Thursday, March 31, 2011


I have been thinking a lot about tiptoeing- maybe because I have been doing a lot of it lately.

I tiptoe around my family and friends, because I am at times unsure of how to relate to them.

I tiptoe around my making plans, and looking into the future, because I am scared that it will all fall apart.

And most recently, I tiptoe around what it means to be in remission, because I am terrified that if I celebrate it- it will be taken from me.

So I tiptoe.

Maybe this is ok.  Maybe this is a thoughtful way to approach life right now. Perhaps I need to slowly feel things out, gradually reemerge, and learn to trust again.

One could argue that by tiptoeing- I am not standing still- and therefore I am making progress. Right?

When I first started this battle in December, I remember hearing about the refraction period that occurs for survivors once they enter remission.  For 29 years I have been on a particular trajectory, one that certainly had a number of twists and turns but overall was somewhat predictable.  Granted I could never have anticipated the success and failures that have ensued in my lifetime, but relatively, the high's and lows haven't been anything extraordinary.  I am not saying my life has been average- it has been far from that- but overall the obstacles and triumphs I have faced have been within the realm of "normal".

Cancer at 29 is just not normal.

On December 20th, 2010, the life course I was on changed forever. The person I was up until that point is still here- somewhere- but undeniably I have since been fractured.  As I try to gather the shards and put them back together, I am realizing that all of these pieces make up a new whole- a whole that I do not yet recognize but am starting to.  Maybe instead of thinking of myself as fractured, as broken, as in pieces, I need to think of myself as layered.

This last round as I tiptoed back into relationships, plans, dreams, and remission, I found myself experiencing an unexpected lightness and inner calm.  I felt in some ways as if my new self was being  unwrapped or unveiled.

Perhaps if I continue to tiptoe, and not sprint, I will be able to further expose what lies beneath, and really understand what it means to heal and grow.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

How I Choose to Battle Cancer

Over the past few weeks I have given a great deal of thought about  my decision to go public with my disease.  For those closest to me, you know that I am a very private person.   Matters that are sensitive and personal in nature I like to keep to myself or share with family and friends that I feel I am the safest with.  It's not that I keep things completely inside, it's just that I believe there are certain subjects that are sacred, and that my privacy deserves to be protected.  

The fact that I have been so front and center about battling Cancer, as well as exposing many of my fears, and inner demons along the way, has given me reason to pause.

So why did I choose to blog, post photos and publicly discuss my battle?  And why am I finding this process therapeutic and empowering?

In recent years, I experienced a trauma that I found to be very shaming. It tried to rob me of aspects of who I was, and created internal scars that people were unable to see.  This experience left me feeling paralyzed, and unable to access my voice.

I am a social worker- and my job is to advocate.  The fact that I felt so disempowered and unable to speak up for myself, furthered my realization that something significant had been taken from me.  At the time  I was unable and unclear of how I could reclaim that part of my identity. As the scars grew deeper beneath the skin- I retreated. Once I realized what was happening, I started to work through a lot of the emotions surrounding the trauma, and finally was able to start the healing process. I still am upset my by choice to retreat, and I have struggled to come to terms with the pieces of me that were were taken.

When I was diagnosed with Cancer, I wasn't able to point a finger at a person that had caused my disease, or  mistreated me. There was no one to accuse, and no one to be angry at. I am unaware as to  how I contracted Grey Zone Lymphoma, and I have never asked myself why I was chosen.  I still to this day don't feel angry, and I most importantly do not feel ashamed.

I believe the approach that I have taken in handling my disease has a lot to do with my life experiences. I think the tenacity in which I have chosen to fight Cancer, is reflective of the fact that I spent a great deal of time hiding and retreating from my previous experience.   My inability to have a voice at that time, has affected my need  to be more public in discussing this more recent trauma.

I have been thinking a lot about what it means to reclaim my voice and why the power of expression is so important. I had a lengthy conversation with a dear friend who is a writer and she got me thinking about esoteric ideas on why writers write, why artists create, why musicians make music. Writers, artists and musicians all create out of the fear that they wont be read, seen, or heard.  My blog has become a forum in which I am able to express what I feel needs and should be read and heard.

