Carpe Diem Superhero: Ursula Dahnelt

Carpe Diem Superhero: Ursula Dahnelt

This year, Ursula Dahnelt wins my Carpe Diem Superhero award for her incredible strength and perseverance in her battle with ovarian cancer.

I learned yesterday of Ursula’s passing. Though I’ve known for several years about her cancer, it still is such a sad shock to know she’s no longer with us.

She certainly didn’t look like what we’d all imagine the stereotypical cancer patient would look like. During the summer, she and I had a weekly hiking date. She lived in Boulder, walking distance to the beautiful trails around NCAR, so we’d meet at her house, and she’d play ‘trail guide’ leading us through a variety of different trails. Sometimes we’d take the car and venture further out. There are no shortage of trails to explore in Colorado.

Weekly hiking date with Ursula

Superhero Strength!

I was always amazed that despite being 5 years older than me and undergoing chemotherapy, she still was incredibly strong and fit, usually leading the way up hills at a fast clip as I tried to keep up. She had a strength-building coach who she met with twice a week and she allowed me a selfie on each hike to share with her coach.

Ursula was incredibly independent and proud of how much she could do, in spite of the cancer. She took control of her care, doing research on treatments around the world. She often would talk about the need for patients to be their own advocates and to recognize that each body is unique and going to respond differently, so not to trust any ‘one-size-fits-all’ regimens.

Past Carpe Diem Superheros

The original “Carpe Diem Superhero,” the man who inspired “Carpe Diem Day” was Craig Dunham, my friend who died in 2010 from ALS. Last year was my friend, Dee O’Malley (who lives on at age 91!), and before that it was Lee MacIvor, who honored the memory of her late husband.

As I wrote last year:

Each of these three Carpe Diem Superheroes have earned admiration from me, not just because of living life fully, but because they do so (or did so), despite challenge, grief, and hardships.

Now, I’m adding Ursula to my list as a Carpe Diem Superhero.

Ursula didn’t think of herself as a “Superhero.” She certainly didn’t want any special treatment or even mention of her cancer diagnosis. She absolutely did not want pity or sympathy.

There were times, of course, when she was sick and struggled. I don’t mean to imply that anyone who is diagnosed with cancer would be able to hike or maintain the fitness and attitude that Ursula managed.

She outlived all the other women in her ovarian cancer support group. She beat the odds with long periods of healthy living, often by discovering treatments on her own.

Ursula’s strength and courage will inspire me, alongside the other Superheroes I’m meeting on this emotional journey called life. I’m grateful to have had her as a friend and honored to have been part of her own journey.

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2 thoughts on “Carpe Diem Superhero: Ursula Dahnelt”

  1. Hi Yvette, we met at a luncheon that Ursula sponsored recently and Erik shared this with me. I was very moved by what you wrote about Ursula. She was an inspiration to me as well, and I am so glad you put this out there. It truly was a privilege and an honor to know Ursula and call her “friend.” May her memory remain forever eternal. ❤️

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