Cancer Doesn’t Have to Mean the End: It Can Also Be a New Beginning

Posted On Wednesday, 27 June 2018
Cancer Doesn’t Have to Mean the End: It Can Also Be a New Beginning

There’s no question that receiving an ovarian cancer diagnosis in 2012 made me terrified, especially venturing into the great unknown of surgery and chemo.

But, even after treatment and stabilization, another kind of fear set in: Being cut loose by my medical team and thrust back (without a net) into my “normal” life.

How could my life ever be normal least how I once defined normal?

Despite the discomfort associated with treatment, I also felt secure knowing that I had something of a regimented schedule – my doctors and nurses had my back. Then my last day of chemo arrived. I was elated. Goodbye nausea. Goodbye metallic taste. Goodbye crushing fatigue. My taste slowly came back. I emerged from the fog of queasiness. I had more energy.

But, the strangest feeling came over me when my DayTimer was no longer filled with appointments for blood draws, infusion days and doctors’ visits. It really hit me hard when I called to make a follow-up appointment with my oncologist. “The usual time,” I told the receptionist, “8 a.m.” She pointed out that the early appointments were reserved for chemo patients. “Oh, that’s right...I’m no longer a chemo patient...hmmm, I’m no longer special.”

Now I want to stress that I never wanted to go through chemo again. I was counting the minutes, hours and days when it would finally be over. Yet psychologically I didn’t realize how lost I would feel once my medical routine was broken. Fortunately, over time, I overcame the anxiety of “What’s next?”

Most noticeably, I simply could not bring myself to return to my former profession of arts journalism or teaching at the university level. So much of me had changed: my physical appearance, my priorities, my new outlook on life. I was now concerned with living in the moment, appreciating each day and taking control of my health. I was determined to live my life and be open to where my path would take me. Here’s how I set about doing that:

  • I set new and realistic goals for myself.

  • I challenged myself, with the constant support of my husband, to travel again and push my endurance level...balanced, of course, with rest and proper nutrition and hydration.

  • I combined my cumulative experience in the arts, in writing and in photography to become a filmmaker.

  • I chronicled the emotional side of cancer survivorship and wrote and directed a feature film called One Year Later, about a woman’s cathartic trip to the Alps one year after completing cancer treatment.

  • I stopped defining myself through cancer. Instead of calling myself a cancer survivor, I considered myself a filmmaker – a person – who happened to have cancer and had moved on.
It wasn’t always smooth sailing though. After my first diagnosis and treatment, I truly thought I was cured. Then in late 2014, I was shocked to learn I had a recurrence – an isolated tumor that, fortunately, was not sitting on a major organ. That meant another surgery and more chemo. The recurrence was my wake-up call for understanding that ovarian cancer can recur...more than once. Since a second recurrence in 2016, which involved surgery and radiation, I accepted the reality of living scan to scan. Nevertheless, knowing that, allows me to live in those liberating spaces between the chaos of treatment.

Since my initial diagnosis in 2012, I’ve experienced a vast array of treatments. I still have regular CT scans and labs. On the flip side, I’ve also written and directed three films and a TV pilot; taken my films on tour, with One Year Later presented to cancer support groups and the medical community; and have enough screenplays in me to last a lifetime.

I most recently participated in an invigorating and life-affirming TESARO Our Way Forward storytelling event with The Moth in New York City. It enabled me to share the emotional aspects of a cancer diagnosis in a warm and supportive environment. I believe it empowered others who have been affected by cancer. I would encourage those, like me, facing a diagnosis or a recurrence, or a loved one, to learn more and seek supportive resources at

Cancer is now something I manage. It’s not the end for me. Instead it pushed me to embrace new beginnings, new joys and new challenges.

Lucia Mauro

Lucia Mauro, an ovarian cancer survivor with two recurrences, who has found healing through art, creating multiple films and a TV pilot, based on her personal experiences.

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