I am pleased to announce that after 2 rounds, 6 weeks, and 240 hours of Chemotherapy, I killed Cancer in the Butt.
I have to say it again:
I KILLED CANCER IN THE BUTT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
March 3, 2011- my life was taken off hold and I was reborn.
At 12:07, my nurse Betsy called me to tell me that I was in complete remission and that there was no sign of cancer on my PET Scan. As soon as she uttered the word remission, I fell to the floor, the water works were turned on, and I was convulsing uncontrollably. The energy that was pulsating through my entire body was powerful, overwhelming, and unstoppable.
I apologized to Betsy for my hysteria, and finally managed to get it together to ask her logistical questions. Would I have to continue my 4 cycles- Yes. Would I have another Pet Scan during treatment- No, only 6 weeks after completion. Do you anticipate any recurrence- No.
I ran upstairs to the third floor of my house where my dad has an office and I screamed "My Cancer is gone" "there are no signs of her anywhere" " I have a perfectly clean scan!" We both fell into each other, holding each other in a way I have never been held.
The physical reaction I experienced when I learned the news mirrored my reaction when I was first diagnosed. For those of you that have read my journey from the beginning, I described falling down in the parking lot outside my favorite childhood restaurant Hole in the Wall, shaking uncontrollably.
The experience of having your life potentially taken away, and then potentially given back is one in the same. It is an out of body experience, that stirs up such tremendous energy that it is hard to keep it contained within your physical being. It has to come out somehow. When I was first diagnosed I let out a high pitched yelp from fear, and when I was told I was in remission, I screamed at the top of my lungs with pure joy.
I was surprised to watch and experience my body go through the exact same reaction, albeit only 2.5 months since my initial diagnosis.
That night, I dressed up in a bright pink dress, put on magenta lipstick, had a date with Marc, and then hosted a few friends for a champagne celebration. I was under my doctor's orders to have a glass- and so I did. I felt like my former self, but I was far from it. One of the largest battles I have to face in the months and years ahead is recreating my life, dealing with the trauma, and learning what to do with my new perspective and new lease on life.
Towards the end of the night, as I was gearing up for round 3 at Hotel Prentice, I found myself becoming somewhat introspective and sad. I felt in some ways I was beginning to mourn Cancer. I know that may sounds absurd to many of you. How could I be mourning something that was so nasty, mean, unfair, cruel, an attention whore, and scary as hell. So why was I sad that she was gone?
For at least the past 8 months to a year I have been living and fighting with Cancer. I have been slowly getting to know her in my 29th year, and now that she is gone there is an emptiness, that exists. I remember how she put me in the hospital back in February for viral meningitis, how she limited my energy when I was exploring breathtaking Berlin and captivating Buenos Aires. I remember how she caused me to lose 15 pounds in a 2 month period. I remember how she forced me to use 22 sick days at work because I was always suffering from flu like symptoms. I remember the physical therapy appointments when I was being treated for what they thought was a pinched nerve but was really a mediastinal mass. I remember the terrible night sweats, the unexplainable weakness, and unusual fatigue.
I remember the disagreements Marc and I would have because I feared I did not have the energy to keep up with him. Marc has never known me without Cancer.
Cancer has been apart of my identity for months. So how do I mourn her with the respect she deserves?
Cancer may have tested everything- my emotional, mental, and physical state- but she also gave me tremendous gifts- gifts that I have been able to acknowledge and appreciate along the way.
As I have mentioned previously, Cancer allowed me to see the world in hypercolor. My senses were on overload. I found myself savoring every moment, taking mental snapshots of people and places, and capturing the small and often basic human interactions. The power of touch, the power of being held, and the meaning behind telling some I love you.
With Cancer gone, I have this fear that the world's colors may not shine as bright, that the power of touch may not feel as profound, and that my perspective may not be as sharp as it was when I was staring at my own mortality.
Maybe I wont see the world in hypercolor every day but I will have moments of it. I now am faced with the challenge and the blessing of learning what it means to live a life without Cancer. I need to learn to embrace this new identity and savor her every day and every moment, one breath at a time.
So as I rejoice in the fact that I have a new birthday, and properly respect and mourn the loss of Cancer, I think its important to think about what Killing it in the Butt really means.
The term Kill it in the Butt, was coined by Marc's nephew who at the time was 5. Marc was about to watch UNC play Kansas in the 2008 Final Four and asked Aviv for a UNC fight song. Aviv replied "Let's Go UNC, Let's Go UNC. Kill Kansas in the butt and take their eyeballs from their eyelids." Marc looked at Aviv in disbelief and said, "Well that's aggressive."
We felt the only way to take on Cancer was to be aggressive. I needed to channel Aviv's fearless energy into my fight. I couldn't fight this disease by only relying on doctors. I had to integrate my heart, my mind, my spirit, my soul, my faith, my memories, and my dreams into the ring. I had to fight with everything I had learned over the last 29 years, and I couldn't have done it without the support of my incredible family, boyfriend, friends, angels, acquaintances, and strangers that have held me up through this entire journey.
In some ways I feel that I was able to be alive and present at my own funeral. The outpouring of love from friends and strangers around the world has been nothing short of remarkable. It is rare that you get to experience how you have impacted someone, touched someone, or inspired someone. I feel so blessed that I was able to hear from you all at 29. I promise that your messages throughout this process have profoundly impacted me and I can't wait to be able to finally give back.
So what does Killing it in the Butt mean for you? Does it mean telling your friends and family you love them more frequently? Does it mean holding each other more tenderly? Does it mean setting goals and really achieving them? Does it mean taking risks and overcoming the what ifs? Does it mean traveling to places you have always dreamed of? Does it mean taking the time to look inward and to re-prioritize what you really want in life?
I want to hear from you.
I want to know what it means for you to Kill it in the Butt.
To the warriors around the world who are fighting Cancer today and tomorrow, and to their family and friends that are watching them, please know I am thinking of you, I am praying for you, I am fighting right beside you, and I hope you too will Kill it in the Butt. I know how scary the fight is- I am still fighting. I know how hard the lows can be- I still experience them. But I also know the sweetness of savoring the small moments in life, and I hope and pray that you will find comfort in those moments. I hope you will learn to appreciate how awake and present you are, a level of alertness that most never get to experience. I hope you tap into this and appreciate this gift as much as I have.
My fight is far from over. I have many more battles ahead- including four rounds of chemo, and other battles that will challenge me physically, mentally and emotionally. I hope you will continue to join me for the ride as I continue to manage the residual affects of this trauma, understand its blessings, and somehow figure out a way to pay it forward.
Thank you for your support over these dark and dreary months.
I look forward to dancing with you all in the sunshine.