Journey to a ‘Crazy Perfect Life.’
Dara Kurtz thought she was living the life of her dreams, until a breast cancer diagnosis changed everything.
Dara Kurtz beat cancer, and it changed her life.
She was 42 years old at the time of her diagnosis — a successful financial adviser and a married mother of two girls, ages 11 and 14. She had the life she thought she wanted. Then, she found a lump and was thrust into a battle with stage 2 breast cancer.
“Fortunately, I heard the voice in my head say, ‘You need to get that checked out.’ Thank God I listened to that voice and didn’t put it off,” she said.
Knowledge is power
Kurtz believes knowledge is power, particularly when it comes to your health, and early diagnosis afforded her greater options in beating cancer. But she was still facing a fight.
“I was at the beginning of stage 2, so I had a lot going for me,” Kurtz said. “I was able to put together my team of doctors pretty quickly, and I knew I wanted to be treated as aggressively as possible. I also knew I was going to be treated at Novant Health Forsyth Medical Center.”
Under the care of Heather Shearer, MD, Kurtz had a double mastectomy with reconstruction, chemotherapy and radiation. She also elected to have a full hysterectomy. The process was painful and draining, both physically and emotionally, in part because she had been through a devastating battle with cancer before. Just a few weeks after Kurtz gave birth to her first daughter, she lost her mother to melanoma.
“The experience I’d had with my mom made my experience so much harder,” Kurtz said. “I hadn’t dealt with her death or my grief or the pain, and I had a lot of guilt because my diagnosis was so much better than hers. I also felt really guilty my daughters had to watch me go through everything involved in battling cancer. I know how hard it is to be a daughter in the world without your mom. That was following me around the entire time. I kept thinking, ‘How is this happening to me and my family when my kids are so young?’”
‘This holy moment’
Kurtz’s aggressive treatment regimen worked: She beat cancer, and her doctor told her she could get back to the business of living her life — which presented an entirely new challenge.
“I had no idea how to live anymore,” she said. “It was this holy moment. I knew I could either go back to the life I had before cancer, or I could do a lot of work on myself. I could make peace with my past and my journey and figure it all out and create the life of my dreams — the life I’d always wanted to have.”
Kurtz quit her job as a financial adviser. She read every book she could get her hands on. She started exercising and spending time in nature. She began practicing Kundalini yoga and meditation. She started working with two counselors. And she started her blog, Crazy Perfect Life.
Life in writing
Her blog was just the beginning.
In addition to building a large and loyal following through Crazy Perfect Life, Kurtz is now a published author — her dream since she was a girl. Her first book, “Crush Cancer,” allowed her to create the book she had needed on her journey through the disease and to help others who were on the same path. Her second book was inspired by a chance discovery on the 20th anniversary of her mother’s death.
“I found a bag of letters my mom had written to me from the age of 9 until I went to college. It had been in my house, and I had forgotten about it,” Kurtz said. “One night, I opened the bag, and I was blown away. It felt like I was having a conversation with my mom, like I could hear her voice and feel her personality. I got a much-needed dose of her wisdom.”
The messages provided inspiration for Kurtz’s latest book, “I Am My Mother’s Daughter,” which offers readers wisdom on life, loss and love and how to grow their relationships and forge deeper connections.
“It’s been such a joy to be able to help people connect more with the people they love and think about their legacy and how they want to live their life today,” Kurtz said.
What the future holds
On her website, Kurtz explains why she chose the title for her blog, Crazy Perfect Life: “It’s simple. Life is messy and full of ups and downs. At the same time, it’s precious and something to be cherished. My experiences have taught me what is truly important, and I don’t take my life for granted.”
To that end, Kurtz is now working on two new books, including her first work of fiction, and she is committed to using her experiences to help others.
“That’s something good that can come out of something bad. That’s really why I started my blog and why I started writing. I’m grateful to have this platform to be able to help people,” she said.
As part of her platform, she encourages women to take responsibility for their health and get regular mammograms.
“We’re so lucky we have the tools available to us to take care of ourselves and lucky we can find cancer early because early detection is the key,” Kurtz said. “Trust me, it’s a lot harder to have surgery and chemo and radiation than it is to schedule a doctor’s appointment. Put your health first. Make taking care of your health a priority.”
Access to quality care is also critical and should be available to patients across our community, she said.
“It’s not enough to just diagnose the problem. We have to be willing to take the care to that next level because, if we’re going to find it but people don’t have the ability to get treated, then we haven’t really done our job,” Kurtz said. “How amazing is it that Novant Health is actively going out into our communities and serving people who wouldn’t have the time or the financial ability to get this test done on their own? We know we can save lives when we do that.”
You can do your part to save lives, too, with a contribution through Novant Health Forsyth Medical Center Foundation. A gift of $250 can provide a mammogram to a woman in need. Don’t wait. Lend your support today!
You can purchase a signed copy of Dara Kurtz’s latest book, “I Am My Mother’s Daughter,” at Bookmarks located at 632 W. Fourth St., #110 in Winston-Salem. You can also purchase it via the Bookmarks website and on Amazon.