This week’s chat is with Janelle Hardy. She paints, she writes, she’s a structural integration therapist. She’s not a cancer survivor but managed to banish the chronic fatigue and foggy brain feeling that kept her from living life.
This week I’m interviewing another member of Gilda’s Club in Nashville, Kendra. Kendra was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma at 17.
If you or someone you know would like to share their Survivor Story, email me at vanessa AT mixedmartialartsandcrafts DOT com
This week I’m chatting with another First Descents alum, Robert “YoLo” Gierek. We’re talking about:
- The meaning behind “YoLo”
- Get Busy Living
- the need for community
If you’d like to be part of this series, send me a message!
This week I’ve got a video chat up with my friend Lisa from Tennessee. She’s a mom to a young boy, a former teacher and a thyroid cancer survivor.
It’s officially summer! Can someone please let Minnesota know that? Actually, I do like how cool and not terribly muggy it is here.
Here are this week’s cool links!
- I did an old fashioned text interview with my local buddy, Bridget. She’s a mom of 2, a whitewater kayaker, a breast cancer survivor, and an all around cool lady. You can read more about her story here.
- Wild Olive has a free coffee embroidery pattern up and she’s collecting donations for a family in need. Joy is (iced?) coffee!
- I slacked off on June’s index-card-a-day challenge but I’m going to do it in July. Read Kim Werker’s thoughts on it here and learn more about it on Daisy Yellow.
- Speaking of #icad here’s my favorite card so far:
Do you have anything cool to share this week?
Today, I’m sharing my interview with my local friend Bridget aka Bird Shit. We met through a First Descents match up when I came back from my awesome rock climbing trip in the Gunks. Enjoy!
Tell me about your diagnosis.
I was 33, had two kids 3 and 6, and nothing was wrong. I just went in for a check up and I was always fearful of getting cancer because my mom had stage 2 cancer at 48. I was always kinda watchful and my doctor was always like, “Oh don’t worry about it, you’re fine.” Finally when I went in for my annual, she said, “Oh you’re fine you’re fine but let’s get this lump checked out. It’s nothing and I think it’s from having a three-year-old you might still have lumpy breasts.”
That Monday the terrible bedside manner radiologist is like ‘”That’s not fine. That lump is not fine. That’s not a cyst. I don’t know what that is but it’s not a cyst. You need to come back tomorrow and get a biopsy of that. It’s not good.” I went in the next day, had a biopsy and had to wait 24 hours which totally sucked. Then my doctor, the one who told me it was fine, said “I had to tell you this. I’m really sad because you’re one of my favorite patients. You have infiltrating ductal carcinoma which is cancer.”
I went in to see the surgeon and she felt me up and said “I can’t tell you there is one tumor in there. I think there’s more.” And I thought, “Ok I’m dead. My kids are not going to have a mom.’”
So that was the beginning and then I had to meet with a plastic surgeon to put in my fake boobs, I had a double mastectomy 3 weeks later, had chest expanders put in to make room for my pretend boobs. I did four months of chemo and I was on Tamoxifen
for five years.”
How did your kids handle you being sick and bald?
At the time, my husband and I had our own business that was already bleeding money. Once you took me out of being able to work, because I was working on the side as well, we ended up closing down our business. The kids noticed but probably not as bad as I thought they would. Their lives went on as usual.
When I was bald, they were just like “Hey my mom’s bald, check it out!” and I was thinking they would be sobbing in the corner needing psychotherapy.A couple years later, when my son’s teacher’s wife died of cancer, I asked ‘does your teacher need anything?” My son said, “No. I think he’s fine.
“Well, do you think he’s worried about anything?” “Yeah, probably money. I saw how frustrated you and Dad were with bills.” I totally thought we kept things like that hidden from them but that’s the worst thing he picked up on from then.
They were relatively clueless and spent a lot of time with my parents and sister.
How did you find out about First Descents?
I found them on Facebook. I saw something about young cancer survivors and I thought “Oh my god, I’m already too old. I’m 38 and I’m too old for the young cancer survivors. Then I saw that the age was 19 to 39 and I was like “yes!” Most cancer things I saw were like some lame support groups. I wasn’t going to sit around talking about my feelings. I’m not going to do it and it’s not what I’m interested in. It’s not for me, it’s not what I want. And the further I got from surgery and chemo, the more I didn’t want to sit around and talk about it. I saw this like adventure therapy. I thought, “Well I can’t afford that right now.” And then I saw that it was free for cancer survivors.
So I called them up asking what I can I sign up for immediately. There was water kayaking available and I freaking love water. My first trip was in Hood River, Oregon
. I spent the night before worrying “What if it sucks? What if the people are lame?” And my husband was like “Do you think a bunch of young cancer survivors who are going on a whitewater kayaking trip will suck?”
It was totally the most awesome group of people. I tried white water kayaking and its my new obsession
. I got totally hooked on First Descents
and adventure therapy. It’s so much better than psychotherapy.
What makes it better than psychotherapy?
Adventure therapy is something amazing for a cancer survivor because you get this feeling of getting your life back and this feeling like, “Oh my god, I can do this?” It’s also like this feeling, and as a mom with two kids, I don’t feel like a badass most of the time any more. I don’t do anything risky or fun. I do travel; I went to Turkey with my sister and it was kinda risky but this was different. It didn’t cost anything so I didn’t feel guilty because I wasn’t paying anything. And then these other people on these trips are badass and fun. There was nobody sitting around complaining about themselves. And the leaders were fantastic and hilarious and every conversation was kind of dirty. In 2 hours of everyone meeting each other it’s like you’ve known them your whole life. I’ve actually gone on a trip with one of the people I met named Kleppy. I’ve gone on two trips with her and she’s coming this summer to hang out with me. Right now she’s in Viet Nam with FD.
What do you love about kayaking?
I love the adrenaline rush of white water. Seeing the rapids and conquering the rapids, it’s a total rush. I’m working on getting better and better so I can take bigger and bigger rapids but it’s the feeling of being badass again that I don’t have in my life any more. And it’s just pure fun. Plus with FD, it’s knowing that someone has your back. There are FD people who are way better kayakers who, I know, they’re going to help me out. I just got out there and felt “I can’t believe I’m here.” It’s a trip that I probably couldn’t afford, plus it came with guides. That trip could have cost $2,000.
Do you have anything fun coming up?
I just flew to Montana with First Descents and this year I’m going to Idaho. I’ve taken more kayaking classes to help me be more badass.
If you would like to know more about First Descents, you can find them on their website
and on Twitter
I’ve been busy conducting interviews for my Survivor Stories series and I’ve noticed one idea that gets repeated often. After getting the rug pulled out from under us, people want to feel brave again. Specifically, the phrase “badass” gets thrown around.
Which has me thinking: aren’t we badass enough already? Pursuing our interests, trying new things and sometimes getting out of our comfort zone are badass, even if is something as simple as trying a new restaurant or signing up for a class.
Go ahead and pin the image above. Print it out or set it on your desktop. You are a badass, because I said so.