I am a singer, teacher, sister, daughter, friend, animal lover... and I am a survivor. Barely a month before my 30th birthday, I learned I had breast cancer.
I was just as shocked as everyone else around me when I was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 29. I had just had a physical, I had no family recent family history of breast cancer, and I’m negative for the BRCA gene. I had no experience with hospitals. I had never even broken a bone. In the year and a half after diagnosis, I went through all sorts of scans, tests, surgeries, chemotherapy, radiation and hormone and immunotherapy. When I was looking towards what my life was going to look like through chemo and how I was going to deal with it, I knew I needed a distraction. Between Adriamycin, Cytoxan, Taxol, and Herceptin, I was going to have 30 infusion appointments over the next 14 months. I couldn't bear the idea of sitting in a chemo chair for hours every week with just a book or tv show; it wasn't going to be enough to take me out of the suddenly horrific existence I was living. I was driving to or from one of my numerous appointments when Kelly Clarkson's "What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Stronger" came on the radio. As I started going through the words in my head, I had the idea to use the song somehow in relation to my treatment; the drugs that would soon be pushed into my system, destroying my hair and my nails and so many other healthy parts of me in the hopes of killing off the invasive cancer cells would be tough to endure but would ultimately save my life. Singing loudly in the chemo ward while other patients were sleeping or dealing with their own treatments - often more taxing or painful than my own – wasn’t an option, and as my treatment went on, my voice developed a rasp anyway. I wouldn’t have wanted to record it. Lip syncing occurred to me as the perfect solution, and served both as a silly distraction for me and an entertaining way for my friends and family all over the world to see for themselves that I was in good spirits and feel reassured that I was alright. I started the project for survival. Physically, I knew I could get through my treatments - it would be awful and rough and terrible, but I would get through it. My mental and emotional health were the bigger challenge. Finding a way to both keep myself occupied during treatment and share my experience with others was incredibly strengthening during what was undeniably the lowest period of my life. The other help I received was widespread - a connection to different cancer communities online, just like Humanly. The gift we can give one another in passing on our experiences, support and advice is absolutely invaluable. Until we reach a cure, every new patient will need this support as well - which is why our stories need to be told.