Almost three years after I initially discovered this cupcake truck for a cause hoechemo.com/post/9415886286/inspired-cupcakes-for-courage, I finally got to try one for myself. I recommend the pink velvet. They even hooked me up with a free survivor cupcake! They park by Northwestern Memorial most Wednesdays. Check em out! They’re on twitter giving updates on their whereabouts @CourageousCakes and they’re on facebook too.
Today is my 3rd Cancerversary. Two years ago I was receiving radiation and prepping for my first transplant. One year ago I was prepping for my 2nd transplant. Today, I am in Seaside, California taking my first ever beach run with Aura. I am full of gratitude and sand.
Last July, after my allogeneic stem cell transplant, I immediately began to exercise. I exercised by occasionally sitting up, by chewing and swallowing food, and by going to the bathroom in a toilet that was seemingly across the island of Manhattan from my bed. If possible, I would have taken a taxi to get there.
Each day in the hospital I would force myself to stand up, slipper up, gown up, mask up, and walk a few laps on the transplant floor—just me, my girl and my IV pole. Inevitably, I would return to my room entirely depleted.
This May 8—three workouts in and still frost-bitten by a harsh Chicago winter—I looked over at my personal trainer, Shawn, and said, “So I signed up for Northwestern’s Cancer Survivors’ 5k on June 1st. You think I’ll be ready?” Her eyes widened. Her mouth was vaguely ajar. With a slight tilt of her head she said, “Um…”.
On June 1, surrounded by friends and family, on the 319th day since transplant, Aura and I crossed the finish line of my first 5k with the modest time of 32:59.
Did I say modest? I meant miraculous.
I smell a 10k coming on…
Here’s to Shawn Howd at First Step Fitness for making fun of me, keeping me on track and making working out something I now enjoy. If you’ve had cancer, live in Chicago and want to get back in shape, I’ll help you get ahold of her. She’s fantastic, and she knows our type.
And here’s to all of Aura and I’s friends and family who joined us on race day.
This beautiful (debatable) photo was taken on June 22, 2011, the morning of my lymph node biopsy. Saying goodbye to a hardworking lymph node that had gone rogue. I was diagnosed 5 days later on June 27.
To my hundreds of incredible nurses,
I want to apologize for not remembering.
My gratitude for your knowledge, kindness and care knows no bounds. My dislike of your design aesthetic also knows no bounds…
This year I promise to do my part to fill out comment cards on your bad coworkers. Maybe together, we can at least get them transferred to another floor.
Hannibal Buress on Cancer Walks:
I don’t believe in cancer walks. Well, I believe in them because they exist but I’d rather just give money straight up and save my Saturday afternoon. I can make my own t-shirt, that’s not incentive. Plus I don’t think cancer responds to how far people walk. I don’t think cancer’s sitting at home, ‘What? How many people walked how far? How many people walked how far wearing the same shirt? That’s crazy! I’m out of here! Remission.’
This National Cancer Survivor’s Day, we (Aura Brickler and Bret Hoekema) request the pleasure of your company as I complete the move from hospital bed to 5k. You are cordially invited to slather on the SPF 75 and gasp, pant and sweat your way to 5k. We’re not raising money, but we will be raising Cain. This run (or walk) is a chance to gather with friends and family—and celebrate the grit and immoderate spirit of cancer survivors everywhere.
Here’s the details:
Held on National Cancer Survivors Day, the Lurie Cancer Center’s Cancer Survivors’ Celebration Walk & 5K brings cancer survivors, families, and friends together with the physicians, scientists, and health professionals who support them for a meaningful, memorable morning filled with family-friendly activities. No pledges required.
21st Annual Cancer Survivors’ Walk & 5k
Sunday June 1, 2014
National Cancer Survivor’s Day
5k at 815
Walk at 830
Learn more, sign up or cover a cancer patient’s entry fee: http://cancer.northwestern.edu/walk/index.cfm
There you have it. I’m not much of a runner. It doesn’t run in my family. I’ve got jeans in my genes. Come out this National Cancer Survivor’s Day and see for yourself just how uncomfortable I am in running shorts.
A proposal for a day of the race activity/contest sponsored by Gillette:
1. Line up a bunch of runners
2. Guess whether the runners shaved their legs for the 5k or if they just finished chemotherapy.
3. Win a disposable razor.
Beautiful and absolutely devastating essay in New York Magazine by a Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center Doctor who loses his wife to cancer. All too familiar for too many of us. Thank you for sharing, Peter Bach. http://nymag.com/news/features/cancer-peter-bach-2014-5/
"Awareness is learning to keep yourself company. And then learn to be more compassionate company, as if you were somebody you are fond of and wish to encourage."
–Geneen Roth via Anne Lamott in Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, pg 31
If you haven’t read it, pick it up.
video by Public Record
Originally posted by @amy_augustine
She blogs at countingupfromzero.com
*** Official Selection SXSW Film Festival ***
A hybrid music video/documentary for the highly-emotional and wholly original debut single BRIGHTON by Alagoas (alagoas.us).
It is an uplifting love story featuring our friends Lincoln Fishman and Hilary Costa. They’re a young couple who abandon their burgeoning careers in New York in order to start a farm and build a life for themselves in community-supported agriculture. But just as they begin to hit their stride, the grim onset of cancer threatens to topple their dream.
