Meet Vanessa Steil - A Thyroid Cancer Survivor
Posted on September 26 2018
How did you get started with your blog Living In Steil?
In 2014, I started my lifestyle blog, Living in Steil (pronounced “style”), after being diagnosed with thyroid cancer at the age of 26. After my diagnosis, I was seeking a creative outlet for myself, and one that could serve as a resource for other newly diagnosed patients. I learned a lot about thyroid cancer and treatment when I was going through my own diagnosis, and I decided to share the resources that I found as a way to help other patients cope with their own health condition. The site eventually turned into a lifestyle blog, and I now cover fashion, food, health and wellness topics, in addition to posts relating to thyroid disease and cancer.
What brought on your career change?
I quickly found that sharing my story was cathartic and helped me find my voice and passion for writing and social media, which eventually led to a career change. Through my blog, I was able to connect with a whole community of like-minded people, many of whom I would have never otherwise met. They have become a source of encouragement for me, as much as I hope I’ve been an inspiration for them. My passion for blogging and working as a cancer advocate eventually turned into a full-time position with a local cancer foundation in Long Island, New York where I am responsible for their social media platforms and public relations.
Tell us about your active interest in health & nutrition and what has helped you throughout your journey?
I’ve always enjoyed an active lifestyle. Growing up, I was a figure skater before eventually becoming a competitive equestrian. So, I was shocked when I my gynecologist found a lump on my thyroid during a neck check he performed as part of a routine annual exam. After my diagnosis, I slowly began to resume my regular fitness activities and started taking weekly kickboxing classes and practicing yoga regularly. Today, you can likely find me at a local vinyasa yoga class, pilates, or barre class. Yoga and meditation have guided me since my diagnosis and have taught me to live in the moment. They are both activities that I look forward to deepening my practice in.
My thyroid cancer diagnosis led me to take a more active interest in nutrition and what I put in my body. I have tried to be better about incorporating more fresh fruits and vegetables into my diet and to avoid sugar (as much as I love my sweets!) and processed food when possible. When it comes to nutrition, I like to remind myself that it is okay to be a masterpiece and a work in progress at the same time.
What are the ways that you continue to grow your effort in Thyroid Cancer Advocacy?
As a blogger, I use my platform to promote Thyroid Cancer Awareness Month in September and Thyroid Disease Awareness Month in January through posts on my site and social media platforms. I share my progress as a survivor with my readers and followers and also like to highlight other survivors’ stories. The Thyroid Cancer Survivors’ Association was such a vital resource for me in my journey and I like to support the organization as a member and with posts so that other patients know where to turn to find the information they need. I’ve shared my story on numerous outlets and I hope that whether someone has a thyroid condition or not, that I’ve educated them enough to be aware of the signs and symptoms to be on the lookout for, that they know to ask their doctor to run thyroid labs at their next appointment, and that they can properly perform a neck check themselves.
How can others get involved with this cause?
There are many ways that people can get involved and plenty of organizations that they can work with. Whether it’s volunteering their time, sharing their own story, or just posting a photo on their social media platforms, awareness efforts are vital. Even if you or someone you love hasn’t been personally affected, just being a sympathetic ear can go a long way for someone who has been recently diagnosed.
Do you have any advice for others going through their own journey at this time?
I would advise any newly diagnosed patient to be their own advocate and to get a second opinion, but not to turn their diagnosis into a ‘research project’—something I was also advised about when I learned the news. It’s important that you feel comfortable with your surgeon and the hospital where you will be treated and know that there are resources out there to help you with these decisions. I am forever indebted to the Thyroid Cancer Survivors’ Association for helping me through my diagnosis and for providing me with the information I sought as a newly diagnosed patient.