I was just as shocked as anyone else when I was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 29. In the last eight months, I’ve undergone all sorts of scans, test, surgeries, and chemotherapy. When I was looking towards what my life was going to look like through chemo and how I was going to deal with it, I knew I needed a distraction. I couldn’t bear the idea of sitting in a chemo chair for hours every week with a book or tv show; it wasn’t going to be enough to take me out of the suddenly horrific existence I was living.
I was driving to or from one of my numerous appointments when Kelly Clarkson’s “What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger” came on the radio. As I started going through the words in my head, I had the idea to use the song somehow in relation to my treatment; the drugs that would soon be pushed into my system, destroying my hair and my nails and so many other healthy parts of me in the hopes of killing off the invasive cancer cells would be tough to endure but would ultimately save my life. Of course, I didn’t plan on singing loudly in the chemo ward while other patients were sleeping or dealing with their own treatments – often more taxing or painful than my own. Lip syncing seemed to me the obvious choice, and served both as a silly distraction for me and an entertaining way for my friends and family all over the world to see for themselves that I was in good spirits and feel reassured that I was alright.
This started just for me, to survive.
The videos started off fairly simply, with my only real addition being bright red lipstick in every video. As I continued forward, my baldness gave me opportunities to get creative – adding spinning pinwheels and decor for Katy Perry’s “Firework” and wearing wigs for Ariel or Cyndi Lauper. They expanded in scope and vision and props to become a weekly event of ridiculousness, to the point that I walk into the chemo wards with bags of costumes and makeup and my nurses always look forward to finding out what the song of the day will be.
This started just for me, to survive. Physically, I knew I could get through this. It would be awful and rough and terrible, but I would get through it. Mentally and emotionally, the toll of living through cancer treatment is heavy. Young patients in particular are at a time in life where our careers and relationships and family units aren’t necessarily fully formed, and we get an abrupt and unwelcome disruption in the momentum of our existence. For me, this was a method of self-care, to remind myself that my own ridiculousness and whimsy still survived despite everything I felt had been taken away from me.
Using what has been given to me in the best way I know how.
The extent to which my videos have been shared, or have affected other patients, has been a humbling surprise to me. I have received countless messages from friends, or friends of friends of friends, telling me how they or someone they loved was just diagnosed, or is struggling through treatment, or having a hard time, and they saw one of my videos and it helped them smile that day. More than ever, I am aware of the need for a smile now and then and the idea that I can bring that to someone else’s life is all I could ever hope for. Living with cancer has had ups and downs, and has taught me a lot about myself. Giving back to the cancer community in this small way is my way of using what has been given to me in the best way I know how. Keep smiling, friends.
Show Comments (1)