The video is comprised entirely of footage from our work-in-progress documentary WE LIVE OUTSIDE.
Directed and photographed by Jeremiah Zagar
Edited by Khyber Jones
Additional photography by Adam Saewitz, Chris Keener, Hilary Costa & Yael Bridge
Timelapse photography by Digital Farm Collective & Dave Le Creative
Produced by Jeremy Yaches
Some days all you feel is your cancer.
You become acutely aware of its exact location in your body. You sense a specific dimension, volume, and mass. You must bear its heat and electricity. Its influence is omnipresent. Its focus sharp and malevolent. Your cancer desensitizes and deprives, aggravates and thrives. It is the pound of your headache. The loss of your memory. The distance in your eyes. The fear in your heart.
You must stop. You must breathe. You must endure.
Some days all you feel is your cancer.
So you rest and breathe, but each breath is affected, laborious. Even breathing frustrates you, pulling into sharp focus cancer’s grip on your body. You are reminded of your past, of youth, of ease. As you increase your awareness of your body, you see cancer at work extending its domain. Your life is fragile. Your body is a factory, intricate and fallible. Its laborers unaware of you: their product. Unaware of cancer: their defacto boss. There are inefficiencies. Your heart can only pump blood. Your lungs can only move air. You can only watch and wait.
There was a merger—God knows when or why—that made cancer a mid-level manager. Cancer is fat, lazy, and unaware. It manages maniacally from a fluorescent-lit, second-floor office window. It calls this office the Thorax. It sports clip-on ties, wears khaki slacks with an elastic waistband and drawstring, sips French vanilla coffee from a Styrofoam cup, flips endlessly through real estate catalogs and Maxim magazine, dreams of what it might be like to touch a woman, and takes up space. Lots of space. It constantly and needlessly expands its space. Like our economy, cancer looks below the diaphragm for cheap labor—the intestines, the prostate, or the liver.
Sometimes, cancer feels lonely. It imagines that life might be better if it weren’t there. Thankfully, the thought passes. Cancer shakes it off—just a little chemo brain. Incapable of a relationship with its coworkers, it sadly returns to watching cancer porn on the company dime. It isn’t going anywhere.
As you continue to rest and breathe, you realize your mood is lifting. You like this omniscient perspective. Your imagination seems strangely unencumbered by cancer. Your imagination is a subversive and mischievous worker who steals the keys to the factory while cancer sleeps on the shitter.
You continue to rest and breathe and see where your imagination takes you.
Your cancer becomes a sloth of a roommate, spread out in its Spiderman boxers on your couch like Sunday on a Wednesday afternoon. It is most likely, and perhaps unbeknownst to itself, covered in its own urine. Its body provides habitat for an untold number of species. It lives life in reruns of Two and a Half Men—remote in one hand and balls in the other. It is full of frozen pizza. It is content. And it isn’t going anywhere.
You’re getting good at this now.
Your cancer becomes a loud, patronizing drunk in an otherwise quiet neighborhood establishment. Its hair, held in perfect place by a visor, is as frosted as its beer mug, and it waddles, somewhat burdened by protein shakes. It is fresh from a round of eighteen, but its best hole is always the nineteenth. Emboldened by cheap lager, it can no longer stay in the fairway. Your table is now ITS table. Even though you are clearly having a conversation, it introduces itself by saying, “I’m not a racist, but…” And it definitely isn’t going anywhere.
Your cancer is inescapable, but your imagination is limitless.
Some days all you feel is your cancer.
For me, yesterday was one of those days. My cancer manifested as a sore throat and congestion for the third time in two months. My muscles and joints were sore, my skin was tight and splotchy with rash, and a headache was looming. I realized that from head to toe, I have some form of Graft Versus Host Disease. Nine months post-transplant, I thought I would be past the majority of GVHD.
Life is heavy.
I have carried cancer—or the worry of cancer—for too long. Some days, my body is nothing but limitations. Some days, even my imagination falls in line—only able to conjure the results of another ambiguous CT scan and the possibility of an additional four millimeters of cancer in my mediastinum.
Yesterday, there was nothing left to do but grab a blanket, close my eyes and try to rest. I breathed deeply, ignored the aches and pains, and fell in and out of sleep. As I rested, my imagination returned. I smiled, and we had some fun with the keys to the factory. As the daydreams developed, the walls of the factory faded to dust, and I was reminded that my body is not a factory, but an ecosystem—a fragile, fallible, and beautiful ecosystem.
When I came back to the surface, our apartment was filled with a soft afternoon light, and my body was extraordinarily sore. I slowly opened my eyes. Afternoon shadows from the traffic on Damen danced on our tin ceiling. Aura sat quietly across the room, focused on a book. As I began to stir, she looked up and smiled. She removed her reading glasses, closed her book, stood up, and headed toward me on the couch. Without saying a word, she wedged her body between the cushions and me and rested her head on my shoulder. I kissed her forehead, lost some tears, and reveled in the weight and warmth of her body.
Some days all you feel is your cancer—present, past or possible. It tugs at you.
Life also tugs at you. Life is not imagined, and it demands your attention.
Please feel free to post your own personifications of cancer. It’s good fun.