This blog post is easily the hardest one for me to write, which as you’re reading this you may think “huh, why?” since this isn’t necessarily about my direct experiences with Cancer in a medical sense. However this is the hardest to write because it means the most to me. This post is all about my support system and the love I’ve been receiving since my diagnosis. I am indescribably thankful for it but I am going to try my best to explain to those reading this just how grateful I am. But seriously how do I even begin to put into words how much all of the love and support means to me? I don’t think words can actually do it justice, but I’m going to give it a shot…
From the second I found I was diagnosed with Cancer everyone around me kicked into full support mode. Being on both sides of the equation I too have experienced loved ones being diagnosed with a serious health concern. It is really hard to know what to do or to say to that person. For me personally, and I would suspect a lot of others going through health struggles would agree to this, saying absolutely anything with sincerity means so much to us. Even a simple “Hi, I’m thinking about you” moves mountains. I am so incredibly lucky to be receiving be getting those simple reminders daily but alongside some pretty huge supportive surprises as well. I’m overly excited to share my stories of support with you.
Not only did I receive an outpouring of love via texts, calls, hand written cards, edible arrangements and flowers, some of my close friends went to great lengths to come visit me or put together personal care packages to help me through my surgery. These packages included items to take my mind off of things like color books (which are friggin awesome by the way! – seriously have sat to color for like 5 hours at a time….). I could honestly go on and on and list the overwhelming items I’ve received over the last 6 months. But I want to share with you a few inconceivably touching experiences I had which I will never ever forget. It’s so hard for me to write this because I can’t see the words on my computer between happy tears….deep breath.
When I was initially diagnosed it was in Connecticut which is the state I grew up in. Currently I live in NYC area so it’s not super close. I ended up staying at my mom’s house as I figured out my plan before surgery. I wasn’t sure if I was going to go through my treatments in CT or NYC but for the time being I liked being in the house I grew up in and surrounded by family, it made me feel most comfortable. One of the weekends while I was there, I planned to go for a hike with my boyfriend and one of my best friend’s Liz. We ended up trekking all the way to Kent Falls and it was a gorgeous day in late October. I love being outdoors so they knew this would help take my mind off everything. My sister was planning to meet us back at my mom’s house so she texted me while we were on the hike asking when I would be back. We figured out the timing and said we would meet each other then. I also knew my friend Brittany wanted to come visit so I coordinated timing with her as well. I was so blissfully unaware of what was about to go down….
When we pulled into my mom’s driveway Brittany was randomly sitting on the front stoop waiting for us. I thought nothing of it at time (though retrospectively it was really strange for her to just be hanging out there by herself lol sorry Britt!). I waved enthusiastically as we pulled into the drive way. Getting out of the car everything seemed perfectly normally….but then both of the garage doors started opening simultaneously and I was very confused. As the doors rose I saw several pairs of feet and honestly in my mind I was like “who the hell would that be right now??” thinking maybe my sister and her friends were being dumb and trying to prank me. But to the biggest surprise about 16 of my closest friends from the dance company that I am in popped out from inside of the garage. I was floored….I don’t know how else to put it into word. Watch for yourself:
Once I realized I wasn’t dreaming, and I hugged everyone, and I found out that my sister had orchestrated the whole thing. Again I was absolutely floored. She’s always been the best sister a girl could ask for but this took my breath away. She knows how much my dance company friends mean to me and that it would fill my heart by seeing them. And to know how willingly they all jumped on board to come and see me up in CT (they all live in NYC area or further) made me feel like the most loved human on the planet. Like I said before it really can’t be put into words how incredible they all are. But that’s not all….not only did they come to visit, and honestly just seeing their faces was everything I needed, they also brought with them trays and trays of food and drinks to make a whole party out of it. They organized a pumpkin carving activity since it was fall at the time and tt was the best thing. Far more than I ever could have asked for. We spent the day laughing and catching up and I received calls and texts from several additional friends who couldn’t make it just to let me know how much they wish they could. My heart melted.
To build in some context – I had to quit dancing mid-way through our season due to my diagnosis. I was not sure when my surgery would be and I had too many Dr. Appointments that anything else in my life had to be put on hold. Dancing has been a passion of mine since I was 4 years old, and finding a company that not only shares that passion but also has a community built within, it has brought me so much happiness over the past couple of years. Losing my ability to dance (even though it’s temporary) has been a big hurdle for me to come to terms with. However, the friendships I have built during my time with the company has been astronomically important in my journey to wellness. They are literally fierce friends in the best possible way. If you dancers in my life are reading this THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart for that day and everything else you have done for me. This is so cheesy but true – I’m hopeful that I’ll grow old and grey and be able to share that story with my grandkids. And to my sister, I hope one day to share this with my kids and tell them just how F&@King awesome their aunt is. I think it will teach them how to love harder and give back more.
