Cancer Saved My Life by Chaya Lev | Inspiring Story #18 - Daily Inspired Life

Cancer Saved My Life by Chaya Lev | Inspiring Story #18

Chaya ... cancer survivor living in Israel

A true inspirational story of breast cancer survival  ... 

“So many of us look at life through a peephole, but what we don't realize is there is a window to life… open the curtains and live fully."  

I sat in the cold hospital room.  The grey curtains covered the window in front of me.  I couldn’t see outside.  All I could see were dull plastered walls and clinical white floors.  I didn’t care.  The nurse administering the chemo looked at me and smiled.  It was my first session, and her eyes told me this wasn’t going to be an easy journey.   

Just forty years old.  A few weeks earlier, I had booked an appointment with my doctor for a ‘routine’ breast examination (who even made the word ‘routine’ up).  At that time, everything in my life felt routine.  I was overweight and over-stressed.  

I was living in the shadow of happiness.  Really, I had a false sense of happiness; the idea that was beaten into my mind from childhood - that if you are successful and have a white picket fence, then nothing else mattered … What a wake-up call I got.  One that forever changed my life.

The Wake-Up Call

I expected the breast examination to just be routine.  No problem.  I was young, and there was no incidence of cancer in my family for at least five generations.  My doctor sat across from me; he looked concerned.  “Chaya, we need to do a biopsy.  Something doesn’t look right”.  Two days later, I got the call.  It was my doctor.  “Chaya, you need to come in.”

THE BIOPSY revealed that I had stage two, grade three, breast cancer. WHOA… WHO?  NOT ME.  NEVER.  I had no idea that MY JOURNEY INTO LIFE would BEGIN AT THAT very MOMENT.

chaya - breast cancer survivor Israel

"I looked at the lady sitting across from me. She had an energy that could bring the whole room into sadness. "

I sat there in that hospital room, looking around at the other cancer patients.  We were all going through the same ordeal.  Tired, stressed, sick, dying.  

Then there was this moment.  I looked up and saw a sliver of light streaming through an opening in the curtains.  I thought to myself, “I’m not dead. I'm alive! And while I’m alive, I must LIVE!”

I looked at the lady sitting across from me.  She had an energy that could bring the whole room into sadness.  Her Head slumped down, and her whole body was saying to the world that “it was over”.   I wanted to shout out.  “Look lady, right now we are alive.  Let’s live while we are alive!”  After my infusion, I walked over to her.  I bent down, looked into her sad eyes and whispered in her ear. “It’s not over.  This is only the beginning.”

I had no idea how important those words would be.  Until this day, I live my life with that sentence in mind.  Because I believe it.

Before I left the hospital room, I walked over to the window and slowly pulled back the curtains with what energy I had.  Light came streaming into the room.  Hallelujah! My journey into life had begun.  

Journey Into Life - Not Without Challenges

There were so many challenges to overcome on my journey into life.   There was the …

cancer survivor

Chemotherapy, and the chemotherapy with a broken port that burned my skin
and almost killed me,
and the radiation treatment and a bilateral mastectomy,
and many missed baseball games for my son,
and a crumbling marriage that wouldn’t last the battle with me.

So much pain, so much struggle.  But I came out of the battle with a clear sense of who I am.  I wanted to live a fulfilled life.  It was time to live fully.   

As my chemotherapy and radiation treatment came to an end, I left America and made a move to Israel.  I had a dream to live in Israel, so I did.  I moved to a small beach town in the North.  Later, I longed for more adventure.  I longed to live where I truly belonged, Tel Aviv, Israel.  

Everyday An Adventure

Now every day of my life is an adventure.  Ordering coffee and speaking to interesting people is an adventure.  Going to the post office and finding new doctors (most of the time in my new language) is an adventure.  

I'm single.  I'm dating with my new body, and it's so much fun and definitely an adventure.  New friends.  Tons of beach time and meeting new people.  I have four jobs, and together, they allow me to have freedom.  One of my jobs is as a Zumba-style dance teacher.  For me, dance and travel have been great healers.  I'm even doing comedy here and there.

