Saturday, March 19, 2011

Dear Cancer: You have given me Holly, who is a blessing- thank you.

In keeping with this weeks mantra of blessings, intention, and music - I am going to focus on one of the blessings Cancer has given me, and strangely enough there have been many.

How can I thank Cancer when I am so viciously fighting her. How can I praise her, when she has managed to take so much from me?

Maybe this is a fighting tactic- by acknowledging some of Cancer's beauty I am gaining ammunition to fight harder.

Or maybe it is more simple than that- maybe it has nothing to do with the fight, but more with how I am now living.

My life is richer now because I have have Cancer.

I have been thinking a lot this week about the gifts I have been given since my diagnosis. Had Cancer not invaded my body and held my life for ransom, I wouldn't have had the opportunity to connect with so many beautiful people who have touched me in ways I never thought possible.

I have a folder saved in my gmail account that is called "Kill it in the Butt with Kindness". I have saved every email, and Facebook message, in this file that I plan to keep forever, and G-d willing be able to share with my children one day.  This file holds the words and power of encouragement,  support, and prayer, coupled with the messages of fear, sadness, anger, and frustration.  They are the letters from family and dear friends from all corners of the world, to perfect strangers who have somehow been affected by my fight.

I have been so invested in fighting that I haven't been able to look beyond myself to see how my story is resonating with others. I am always surprised when I receive a note that tells me how my fight is somehow teaching them to breath deeper, and live differently.
This is perhaps the greatest gift I have received from Cancer.

There is nothing better than to be aware of how how the tough lessons that I am being forced to learn, are being heard and implemented by others.

More recently I reconnected with an old friend from McGill University named Holly. Holly and I used to sing in choir together and she was one of my few American friends.  I really liked Holly- she was down to earth, had a great energy about her, and she had a beautiful voice. We both grew up singing throughout high school and we were looking for an outlet when we came to University. The choir we joined was pretty amateur- but it didn't really matter. It was a way for Holly and I to disconnect from the world around us and reconnect with our inner voices.

45 days after Holly was married, she was hit by a drunk driver. Since then, Holly has been bound to her bed, unable to see the world in words, but in numbers. On that tragic day, Holly was robbed not only of her body, but of her perspective and her voice.  Holly is an English teacher and hates math. Seeing the world in numbers has robbed Holly of who she is.

For over 7 months Holly has been trapped in her own body.  She has had 2 herniated discs which became degenerated, a bruised ribcage, muscle spasms, 2 selective nerve blocks in her neck and back and has undergone countless procedures to try to put her back together. She most recently had a surgery to replace a degenerative disc with a prosthetic one and she is now at home recuperating.

Holly has been reading my blog and reached out to me last week to tell me about her situation. While seemingly different there are so many underlying similarities between our current situations.

Holly and I both understand what it is like to have our lives changed in an instant.
We both know what it means to be trapped and betrayed by our bodies.
We both understand how it feels to mourn our former selves.
We both know what it feels like to not have a voice but desperately want to be heard.
We both see the world with different spectacles- hyper-color and in numbers.
We both are overwhelmed by what our new selves and new life is is going to look like.
We both so badly want to rebuild but are shackled by our fight.
We both desperately want to heal.

Holly and I have decided that we are going to hold hands throughout the remainder of this process. Holly is supposed to recover from her surgery in May right around the time when I finish my last round of Chemotherapy.

This round I am dedicating my fight to Holly. I am going to fight Cancer with the strength and power that is waiting to be released within Holly. I am fighting for her with the hope that she will stop seeing the world in numbers and eventually reclaim her voice. I am fighting so that her loved ones, family and friends can start to hear her sing again.  Until then, I will sing loudly for you-Holly, waiting for the day when you can join me in harmony.

Dear Cancer: While you have made my life incredibly challenging these past few months, you have given me Holly, who is a blessing- so thank you.


  1. Through your blog, I have fallen in love with your spirit. You have allowed me to realize that, in life, obstacles only exist if you allow them to. You have taught me what it means to "adapt and overcome". You have proven to me that it is not the load that breaks you down; it's the way you carry it; that it's not the years in your life that count; it's the life in your years.

    You are my mentor, Jenna Benn. You have undoubtedly changed my life. I think of you daily and I pray for you often. Please don't ever stop inspiring others. You have the power to change the lives of so many. You have the power to change the world.

    Thank you and I love you.

  2. I'm merely a "facebook friend" from Montreal who is incredibly honored to have been so deeply touched by your story. Thank you a million times over.

  3. To the anonymous writer: Ditto.

    Jenna, you are an extraordinary force of inspiration!