Lasma Nikolaisone, a colorectal cancer survivor from Latvia, knows the importance of prioritizing yourself. Diagnosed young, Lasma found strength in knowledge and self-care. In this interview, Lasma shares her story, the power of listening to your body, and her mission to build a community for young cancer patients in Latvia.

young colorectal cancer survivor

What is your name? How old are you? Where are you from?

My name is Lāsma, I’m 38 years old and I’m from Latvia.

What’s your diagnosis?

I’m a colorectal cancer survivor.

How and when did you find out about your diagnosis?

I was diagnosed with colorectal cancer at the age of 33. It took some time to be diagnosed because bowel cancer is typically associated with older people. Despite the apparent increase in the number of young adults affected by this disease, five years ago, doctors did not really expect someone as young as me, with no known hereditary issues, to have bowel cancer. However, due to the severity of my bowel problems, I was eventually referred for the necessary scans, which led to the diagnosis.

What would you like to accomplish within EU-CAYAS-NET?

This is a nice opportunity to interact with young people and feel part of them again. Having a ‘senior disease’ at a young age, but at the same time not being young enough to consider myself part of the youth anymore, I always felt like an outsider. The young spirit of this project has taught me a lot about the importance of survivorship care, and I’m very inspired to work on this issue to ensure that this void is filled with the care that survivors need. I also want to build a community of young cancer patients and survivors in Latvia and initiate an NGO for them.

What has the cancer experience taught you?

To make myself the first priority in my life. And to listen to and hear myself. I’m still learning, and sometimes I should be more compassionate with myself and my needs. But I’m very aware of how important it is.

What helped you the most during the treatment process?

I was very lucky that I already had a degree in nursing and some basic medical knowledge when I was diagnosed. It helped me a lot to rationalise the disease and the experience I was going through. I firmly believe that knowledge is the most powerful tool for fighting fear. By immersing myself in medical literature, I was able to not only learn about the disease but also actively participate in my treatment by asking targeted questions.

Colorectal cancer survivor from lavtia

Try to describe yourself in 3 sentences

I am a naturally curious person, always enthusiastic about learning new things. I am not afraid to embark on unfamiliar journeys, even if it means starting from scratch. Despite being very patient and hardworking, I am also a hedonist who can find a way to enjoy life even in the most challenging circumstances.

What do you do in your free time?

I love movement and being on the move. When I have a little free time, I go for a walk or ride my bike. If it’s a night out, I like to go dancing. When there are one or more days off, I make shorter or longer trips, hikes, or both.

What do you need/want to have a crash course in?

I’m passionate about mountains, hiking and outdoors in general. I would love to take a course in climbing. Improving my skills and knowledge would take me to new heights and enable me to reach new peaks.

What is your favourite motto in life?

Carpe diem. For me, real life is now and only now. I live one day at a time and always try to live it to the fullest, being authentic to myself and others. Every day is special because I have a unique opportunity to experience it.

What is on your bucket list?

My own little house somewhere warm, close to the mountains. After cancer, the cold and wet climate of Latvia’s non-summer seasons is no longer for me. And I want to see the mountains and reach them more often and more easily than I can when I live in Latvia all the time.

young colorectal cancer survivor from europe

What do you do to relax?

The most helpful and quickest way is to get lost in the music while listening to it. If I have time, I go for a walk in nature – by the sea or in the woods. If I need to talk to someone, I go out and meet my friends.

What keeps you going every day?

The fact that life is incredibly interesting because of its immense diversity and unpredictability. It includes moments that are beautiful, surprising, crazy, frightening, joyful, heartbreaking, and so on and so forth, but it’s never boring as long as I live fully in the moment and find meaning in each experience.

What makes your life feel purposeful?

Life itself. An opportunity to be here and now, to experience and learn, to meet, to feel and sense, to gather impressions, knowledge and feelings. An opportunity to live.