from her blog post that week: “Cancer, or any illness, does not have to make us bitter or separate us from God. In fact, I have found that it draws me CLOSER, because I rely on Him now more than ever. Every day, I have been making an effort to look for God in unexpected places. I want to take the time to experience the beauty of the world that so often goes unnoticed.”

Instead of being angry with her situation, Dana has embraced it and found beauty and joy in her life. And sure enough, she does have a lot of beauty in her life. I mean, how can you not melt at this face?

Or his adorable smile?

But, honestly, I don’t know if I would have been as strong as she was if I were in her position. It feels wrong to say that her struggle has affected me greatly, because I know it has affected me only 1/1,000,000 of how much it has affected her life, but it has. Even though you always *know* that there are so many people battling cancer or other life-threatening illnesses, and that it could happen to you, it’s different and a complete eye-opener when someone very close to you is diagnosed with it.

Dana’s battle with cancer and her attitude toward it has made me realize that we can’t always go through life looking for the next big adventure, but we have to stop and enjoy every second of every day. Because we never know when we might get that phone call one day that puts us in the hospital bed for weeks, instead of on that vacation or in that race that we were looking forward to.

She has made me realize that we control our own happiness, and that instead of getting angry or frustrated when life throws us a curve ball, we can always find something to be happy about and thankful for.

Dana, your strength and your ability to find the joy in every aspect of your life really does inspire me!

I am happy to report that Dana has finished her final round of chemo, and is recovering well (slowly, as is to be expected, but recovering nonetheless:).

She still has a tough road ahead of her, and faces some major surgery this summer. But I know she is going to do great and will get through it with the strength and courage she displayed these past five months.

If you want to be inspired and to read about her amazing journey and her gorgeous life, please go check out her blog. It, just like her, is amazing!

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About Erin @ untilyoutri

Runner, triathlete, food lover, and happy blogger!
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30 Responses to There are Only Two Ways to Live Your Life

  1. Heather says:

    This was a great post. Your friend Dana has a lot of positive energy that will help her and the fact that she has amazing friends that have given her so much support. Thank you for sharing, it brings a lot of perspective to life.

  2. Patty says:

    It is so sweet to see that you grew up with these girls & still stay in touch with each other. I hope you will always remain close way into the future…it is so great to have friends who knew you when you were young & shared so many experiences together. Likewise, in the future, it will still be great (& so much fun) to be able to share your grandchildren together. My heart goes out to your friend, Dana. She truly is a brave soul. For being so young & sick, she really has a wise & wonderful outlook on life. She is also blessed to have someone as wonderful & caring as you for a friend. Just as I am blessed to have you for my daughter-in-law. 🙂

    • I am so lucky that we have stayed close, too! I love that we have grown up together, and are still so close! She is a great person and has an amazing outlook on life, I think we can all learn a lot from her:).

  3. lindsay says:

    oh my gosh, tears of joy! what a beautiful amazing woman and story! Thank you so so much for sharing this!

  4. Karen says:

    What a wonderful post to celebrate all that Dana has overcome recently and all of the moments that we have shared over the years that none of us will ever forget! Dana is definitely an inspiration and is such a strong person. I am so proud of you both with such huge recent accomplishments: finishing chemo and completing a half ironman! I ❤ you both and I can't wait to add my wedding photo with all of you by my side to the collection!!!

    • Thanks, Kare! It took me a while to get my thoughts about everything down…so much to say/feel! It was fun digging through all our high school pictures, too:). I can’t wait to add your wedding pic, too! Less than two weeks–ahh!:)

  5. Mark Morris says:

    It was hard to keep a dry eye while reading this. I have lost loved ones to cancer and it is truly inspiring that your friend found resolve in her journey. I pray that she recovers speedy and you have been blessed to walk this road with her as her friend. God bless you both and keep up the blogs, my triathlete sister, it is truly a must read for me.

    • Thank you, Mark, for your kind words about my blog and about Dana! I am so happy to have a new reader, and a fellow triathlete at that:). I am sorry to hear that you have lost love ones to cancer. God bless!

  6. Dana says:

    Erin,

    I’m so honored to read this post and I am blessed to have you as a best friend! You girls have done so much for me and have kept my spirits up through this entire thing! I LOVE YOU!!!!!

    love,
    Dana

  7. Stephanie says:

    So hard! So inspiring. I wish her only the best, speedy and quick recovery! Reslly puts things In perspective. Thank you!

  8. I’m so happy dana let you share her story with us on your blog! ohmygosh she is SUCH an inspiration! I’m nursing my little pet through cancer right now, and a family history of cancers is what prompted me to start studying nutrition labels and ultimately become a nutritionist in the first place. Its this horrible and debilitating thing that reminds us life is too short to not embrace it and do everything you can to appreciate those that you love around you =) thanks so much for this post girl!

    • I’m so sorry hear about your pet!:( I lost my cat to cancer this past November, actually:(. It was terrible! I did not know that about your history and how you became a nutritionist! That’s amazing!

  9. That was beautiful…thank you so much for sharing your friend’s story and how she has inspired you. Sounds like she has been really brave and so have you 🙂 I can’t imagine what she’s been through but I’m so glad happy to hear that things are going well for her.

  10. feerlessfood says:

    Wow- amazing story (and post) and I am truly moved. Makes anything I thought was a struggle just selfish. She will be in my prayers every night!

  11. DiningAndDishing says:

    What a beautiful story! My favorite thing about these pictures is her incredible smile. I believe very strongly in the power of positive thinking. And she is SO lucky to have a friend like you by her side!

    – Beth @ http://www.DiningAndDishing.com

  12. WOW Erin the beauty of your friendship really shines in this post. I got tears as you described Dana’s journey. AMAZING. You are blessed to have each in your lives.

    Makes the pain we feel on race day seem inconsequential doesn’t it?

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  14. Wow, this made me cry. Thanks for sharing her beautiful story. What a strong woman of faith! I cannot even begin to imagine the battle she has been through. Also, she’s gorgeous – from the first photo to the last. Her smile is contagious. She is inspiring to me and I don’t even know her. Thanks for sharing this!

    • Aw, sorry for making you cry! (But it did make me cry reading/writing it, too, haha:). Her story has touched me and I wanted to share it with you all in case it would inspire you, too! I’m glad it did! I am sure she appreciates your wonderful words, too! Thank you!

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