The Day I Got Cancer

Diana Keuilian skin cancerNo one thinks they’re going to get cancer, not really.

Sure, you know one or two poor souls who faced it. The diagnosis; the surgeries; the chemo. Some made it through and came out on the other side grateful and enlightened. And some didn’t make it through at all.

You frown and shake your head at such sad news. You shed tears and then you soldier on with the comforting thought that it won’t happen to you.

I certainly didn’t believe it would ever happen to me. Not me, with my passion for nutrition and exercise. Not me, with my love of healthy cooking and my mission to spread my hacked recipes across the globe. Not me, in my early thirties with two young children to raise. Someone else, sure, but it wouldn’t happen to me.

Until the day it did.

July 2nd, 2015 began like any other summer day. I woke up to sunlight spilling through a break in the curtains and a melody of chatter and laughter drifting up the stairs. The kids and dogs were already up.

I scrambled eggs and sliced mangoes. I answered emails and drank my coffee, enjoying the relaxed pace of summer vacation. With the holiday weekend approaching I jotted down a few new 4th of July recipe ideas, unaware that my life was about to be turned upside down.

An hour later I was mentally going through my gratitude list for the day as I warmed up on the treadmill. The kids were splashing around in the pool below my perch on the deck and the day was just starting warm up. That’s when my cell phone rang.

It was my doctor’s office, where I had gone for a routine checkup three days earlier. The woman on the phone was saying that my doctor wanted to share some results with me in person. Immediately.

My mind raced as I arranged for a babysitter and took a quick shower. I’m healthy. I’m young. I take care of myself. What could possibly be wrong?

Diana, Andrew, Chloe Keuilian

Mother’s Day, 2015

By the time I was sitting in the sterile exam room I had convinced myself that the whole thing was probably a mix up. The nurse would walk in with a sheepish smile and an apology for disrupting my day.

Instead my doctor walked in with a grim face and the words that left her mouth were malignant melanoma.

Malignant melanoma. Malignant melanoma. Malignant melanoma. Malignant melanoma.

The words rattled around in my brain as she kept talking. I picked up on some of what she was saying. Clark level two. Surgery as soon as possible. Four inch wide local excision.

Fear coursed through me and my eyes started to well up.

Malignant melanoma. Malignant melanoma. Malignant melanoma. Malignant melanoma.

I wasn’t going to cry. Suddenly that was all that mattered. I couldn’t control the frightening turn my life had just taken but I would keep those tears from sliding down my face.

Thankfully B was next to me, asking questions and making sense out of what was happening.

I fought the tears off as the surgery was scheduled for after the holiday weekend. I fought the tears off as the doctor empathetically put her hand on my shoulder. I fought off the tears as she said the odds that the surgery would remove all of the cancer were in my favor. I fought off the tears as she added that there was always chemo and radiation to fall back on if the surgery didn’t remove it all.

Somehow my legs carried me from that exam room back to the car. And then the tears came in torrents.

Four days later I had surgery, leaving me with 16 staples across my very sore back. Three days later I received the liberating call that the surgery had been successful and all of the cancer was gone.

Tomorrow the staples will be removed and my life will continue. And yet if I hadn’t gone in for that routine skin check then in three years I’d have been dead. Before my son’s first day of middle school. Before my daughter’s first crush.

I never thought I’d be accosted by my mortality at the age of 34. Death is still fuzzy and distant, something to contemplate half a century from now, but not today.

Today is for raising my children and enjoying my marriage. For working hard and dreaming big. Today is for making a difference.

Keuilians 2014

Why do I share my story with you? For starters I’d like to encourage you to go for routine skin checks, like the one that saved my life. Will you have melanoma? Chances are you won’t, but then I never expected to have it either.

If you’ve ever had a sun burn, used a tanning bed or have a family history of skin cancers then you are at higher risk. I had all three risk factors.

I also wanted to share with you my diet strategies for disease prevention. I’m now nine times more likely to have melanoma again, so I’m eating in an even more health conscious manner than before.

These 5 strategies are aimed at keeping the body alkaline and disease free in order to promote healthy cells.

  1. Fresh Pressed Juice: I’ve always loved green juice, and now my diet includes two fresh pressed glasses of kale, spinach, beet greens, carrot, green apple and ginger each day. The concentration of nutrients in the fresh pressed juice help strengthen immunity, and the natural vitamins and minerals from pressed produce is easily and completely absorbed by the body. Some of the most harmful additions to our diets come in the form of drinks, so by making a point to drink fresh pressed juice your bumping out a few harmful drinks from your day in addition to getting all of the nutritional benefits of the juice.
  1. Vitamin C: Vitamin C is key in boosting your immune system as well as in making collagen. Part of my disease prevention diet is daily supplementation of vitamin C.
  1. NO Artificial Sweeteners: Those darn artificial sweeteners have a way of creeping into my diet, especially with the draw of zero-calorie, sugar-free. Since facing down a cancer diagnosis it’s been quite simple for me to quit these nasty chemicals. Study after study proves that artificial sweeteners are harmful and do not promote good health.
  1. LOTS of Spring Water: Most of us live our lives in a state of chronic dehydration. In addition to other problems, this puts a strain on our organs and leaves us tired. Most bottled waters are simply tap water, which contain numerous toxins. Spring water is the best option for toxin-free water, and drinking plenty of it throughout the day helps keep all of your organs functioning well.
  1.  Real Healthy Recipes: You know me from my Real Healthy Recipes blog and The Recipe Hacker Cookbook, where I remove grains, gluten, dairy soy and cane sugar from traditional, favorite foods. I truly believe in this whole foods way of eating and in the synergistic power of eating a diet of real food. I know that eating this way is a sure way to supply your body with the vital nutrients it needs to prevent many, many forms of disease.

My continued mission is to create and share recipes that make eating healthy fun and exciting. I want to live a long, healthy and productive life…and I want the same for you.

Until next time…keep up your healthy cooking and eating!

Happy Cooking 🙂
Diana Keuilian

PS: Go get your skin checked. Be proactive with your health. Enjoy wholesome food daily. Drink lots of spring water. Hold your loved ones close. xo Diana


  • Patricia July 27, 2015 at 2:57 am

    Thinking of you and your family as you go through your battle with cancer. You have touched many luves with your story and with all your wonderful recipes.

    • Diana July 28, 2015 at 3:15 am

      Thank you Patricia 🙂

  • Kariane July 28, 2015 at 9:11 pm

    That is so scary. A big virtual hug to you.

    I went through the same thing at 23; thankfully it was all removed and hasn’t returned. May your prognosis be as bright.

    • Diana July 29, 2015 at 7:53 pm

      Thanks, Kariane. That’s so good to hear. I’ve had many melanoma survivors emailing me since my diagnosis and it’s so encouraging! I’m glad to hear that yours hasn’t returned and hopefully mine won’t either 🙂

  • Mary Kay McGowan August 6, 2015 at 4:38 am

    Thank you for the courage to share your scary melanoma story with us so soon after you went through it. My mom got that same telephone call in 1978 when I was in eighth grade and the call came the day before we were scheduled to fly to Ireland for a month long summer vacation. We chose not to go and my mom had a progressed stage of melanoma but miraculously they got it all and she’s now 84. I know her faith and goodness helped her through and I know you are here for a righteous purpose to help so many get on track with honoring our bodies. Thank you so much and I will pray for your continued good health.

    • Diana August 10, 2015 at 10:48 pm

      Thank you so much for sharing this amazing story of your mother’s triumph over melanoma. It’s so comforting to hear how others have faced the diagnosis, gone through treatment and went on to live long, productive lives! I really appreciate your comment so much 🙂

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