Permission to Exist.

July 8, 2024

July 8, 2024

It’s 2:24am and my body refuses to sleep. In my youth, it was because there was something inside my body that needed to be released through writing. Whenever I complained about my insomnia – which rarely happened – but when it did, my best guy friend Brian would say, “Oh, you’re riding that wave again.”

And I am here again. My belly itches from the adhesive of the colostomy bag. My body is still awake from leading an intense breathwork class just hours ago. My mind can’t stop thinking about all the things…an upcoming trip, intimate stories people shared with me, but the biggest thought is – a sense of trust needed in the people I love and who love me.

Recently I had a long car ride with my father during our family road trip through Idaho, Montana, Utah and Nevada. On a spontaneous 18hr day trip to Glacier National park, I spent a beautiful day with my father and son watching the sun rise into the sky after hours of driving in complete darkness, alone on empty roads. I saw majestic rams roam around their natural habitat and weeping walls of water as it flowed from icy mountain tops. It was a beautiful but hard day.

We talked about difficult subjects, from childhood memories, politics, spirituality, religion and relationships. Imagine being in a long car ride with a parent that has always challenged you. I often retell this moment as the epitome of civil discourse.  While our voices reached higher tones, we gave each one opportunity to speak and were able to insult each other kindly while saying ‘thank you’ at the end of each heated discussion.

I appreciated this moment for multiple reasons. I love my father. He is the greatest man I know. I see him for everything he is and tried to be for our family. I see his strengths, passions, flaws and faults. I see the little boy who married a young, beautiful but challenging woman and was instantly responsible to provide for four children. I see his sacrifices. I see his stubbornness. I see me, in a thousand ways in him. In fact, my exploration, zest for truth, social charisma, simple demeanor and independent nature all came from him. If he gets frustrated with me, I hope he blames himself (lol).

I expressed my challenges with religion, an extremely sensitive subject in my family. In fact, a day before my hospitalization and emergency colostomy surgery I had an explosive discussion with him about faith. After the surgery and recovering from emotional and physical pain, I cried daily. I was lost. I lacked vision. I feared my future.

I had to cancel a meditation retreat that would begin in a few days, which was scheduled, unbeknownst to me, on Easter weekend. I felt trapped by my broken body, but most of all – my fearful mind. I distinctly remember the moment the doctor working the floor Tuesday morning walked into my room and said a series of medical statements I knew was factually untrue. I cried as he spoke fear into my head, but the more lies I heard, a fire in me began to brew. When he finished I looked at him and said, “You are very unkind and I do not like the energy in this room. You have no idea what goes on in people’s lives. My mother passed away in this western medical system, depending on every doctor telling her they could save her. I am grieving my brother who died a month ago. If I need to process what is best for me after a diagnosis, that is my right. Moving forward, I hope you NEVER speak to a patient the way you just spoke to me.”

He apologized, but it didn’t feel authentic. I just think he wasn’t expecting this response – a common reaction to my audacity throughout my life. I called the nurse to tell her I was leaving. She said she would need doctor approval and I told her I just spoke to him and he agreed I was ready to go home.

All of a sudden all the pain momentarily left my body. After abdominal surgery, I was able to stand upright. I washed my face, applied mascara, unbraided my hair and walked laps around the hospital floor before quickly getting discharged. Later as I sat on my bed at home, surrounded by concerned family members, I told them I was leaving in a couple days for the meditation retreat.

I knew I needed to center, heal and ground myself. I knew I needed to go within, especially after the traumatic things I experienced. I also realized I was a 43 year old grown woman and yet – I was trapped by the judgement of others. I was told this ‘may be my last Easter with my kids’ and that ‘my dad will be mad’. Rightfully, many felt I was making a poor decision and wasn’t physically able to travel, after all, I had major surgery just a few days prior.

Despite the external noise I knew this retreat was extremely beneficial, I knew I could withstand travel, I knew this wasn’t my last Easter and I knew my dad would love me unconditionally. At the heart of it all I asked myself… Why do I needed permission to save my own life?

A couple days later while driving to the airport I stopped by my father’s house to say goodbye. He was surprised I was up and moving – as was I. I told him I felt called to attend a meditation retreat and didn’t realize it fell around Easter. He then asked, “When are you leaving?” I responded, “In an hour.”

