One of the intentions of Inspired To Health is to share amazing stories of healing and health. I’m honored and proud to share Diane Ippolito’s incredible story of how she reclaimed her health and overcame cancer, addiction and depression. She is passionate about helping others and expressing her creativity through photography.
Diane is a dear friend since junior high school. We spent many fun moments on and off the softball field. She continues to make me laugh and inspire me!
Transformations by Diane Ippolito
My story is far from a simple one but it is one of transformation. I’m 47 years old and a cancer survivor twice over. In 1988, I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. I was 20 at the time and about to enter my senior year of college. Thankfully, I had an amazing support system and completed my senior year with honors. My doctors wanted me to postpone my life and concentrate on the chemo and radiation treatments, but I knew how important it was to continue my life and to stay positive. In the end, I was asked to give our commencement speech at graduation and tried to convey how grateful I was to be in remission.
All was well until 1998. The treatments I had received almost 10 years earlier affected my autoimmune system. Within 10 months, I lost 120 lbs. I weighed 85 lbs., was tube fed, suffered seizures, severe neuropathy, orthostatic hypotension and horrible IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome). In a last ditch effort, I was flown to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. My mom was told to prepare for the worst. My dad came with me and we stayed there for two weeks while the doctors tried to figure out why my organs were shutting down so rapidly. No one wanted to admit that the chemo and radiation could be at the root of my illness. Dad and I flew back to Florida with little hope. My neurologist at the time put me on an immune gamma globulin cocktail that allowed my body to stop attacking itself long enough to begin healing.
It took a couple of years for it to make a significant difference and I was wheelchair and bed-bound for five years. I had daily seizures, wore diapers and had no life. The pain was intense, and a heavy narcotic regime was in place. In 2005, I started rehabilitating myself out of that wheelchair, even though I was told I’d never walk again. But in 2006, I noticed a lesion on my tongue that turned out to be cancerous. I don’t smoke, so my conclusion was that it was caused by the radiation I received in ’88. I had a portion of my tongue removed soon after, which was probably the most painful surgery thus far. Again, narcotics were introduced.
I had become an addict on top of everything else. Depression took over my life and I considered suicide to end my suffering. Thank god for my family and friends! I was encouraged to detox and get off the pain meds. It took two tries, but I did it!
Finally, in 2007 I admitted myself into a twenty eight day rehab program. During that month’s stay I recognized how dangerous it is to self-medicate. Thankfully, I’ve been in recovery since then. I now manage my pain in holistic ways: chiropractic, herbs and supplements, massage, meditation, therapy and walking. I have too much to live for and I’m trying to rebuild my life despite my physical limitations. It’s far from easy, but the alternative is not an option!
Today, I’m diligent in my doctor visits, scans, and focusing on my health. If I’m ever faced with a serious illness again, I know I’ll be able to deal with it by the grace of god and my family. My advice would be to always have faith and never lose hope. The rest will fall into place.
Diane’s Creative Insights
What inspired you to get into photography?
I got my first spark with photography back in college. When I was introduced to the creative and technical aspects I became excited about the possibilities of creating a photo from start to finish. I’ve always had a good eye and I see things through a camera lens that some people might miss. I tend to lean more towards nature shots. I love the colors that illuminate from a sunrise or sunset. A sense of calm and peace come over me when taking photos.
I took an enormous amount of photos of my nephew and niece when they were growing up. Decades later I can still look at those photos and know exactly how I felt. Creating pictures of them with my parents are priceless shots! Now they have those memories to share with their future children. An incredible gift to pass on for generations.
What made you decide to share your photographs?
I decided to share my photography with the world because I’ve been approached by many people over the years wanting a canvas. It’s a true gift knowing that there’s a piece of my soul out there and my work is appreciated. To see my photos through someone else’s eyes and perspective is very cool. I get so much joy watching people look at my art and I am thrilled when someone purchases a canvas.
How do you think expressing your creativity has helped you?
Having physical limitations can be quite debilitating. At times it feels overwhelming and frustrating. Photography diminishes some of that frustration by giving me an artistic outlet. I feel so blessed to be able to pursue my talent and interest.
What’s one word that describes how you feel when you are taking photographs?
In one sentence what does “health” mean to you?
For me, health means — when your spirit and emotions are in sync and in tune with one another creating balance and inner peace.
Anything else you’d like to share?
I’ve been close to death a number of times over the past 26 years. I believe that there’s a purpose for my survival. Sharing my story, photos, art and joy for life are a good start. Anytime I can help someone and pay it forward I jump at the chance. For me, that’s a huge part of my life.
My favorite quote is…”The only limitations in life are the one’s we place upon ourselves.”
Diane Ippolito resides in Coconut Creek, Florida. She volunteers with the LLS (Leukemia and Lymphoma Society) and is a team leader for Light The Night Walk called Dee’s Peeps. Since 2008, Diane does speaking engagements for AA and NA.
She’s been a guest on:
The Montel Williams Show discussing depression.
WRCR 1300 AM with Kerry Potter and Brian Nugent
Featured in Memorial Sloan Kettering Newsletter for Survivors: Bridges Transformations — excluding questions — was originally displayed in the fall issue of 2012 (pg.7)
To view Diane’s photography:
Walking on Water Canvas 24×16 $149
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org / email@example.com
If you are ever having suicidal thoughts, please contact your physician or go to the nearest emergency room. Also – the national suicide hotline is 1-800-273-TALK.
Inspired To Health