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Cancer DOES Define Me

Posted on by The GEM and currently has 34 Comments on Cancer DOES Define Me

Full disclosure. I’ve worked really hard over the last 9 years to put my cancer treatment and journey behind me. I am really a master, it seems, of compartmentalizing (almost all) experiences that were traumatic in my life. A great coping skill to eliminate emotional baggage. After fighting cancer, I liked to say, “I will not let cancer define me.” And I was adamant about it.


But the truth of the matter is cancer has defined me. The experience truly made me who I am today. I can’t deny it. I am brighter, shinier, stronger. It is the reason The GEM is here. 

I came to this realization while recently attending a luncheon honoring a fabulous GEM friend and cancer survivor. This event raised millions for the fight against breast cancer — providing access to advanced diagnostic equipment, innovative clinical research, and most importantly, safe, quality, compassionate care for those fighting cancer. Awesome. The theme was about acknowledging all that cancer brings: anger, fear, hope, love, courage, commitment and acknowledging that together we are strong and together we can do it. I expected that. But as I pushed around the almonds on my banquet arugula salad, something rocked me like a hurricane.

I experienced something profound. And unexpected.

As I listened to the stories of others affected by cancer, I became overwhelmed by a sense of immeasurable gratitude. Gratitude for the experience fighting cancer brought me. For the incredible care I was afforded in Dallas. The love and care shown me by friends. This support system is the reason I survived. The reason I thrive.


Fighting cancer impacted my life in 3 three ways:

  1. Made me more grateful and mindful of the blessings in my life: My husband who is solid gold. My parents’ unwavering support. My cadre of Rockstar friends. My health. I FIND GRATITUDE in every moment. That kind of positive perspective changes the reality of things.
  2. Changed how I responded to conflict. I breathe deep and know I will GATHER MY PEACE. Because at the end of the day, is it really worth it to stress and blow over big and small stuff? Hell no.
  3. Transformed how I looked at FOOD, and the POWER of it on my physical and mental health. The GEM is the manifestation of my new view on all that nourishes me.



To continue my cancer-free life, I now do these three things every day to launch a preemptive strike in the fight against the disease:

  1. Wake each morning to 32 oz. of water, deep breathing, and organic green tea. This routine includes listing three things I am grateful for. This changes my situational perspective. (Here’s one way you can use your morning routine to brighten your day.)
  2. Surround myself with shiny, happy people and places that lift me up. I find all of that
    inside The GEM community!
  3. Eat GREEN and CLEAN. Drink my celery juice first thing. By 11 a.m., I’ve already knocked back a kickass cup of MVP soup. (That means I’ve had seven servings of veggies before noon!). You can start by adding one extra green to every meal. It makes a big difference in my energy, mood, and waistline.


The truth is I’m grateful for what cancer has done in my life and the person I’ve become. Cancer does define me. And I’m proud of that. Thanks for allowing me to be honest. With you. With myself.

34 thoughts on “Cancer DOES Define Me

  1. Eugenia

    Love this Leslie!
    Thank you for sharing and sharing all the benefits it has brought you. Grateful for all those you have impacted!

  2. Peggy Corrao

    You are a polished and shining star, dear one. You have a rare patina, and have earned it the hard way, perhaps the only way. The tiny etches in patina give depth. That is you, my friend, extended family, and mentor. Love you Leslie!

  3. Pam Ellerman

    Leslie- this a beautiful piece. I love the ah hah moments when the Lord just throws a realization at you. You are a fighter and have gifted so many with your knowledge and research and I am so grateful. Continue to do what you do! the GEM is amazing.

  4. Patricia Needleman

    You truly are my hero, along with that Goth creepy Halloween husband of Gold!!!!! Love y’all so much and am always so proud. I’m still working on the 32 oz. morning water, but l have the three gratitudes down and adding. Mimi S

  5. Cecilia

    Always love The Gem posts but this is a particularly amazin one! Couldn’t have said it better! You guys are such rock stars!!!

  6. Cheryl Karotkin

    Hi Leslie, I am so grateful to you for creating The Gem here in Dallas. I too am a cancer survivor but mine was ovarian cancer three years ago. You are so right about having a positive attitude and keeping all the negative things out of your life as well as having the wonderful support and love of your family and close friends. You Gem was where I stopped every week on my way home from chemo to get my green juice and smoothie. I love that you are now on Forrest lane!!
    Thank you for bringing healthy eating and truly great juice to us!!!

  7. Don Gillis

    Leslie you are an inspiration to us all!!! Even us men…
    I frequent The Gem 3 -5 times a week and its truly a safe haven for us all…..Such an Amazing Testimony!!! Thanks for bringing healthy eating to us!!!!

    1. diamondsonyourinside

      HI!! MVP (Mushroom Veggie Power) is an amazing pureed soup that 4-5 servings of veggies in it. Spinach, Kale, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Cabbage, Onions, Carrots, Ginger, and a pinch of cayenne. I put it in a cup and drink it daily. AMAZING!!

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