During my chemo recovery period when I inhabit the 600 pound lady that suffocates me and silences me, I am unable to think and speak.  The feeling of voicelessness, and disempowerment is terrifying. When  I eventually leave her body, I contemplate what is it that I wanted to say? What was so important for me to communicate?  I am often unsure about what words or thoughts were actually held hostage at this time.  What I do know is that these feelings coupled with my previous trauma in many ways has lead me to where I am now- talking to you about how I am choosing to battle Cancer.  By discussing such a sensitive subject publicly, I am able to reconnect with the Jenna that was once lost, and that is desperately trying to reclaim her place.

What I am realizing is there is no right or wrong way to handle this disease. Generally people choose to battle their illness in the best way they know how- in the way their life has taught them to do so. You rarely hear about individuals who choose to completely rearrange their life and their perceptive in order to  fight from a different vantage point.

I have always been hard working, positive, and determined. The fight I have waged against Cancer, is driven by the way I have always lived my life. The experiences that I have gone through have further shaped the decisions I have made throughout this journey.

My need to blog and be public about my struggles and my victories is also for you. By going public I have been able to show you the many sides of Cancer, the terror, the joy, the laughter and the sadness. I hope that in doing so I have been able  to make Cancer feel more real and perhaps less scary. I have tried to highlight that there still can be hope, laughter, and blessings within this nightmare.

And finally I write because this blog allows me to connect to you.  At the end of the day this is a very private battle, one that I fight alone. This means that I need you more than ever to make me feel supported and loved.  Your continued support, prayers, cheers, and willingness  to follow me  and connect with my story is perhaps the greatest reason why I continue to write.

My fight is not over- far from that. But at least now, I am enjoying a temporary exhale- which has allowed me  to take a step outside of survival mode and reflect upon how I ended up here.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Learning to Converse with Jenna

Yesterday I had my first boxing lesson with Kat Zamiar owner of Pow! Gym in the West Loop.

I was especially excited about the training session because my white blood counts were at an all time high, I was feeling great, and I felt ready to test my body's abilities.

Kat (pictured here) is a serious badass. She is maybe 5 feet tall and is a trained martial artist.  She holds black belts in Tae Kwon Do, Goju Karate, and Shorin Ryu Karate, and she owns and runs a gym that is mostly filled with seriously tough looking dudes.

We started off the session with a long warm up, where I had the opportunity to further explain my battle, where I was at with the treatment, and what some of my physical limitations are.   I explained how my chemotherapy regimen makes me anemic therefore causing me to get dizzy very easily, weak, and more prone to fainting. In addition, the Neulasta shot, affectionately referred to as my miracle worker, extracts bone marrow from my hip, ultimately which causes soreness and tenderness.  And finally, I explained how I am suffering from neuropathy- loss of feeling in my fingers which apparently will worsen as treatment continues and may linger for months after treatment ends.

Oh the joys of chemo!

Kat said something to me yesterday that really got me thinking. She said "Jenna, you should see this as an opportunity to build your body the way that you have always wanted it to look and intended it to be."  

Her comment struck me because it's not only my body that I have the opportunity to rebuild, mold and shape, but its my heart, spirit, mind, and perspective that I get to craft in tandem. 

Chemo's role is to slowly and methodically obliterate every cell, both good and bad, until my immune system is eventually knocked out.  Once it is knocked out, it starts to rebuild cell by cell, creating a brand new,  healthier me.  I suppose it is only fitting, that as Chemo throws its punches, I am throwing my own.

As I laced up my gloves and faced the bag, I pictured Cancer. There she was staring me in the face, but this time she wasn't punching back. Over and over I swung at her, each time with more force and more aggression. My determination to live and survive drove every last punch.

After an hour of punching and kicking Cancer in the face, I was tired, but felt triumphant. The muscle aches I feel today remind me of what it feels like to be alive- really alive.  Strengthening my physical abilities throughout this fight has become equally important just as strengthening my mind.  I truly feel that I am getting into the best shape of my life.

Every time I get on the treadmill to run, dance shamelessly around my room, and throw punches, I am not only giving Cancer the finger, but I am conversing with the Jenna whose been quieted by this disease and has been patiently waiting to be let out.  Hopefully in the weeks, months and years to come, I will continue to talk to her, hear her, and eventually free her.

