In the spring of 2013, Dara Kurtz was living the life she dreamed of. She was a financial advisor and mother of two with a packed calendar of events and outings to look forward to.

“I juggled work, social life, as well as both of my daughter’s school activities, with perfection as the goal,” said Kurtz.

Then came breast cancer. She was 42.

“After finding a lump in my breast and being told that I was going to have to take on a battle against stage 2 breast cancer,” said Kurtz, who lives in Winston-Salem. “I realized that I had to hit the pause button on my life.”

She took sick leave from the bank where she’d worked for more than 20 years to take care of her health full-time. Kurtz watched her new life unfold before her eyes.

Forming a team

Dr. Heather Shearer

The hospital quickly became her safe space. “As I began to focus on my new plan of having surgery, going to chemo and radiation at the hospital quickly became the place where I felt secure,” said Kurtz. “I began to become friends with the nurses, nurse navigators and even my oncologist, Dr. Heather Shearer, because there became such a feeling of protection there. In fact, I tell cancer patients, in my book Crush Cancer, that the best way for you to get through this difficult experience is to form a team of health care providers that you have the utmost trust and faith in.”

New journey begins

After being treated at Novant Health Forsyth Medical Center and going into remission, it was then that Kurtz would discover the toughest part of her cancer journey. “I finished my radiation session, and several of my doctors kept telling me, ‘Dara you’re done. Congratulations. Go back to living your life,’” said Kurtz.

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Easier said than done. Cancer patients who’ve completed treatment often find themselves utterly lost when the process is over.

She thought she’d be excited. Instead, she was afraid. “When it’s over, you are suddenly forced to step back and take stock of knowing that there was a time when cancer was in my body,” Kurtz said. She asked herself: “How do I move on with my life and not let the fear of ‘what if it happens again’ suck the joy out of being cancer-free and able to live my life?”

Kurtz came to the realization that she could either “stay in that space where fear and anxiety followed me around like my shadow, or I could grow into my new self and be the happiest version of me.”

After choosing the second route, which included a lot of meditation, yoga and counseling, Kurtz also began the journey toward a new career of making a difference. “After quitting my job, I started to think about ways to transform my cancer experience into something meaningful. And when I thought about the people who helped me most during my cancer journey, I realized that I wanted to do something to help other cancer patients and survivors,” Kurtz said.

Learning to survive and thrive

That’s when she started her blog, Crazy Perfect Life. “Writing is something that I have always been passionate about and realizing that sharing my own story could help others quickly led to a popular blog, a social media platform with over 200,000 followers, a speaking career and even two books,” she said.

Kurtz has also recently begun a series of workshops to help her fellow cancer survivors both survive and thrive through lessons that include proper self-care, focusing on positive thinking, living intentionally and so much more.

“For a long time, I wished that I could erase my cancer experience. Now I am at a place where I can say that I am stronger for it,” said Kurtz. “My hope is that I can help others do the same.”

Check out more about Dara Kurtz and her Crazy Perfect Life at Crazy Perfect Life.

Top photo left to right: Avi Kurtz, Dara Kurtz, and Zoe Kurtz.