Thank You Chubby.

It has been a year since I was tied up, strapped down, locked in.

A year since I finished treatment- a year since I tiptoed out of the shadows and into the sunlight -and a year since I left the hospital for what I hoped would be the very last time.

In the past year, I have chosen to experience the world in oscillating states of hyper-color. These moments are cherished, savored, and readily accessible.

These moments give me strength, provide guidance, and most importantly provide hope.

On Thursday May 10, 2012- one year after finishing treatment, we held a Twist Out Cancer fundraiser in Montreal – a city that I called home for nearly 7 years. In the last year this community nurtured and supported me in a way that I did not know was possible. With nearly 200 people in attendance- we were able to raise awareness and funds to help further Twist Out Cancer’s mission, and perhaps more importantly- I was finally able to say thank you.

As fate would have it- the same weekend Twist Out Cancer Touched Down in Montreal,- Chubby Checker planned to celebrate 50 years of the Twist.

This past Saturday night, at the Rialto Theatre, I took the stage with the man that helped inspire a movement- with the man that has been the focal point of my narrative-with the man that has helped show me that “life is not about waiting for the storm to pass but its about learning to dance in the rain.”

As we twisted- Cancer moved from center stage into the chorus.

As we twisted- the heaviness of the last year was lifted.

As we twisted- the pain that I endured softened.

Thank you Chubby for being a part of my past- but more importantly a part of my present and future.

Dancing with you was one of the best moments of my life.

You helped me find meaning in the suffering- and for that I am incredible grateful.

 

Let’s Kick Out Cancer!

Join Twist Out Cancer and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society in “Kicking Out Cancer!”

May 15, 2012

7:00 PM-9:00 PM

Raiders FC U17 Premier vs. Galaxy SC 94/95 Blue (Midwest Regional League match)

Flames Field, 901 W. Roosevelt Road, Chicago, IL 60608

$5 admission

$2 for children 12 and under

To Register Online go to http://kick-out-cancer.eventbrite.com/

Join Twist Out Cancer and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society in Kicking Out Cancer!

Raiders FC U17 Premier (currently ranked #1 in Illinois, #1 in Region II and #6 Nationally) will be playing against Galaxy SC 94/95 Blue (ranked #4 in Illinois, #7 in Region II and #42 Nationally) in a Midwest Regional League match that will also serve as a charity soccer match.  All proceeds will benefit Twist Out Cancer and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

The Reason:

In May 2011, Noreen Karadsheh (head athletic trainer of Raiders FC U17 Premier) was diagnosed with Stage IIb Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. After six months of intense and invasive treatment, Noreen is currently in remission. In order to honor her journey and celebrate her health, all proceeds of the event will go towards charities that are close to her heart.

Watch Jenna and Noreen Twist Out Cancer

The Charities:

Twist Out Cancer is a support community…with a twist! Founded by 30-year-old Grey Zone Lymphoma survivor Jenna Benn, TOC leverages social media to help survivors and their loved ones combat the feelings of isolation, loneliness, and helplessness that often accompany cancer diagnoses and treatment. TOC provides a forum through which anyone affected by cancer can share thoughts, experiences, stories, and insights, allowing for the exchange of ideas, encouragement, and wisdom from one community member to another. Most importantly, each survivor is invited to create a profile page distinguishing his or her individual “twist” on cancer. This “twist” becomes a collection of videos, posts, songs, pictures, or other media gifted to the survivor by his or her loved ones and friends—it is a living, changing, active, and personalized digital legacy that encourages loved ones to give, and survivors to share. Twist Out Cancer has the power to affect how we fight and heal, and change the way our community provides support.  www.twistoutcancer.org

The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS) is the world’s largest voluntary health agency dedicated to blood cancer. The LLS mission: Cure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease and myeloma, and improve the quality of life of patients and their families. LLS funds lifesaving blood cancer research around the world and provides free information and support services. www.lls.org/il

Meet Noreen

This past spring I had the pleasure of meeting darling Noreen. Noreen had just been diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and she was referred to me through our oncologist Dr. Leo Gordon. At that time I was just a few steps ahead of Noreen. I had recently finished treatment and was slowly tiptoing out of the shadows.  As I was trying to reacclimate, Noreen was saying goodbye to her sense of normalcy and doing her best to embrace her new reality. Noreen and I connected over our love for dance, our fascination with the ridiculous, and our strong belief in holding on to hope.

Noreen was my first tiny twister- who happened to tower over me by 1/2 a foot.  After her first round of chemotherapy, Noreen and I went to North Avenue Beach and twisted out cancer.