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.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Who High Fives Cancer?

Blessings, Intention, Music. Blessings, Intention, Music. Blessings, Intention, Music.

This has become my mantra this week and it is helping!

Yesterday when I woke up, I lay in my bed, slowly twirling my toes, and eventually opening my eyes to be greeted by the most magnificent sunrise. The rose colored rays came pouring into my bedroom and lit up the rest of my apartment. I was so moved by the vision that I immediately thereafter started to vocalize my blessings.

No one was here- it was just me- and I was talking loudly!

My thanks rolled off the tip of my tongue so easily. It was as if I couldn't get the blessings out quick enough. I was thorough, shallow and also insightful. My thanks ranged from being grateful for the taste of chocolate, to having a warm bed, to being kept safely from harm.

Over the past few days as I have further and further delved into blessings, intention and music, I have noticed that my body, mind, heart and spirit are on the mend and healing.

Today, for the first time in 3.5 months, I decided to venture back to the FFC gym which is where I injured myself and days later found out I had Cancer. Today, I felt strong enough to return to what in mind felt like the scene of the crime.   I am not sure if I was consciously avoiding returning to the location, but I can recognize now that I was nervous about whether or not the space would somehow trigger bad memories for me.

Today I was feeling brave.  I felt ready to endure some physical activity, and was prepared to stare at myself in the mirror, 25 lbs lighter, 3 rounds of chemo completed, and yes- Cancer free.

The last time I was in this gym, my body was being ravaged by the disease, and I was walking around completely oblivious to it.

So, like any warrior, I laced up my armor. I put on my Kill It In the Butt T-shirt, my neon green lymphoma bracelet, and tied on my Survivor Stand Up to Cancer doo rag.  I also reapplied my lipstick right before leaving- because thats how I roll.

I walked up to the check in desk and saw the attendant that usually tries to flirt with me. This time his tactic was a little different than the norm.  "Hey, how you doing?" "I'm well thanks, how are you."  "You look like you are about to go swimming". "No- I'm not going swimming." "Sure you are." "No really- I'm not." "Well what's with the cap?" "Well, I'm bald as a babe under here, and I am fighting Cancer, so hence the cap."

He looked at me as if I knocked the wind out of him. Quickly recovering, he proceeded to raise up his hand and give me a high five.

I walked away unsure of how to react.

Who high fives Cancer?

It was kind of the perfect reaction.

Don't get me wrong, I appreciate when people tell me how sorry they are for what I am dealing with. I am sorry too- it sucks. But there is something to be said for giving the complete opposite reaction to what you are supposed to do or say. The attendant could have said, "Jenna, I am really sorry- I had no idea, and I feel like an ass". But instead he saw me show up at the gym, like a warrior in training, staring that bitch in the face, and decided to high five me for it.

So Mr. Attendant, I thank you for prying, I thank you for misjudging, and I thank you for your high five. I needed it.

You motivated me to run 6 miles tonight and for that I am grateful.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Blessings, Intention, and Music

While round three may have been physically easier on my body, I have taken quite the beating emotionally.  Many of the issues I have been dealing with are too private to share, but have left me feeling depleted, profoundly sad, and confused.  My body miraculously suffered little to no physical pain this round, but the scars I bear underneath my skin are very real and are very raw.  I have been focusing most of my energy on healing my mind, my heart and my spirit- which has proven to be incredibly difficult given the fact that I am also fighting Cancer.

So what does healing look like when you are in the midst of a fight?
Can healing and fighting take place simultaneously?
Is there a way for my wounds to become the fuel for my fight in the next three rounds?

When I learned I was in remission I admittedly got lazy. I took a day off from Cancer and stopped practicing the rituals that I have made apart  of my daily routine.  I also stopped living in the moment.

I am disappointed in myself- really disappointed. I just spent the last 3 months training myself to live day to day, moment to moment, breath to breath- only to throw it all out the window when I recieved good news.

I went into the hospital for round three without focus. I was all over the place. I couldn't visualize my fight, I grew impatient, and all I wanted was to fast forward to May 10th when I will be hopefully released from the hospital for the final time.

