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3 Ways I Practice Self-Care as a Cancer Survivor

Posted by Arona Martin on
3 Ways I Practice Self-Care as a Cancer Survivor

By Vanessa E. Steil

In 2013, at the age of 26, my whole world changed in an instant. With just a few words from my doctor, I went from a carefree millennial to a thyroid cancer patient. It wasn’t a particular symptom that even brought me to the doctor in the first place. Actually, I had no symptoms to indicate that something was wrong with me at all. Instead, I had gone to see my gynecologist for my routine annual exam and he asked if he could perform a neck check. Perplexed by the question coming from my doctor, I had no idea at the time how grateful I would be for his thoroughness.

cancer survivor, Vanessa Steil sitting on bench at park

(Photo Credit: Diana Davis Creative)

Now, six-years post-thyroid cancer, I look at my life and health very differently. After undergoing a total thyroidectomy in June 2013, I started my lifestyle and wellness site, Living in Steil. Through my blog, I built a community of health and wellness-minded people who have helped me along on my road to recovery. My thyroid cancer diagnosis taught me to be more proactive about my health and I learned to listen to my body.

Here’s how I practice self-care as a thyroid cancer survivor:

Yoga: While I’ve always been an active person (I was an ice skater as a child and a competitive equestrian growing up), I didn’t commit to a yoga practice until after my diagnosis. Feeling like I needed to keep up with my workouts after surgery, I began going to yoga classes at my local Lululemon store and was able to make a seamless connection between my mind and body (something that kept me from practicing yoga consistently in the past). Through blogging I was fortunate enough to connect with Fern Olivia, an amazing holistic health practitioner, who created a series of sequences called Thyroid Yoga. Through her teachings, I have been learned about thyroid health, supported my Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis (an autoimmune condition), and feel better overall.

woman practicing yoga outside

(Photo Credit: Diana Davis Creative)

Meditation: While going through my thyroid cancer diagnosis and surgery, I struggled with anxiety. I had suffered with anxiety in the past, but always felt like I was still control. But after my diagnosis things were different. In an effort to become more in touch with my body, I started meditating with the Calm app. Soon, the soothing 10-minute meditation became a part of my nightly routine and I was able to shake the stress of the day and sleep better, too. It not only gave me a way to cope with anxiety when I would experience an attack, but it helped with scanxiety—the very real fear cancer survivors face when they have to go for an upcoming scan.

Journaling also helps too! I wish I had this during my battle. 

Love Heals Journal

Essential Oils: Through yoga and meditation, I began learning about essential oils. One of my favorite blends to use is from Fern Olivia’s Ajai Alchemy line, which is made with therapeutic grade ingredients and each blend is blessed with the Ajai Alai sound current. I have been using Grace Alchemy, an essential oil with Egyptian rose geranium, patchouli, and Australian sandalwood for a few years now, and I feel like it is my signature scent. The light and soothing fragrance is perfect for applying before meditation, at the office, or right before bed. If you’re looking to learn more about how to use essential oils to support thyroid health, read Fern’s post for some pointers.

essential oils

A cancer diagnosis showed me how important it is to take care of yourself and check in with how you are doing both physically and mentally. Self-care looks different to everyone. Some people may feel that going to the gym is the best way to show their body some love, while others may prefer something slightly more relaxing. However you view taking care of yourself, remember that you are your own top priority and self-care is not selfish, but rather necessary to ensure your own health and well-being.


Guest Blog Post by the lovely Vanessa Steil.

Keep up with Vanessa on Instagram: @livinginsteil.



Big Hug Lap Blanket Love Heals Journal


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