The Power of Resilience and Gratitude: An Ocular Melanoma Survivor’s Journey

Jess Van Zeil –

At just 22 years old, Jess found herself facing a life-threatening diagnosis of ocular melanoma head on. Discover the incredible strength of the human spirit in this moving story of a survivor’s journey of resilience and gratitude, and learn how these powerful qualities can help you overcome any obstacle.

We are saving lives one episode at a time!

Ep. 113

Welcome to the 2023 Melanoma and Skin Cancer Awareness Seriespart 5

Jess Van Zeil was living life to the fullest with a passion for adventure and a bright future ahead. But her world was capsized when she was diagnosed with Conjunctival Ocular Melanoma, a rare and aggressive form of cancer. Despite seeking treatment from top experts in Australia, Jess was eventually faced with a difficult decision in order to save her life. 

The physical and emotional challenges that followed were immense, but Jess refused to let them defeat her. Through her journey, she discovered powerful principles that helped her stay positive and resilient in the face of this diagnosis. With her trademark blend of honesty and humor, Jess shares her story of overcoming ocular melanoma and thriving on her own terms. And of course, this young author does it all with a dazzling collection of eye-patches!

This longer than average episode is not to be missed. Take time to listen to the end! You’ll thank me later!

There are challenges and that life is not going to be all sunshine and rainbows. That is a reality of life. It is a reality of everything. However, we do have and if you look at every single day, there are an equal number of beautiful moments, and I call them the golden moments or the golden nuggets of the day. There are also always going to be those shitty, awful moments. And I always sort of give the analogy of either gold panning or sifting through and you get to decide what sits in that sieve at the end of the day, whether it is those beautiful moments and all the incredible little things that have happened. Or if you’re going to focus on the rocks and the crap and the things that have weighed you down

Despite being diagnosed with an extremely rare form of cancer at a young age, Jess refused to let it defeat her. Even though she was initially devastated, she refused to give up and instead chose to fight back with positivity and resilience. Despite her challenges, she remains determined and grateful for the opportunities that she has been given. She is a true example of living life to the fullest with resilience and gratitude.

You can find more about Jess at and her book:
Eye Won: Powerfully Positive, Ridiculously Resilient

Let’s work together to stop skin cancer and save lives! 

Melanoma and Skin Cancer Awareness Series

Resources and Support


Together Let’s SEE A CURE. Ocular melanoma is a rare cancer of the eye affecting only 6 in 1 million people. OMF is the leading resource for eye cancer research funding, education and patient/caregiver support. Together, we’ve raised over $2 million in our quest to #SEEACURE for eye cancer.  

The Eye Cancer

The mission of The Eye Cancer Foundation is to create a world-class resource for patients and their families diagnosed with eye cancer in the form of ocular tumors or melanoma, macular degeneration and related ophthalmic conditions. We want to help you, your children and families around the world.

A Cure In

A Cure in Sight (ACIS) supports families who have ocular melanoma and focuses on research for a cure. Through public and private partnerships, we provide clear and reliable education information and access to a support community for patients and their caregivers. ACIS is dedicated to ongoing research. We know we can accelerate viable research projects that otherwise would stall and not be completed, missing opportunities to advance research for effective treatments and possibly a cure.

Understanding Ocular Melanoma

Ocular melanoma is a rare form of cancer that affects the eye. It is caused by the abnormal growth of melanocytes, which are the cells that produce pigment in the eye. While it is a serious condition, it is important to understand that there are ways to cope with the diagnosis.

1. Seeking Support

One of the most important things you can do when facing a diagnosis of ocular melanoma is to seek support. This can come in many forms, such as talking to friends and family, joining a support group, or seeking professional counseling. Having a support system can help you feel less alone and provide you with the emotional support you need to cope with the challenges ahead.

2. Staying Positive

Maintaining a positive attitude can be difficult when facing a serious illness, but it is an important part of building resilience. Try to focus on the things that bring you joy and find ways to stay connected to the people and activities that make you happy. This can help you stay motivated and hopeful, even in the face of adversity.

3. Taking Care of Yourself

Taking care of your physical and emotional health is essential when facing a diagnosis of ocular melanoma. This includes eating a healthy diet, getting regular exercise, and getting enough rest. It also means taking care of your mental health by practicing self-care and seeking professional help if needed.

4. Educating Yourself

Learning as much as you can about ocular melanoma can help you feel more empowered and in control of your situation. Talk to your doctor, read books and articles, and join online support groups to learn more about the condition and the treatments available.

5. Finding Meaning

Finding meaning in your experience can help you build resilience and cope with the challenges of ocular melanoma. This might mean finding ways to give back to others, pursuing a new hobby or interest, or simply finding ways to appreciate the beauty of life.

6. Celebrating Small Victories

Finally, it is important to celebrate the small victories along the way. Whether it is completing a round of treatment, reaching a personal goal, or simply enjoying a good day, taking time to acknowledge and celebrate these moments can help you stay motivated and build resilience over time.

How do you sail through life? Join me on this endeavor!

I would love to grow this amazing support community! Learn more here.

** Sailing Through Life Podcast is intended to educate, inspire and support you on your personal journey and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. All content is for general informational purposes only. If you are suffering from any psychological or medical conditions, please seek help from a qualified health professional.

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Published by Lorie

Hello and welcome to Sailing Through Life! My name is Lorie. I am a 2-time melanoma cancer survivor and a sailor - in my heart and on the water. I want to be a beacon of light to others with life challenges and be an inspiration to stay positive while going through these life-altering events. Join me as I set sail on this new adventure... Sailing Through Life.

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