When my mom used to send regular updates about my health to our network of friends and family, every once and a while she would send an email titled "happy stuff." Instead of detailing my latest treatment plan and the constant highs and lows I experienced, these emails simply focused on the good things happening in my life. Updates just about me, not that pesky, annoying cancer thing I also had.
My mom continues to send out emails to a smaller group of friends, but I've stopped sending my own update emails because I was tired of being the bearer of bad news. My emails often went as follows: my latest scan wasn't what we expected, we're going in another direction with treatment, I switched doctors again, I'm starting a new drug and it's supposed to be amazing, blah blah blah.... I began to feel like a parrot, saying the exact same thing every time a drug stopped working for me. And while I'm extremely lucky to have always had another option of treatment, those emails became depressing to write and I felt like everyone who received them was just wondering, "damn, when is this girl going to be healthy?" Even though I know it's not my fault that this stupid cancer is still inside my body, you can't help feeling like a F-student in a class where most people get As (like that metaphor? AKA, most people are cured from Hodgkin's in the first 6 months, I've had it for 3 years). So for my own sanity, I just stopped. I wasn't always a straight A student in school, but I always knew how to buckle down and study to get good grades, I know how to present myself well in interviews to land great jobs, and I know how to put in work to achieve the things I want in life. Yet the fact that there's nothing I can personally do to overcome cancer (besides prayer and trusting my amazing doctor), has made me feel like a failure in a way I've never experienced in my entire life. So it became easier to not have to broadcast to everyone what a failure I was, and how I haven't been able to "beat" this thing yet.
Instead of dwelling on the "bad stuff," I've decided to take a page out of my mom's book and recognize the "happy stuff." The reality is that despite my health situation, I've had some amazing moments in the past few years. And I think the lesson is (because you have to learn something after getting cancer right?) that I can still have a good life even while living with cancer. One great opportunity that I had was a special photo shoot with my mom. My mom's friend Whitni put us in touch with her friend Dawn Freeland, a wonderful photographer in Charlotte. We both wanted new headshots (my mom owns a marketing consulting firm in Charlotte and she's always in the news so she needed one for business purposes, and I'm going to be famous one day...lol...so of course we needed headshots!), so Whitni set up the photoshoot and a makeover (I'm a sucker for professional hair and makeup, a pair of false eyelashes makes my day!) and the experience was great.
The photo shoot reminded me of some of the great times my mom and I had while wedding planning, where we were focused more on the color of the flowers than cancer. We laughed, joked and had some mother-daughter bonding time while Dawn took beautiful photos of us, just in our element. Those moments I cherish so much because when I look at the photos, I don't see a girl who is sick, I see someone who is strong, confident and on top of the world...she's the girl I want to be!
In an amazing coincidence, Dawn is hoping to use some of the photos to publish in a book to raise funds for cancer research. Everything really does come full circle when you don't even realize it. Some of Dawn's great work is below and my mom's headshot is on her website:
In other happy news, I've been channeling my best Giuliana Rancic and doing more and more TV segments for work. I'm falling in love with TV hosting and I'm so happy to have realized this new passion. While I didn't make it past the Top 25 for the LIVE! with Kelly Cohost Contest, I still have the opportunity to be on live TV, which is both exciting and terrifying! Need someone to talk about entertainment, beauty, fashion, and cancer? I'm your girl! This past Friday I talked about preparing for the fall season (yep, in July!) with some must-have Johnson and Johnson essentials:
Here's to more "happy stuff" happening in the future!