My family also has a huge role in building up my strength and providing me with unconditional love and support which I have to share. My parents have been with me in every single doctor’s appointment and treatment I’ve had. Both of them traveling at lengths to just be with me. My dad lives down south and he is constantly flying up here to be by my side. My mom will travel hours even to just sit with me on the couch during my darkest chemo days. How do I say thank you for that? Both of them have separately said to me they wish this had happened to them and not me. That actually makes my heart ache. I would never wish this on anyone I love and especially not them who I love with all of my heart, but just knowing how genuine those words were when they said that to me means the universe (just the world is too small to fit the feeling). I hope to make them proud and show them how a struggle creates strength you never knew you had. And I hope they are reading this knowing how much I love them. I’m the luckiest girl in the world to have a family like mine. This goes out to my extended family as well. Each of them have been so supportive and rallied around me to show that. From visits to texts and calls, and constant prayers I know they push out into the Universe each night. You mean everything to me.
To my boyfriend Phill, who has literally been by my side this entire journey. You really are the definition of selflessness. I hope you know I would never expect this but without even missing a beat you have put me above all else. We’ve gone through so much together over the years but this one is probably the hardest, and somehow we’ve just grown closer. You allow me to be 100% myself no matter if I’m mad, happy, sad, anxious, or any other feelings in between. You provide me with a safe, loving, positive environment that I thrive on. Just treating me like I’m me and not “the girl with Cancer” has meant a billion + one (is that even enough? Probably not, but I’m running out of the ultimate descriptors to explain my feelings). Thank you for being my world. I hope you feel how much I love you every day even if I’m not the most outward at showing it sometimes, it’s there
Ok back to some stories…I could really go on a tangent and thank so many people individually but this would become a novel! Just know if you’re in my life I’m thanking you through this post with all of my heart. I hope that comes across.
The next support story has to do again with my dance company and my sister but also the kindness of family, closest friends, coworkers and complete strangers. I wasn’t kidding with how amazing they are. They all know how much I love dancing and hopefully how much I care for them, but they showed me how truly behind me they are with this one. As I mentioned before I had to quit dancing mid-way through our season. The company puts on seasonal shows each year and this past fall our show was right before my scheduled surgery. Of course I planned to go and watch both show times and scream my face off yelling pretty much everyone’s name in the company (for those who sat around me that night in the theater, I apologize). I was told to come early to the show so I could go backstage and see everyone and of course I jumped at that opportunity. As a tradition the company does a massive circle before show time to give words of encouragement and to wish everyone good luck. Well…as you might have guessed reading that there was something special that happened during that moment. After our directors spoke they gave the floor to my sister and our friend Tonya. The two walked out into the middle of the circle and I immediately lost it. I actually audibly said “oh F&@K”. With my friends all around me I listened as my sister spoke through her tears about how much the company is behind me and wants to help me through my journey. She than presented me with a card. In the moment I didn’t open it, I was already crying too hard. I tried to articulate what it meant to me to the 100+ people literally surrounding me but I failed miserably. I’m not good with speaking out loud sometimes and honestly my feelings were too great to even put it into words. Here is the video of that moment, it’s hard to hear but you can get the gist of how special it was. I’m the one in the yellow sweater and black overalls crying my eyes out.
I later found out a couple of things. First – that card contained a check for about $13,000 dollars. I kid you not…I actually had a literal jaw dropping moment when I read what had been done. My sister and our friend Tonya set up a You Caring site for me to help offset medical costs. They shared it not only with the entire company (including the sister company in Boston) but also with friends, family, co-workers and their friends and family as well. People I have never met poured in with generous donations but even more impacting words that they left on the site. I read each and every one of the messages multiple times. I would love to write back to each one of you individually, but I hope as many of those people who contributed are reading this and that my words convey how thankful I am for all that you have done for me. That money is being used for my future family. Chemo unfortunately does a number on a woman’s fertility and I had to take preservative measures in order to hopefully have children one day. Unfortunately fertility issues are not covered by most health insurances. Your contributions mean I will one day start a family and spread the love you have shared with me back to them. That is more special to me than I can tell you. I feel like I’m saying that a ton in this post but it really is true and I don’t have more creative words.
