Not Dead Yet

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The cancer journey can introduce many changes into a patient's life, creating new obstacles and challenges for them to endure. But taking on a new life philosophy may be able to support patients in managing these difficulties and gaining a healthy perspective on the life that they have.

Life on Pause is a podcast created by and for young adults living with cancer. Within this episode, host Brady Lucas is joined by guest Cayla Conover. Cayla is a trauma surgical ICU nurse who is experiencing stage four colon cancer. As an individual who has experience with caregiving and receiving cancer treatments, Cayla shares her perspective on how to navigate these challenging positions and how to maintain a celebratory mindset throughout the cancer journey.

Listen to Brady and Cayla discuss the cancer experience:

Past and Present (0:30)

Medicine has always been part of Cayla's life as a trauma surgical ICU who was raised by parents in the medical field. She shares what inspired her to become a nurse after studying for a bachelor's degree in public health. Cayla describes how her experience doing research with trauma patients and nurses in action influenced her decision to go into nursing. Additionally, she shares her medical history before receiving her stage four colon cancer diagnosis in July of 2021.

Symptoms to a Diagnosis (2:59)

Symptoms should always be taken seriously and addressed as soon as possible. Cayla shares the symptoms she experienced leading up to her cancer diagnosis, including persistent abdominal pain in her late 20s. By sharing this information with listeners, she hopes to raise awareness about her condition and inspire others to advocate for themselves and their medical needs.

In the Family (8:17)

Cayla has her own medical knowledge and experience throughout her career and comes from a family with a medical background as well. She explains how her experience may have differed from other patients due to her background in medicine when understanding her initial diagnosis and comprehending the severity of her illness. Cayla also expresses her desire for improvement within the healthcare system and the struggles of trying to advocate for yourself when the healthcare system often fails to take symptoms seriously.

Using Humor (10:23)

"Moby Debt" is the name that Cayla gave to her tumor, and she often uses humor as a coping method through her cancer experience and to help her process her illness. Additionally, she explains how she used humor to cope as a nurse to handle uncomfortable situations within her experience as a healthcare professional. She and Bradley also bond on the idea of humor as a protective mechanism for cancer patients, enabling them to make jokes about themselves as a way to control the narrative and conversation surrounding their diagnosis.

"Not Dead Yet" (12:41)

Throughout the interview, Cayla often uses the phrase "not dead yet," which represents how she lives her life. She shares with listeners how the phrase originated as a reason to celebrate life and life's good days while you have them. Cayla says that she feels like she has embraced this idea of not being dead yet, and wishes to live as much life as possible and celebrate every good day she has.

Cayla's Life Philosophy (14:49)

Cayla believes that listeners, whether they're cancer patients or not, can benefit by adopting her life philosophy of "not dead yet." She shares her thoughts on the importance of getting out of your head, taking life's unexpected events into perspective, and trying to live and experience your life fully when you have it. She urges listeners to appreciate life, finds the little things that bring joy, be with the ones you love, and make memories.

Staying In Tune (16:27)

Before her diagnosis, Cayla was passionate about fitness. But now, her relationship with fitness and wellness has changed. She explains that the progression of her disease and recovery from surgery has made her feel less inclined to work out. Rather than let this disappoint her, it gave her a new perspective on trying to honor what her body wants and needs. She has also changed her relationship with food, now eating what feels good. She emphasizes the importance of staying in tune with your body, listening to its needs, and taking each day as it comes.

Stage Four (20:11)

Cayla is at a stage of her cancer diagnosis where it has progressed, requiring her to receive palliative chemo and move in the direction of indirectly planning the end of her life. She takes this opportunity within the podcast to share her thoughts on this stage in her life and things that she would like the world to know about her, her life, and her story.

Advice (21:49)

Cayla provides her advice for young adults diagnosed with metastatic disease, including seeking second opinions, handling loneliness throughout the cancer experience, maintaining the perspective that each type of cancer is different, and stage four is not a death sentence. She also urges young adults with cancer to bond and speak with other young adults who have shared and understand the cancer experience.

Realistic and Hopeful (23:56)

Caregiving is a challenging job, and caregivers need just as much support as the cancer patients that they assist. Cayla shares her advice for caregivers and care providers working with patients diagnosed with severe illnesses as someone who has experienced both roles as a caregiver and patient. She speaks about the difficulty for caregivers to stay realistic about the patient's health while maintaining hope and positivity. She also suggests that caregivers find helpful resources, share their feelings and needs with others, and maintain a good support system.

Cancer Resources (28:03)

Cayla has utilized several resources throughout her colon cancer journey to gain support. She shares resources that have been most valuable to her through her cancer experience and how other organizations and people have helped her each step of the way. Additionally, Cayla provides suggestions for other patients and caregivers looking for cancer resources.

Advocacy (31:01)

Cayla wishes to continue to advocate with her time left. She shares her next steps within the advocacy space, like raising cancer awareness through social media. She also hopes to support the development of the adolescent and young adult program at Penn State and create outreach to serve this community and help other young adults living with cancer.

39 episodes