Today was huge. Huge.
When I got diagnosed (with stage IV metastatic melanoma, for anyone new tuning in) and moved home, my life was put on pause. I mean, I lived, I socialized with my peeps here and I ate good meals and I played poker with my other moms and I wrote like a muthafukker. But the ‘job’ factor was removed from the equation. My job, for the time being, was to beat the shit out of cancer. In some ways, my career and personal goals seemed more important than ever to achieve… but in some ways they also felt a little arbitrary. When you’re not sure if you’re gonna live to see another birthday, thinking long term almost feels, I dunno, like jinxy or something.
As soon as I got that first complete response, and I started to wrap my brain around – first, the fact that i was going to be around for a while, and then all of the options for how my life might look going forward, I knew that this was not time to take the safe route. At one point, I had blogged about the possibility of moving upstate, possibly taking a teaching job to sustain myself. My friend, Jenny-O, gave me a good, long ‘risk and reward and hardship and worth it and one life make it count’ talking to, and I knew. Now was the time to tell safety to take a hike… when you’re forty with ample experience as both a teacher and a waiter, you will always have one of those somethings to fall back on. But before falling back, why not try moving forward? I was in a free, comfortable, supportive living situation with enough savings to sustain me… time to make the fuggin’ donuts.
Just days after my last blog post, I began working as part of a small film collective in Bed Sty. It’s not a paid gig, but the projects we are developing at the moment are killer, and we’ve already started to shoot a few pieces. I believe in the projects and, more importantly, I believe in the people I’m collaborating with. I couldn’t have fallen in to a more perfect situation to help me get my ducks in a row, and I’m positive something we’re working on will stick to the wall.
One of the first things we did when we were brought together by the powerhouse of a human who spearheaded the collective was to each pitch a bunch of ideas for shorts, features, web and tv series and docs. As I was brainstorming the docs section of my pitch, I wrote the word ‘Cancer.’ In the weeks that followed, it became more and more clear to me that not only did I want to document my journey with cancer, I needed to. Both for me and for all of the people who are going to get diagnosed and scour the internet as I did only to find the most grim of statistics. There’s a level of hope now that never existed before. Why not shine a light on it?
As soon as I made the decision to make this film, the universe (and a handful of angels) started to conspire. The wheels started turning and they have yet to slow down. I don’t feel comfortable talking too much about the specifics on it, but I can say with confidence that we are making this film, and doing so with a dream team and some real enthusiasm from people who have the power to help us realize its potential… not to mention the allegiance of my other dream team over at NYU.
Which brings me to why today was huge. Earlier this week, I had my third set of scans, a PET CT marking nine months in treatment. Nine months. Went by like a sneeze. I could have made a kid. (well, actually, I couldn’t have. sadly, this is an ability cancer robbed me of). Today also, miraculously, marked our first day of shooting. We decided since enough puzzle pieces were in place (or at least placed close enough to the right corners of the picture) that we should capture this milestone… the big ‘scan results’ appointment.
Having the camera there really added a bizarre dimension to what was already bound to be an emotional clusterfuck of a day, though having to think about and plan for the logistics of the day at least helped me to depart here and there from the ‘scanxiety,’ as a friend of mine dubbed it. The hours that led up to actual face time with Doc Wilson were pretty hectic – though my producing partner is a close friend, an absolute joy to work with and i’m convinced she is capable of literally any task that is thrown at her, it was hectic all the same, simply because it was new territory (that fortunately, in the future, we have GPS for). Thank the lordy that my sis was there to hold my hand and read my mind and ride the emotional rollercoaster from the first car with me.
And then we were in my exam room, and the camera was rolling, and Melissa and Crystal came in and there was a round of hugs, and then, without missing a beat, they delivered the news that I continue to have no evidence of disease. Clean scans. No tumors. The paper with the scan results read:
Sciency tumor name 1: Completely Resolved.
Sciency tumor name 2: Completely Resolved.
I have yet to see the footage of my face receiving that news, but I imagine that I look pretty emotionless. It always takes me some time to digest (and actually believe) good news. It’s a defense that a lot of people with cancer just naturally develop, I’m guessing. But now, almost twelve hours later, I’ve pinched myself enough to know I’m definitely awake and it’s all definitely real. I’m very excited to be alive for this next chapter. I’m starting to think it’s gonna be a really good one.