Thursday, February 3, 2011


I am both a cancer astrologically and had cancer three and half years ago. It seems I can not escape it. I do not know why I have not discussed that here. I think for some time it really dominated my life, and how I saw myself and I finally had to leave it behind. It was very similar to weight loss defining me. First there was the diagnosis, then the being sick, then the aftermath and then I was left with well now what. It was a big thing to have happen and not discuss so okay so here it goes, the cancer story...

I was 26 at the time when I was diagnosed. I had cervical cancer stage 2, and came a millimeter away from a full hysterectomy. I am very lucky that did not happen. For the record since I am already discussing my lady bits, I did not have HPV. HPV is a huge cause in cervical cancer in women so if you are young enough to get vaccinated do it. Sorry to get all bossy but seriously why take the risk. I did chemo for about 6 months via pill form. In the midst of treatment I also started a company. I took 1.5 days off work and I barely gave myself time to process what was happening to me and how I felt about it. Chemo was rough. I felt crappy about 100% of the time and when I did not feel straight up awful I was not feeling good by any means. I was really lucky my brother had recently moved to Jersey City and was unemployed. He basically made his job running my life. He did my grocery shopping, cleaned my apartment, helped me take care of Dumplina (the dog). He was truly amazing and I will forever be grateful to him for the care. He was one of the few people who didn't treat me differently and just let me be. I had friends who couldn't even say the word cancer. That hurt. I had other friends who whenever it came up burst into tears, that was trying. It was a scary time for all of us. I've always tried my best to take care of those around me and now I was the one with cancer. This did not sit well with anyone. My Mom had recently gotten engaged and now she had just been robbed of excitement and carefree planning. Now that she's divorced I feel less bad about this. I knew on the one hand it wasn't my fault, I didn't do anything, and I wasn't troubling anyone but at first I felt that way.

Most of the negative things that have happened to me I have tried to find the positive in. Cancer was a gift. The first month of chemo I was so angry. I was mourning losing who I had always been to myself. I had had stamina, been able to push through, been tough, now I couldn't walk across down, was falling asleep in the middle of a conversation with my brother, and in bed by 8pm. I did not take this well. Month one was so incredibly hard for me. I felt so alone, angry, and frustrated, and now looking back on it I could not use food. I had a hard time keeping food down at first. I eventually by month 3 had figured out what I could and could not get down, but month one it was still trial and error. By the end of month one I went to a support group after resisting because I was starting to feel pretty crazy. A woman said to me when I said I feel like I shouldn't be here I have the common cold version of cancer she said why do you think you could die any less then me? You're not safe you have cancer. That was the hardest and scariest moment of all, because she was right I had cancer and I could die.

After that first month I sort of embraced the freedom cancer gave me. I could say no, I could impose limits, I could behave how I felt in that moment. I wasn't a ranting raving selfishtor, but I was starting the learning process of how to make sure I was getting my needs met. I had previously only addressed my unhealthy needs and now I was beginning to understand healthy ones. Friends who would say oh come to the movies you only need to sit there, I would stay strong and say nah you don't get it, I do not have the energy to even do that. It was tough at first but that desire to protect myself was beginning to grow and I stopped caring if people thought I was weak. I had cancer. There was no toughing it out, there was nothing to prove I had to take this seriously and I had to take care of myself. I think this experience was setting me up for the next phase.

When I was done with treatment, pronounced cancer free I was left with a lot I did not know what to do with. Cancer had dominated my life. I had been in this crisis bubble for months. I did not know how to go from high alert to nothing. When I would do my best other people who suck me back in. I went home to Atlanta for my mom's wedding, and several people thought then was the time to discuss it with me. Not terribly cool. I get where they were coming from but, really? Really? On what is supposed to be a great, joyous night, you want to bring up cancer? Nothing kills a party faster.

I lost some weight when I was ill, but it wasn't before long I started to gain weight. I think again in reflection, that I was depressed. Coming out of the bubble was hard. I had been 26 carefree on my way to my biggest career move yet when it had been snatched away from me. Why should I trust this would not happen again. Random but related I also lived in NYC for 9/11 and I feel similarly about these two things. I had to make a decision, was I going to live or was I going to stopping living and just be afraid? I started to live. It was weird at first, but I started to make my adjustments. I had an amazing team of doctors, nurses, and support group who helped me tremendously throughout the entire process. I will forever be grateful to them to. I started to go back to life pre-cancer, pre-sick, pre/post sick, I did immunotherapy, I started to read and get interested in health. I started to value my body and appreciate that it had fought for me when I needed it to and now I had to fight for it.

I still get scans every 6 months and will until I am declared in remission. I have nightmares once in a blue moon that the caner comes backs, but now I find I forget I even had it. I thought I never would, but time does heal your body, and your wounds and when you work at it even your mind. I am not really sure if I had not had cancer would I have gotten serious about my weight problem. Cancer helped me seperate thin and health. It helped me start to realize I was tired of not feeling healthy. I was tired of feeling gross and now I didn't have chemo to blame. I thought about gastric but it is not recommended for people who are not in remission, I totally hid behind that as an excuse at first, but now I think it all worked out the way it was supposed to. Gastric was not for me because it was not a lobotomy. I know many people have had amazing success with it, but I bet they were honest with themselves. When I was contemplating it I was not there yet. Part of me also did not want to have this mega surgery after I had just been through so much. Again I was starting to protect and appreciate my body. I thank cancer for this.

I thank cancer for teaching me how to say no, to learn my limits and respect them, and to value what an amazing thing the human body is. I thank it despite it being an evil disease. I started running to donate to cancer related charities and still try to do this. I try to raise awareness about getting your annual check ups and taking care of yourself because cancer is an evil disease. I was lucky and I hope I remain so September 1st 2011 will be 4 years cancer free and I look forward to that date, but I grow less and less concerned by it. It seems further and further in the distance and like it was another lifetime or a different person. In some ways it was. It was angry, overweight, unhealthy, miserable, in a toxic relationship, anna. It was not the happy life I have today.

I tried to stay on point with this post, but I think I probably got lost in the corn maze a few times. It's interesting to reflect on something that has very little meaning to me now that did dominate my life. Maybe it's because I feel so much healthier, maybe it's because it has been 4 years, who knows, but I am glad it's become another experience not a defining factor or moment.


  1. Thanks for sharing this! You've really made me think about a few things that I have worked through that seemed so all-consuming at the time but now years later. Not that I've been through anything like that but we all have our battles right!

  2. D- Welcome! It was definitely something I needed to write. It was weird to write it feeling so differently about it now. I think I needed some distance. We all have our battles and it's all relative. It's all in how you recover and pick up not how much pain you get to carry around I think.

  3. This is an incredible post, Anna. Thank you for sharing this with us. Like D said, it really makes you think about situations you've faced throughout your life that seemed all-consuming at the time but now seem so distant and almost inconsequential. It's so easy to forget how quickly life can surprise us.

  4. Samara- Thanks so much! It was cathartic to write and realize how distant it seems and feels. I had not taken a moment to really articulate that even to myself. Amazing what a little writing can do, makes you do that whole reflection thing :)

  5. "Gastric was not for me because it was not a lobotomy."

    Yes! Exactly. Best summing up of why I've also said no. It's the stuff between my ears that needs the fixing.

  6. Thanks Gail. That was the best way to explain it I came up with the family and friends who didn't get it. Who were like just get gastric and call it a day.