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Overcoming Impossible Odds


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How do you keep going forward in the face of impossible odds? Our final guest of 2023 is here to share how she did just that. 

During her time as an NBA dancer for the Charlotte Hornets, Victoria Vesce developed a brain tumor that went undiagnosed for several months. Despite this overwhelming challenge, and despite the losses she experienced in her family around the same time, Vesce not only healed physically and faced her grief but pursued her dreams, as well. Since those challenging days, Vesce has obtained her juris doctorate from Charleston School of Law, begun work with Berman Law Group in South Florida, modeled for Sports Illustrated, and signed on with JL Model Management and Marilyn's Agency.


Like so many of us, Vesce never expected to have to face the idea of having a brain tumor in real life: “I never thought something like that would happen to me.” 

Vesce’s mom’s background in nursing helped her to realize that something wasn’t right with her daughter. She pushed Vesce to discover the cause of her sudden and worsening migraines, fatigue, and hearing loss. After seeking a specialist’s help, Vesce discovered that something was truly wrong.

Confronting the reality of a brain tumor is frightening, and it can lead to many questions about what kind of future lies ahead. Vesce also had to face the prospect that the months it took to finally get a diagnosis led the tumor to grow into her ear canal, causing hearing loss.

Facing surgery and coming to grips with the fact that her hearing would never return in one ear,  Vesce pushed forward. She regained her health and chose to continue pursuing her dreams despite the health crisis and familial losses that surrounded it. Vesce chose to honor her family by channeling her grief into a life worth living.


The compounding grief of losing her grandfather, dealing with her tumor, and then losing her mother and both grandmothers was “more than just your regular heartbreak.” Vesce felt as if she had lost her sense of self, but recognizing the legacy her mom left, not only in their family but in their North Carolina community as well, helped Vesce imagine a new future where she could make a positive impact on people.

After these losses, Vesce says she realized that “I need to live even bigger. I was living big but not big enough.” She realized that, since we can’t take possessions with us when we die, all that matters is leaving a positive legacy. 

“My mom and my grandparents and the rest of my family who have passed on … would truly want me to be living my … best life and not to end it. So that's my fuel going forward for my life.” 

Vesce even finds positive aspects of her health crisis, joking that her permanent hearing loss on one side means she can drown out the sounds of the city simply by laying on her left side at night. Vesce’s positivity-driven approach to life in the aftermath of grief and crises is a model for channeling grief into constructive and emotionally productive outcomes.


Vesce’s motto is “turning my pain into power,” and she has certainly lived that motto in the face of adversity, She finds her drive in “using that pain and … grief and … heartbreak and hurt and turning it into something [for] the greater good.”

Although she makes sure she takes adequate breaks to take care of her mental and physical health, Vesce has found that “if I stop myself for too long, I kind of lose my sense of self. And especially in a time of grief, if I just kept sitting there [in] my grief and mourning, I was withering away. And so I started to get back up [on] the bandwagon, started doing my social media more again, even though I didn't feel like myself.”

The change she made was being true to herself, even on social media. Vesce shared her grief and her struggles, and even in her audition for Sports Illustrated, she allowed herself to be authentic, despite believing they would not choose her. 

Vesce learned that even in the face of adversity and grief, “sometimes you just have to go [into] something with no expectations, reach for the stars and you never know where you might land.”

Tune into the full episode to learn more about Vesce’s incredible journey and her advice for those struggling to keep going in the face of crises.

Maintaining personal health and wellness is a vital part of strong leadership because we can only bring our full selves to the table if we care for our minds and bodies. Learn about making your health a priority with Dr. Ian Smith.

Listen to this episode to learn about...

  • [1:28] Victoria’s health crisis and eventual diagnosis
  • [4:30] The importance of having an advocate on your side
  • [6:20] The residual effects of Vesce’s tumor
  • [8:08] Turning pain into power
  • [12:27] Channeling pain into positivity
  • [19:01] How Vesce landed the Sports Illustrated modeling job
  • [20:13] The value of being honest about oneself and one’s circumstances
  • [22:32] Reaching for the stars despite all odds
  • [25:58] Vesce’s advice for those experiencing grief and other challenges

Tune into the Members Only episode to learn about Vesce’s advocacy work with the National Brain Tumor Society.




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