"Make your mess your message." I've often heard Robin Roberts say her Mom said. Her mom and my mom are two different people. So how am I Robin's white sister?
It's a sisterhood of cancer survivors... in spirit and support. I was diagnosed with stage four cancer at just 33 years young. To say this was the most terrifying shock of my life is still an understatement! I suffered the complete loss of my shoulder-length hair (the most emotionally painful moment) as a single young adult and endured three years of chemotherapy. Watching "Robin's Journey" on ABC's "20/20" earlier this year, as I cried and related to my sister cancer survivor, I noted multiple characteristics we share just like siblings!
1. Robin says when MDS was first mentioned to her, "and I did the thing we tell people not to do -- I went on the internet." I did this as well, and I freaked myself out unnecessarily.
That's why this is "Cancer with JOY's" #1 "Don't at Diagnosis!"I never heard Robin talk about www.cancer.net (oncologist-approved information from the American Society of Clinical Oncology); perhaps she doesn't even know about this resource you need at diagnosis. Very few seem to, and part of my mission to is to bring a much-needed "dose of JOY" (quite literally & figuratively) to all those fighting cancer and those supporting them.
2. As Robin talked about her family and sharing the news of her diagnosis with them, she said, "I'm the baby. I'd already put them through quite a bit." I'm the baby of my family too, sis!
Robin lost her beloved mother during her journey. I lost my beloved grandpa during my journey. He passed unexpectedly in a farming accident at age 86 when I was in my initial stage of receiving six chemo. treatments that put my cancer into remission. Then there were 12 more "maintenance chemos." This was over two more years of chemo. Like Robin I too had a port embedded just under the skin in my left upper chest. What a long and hard road, but I found you can face "Cancer with JOY" (Don't they say 'Laughter is the best medicine??), and now I get to bring true joy, happiness, and comfort to others.
My grandpa passed on a Tuesday, and it was literally a matter of life or death at stage four that I stick to my chemo. schedule. So I had chemo and his funeral within 48 hours of each other! These were truly my darkest days. Yet I didn't stay stuck there in that darkness throughout my journey. I always tell groups I speak to at hospitals, cancer treatment centers, and churches, "I don't and you won't face 'Cancer with JOY' every single day. This is all about how to have more good days than bad because you've been introduced to this idea!"
3. Do #10 in Chapter 4 of my book "Cancer with JOY" says, "Do control what you can." Robin shared the same perspective on her hair loss when she said, "I wanted to be in control. I am in control ... When my hair goes. I made this decision and it was the right decision." I too chose to have my head shaved after taking a 'hair loss shower' and finding that the most emotionally painful moment of my journey. I transformed the complete loss of my shoulder-length hair into a positive (& I'd even say fun) experience by holding an "Online Facebook Fashion Show" where I modeled a variety of wigs that were different lengths, styles, and even colors! Family and friends "liked," commented, and gave support and en'courage'ment while helping me choose favorite looks to sport during my period of baldness.
There are more ways I felt a strong sisterhood to Robin than these, including the naming of the IV pole, and leveraging the power of music (as a songwriter with my "Bright Side Effects" song). What's the 'BRIGHT Side Effect' of hair loss you might ask? This meant I had "smoo-oo-th legs" and didn't have to shave! It's truly all about how we choose to respond to life's obstacles! See the music video including pictures from my "Facebook Fashion Show" in the music video to "Bright Side Effects" here.
Robin said, "If the fear overtakes me it wins... Nowhere is it written we should not be happy... I wanna be happy."
I wanna be happy too, and I think you do as well!
My message is this: no one is happy they have cancer. But you can have cancer and still be happy!
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