The second part of this story took part during the actual show. One of the pieces I had been casted in Choreographed by one of my best friends Jon did something that probably caused the people sitting around me during the show to be very concerned. Not only did I scream at the top of my lungs but I started crying uncontrollably too trying to yell out every dancers name in the piece. Jon’s dance sported hot pink as their main color scheme but what stood out more than that was the fact that each one of them wore a Breast Cancer pink ribbon. What the heck? Make my heart explode more why don’t you? After the show Jon and Liz told me they came up with the plan and distributed the ribbons before the show. They made damn well sure I didn’t see them when I was backstage but no way had I missed that during the number. I have the best friends in the universe. That act of support was so touching and reminds me how precious friendships and life is. There are really good people in this world who deserve so much. You two are most definitely ones who deserve everything you want and more.
Another huge contribution to my health costs came from my closest and longest family friends. Those of which just suddenly lost a loved one at way too young of an age. But they turned that absolutely awful event and transformed it into a way to pay it forward and gathered funds to present to me in her honor. Again jaw dropped. To see that level of caring and love is breathtaking and renders me speechless. I’ve never thought I deserved this amount of love. Not only have they showed me how powerful it feels, they have also consistently been there for every step of my life since I was 4 years old. You all deserve all of it right back. Me being only one person I just want you to know my heart is so full of love for you all and I would do anything for you. I am so sorry for the loss you have experienced recently, it’s completely unfair and unjust, but you are some of the strongest people I know and the love you have will certainly pay it forward and get you through. I heart you so much. Your actions speak to how amazing you all are.
The last hugely supportive event (there are way too many to write and I’m trying to not go over the word limit) was with my coworkers. From the second they all found out what I was dealing with, especially my immediate team they kicked into overdrive by helping cover off projects and making me feel like I was fully supported no matter what. My boss and coworker Alex are some of my closest friends in and outside of work, they didn’t hesitate for a second to be there for me. I appreciate all that they have done more than I can say. I seriously wish there were more descriptive words in the English language (maybe there are but I don’t know them) to describe how grateful I am for you.
Our senior leadership team made sure to come and talk with me individually to share their words of strength and encouragement. How many can say that the top members of their company would do that? Especially with the level of genuine caring that they expressed? If you do have this too, you are there with me on how fortunate we are. I am forever grateful for that. But it doesn’t stop there….
The day before my surgery I went into the office to cover things off with everyone since I was going on medical leave for 8 week to recover. I wanted to be sure everything was squared away and also to see their faces, because I really do love what I do and the people I work with. My dad ended up tagging along with me to the office to be supportive and around mid-morning a co-worker of mine asked me if we can go into the main community area of our office. I followed her there just to find out that the company had thrown me a surprise party to show their support and healing vibes for my upcoming operation. Again I cried, and tried to articulate how much their support on this matter and support on my career over the past couple of years has meant to me. My dad was able to share that moment and hear all the kind words my coworkers had to say about me. Could a girl seriously be any luckier?? I don’t think so. My heart is filled with so much love for each and every one of you. You’ve stuck with me through this whole thing and have been understanding and compassionate about my struggles. Allowing me to take time for me when I need it but trust that I will also be there to support all of you through work and life wherever you need me.
I wish I could continue on and on and put everyone’s name and support stories into this post. That would really but a long one though. Just know this post is for everyone who did everything big and small for me over the last 6 months and I love all of you with everything I have. If I could return the favor (though I do not wish this journey on any of you for one second) I would in an instant. Just know I am here for you right back. Even though I am slightly MIA right now due to treatment I am coming back with a love filled vengeance as a fiercely loyal friend, girlfriend, daughter, sister, family member, etc. You all are such a huge part of my strength and positivity. Many of you have told me how strong I am, but maybe you don’t realize how much of that strength is derived from those around me. You’re my power source and I couldn’t do this without you.
To those who supported that I don’t know personally, I feel like I know you just by how grateful I feel for everything you’ve done to support me. Your actions show the goodness in this world and that is so important and easily missed these days. I cannot wait to pay it forward and to share these stories for years to come. You’ve made a huge impact on my life and are a large part of the strength that I feel as I push forward. It’s easy to dwell on hard times and negative things, but when you have experienced kindness beyond words it’s an amazing way to pull yourself back to the present and remember how precious life is. Thank you for being my reminder everyday of that.
I love you all,