Welcome, I’m Michelle Marthia.

It appears we have something in common. Perhaps we’re peers in illness. Perhaps you’re caring for a loved one who is moving toward end of life. Or perhaps you’re currently living in fear of an illness coming back. Whatever brings you here, I want you to know in the deepest way that you’re not alone.

Because I’ve been there, too.

I know what it feels like to be shaken off your foundation by a life-threatening illness. My cancer diagnosis was delivered on a Wednesday afternoon, nine days before my 43rd birthday. I was scheduled to meet with some folks regarding my biopsy results at 1:00 pm, and by 1:15 I officially had a malignancy I couldn’t shake.

I also know that re-entry from active-treatment is oftentimes far more difficult than we expect. I was so damn tired from chemo and radiation, and my brain no longer operated the way it once did, so I was slow to realize that I was slipping emotionally during this transition.

The thing is, nobody ever talks about how to manage re-entry into our lives post-diagnosis and treatment, with or without our illness in tow. As patients, we have a plan. And then suddenly...we don’t.

How do we find our wellbeing again when so much has been altered and stripped away?

After surveying and speaking with many other patients, I realized the struggle to discover a new sense of wellbeing during and after illness is common. Yet resources are limited.

Rise + Refuge is my response to this challenge.

While I would never consider death or illness a gift or blessing in my life, my journey has revealed the most important discovery I’ve made about myself:

My ability to turn towards others and be present in these difficult spaces.

That’s why my work is centered around the things we need most in those spaces — kindness, compassion, and most of all, connection.

For some, that’s support and guidance as you embrace your new definition of wellbeing.

For others, it’s easing emotional burdens and ensuring that a loved one’s goals of care are known and honored as an End of Life Doula.

But it can also be as simple as offering a sense of community — the comfort that comes with having someone in your circle who approaches your situation with compassion and kindness.

Wherever you find yourself, I consider it an honor to help you move forward with confidence, courage, and comfort.

A few more details about myself:

  • I’m the founder of Heal Courageously , a non-profit that provides free professional photography sessions to patients, caregivers and survivors as a way of reflecting back to them all that cannot be stolen by illness

  • I am a certified End of Life Doula

  • I am certified in Interdisciplinary End of Life and Palliative Care (University of Utah)

  • I am a master certified health and wellness coach (Catalyst Coaching Institute)

  • I am uncomfortable in large groups but love public speaking

  • I rescue animals as often as they rescue me

  • I love that my Irish heritage is freckled upon my skin

  • I believe wholeheartedly in the power of kindness

  • I always root for the Buffalo Bills no matter how hopeless it seems

  • I believe our bodies hold deep knowledge and wisdom

  • I love exploring places on foot

  • I cherish the opportunity to be stretched by life