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A death-defying dive into life


Photo: Julia Fullerton-Batten

If you ask me, there’s nothing worse than jumping off a high dive. Unless you are pushed. And that’s exactly what cancer is like.

I wasn’t ready to dive into the chilling waters of breast cancer. Swim through weeks of radiation. Or tread through years of meds. I found myself looking out over the deep end of worry and fear, then suddenly, I was plunging in.

Growing up, I was the kid at Tanglewood Swim Club who would climb to the top of the high dive, walk to the end, and then stand there for what seemed like hours, staring at the water and contemplating my fate. Which, of course, was always death.

If you jump from something this high, I reasoned, you’ll die. It was that simple.


“High Dive” by Norman Rockwell

Day after day I would face My Giant. Today’s the day, I’d tell myself.

But no matter how stalwart my resolve, I always came to the same conclusion. And I’d climb down and make everyone waiting on the ladder behind me, climb down, too.

I knew they resented me, the girl in the pink polka-dot two piece. I was a wimp. A nerd. A scaredy cat. (It did help that my handsome older brother was a lifeguard and surely saved me from some terrible fate.)

But this post is not about cancer or dying. It’s about living. Here’s what I’ve learned.

It was my unexpected dive into cancer that taught me to have faith. To trust. When you’re on your way down, the best place to look is up.


Secondly, it taught me that there really is a fate worse than death. And that is to never really live at all.

So I began living. Wide-eyed-in-your-face-out-loud-living. And that is when some of my great adventures began.

First, there was Paris (my post-radiation trip—thank you, Stephen).


Then Rwanda, the Land of a Thousand Hills.


In a few weeks I’m heading to London for my five-year survivor trip (I fancy being the cheeky blonde, below, second from the right).


But my newest and most fearful adventure is Defying Small, the online community I recently founded for visionaries who are daring to live bigger, more passionate lives. People like Torre DeRoche (you go, girl!) the #fearfuladventurer herself.

This summer I will be writing a book called Defying Small: How Defining Life Moments Can Help You Live A Bigger, More Passionate Life. I’m terrified. I also can’t wait to get out of bed every morning.

I’ve come a long way since those climbs up the ladder of the high dive back in my hometown.

Now, whenever I look over the terrifying precipice of my latest adventure and contemplate my fate, I simply shout “Let’s go, baby!” and dive right in.

Love with a Chance of Drowning – A Memoir by Torre DeRocheThis post is part of the My Fearful Adventure series, which is celebrating the launch of Torre DeRoche’s debut book Love with a Chance of Drowning, a true adventure story about one girl’s leap into the deep end of her fears.

“Wow, what a book. Exciting. Dramatic. Honest. Torre DeRoche is an author to follow.” Australian Associated Press

“… a story about conquering the fears that keep you from living your dreams.”

“In her debut, DeRoche has penned such a beautiful, thrilling story you’ll have to remind yourself it’s not fiction.” Courier Mail

Find out more…

16 Comments Post a comment
  1. Dive right in, Laura! Congratulations to you on both your survival and giving a voice to the power of the human spirit. I hope you have a great time in London.

    May 30, 2013
    • Thank you, Christy. You’re a dear. Keep being you! Hopping across The Pond today . . . cheerio!

      June 11, 2013
  2. Gilles Allain #

    Great post Laura. Thank you so much for sharing. I also started making huge changes in my life after the passing of my mother in August, 2011 after two massive heart attacks within a week. I started losing weight last year (32 lbs) due to better nutrition and portion control. I also started fitness training, running and biking. I have trained and run 10k and 15k races since the fall and am now regularly going out for 25-40k bike rides. My goal is to train and complete a half marathon before my 50th birthday next January. This spring, I started working with a life coach and have started doing away with accumulated mental clutter that has been hampering my personal growth for decades. I am a work in progress!

    May 30, 2013
    • Gilles, don’t know how I missed this! I’m so sorry! Thank you for sharing your amazing story . . . so inspirational! Good for you for having the courage to let those defining moments push you into a bigger, more passionate life. Way to Defy Small! I hope your training is going well for that half marathon and I look forward to seeing pics of you at the finish line! Take care! Laura

      December 26, 2013
  3. Love this post, Laura! And what a story about the death-defying dive into life! You’re such an inspiration–can’t wait to read your book! 🙂

    May 30, 2013
    • Thanks so much, Jacqueline. Keep on cheering and telling your stories. Have fun in Mexico! I’m off to lovely London! 🙂

      June 11, 2013
  4. Thank you for “inspiring” & “be-friending” me. Your blog above shows how you’ve come around some tough years and you look forward, not backward. You know that taking along too much luggage weighs you down and have learned to pack lightly. Your cherished items are all about dreaming well, living well, loving well, & doing good.

    May 30, 2013
    • Merci, sweet friend. Love you across The Pond and back! Packing light . . . cheerio! 😀

      June 11, 2013
  5. Go on girl. Keep diving

    May 31, 2013
  6. “I’m terrified. I also can’t wait to get out of bed every morning.”
    How many people are terrified and so they DON’T get out of bed every morning? Good for you!

    My mom is a 26 year survivor from stage 4 breast cancer. Anything is possible. Can’t wait to read about your adventures! (And you should definitely go buy yourself a darling orange coat and boots!)

    June 4, 2013
    • Thank you for your kind words, Carmel. So true! And what wonderful news about your mom! Off to London today . . . wish me luck finding that orange coat! Take care, L.

      June 11, 2013
  7. So inspiring, Laura. My aunt also tells me that her breast cancer taught her to live. “I’m so appreciative of that cancer,” she said to my amazement. These stories are so cathartic to read. Thank you for sharing it.

    June 11, 2013
    • Thank you, Torre. I feel so blessed to have amazing stories to tell. Off to London! Cheerio!

      June 11, 2013

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  1. Your Fearful Adventures
  2. Words on the Web: 19 May to 9 June 2013

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