Turning Grief into Good – Vanessa’s Story

In her 36th year of life, Vanessa received a diagnosis of and treatment for Stage 3 breast cancer, learned she didn’t have time to preserve her fertility, underwent surgery for an unrelated polyp and fibroid, and lost her hair — previously, a big part of her identity. While her professional life as a middle school Assistant Principal was on a roll, everything about her body felt out of control. 
A self-described “ridiculously positive” person, she sought ways to find beauty in the midst of chaos and to turn her grief into good. Vanessa invited friends and family to join her online and cheer her on as she gave herself the big “chop,” and used her new ‘do as an occasion to raise more than $4,000 for The Wellness House, a partner of the Ulman Foundation. Her advocacy introduced her to an invaluable support group there, and led her to learn about Ulman’s Cancer to 5K program; both of these communities returned to Vanessa the good that she’d put into the world. 
Vanessa’s treatment has nearly ended (insert praise hands emoji) and she’s swapped out medical appointments (at least some of them!) for weekly meet-ups with her CT5K team on the National Mall, where they stroll or jog, and learn what they’re still capable of — even since cancer has entered the picture. For Vanessa, Cancer to 5K has provided a reminder that things are still happening outside of cancer, and has given her a “restoration of trust” with her body. 
And now that she feels confident her body is there for her again, Vanessa is more ready than ever to face a challenge which, though of course not as grueling as cancer, can sometimes feel that way…finding great substitutes to serve her school and students! 
Vanessa, there’s a huge community behind you who agrees: cancer changes lives, and so do you! 

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