I sat at home this weekend wanting to fast forward 6 months, where I am out and about with friends, drinking wine, enjoying life, and rocking an adorable pixie doo.

I stopped living in the now, stopped focusing on today, and threw out everything I had learned within moments.

Shame on me.

Its time to refocus, its time to get centered, its time to start preparing for round 4.

I spoke to my mentor and dear friend yesterday for a while. He somehow intuitively knows to call me when I need him the most. I still am unsure of how he does this- but its remarkable.

We spoke for a while about remission, about my changing values, my new perspective,  and my gaping wounds.

He listened, and we talked through some ideas about how I can get centered here and now.

When you are unsure of whether or not you are going to live, it is easier to live in the moment, to appreciate the small exchanges, to be thankful for each breath. When you have the privilege of living, it is much harder to see the world in hypercolor,  and to feel the overwhelming energy that surrounds each of us.  So how do I reclaim this? How do I reconnect with that energy without having to be in a state of trauma?

In Judaism, there are 100 blessings we say daily- from food and drink, to peace and sleep. He recommended that I think about small things that I am thankful for as a way of trying to live more in the moment.  So here are some of the small things I am thankful for today.

I am thankful that I woke up.
I am thankful that I  am without pain.
I am thankful that I was able to watch the sunrise from my bedroom window.
I am thankful that I am strong enough to work today.
I am thankful that my mind feels clear.
I am thankful that this practice is helping me focus on the here and now and not 6 months from now.

I need to think about what my intention is for the next round. Do I need  to fight the next round with the same gusto and aggression that I have in previous rounds?  Do I visualize Cancer as out of my body or do I visualize her as hiding in the crevasses waiting to reemerge?  Do I punch her out repeatedly or do I plan to beat her up emotionally?  What does this battle look like this round?
I need to give some more thought to that.

I haven't been listening to enough music. Its one of my greatest loves and I have neglected her. I need to listen more, feel more, and maybe even sing more.

So thats my game plan for the next two weeks- blessings, intention and music.

Maybe my scars will start to heal, my head will become less cloudy, and I will be ready to Kill it in the Butt for round 4- and for that I will be thankful.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Ok, I'm in Remission- So Now What?

Its been an interesting week.  Ok, let's rephrase that- it's been a really tough week- one that I thought would be full of indescribable bliss, happiness, and elation but rather has turned into a week of soul searching, confusion, and introspection.

For the past 3 months I have been punching the hell out of Cancer, desperately fighting to live, and hoping and praying that I would be given a second chance at life.  After climbing for 3 months up what seemed like an insurmountable mountain, I reached a clearing, was told I was Cancer free, and finally was able to catch my breath and exhale.

So now where does this leave me?

What I fear people do not understand is that while I may be in remission, I am still fighting. I still have 3 more rounds of chemo, 15 more days in the hospital, 2 more scans, and a lifetime of rebuilding to do. While the Cancer may have left my body, the toxic residual affects of having her living inside of me- are still palpable.

I find myself unsure of how to celebrate this incredible achievement when I still am fighting.
I am unsure of how to fight with the same intensity when my main opponent has retreated.
I am unsure of how to visualize my fight since all the rules have changed.
And maybe most importantly I am unsure of how to identify right now.

I think there has always been a big part of me that hoped that once I reached remission, I would then be able to fast forward and start rebuilding my life, and more importantly be able to connect with my former self. The reality is my former self, my former life, is gone.  I can't get back to who I was no matter how much I try.  All I can do now is try to figure out how this experience has impacted me, impacted my loved ones, and figure out how to rebuild from the bottom up.

I have no doubt that my new life after Cancer will be beautiful and full, but creating it from scratch is daunting.

And so here I am, at 29, taking stock of my life. What is it that I really want? What do I really care about? What core values matter the most to me. Where do I see myself in 5 or 10 years? What do I want my legacy to be?

Heavy shit right?

I realize I don't have to figure this out today, or even tomorrow. But, the pressure to live a fuller life, a greater life, a more meaningful life, is very real. Its a pressure I am placing on myself because its who I am.