Noreen is and was a fighter in all senses of the word. Cancer unlocked her creativity, allowed her to access parts of herself that had become quieted, and perhaps most importantly allowed her to appreciate life in a new and profound way.

Here is Noreen’s twist on cancer.

I am a survivor. That has a nice little ring to it doesn’t it?! On the eve of my first follow-up CT-scan post chemo, I am healthy, young and a hopeful Hodgkin’s Lymphoma Survivor. In May 2011, I learned that the start of my 31 years of life would be filled with cancer.  From the moment of being told I had cancer, to the 6 months of chemotherapy, and to the ever so interesting life of post treatment and the ongoing phase of recovery, the feeling of shock and disbelief never left.  As a high-energy, constant life on the go kind of gal that I am that is completely devoted to family, friends and my career, I never let cancer take control of my life.  I worked full-time throughout treatment, I lived my life like a 31 year old should. I laughed, I danced, and I continued to fight everyday. I blogged about my journey and found that it was a great release and allowed me to keep my friends and family updated.  In my everyday life, I lived in the black and white.  There was never a doubt that I wasn’t going to beat cancer.  I did what I had to do to survive.  But as I blogged, it was my moment to live in the grey.  I exposed my fears, my uncertainties, but managed to showed people I was strong. My low moments brought on tears, hopelessness, fears, isolation and the feeling of being lost.  I soon learned that greatest gift that was ever given to me was cancer.  I know that is crazy to say but I have learned so much more than some may learn in their lifetime.  I was given the opportunity to evaluate what was important to me in life.  I saw different layers of beauty in people, my world and my soul.  My family and friends lifted me up everyday.  I made a promise to myself to slow down and smell the roses.  I take a moment everyday to look at the sky and absorb the beauty and the ever-changing masterpiece the earth creates everyday.  I close my eyes and take deep breaths and savor each breath that enters and escapes my body.  I am alive today.  I am real. I am grateful and loved. I am a real human.  And I couldn’t ask for anything more.

Ann

Meet Ann.

Ann and I first met at Birch Trail Camp for Girls located in Minong, Wisconsin. We were ten.  I remember Ann as a bright eyed, energetic, and talkative camper who appeared older and wiser than her age. Her energy was explosive.  Unlike Ann, I was painfully shy, timid, and terribly homesick. 

My interactions with Ann were limited. We were in different cabins, with a similar circle of friends.  Her and I exchanged a few hits during a competitive game of Biffer, which resulted in us being covered head to toe in flower and paste.

We were distant acquaintances nothing more.

This past December when I was diagnosed with Lymphoma, my fifth grade- far removed friend- reached out and slowly told me about her journey with Cancer.

Thanks to Facebook, Ann and I twenty years later were able to start a deep friendship that helped me get through my diagnosis, treatment and perhaps more importantly the months, days and moments thereafter.

Ann was my “unofficial angel”, my soul sister, my 9/11 call in the middle of the night when I was managing a new side effect, or when the fears of my mortality had become unbearable.

Ann was my voice of reason, the “your going to be ok, better than ok, and when you realize this I am going to tell you- I told you so.”

I asked Ann to share her “Twist on Cancer.” 

I share this with you because I think it is important that you know just how special Ann is.

Thank you Birch Trail, thank you Facebook, and perhaps thank you cancer for bringing us together.  I don’t know what I would do without you.

Meet Ann.

One will often hear cancer patients or survivors say that their diagnosis was the best thing that ever happened to them. While I wouldn’t say it quite so starkly, I will say that having cancer changed my perspective and my life for the better. It made me Grateful.
I pulled myself through my diagnosis, treatment and healing process by reminding myself, and others, every day, that if Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, 6 months of chemotherapy and its’ after-effects were the worst thing that ever happened to me, I continued to be one of the luckiest people I knew.
And I knew, I knew exactly how lucky I was – to be otherwise young and strong, to have great health insurance, to have my sister nearby and parents in the position to travel 1,300 miles every other week for my treatment, to have patient and adoring friends, and to have a disease classified as eminently treatable and most-likely curable – I was Grateful every day.
Yes, I cried when I was diagnosed. Yes, I cried when I lost my hair. Yes, I cried every day because I felt crappy, or had to go to another doctor, or was just plain scared. I wasn’t brave. I wanted my early-20s back. I didn’t want to worry. But every day, I counted up all of the things for which I was Grateful. The list was so long. Even now, 8 years later, I still do this.
Being Grateful when I was sick taught me to be Grateful now that I am well. My Twist on Cancer is an attitude of deep Gratitude.