Lauren Lopez, a yoga teacher from Westford, Massachusetts, is now 32 years old and has been a four-time cancer thriver.
Lauren was first diagnosed when she was only 24 years old. She was a single female who was at the doctor’s office for her annual gynecological exam. Her doctor did a routine Pap smear test when the test revealed abnormal cancer cells.
She was assured by her doctor that there was nothing to worry about. She went under the knife with two cone knife biopsies because her doctor said it would remove the abnormal cancer cells.
“They told me, ‘You don’t need to worry. The prognosis is amazing and we caught it early,’” Lauren said.
After the biopsy, she was assured that she’d have a good life and health.
But, three years later, the cancer returned again. And, like the first time, they discovered it during a routine visit because there were no symptoms. This time, the cancer cells were much more aggressive and needed more aggressive treatment. Lauren had to have a complete hysterectomy and a series of chemotherapy and radiation.
When she was diagnosed the second time, she knew it was a sign that she needed to do something to make her life better.
She didn’t like her job so she set out to work towards getting a job she actually liked. She had always been interested in real estate so she began to study the subject and even about obtaining a license for it.
By the time her cancer was in remission, she had already passed the licensing exam and was working on building her real estate business. She believed her cancer was a gift.
It helped her push herself to do the things that she had always wanted to do now, instead of later.
She also became more forgiving of other people because she realized other people were also going through their own struggles. She also had the opportunity to form deeper relationships with her family and friends, something she had neglected to do pre-cancer.
And these realizations would become necessary because two years later, in 2017, Lauren, this time, suffered from symptoms that were hard to ignore.
She had stage IV metastatic cervical cancer and it had spread to her other organs. She had to have three surgeries and more chemotherapy before they found out her prognosis. She had adenocarcinoma, which was a rare type of cancer and formed in mucus-secreting glands throughout the body. It’s a recurring, incurable type of cancer and she was given six months to live.
It shocked and devastated Lauren.
But she eventually realized she could choose to deny her prognosis or accept it. She decided to accept it and embrace it with hope.
“In the moment, it was devastating. I slept on it and I woke up the next day with mental clarity like no other,” Lauren told TODAY. “If I only have so much time left, I am going to choose to be happy. Coming from a place of gratitude, I don’t think you can feel anything but happy and joyful.”
Being a cancer warrior and fighter required her to develop small disciplines that can make a difference. Every single day, she always tries to find something she’s grateful for, something to look forward to, and something to laugh about.
It’s hard but if you do it every day, it becomes a habit.
“It tricks my brain into celebrating the small moments,” she explained. “It started with something that is simple and it spiraled and blossomed.”
She also said that being happy is a choice. And another choice a fighter can make is to look at cancer as a force that makes a person stronger, smarter, and happier. Once they achieve that, they are able to lessen cancer’s power over them.
And that’s what Lauren kept in her mind.
Because two years later, after her terminal cancer diagnosis, she is still alive and kicking and showing people that there is life after being being diagnosed with an incurable disease.
“Even when they give you a terminal diagnosis … it is OK to make plans and dream,” Lauren said. “You can be happy during cancer.”
In fact, two weeks before her TODAY interview, she had just come back from a vacation to Greece with her husband. Before that, and shortly after her prognosis, she began to explore Reiki and other natural forms of healing she can use for the pain. She also joined SoVital Fitness Studios and became a certified yoga teacher.
On Sept. 28, she attended Sweat to End Cancer, a benefit for the American Cancer Society, where she talked about her journey.
The event was organized to help survivors how to live a life with cancer and to also find resources and alternative medicine to deal with cancer.
Watch the video below to hear Lauren’s inspiring speech at Sweat to End Cancer.
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