Maybe I won't be able to make any real decisions until I finish treatment and have that final scan at the end of June. Maybe  my next steps won't be determined until years after I have finished treatment.  Maybe it's time I stop putting so much pressure on myself to rebuild and recreate a life and I should refocus my efforts on getting through the next two months.  Maybe I need to accept the fact that I have no idea what lies ahead, I have no idea what path I am supposed to follow, but what I do know is that I have incredible love and support around me to help guide me, hold my hand, and get me through this.

Maybe I need to tell my mind to shut the hell up and just breathe.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Celebrating and Mourning "Killing Cancer in the Butt".

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.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Bald is Beautiful on CBS

As I wait here for results, I thought I would share with you the stories of fighters like me who are in treatment, in remission, cured, or have passed away.  Their stories are beautifully documented in Meredith Israel's recent piece for CBS.

Thank you Meredith for fighting every day and giving us the opportunity to be seen and heard.
Thank you Ethan for connecting us.

To view our stories click below.

Owning Anticipation, Owning Fear, Owning Scared

Yesterday I had my first PET Scan since my diagnosis. I decided to take out my nerves at the gym and stomp all over Cancer's face. I ran 4 miles, biked another 8, lifted some weights, and came home feeling strong.

The next morning I decided to get decked out for my Pet scan. See exhibit A.

Throughout this whole process I have found strength in dressing up and putting on a bright colored lipstick. Every time I go to 21, the nurses always say "  Guuurl you are looking good! You don't look sick. You certainly had me fooled." Somehow by looking good I feel that I am able to trick my mind into feeling good.  For those of you that know me well, you are well aware that I have always loved dressing up.  Being able to do this while fighting Cancer, allows me to reconnect with my former self- and remind myself that I am still here, I am still present, I am bursting at the seams- ready to be let out!  This is also just one more opportunity to give that nasty bitch Cancer,  the finger!

At my appointment, rocking my spring look, I started to become very quiet, and realized I was here. This dreaded day had arrived. As I was injected with radioactive dye, my mind wandered to the warm and inviting places I have trained myself to go to. I remembered how Becky Strauss, my meditative guru, taught me how to breath in for five, and exhale for six seconds, allowing my mind and body to relax. I then remembered Ethan telling me that scary thoughts are ok, and that I should acknowledge them and transport myself to a time when I could feel and taste happiness. So there I was lying on the scanner, visualizing dancing at Penny's wedding in Greece-  in flip flops, feeling the sun hit my neck, my shoulders, and then my face.  I could taste the salt on my lips, I could feel the soreness of my muscles from dancing all night, and I could really feel the bliss that I felt in watching her dance with her Husband George.This is one of my favorite memories of all time.

Arms overhead, breathing deep, and dancing in Greece, I eventually succumbed to sleep.  

Returning to work after my peaceful nap proved to be difficult. My fears started to sink in. 

What if my Cancer hasn't shrunk?
What if my Cancer has spread?
If my Cancer has spread - how bad is it? And I hate to ask- what are my odds?
At what point will they decide on alternative course of treatment?
If the tumors haven't shrunk will I be starting another type of chemo? Does this mean that my 2 rounds of hell will be for naught?
Will I be given radiation? 
Will I have to undergo a Stem Cell Transplant?
Can I really handle living for at least a month at Prentice Hospital?

I hate what ifs. Note to self- control what ifs.
I can't do anything about what ifs. 

So what can I do while I wait in anticipation?

1. I can picture my body without Cancer.
2. I can picture my life without Cancer
3. I can remind myself that even if I don't get the results I am hoping for, I am strong today, but not as strong as I will be tomorrow.
4.  I have already done a lot of work on myself, and this work will help as I continue on in this battle.
5. My body knows how to heal, and it will heal.

It's ok to be scared. Saying it is somehow making me feel better. I am owning my fears this morning- whispering them, saying them, shouting them.

If I wasn't scared there would be something seriously wrong.

So today, I am owning anticipation, owning fear, and owning scared.

As I wait here today for my results, and I get cozy with the all to familiar holding pattern, I ask those of you that are invested in my journey, to pray hard, to cheer loudly, to dance your ass off, and to scream for me today.

I am forever grateful for you.