Thrive by IU Health

Author, scholar, yoga instructor: ‘I have cancer and I have a purpose.’

IU Health Simon Cancer Center

Author, scholar, yoga instructor: ‘I have cancer and I have a purpose.’

She received her cancer diagnosis in 2018. Since then, Karrah Teruya has been in and out of remission and treatment. Cancer won’t stop her from setting and fulfilling goals.

By TJ Banes, IU Health Senior Journalist, tfender1@iuhealth.org

In a submission to “Elephants and Tea Magazine,” Karrah Teruya wrote: “Cancer definitely hasn’t been a cake walk. I have learned a lot about the goals I set for myself and the expectations that I should keep in check.”

The magazine is written for and by adolescent and young adult patients, survivors, and caregivers who face “The Elephant in the room” - cancer. At the age of 29, Teruya was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. Now at age 34, she shares the peaks that got her through many valleys.

“If I was ever going to move forward, I had to stop looking back. It was only going to cause me more grief. I had to stop missing my ‘old self,’” she writes. That “old self” was someone who had rarely been sick in her life. Since her diagnosis, she has undergone chemotherapy, immunotherapy, a stem cell transplant, remission, reoccurrence, and numerous hospital stays. She credits IU Health’s Dr. Larry Cripe with propelling her forward and Dr. Jennifer Schwartz for helping her manage her chronic and acute symptoms.

In addition to her publication in “Elephants and Tea Magazine,” Teruya has authored a blog:
Brave Blood: I beat cancer three times. Now I’m trying to survive the cure.”

In her blog she writes: “This was a club I never wanted to be a part of and I was going to do anything to avoid membership. I didn’t want the t-shirt, the sticker, or the ribbon. I wasn’t going to become the girl who ‘beat cancer.” I was running away from that stereotype as fast as I could. . . . At times I felt that I could almost shift the negative energy when it got so hard.”

She writes as a way to show others that she is transparent about her diagnosis. She writes to show she has purpose and some control over her life.

Teruya is married to Micah, a man she enjoys traveling with and experiencing different cultures. She has continued to explore new places including Italy and her husband’s native Hawaii. Hiking, backpacking, scuba diving, hanging with her dogs and yoga have also given her focus.

Through the IU Health Cancer Support groups, Teruya met Certified Yoga Instructor Katarina Svabcikova.

“The support group has been amazing. It can’t take my symptoms away but it can give me strategies to cope, manage symptoms, and help ease suffering,” said Teruya. The “First Monday Cancer Support Group” will meet virtually and in-person, February 5. In-person begins at 5 p.m. with a light dinner in the Cancer Pavilion Atrium at University Hospital. Groups meet from 6-7:30 p.m. For more information: CompleteLife@iuhealth.org or 317-944-0301.

As Teruya began to learn more about mindfulness, she completed training and became a certified yoga instructor. Her goal is to work with oncology patients in the area of restorative yoga therapy.

“I want to draw a focus to mindfulness and awareness,” said Teruya. “I sat with this emotion and now how can I channel it? I can read and write and there are things I can do to help people be creative. It can be a beautiful gift. I may never have started writing or yoga if I hadn’t sought a way to channel my feelings of cancer. It won’t change your disease but it will show you how to mange it and be life giving and give you peace and to understand that healing is a process not a destination.”

And that’s not all she’s accomplished.

With a keen interest in healthcare, Teruya pursued a Master of Health Administration and was named “Graduate Student of the Year” by Purdue University’s Department of Public Health.

“It was very humbling and amazing to be named ‘Graduate Student of the Year.” Even though it’s not my fault that I have cancer, it was frustrating because no matter how well I ate, exercised or took care of myself, it couldn’t make cancer go away. This was affirmation that I could move forward with my life,” said Teruya.

“At this point, I see more doctors and have more appointments than I did when I was first diagnosed. I am unemployed so the healthcare professionals have become my friends and my family. They’ve shown empathy and helped me process so much - from insurance, to support groups, to specialists,” said Teruya. “I don’t know how much I will work in health administration, but I have a better understanding of the healthcare field and I’d love to someday create a foundation to help a caretaker or cancer patient move forward with additional training. I know how important my doctors and nurses have been to me.”

Previous stories: 

Patient: ‘I beat cancer three times, now I’m trying to survive the cure’ - She never wanted to be defined by cancer. She never wanted to be known as “the girl who beat cancer.” When she learned she couldn’t run from her reality, Karrah Teruya recorded her journey in a blog.

Tags:

Cancer

Related Services

Featured Providers

Jennifer E. Schwartz, MD

Bone Marrow Transplant

Larry D. Cripe, MD

Hematology - Oncology

View More Providers