On December 20, 2010, at the age of 29, I was diagnosed with Grey Zone Lymphoma, a rare blood disorder that has been detected in less than 500 people worldwide.
With little to no information about my disease, I had no choice but to relinquish control and put full faith in my team of doctors.
For the past give months and three weeks I have been tied up.
I have had central lines, bloodlines, pick lines and tubing, enter through the top of my skin gracefully delving into the depths of my heart.
As the hours, days, and weeks wore on, the lines multiplied and the tubing tightened. With each tightening and forced constriction, the cells in my blood methodically, deliberately, and miraculously changed.
From tied up to untied.
From shackled to released.
From cancer-ridden to cancer-Free.
Only now do I fully understand and appreciate -- that it is the ties that bind us that eventually sets us free.
While I willingly accepted the fact that cancer would cause unavoidable physical changes, I was unwilling to allow the disease to rob me of my voice. For the past sixth months I have struggled with what it means to hold on to my voice and eventually reclaim it. There were moments when I could not talk, but I was communicating. There were moments when I was quiet, but I was really screaming. As I desperately tried to find my voice and struggled to be heard, I realized that I would need to embrace Cancer in order to beat her.
I chose to beat cancer by using her as a key to unlock my mind, hold on to my spirit, and awaken my quintessential self.
When trapped and deeply betrayed by one's body, unlocking the mind can be nothing short of profound. The power of the mind is critical for managing the overwhelming "what if's?", overcoming the unfamiliar side effects, and holding on to hope.
It is impossible to beat cancer without holding on to hope.
I chose to hold on to hope with the tenacity in which I wanted to live.
In order to overcome this disease I had to use all of my past experiences, all of my disappointments and triumphs, as ammunition in my fight. I was tested in a way that would require me to dig deep and draw upon every last strength.
With my past experiences as my road map, I allowed myself to access a range of new emotions. By embracing my vulnerability, I was better able to communicate with those around me.
While I actively fought, I willingly sacrificed my body. By accepting what would happen during treatment and recovery, my surrender felt more like an intentional act of victory. I started to welcome pain, embrace the difficult days ahead, and prepare for the emotionally draining moments in isolation-because I was hopeful. As the months of treatment, scans, and surgeries wore on, and the shackles continued to tighten, I used this constriction as motivation to further strengthen and transform my mind.
Through prayer, guided meditation, relaxation, and deep breathing, I found myself able to unlock passages in my mind that I didn't know existed, and this undoubtedly gave me the endurance and strength necessary to fight that much harder.
Once I learned how to utilize the power of the mind, I had to figure out creative ways to hold on to my spirit. I created a blog, http://killitinthebutt.blogspot.com/, which became a space where I could process my feelings, connect with loved ones, and interact with perfect strangers. By going public with my disease, I felt I was able to attack shame head on and garner the necessary support to effectively take on cancer.
During the days in recovery when I was in forced isolation, I felt an overwhelming sense of loneliness, and a strong desire to reconnect with my former self.
When I looked in the mirror there were moments when I saw a warrior, a fighter, a badass, and other times when I was a cancer patient, a victim, or a shadow of my former self.
While I was desperately fighting cancer, I was also fighting for my identity.
For sixth months as I opened up and wrote about my deepest fears, hopes and dreams, I found myself disconnected from the world around me. I felt that while I was on pause, everyone else was on play.
So I decided to change the rules. I chose to twist my way through cancer. If I couldn't be out in public, I challenged my readers to meet me halfway. I asked them to join me in the Twist, and sure enough, they videotaped themselves, welcomed me into their homes and offices, and joined me on the dance floor.
As we twisted, I was able to tiptoe out of the shadows, reconnect with my body, and eventually reclaim my spirit.
Cancer has allowed me to visit and access parts of myself that I did not know existed. It awakened creativity, allowed me to see the world in hyper-color, and encouraged me to savor small interactions, gestures and acts of kindness. It provided family, friends and strangers with the ability to establish unusual levels of intimacy, and made them privy to my inner most strengths and weaknesses.
In my sixth and final round of treatment, I now realize that by embracing cancer, I not only found my voice, accessed my mind, and transformed my spirit, but I unlocked my quintessential self, which is raw, beautiful, and ready for the next chapter.