How Believing in Yourself Can Save Your Life

It's the moments when we're forced to face our mortality and question everything we believe in that truly shape us.

By Nicole Hess

July 29, 2013 4:10 PM
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Courtesy of Subject

Isabella Tudisco

Hometown: Tucson, Arizona

Profession: Student, Middlebury College  

Twitter Handle: @IsabellaTudisco

Disease: Epithelioid Sarcoma (Cancer)

Bio: Isabella is currently living in Senegal and preparing to write her thesis on the concept of dance as a reflection of social movement. According to Isabella, "Cancer has always been prevalent in my family history. I had an aunt pass away from cancer when I was 6, another aunt who survived breast cancer, and my grandmother's a survivor of breast cancer. Then, when I was 15, my mother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, which wasn't something that we'd had in our family. She passed away when I was 17, and it was a pretty big deal in my life. My father passed away when I was 9, so my mom was the person that had been there for me my whole life. 

As for Isabella's personal battle with cancer, she was forced to confront her fear of doctors and have her index finger on her left hand checked out after the swollen finger began to go numb. Within the first week of her freshman year, Isabella was in the E.R., despite the fact that her family and doctors had previously convinced her that she had nothing to worry about. One day, months after learning that she had an extremely rare soft tissue cancer known as Epithelioid Sarcoma, her index finger had to be removed. 

How It Changed Her: "I think that it's something that's made me really, really focus on the fragility of life, or the impermanence of life, and to understand that things can always be worse. No matter what is happening to you, there's always someone who has it worse than you. And that doesn't mean that you can't feel pain or that you can't have your moment of mourning or sadness because we can and we should, but it just helps me to remember always that I'm so lucky to be in the position that I am in, that given the circumstances and everything I came out fine. [It made me want to wear my] battle scars proudly." 

Why She Wanted to Tell Her Story to Marie Claire:  "One thing that I get really caught up in sometimes is thinking about how we all have these individual lives that are so complex and hard for us to understand (even for ourselves), and then we look around and we see all of these other people [with equally complex lives]. And so I think that what I want in life is to find those intersections as much as possible and to have windows into other people's lives and for them to have windows into mine because I think that that's how we enrich ourselves and how we enrich others, as well as how we learn about how we want life to be...I think it's an honor to be considered someone strong and it's an honor to have the opportunity to share my life in some way with other people because I think it makes life a little bit larger than ourselves." 

Words to Live By: "We have two lives, and the second begins when we realize we only have one."Confucius 

"Forgiveness is the release of all hope for a better past."Buddy Wakefield & Reverend Kathianne Lewis

Her Advice for Someone Who's Going Through a Similar Situation: "I think that I would say that it's really important to believe in yourself and in your own intelligence and to be confident enough to question everyone...[As a young person] it's really easy to be overlooked or stepped on and...a lot of doctors just assume that you don't know anything. They don't explain anything to you because they don't think that you have the capacity to comprehend it all...[I also think that] it's really important to truly love yourself and find yourself beautiful [according to your own definition of beauty] because I think that that allows you a great capacity to love other people and engage with other people in a meaningful way."

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