Archives for posts with tag: Cancer

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When I was diagnosed with cancer family and friends bombarded me with instructions on how to not only survive, but also thrive in the face of cancer. To be a successful cancer survivor you must eat a raw organic vegan gluten free diet, drink a green juice each morning, dry brush your skin daily, soak in Epsom salts and baking soda each night, drink a minimum of 15 glasses of reverse osmosis purified water daily, abstain from alcohol and caffeine, buy BPA free EVERYTHING, wear organic materials, meditate, practice yoga, get acupuncture, have an incredible therapist, buy an $800 air purifier, continue your career in a way that fulfills you and without any stress, get a therapy dog, and be an expert on any potential carcinogen (make up, cell phones, soy, celery anyone?). This is only a smattering of the most mainstream prescriptions that I received. Beating cancer was the easy part, but performing the part of healthy girl was another story.

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Yesterday I entered my 29th year of life. Birthdays seem different now. Birthdays are a moment to celebrate that we’ve made it through another year, and for the past two birthdays this celebration has felt particularly monumental. Birthdays come with mixed emotions now. I feel joy for the time past/passed and the time ahead, but I also feel sadness for the difficulties I’ve faced and sometimes I still experience fear over the future.

I am learning to welcome these mixed moments. To harness calm through them. These are the small gifts in life, birthday gifts. These, and neat cork bowls filled with sweet treats from dear old friends who help to welcome a new year.

I drafted some blog posts, ideas, and thoughts when I was first recovering from cancer and going through more rigorous chemo. Since then, I’ve wanted to move on, but some of the more fun cancer-inspired projects have stuck. One of these is mocktails. From here out, Monday is mocktail day on the blog.

Because of my medicine and my general quest for health, I’ve given up alcohol since my cancer diagnosis. One thing that’s shocked me the most about my decision to give up alcohol is the response that I often receive when I either refuse alcohol, or explain that, for at least the next two years [likely forever], I wont be drinking. People are shocked. Forget the horrendous side effects of my medicine, the fact that I’ve been delayed in my degree progress, or the emotional and mental trauma of illness. The fact that I no longer drink alcohol – or caffeine at that, the horror! – really upsets some people. I think it’s because drinking is a visible trace of my cancer battle. Most everything else has remained somewhat hidden within the comforts of my home. Joey and my immediate family see my struggles, my closest friends know about the intimate details, but beyond that I pass as incredibly “normal.” When I don’t participate in what I now realize is a bedrock social convention of our culture, I am all of a sudden publicly marked by my battle. What’s funny is that I don’t miss alcohol in the least. In fact, Joey has never really liked drinking at all, so he has gladly joined me in an alcohol free life that we’re both really enjoying.

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I’ve always been a relatively good traveler, but, to be honest, I’ve noticed lately that trips make me more nervous than they used to. Like other things, I tend to blame this on navigating an unpredictable immune system and medication side effects.  When I got sick, keeping a strict schedule in a fairly controlled environment really helped me to keep hold on my health situation and to feel as comfortable as possible. While this makes it more difficult for me to finish a paper at the eleventh hour, throw some clothes in a bag last minute, fight blindly through sleep deprivation during big events, and stagger home bleary eyed but generally energized from a fun adventure, I do think it’s prompted me to take a look at my travel rituals and be more mindful about self-care on the road. Can’t be a bad thing, can it? As I prepare for a trip to attend a week-long symposium in California next week, I’ve been considering my travel rituals and ways to make myself feel more comfortable not only on the plane, but also while I am away from home.

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A therapeutic rest stop.

A therapeutic rest stop.

2013 has been quite a year for us. We got married, I started this blog, and then on March 7 I was diagnosed with Acute Promyelocytic Leukemia (APL). This rare type of leukemia is dangerous, but I am happy to report that it is quite curable when diagnosed and treated quickly and correctly. Just over nine months later I am deep in remission and doing well. The first six months of my treatment were intense. I was admitted to the hospital where I remained in isolation for the first month and a half of my treatment. Around the same time Joey completed and graduated from law school. The four and a half months after that were spent receiving daily chemotherapy infusions at my local cancer center. The weekend this ended Joey took, and we now know that he passed the California Bar. The day he finished the exam we received a call that his work plans have changed and he had to find his next position six months sooner than we had anticipated. As soon as this was settled we moved to Miami, FL for Joey’s work and I’ve spent time here resting and recovering. It was a whirlwind, but we made it through.

In some ways, I can’t believe how quickly my body has recovered since the beginning. I went from such a fragile and vulnerable state to being able to move across the country and live in a new city. I can go grocery shopping again, travel home for holidays, and see art exhibits. In this sense, things are back to normal. Still, I am not back to working full time, I have not danced in about a year, and I still spend a good amount of time in doctor’s offices. I continue to process what happened to me and I am still thankful for every single day that I have to live.

It’s funny that I started this blog just about the same week I felt the first symptoms of my cancer. And I’m surprised that I haven’t returned here to process some of life’s experiences while battling cancer. Several times I have wanted to post things, share things, and document things. I even drafted a couple of blog posts that I plan to finally post here soon. But it hasn’t felt right to return to this space until now. I had to let this year take its course. And now I’m ready to begin again. In just over one week we will leave Miami and travel through California for the holidays before we make a highly anticipated and permanent move to New York City. I hope to resume working full time, get back into dancing, and put 2013 behind us as we see what awaits for 2014. I think that this will happen slowly, but I look forward to experiencing the beginning in due time and in whatever way feels comfortable.

I hope that this blog will continue to serve its intended purpose: to help me articulate my experience of a work life balance. What’s interesting is that in the last year my relationship to this balance has changed immensely. My anxiety around performing the right balance went out the window when I was diagnosed with cancer and my hunch that the “life” aspect of this balance mattered most is now a life philosophy.