He then softly grabbed my hand, looked me in my eyes and said, “Maria, you do what you need to do.” I was so grateful. He kindly asked, if I needed a ride to the airport – which I declined.

There were moments in my life when I’ve had very hard conversations with people. It’s the kind when you say something you know to be your truth knowing it won’t be received well, but once it’s released from your soul – you are free of it. You are not free because you released the truth…you are free because you’re released from the lie.

I felt that conviction countless times in my life.

I felt that when I told my husband I wanted a divorce. I felt that when I told the world “what’s your excuse?” I felt that when I filtered people throughout my life – saying what I felt in my heart, even if they didn’t receive it well. When you let others overrule your intuition, you betray yourself. When you betray yourself, you don’t honor your soul and eventually you will lose yourself in the pleasing of others.

The journey to self-love means being authentic, living your truth, creating safe boundaries and allowing everything and everyone to fall wherever they need to be in that expression of YOU. Tonight, as I continue to write the world within me, I know as I give myself permission to save my own life, I give others the permission to save their own life too.

Own your life. No one has to endure the choices you make within it, only you. No one is in charge of your salvation, only you. No one is to blame for whatever happens, only you. Own your beautiful, adventurous, exciting life. Whatever your believe it to be, it will Be. Trust Yourself and people will trust you.


  • Reply Leah July 8, 2024 at 10:43 am

    That’s a good update, Maria! I always want to ask more questions but it seems too much. Your dad sounds a lot like my mom. It’s OK not to get into it with pur parents. Just say now is not a good time for this discussion. I was at a restaurant in Cape May over the weekend. A mom and her adult daughter got into it. The mom left and said rather loudly, “And you think I’m an idiot.” Relationships are so hard. I honestly think people who are very charming and don’t speak truthfully manage these high pressure situations the best. Sending you good wishes from. NJ.If you’re comfortable, can you tell us what you’re next steps are with treatment?

    • Reply Maria Kang July 8, 2024 at 10:56 am

      Thank you Leah for sharing. Currently I have a protocol that I feel comfortable with – with the goal being to shrink the tumor. We will reassess in August. I am meeting with a new surgeon next week. Unfortunately, healthcare in America has been an interesting journey.

    • Reply Maria Kang July 20, 2024 at 2:22 pm

      Thank you for your insight. Relationships are hard but I have found when you focus on just yourself (since we can only control ourselves!) it’s more transformational and effective. Regarding treatment, I will get rescanned in August and decide where I want to go from there.

  • Reply Giselle July 8, 2024 at 4:39 pm

    Maria, I am so inspired by the strength of your convictions. I feel I am the same way & I love to see it in others! You’re so right about having to honor yourself. I’m sending you so much love & have faith in your healing.

    • Reply Maria Kang July 20, 2024 at 2:21 pm

      I love meeting others who feel and act the same. Be brave. Carry on….

  • Reply Jen July 9, 2024 at 6:24 am

    Wow. What a wonderful, HONEST, heartfelt update. Permission to save your own life- thats Exactly
    What I needed to hear as I too have been in my own struggle. Appreciate you and always sending you the very best- youre such a badass!!!

    • Reply Maria Kang July 20, 2024 at 2:20 pm

      yes Jen! You do you!

  • Reply Suz July 9, 2024 at 10:41 am

    Well done on challenging that doctor, I wish with all my heart I could have told my mother’s consultant those same words after she diminished and cruelly patronised her in a similar way. You might have made him think and not limit another person. Very wise words, I hope you have a wonderful summer.

    • Reply Maria Kang July 20, 2024 at 2:20 pm

      thank you Suz. I definitely hope all doctors show more compassion, patience and care when working with humans. I forgive him as he speaks from someone who was trained in the system – however, he was very inaccurate when speaking about my issues.

  • Reply Renee July 11, 2024 at 9:02 pm

    Hi Maria, you and I went to school together in Elk Grove. I’ve seen your blogs and fitness success highlighted online over the years. You have a beautiful family. I’m happy for your successes but also very sorry to hear about your terminal illness. I will keep you and your boys in my prayers.

    • Reply Maria Kang July 20, 2024 at 2:16 pm

      Thank you Renee! So wonderful to connect with you online decades later! Oh my!! I appreciate the prayers and support.

    Leave a Reply