I feel more alive post-cancer than I have ever felt. Mainly because I refuse to look through that peephole that many of us have been conditioned to live … well, until something happens that moves us to open the curtains and see life in full view.    

zumba dancing in israel

Yes, I have faced many challenges along the way, but these setbacks make me feel alive and bring adventure and healing into my life.  That’s the lens I see my challenges through.  I AM DETERMINED to see the beauty in everything because my eyes are wide open.

As I live my life in fullness, I receive constant reminders that I am a survivor.  But more importantly, there is this energy that says, “Girl ... YOU MUST LIVE. YOU MUST LOVE AND YOU MUST JUST BE UNAPOLOGETICALLY YOU.“ 

Follow Chaya's Journey On Instagram:


Photography By:  
Elisa Ruth Szklanny

Share the Inspiration
  • […] Chaya writes beautifully about her experience of breast cancer diagnosis and treatment. Where most people may expect to crumble and be filled with negativity when receiving news about ill-health, for Chaya it was like an awakening. The way she writes is so inspiring and encouraging, it is like a call to all women to live their lives fully and with joy and pleasure. Chaya shows us that self love is a tool to get us through life’s hard times. Thank you Chaya!  […]

  • judean says:

    This entire read is truly inspiring. I love the quote in the beginning because it is so true! Peepholes are common. However, we all have windows and we should realize that hope and life is greater than a small hole.

  • Ngozi says:

    This is such an inspirational story. This lady is living her dreams after going through the fire. So amazing.

  • How wonderful! And powerful! And true! My mum is a breast cancer survivor too, it really is eye-opening! You are a survivor, that says it all! Continue to live life to the fullest!

  • Whoa!! Talk about goosebumps! What an empowering message. I went through an unbelievable cancer situation last summer and I had a similar mindset outcome. Thank you for sharing! ❤️

  • IdaraJoy says:

    Such an amazing story to pick me up and get me back to what is most important. Thank you for sharing your journey.

  • Puja Kumari says:

    Very motivational and inspiring story. Thanks for sharing.

  • Such an emotional story. I’m glad you won this battle and that you are much happy now. Is not easy to open up and share your life experience as you did. Wish you perfect health dear!

  • Nkem says:

    I love how she looks at her story and ongoing journey as an adventure! It’s inspiring!

  • Phylecia M says:

    Your story with overcoming cancer was truly aspirational. Thank you for sharing your journey with us.

  • Nishtha says:

    Very inspiring and encouraging post! Thank you for sharing! Wishing lots of love, encouragement and positivity! You are a survivor and it’s an eye opener how you enjoy life more when you come close to a disease or sickness! Have a great life!

  • Heather says:

    Such an amazing story! Truly inspirational, thank you.

  • Learning is essential for life, and with all the ups and downs in life we learn so much each day.

    Thanks for sharing 👍

  • Cristina Petrini says:

    It is a very true story, strong and suggestive. Inhale and fill your soul, in short, having a mother who suffered from the same illness you moved me.

  • […] around the lake a couple months before. I was just finishing up with treatments for stage three breast cancer when we started these walks.  My body was weak and sore.  My mind was foggy and […]

  • Kate Findley says:

    Wow, what an amazing story! And your metaphor sums it up so beautifully –so many of us do live life through a peephole. It is not until we are faced with the prospect of losing that life that we realize just how precious life is and how much more we can be embracing our life.

  • Ya says:

    Truly inspirational & I love your pictures. God Bless!

  • Thank you for sharing. Such an inspiration and so much take away.

  • Inspirational read and you are so brave I have a friend who had breast cancer and I admire and respect anyone going through this

  • Phoebe says:

    What an inspirational post! I would love to hear more about you being a Zumba teacher as that is one of my goals to check off on my bucket list! How long have you been living in Tel Aviv for?

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    karletta marie - daily inspired life

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    Hi, I'm karletta marie.

    JOIN and get your free digital magazine with inspiring stories straight to your inbox PLUS tools to start creating your beautiful life.