Recovery.

“We think that the point is to pass the test or overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved…The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.” –Pema Chodron, When Things Fall Apart


End of February 2015 I shot a commercial for Vonage telephone service, a service I used and loved for many years because it gave me precious time with my brother who lived in London. The photo on the left is a shot of me after the day wrapped. Little did I know that my life would fall apart only a week later and that I’d cancel my Vonage service and delete my relationship with my brother only months later, the day the photo on the right was taken (September 2015). 

Things fell apart. A week after my fun on set, at the top of my career, in love with my life as it was, I was diagnosed with cancer. This distanced me from my family, my friends, myself, my job, everything. I lost 40 pounds (photo on left: 143 pounds, right: 103) and my hair. I lost my job, my boyfriend, some friends, and my sense of stability. 

And during that time, people complimented my appearance. It devastated me, and I broke. I hurt everywhere, physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually. That photo on the right was an unhealthy version of me. I remember being cold all the time, walking through a cognitive fog, suffering from spontaneous incontinence, and really exploiting that small amount of hair that stayed attached to my scalp (the rest I had to shave because of the bald patches). I cried every single day. From pain, from loneliness, and mostly from fear. 


Photo on the left: 6/5/15. Two years ago. I’d completed a complete cycle of chemotherapy (7 doses over 7 weeks), 8.5 weeks of radiation, so many scans and biopsies and blood tests, 1 surgery, and all the misery I could have imagined. I had just been discharged from the hospital after my first surgery, the surgery that would remove the rest of my cancer. I couldn’t move from the pain, I had a catheter in still, and I was vomiting everywhere. My hair had just started to fall out, in chunks. I had an open wound where my labia used to be. And this was the day I wanted to die, when I couldn’t take anything any longer. I couldn’t imagine anything worse than that moment. 

But that wasn’t rock bottom. Over the next 6-8 months, the bottom fell out from under me and I experienced the depths. My body changed and healed, but I completely lost my footing emotionally, mentally, spiritually, financially. I was broken. Literally everything in my life changed. I experienced so many endings that it shook my cobwebs loose. 

And that’s when the healing started. I met my therapist in the city where I moved, and she gave me the room, the capacity, to experience everything in a messy, ugly, angry, irrational, emotional way. I began to learn what self-love feels like–being ok with all the emotions I’d been bottling up for so long. 

Those cobwebs that shook loose allowed room for things I could not previously accept: joy, self-respect, humor, silliness, childlike behavior, spontaneity, forgiveness, and love. I discovered what God means to me, and where I can find, accept, and celebrate spirituality. I am continuing to discover these depths inside of me, knowing now what Pema has tried to teach me for years: the things that shake you to your core remind you what inside of us is indestructible. 

“To live is to be willing to die over and over again.”

Today is my cancer survival day. Happy birthday, new body. Thank you for bringing me to my knees so that I could learn how to pray.

The Alchemist

To the one

Who loved this body

Broken, wounded

Ravaged by where others had been

Taking on the darkness

That lived, burrowed deep inside

Drinking from this vessel

Always knowing its poison.
To the one

Who, with eyes like lasers

Gazing deep into this heart

Boring into this soul,

Coated the myelin sheath

Around faulty synapses

Corroded from trauma

From those who’d come before

Strengthening all chakras

Always knowing its depletion.
To the one

Whose uttered words

Like a sacred language

Became the guiding voice

A radiant light in the darkness

Comforting the small child inside

Desperately pleading for reassurance

Coursing through these ears

Into these veins

Filling empty spaces with compassion.
To the one

Who, now with this body nearly restored,

Has drifted away

In need of wholeness

Of detoxification of spirit

Of compassion and comfort

Of deep, healing restoration

Your essence is enough

Surrounding us both at once.
To the one

Who, with vulnerability and kindness

Taught this broken heart to mend

These broken wings to fly

These blind eyes to see

Who, with gentle wisdom

Taught a body, mind, spirit

To heal, to harness its power.

Who, with divine alchemy

And pscionic power

Revealed the magic inside.
To the one,

Whose healing touch

Still felt on this body,

Whose stare,

Still slowing this nervous breath,

Whose voice lingers in these ears,

Whose mage hand, holding mine

Still guides this soul through the dark river

Whose alchemy,

My constant companion.

Never to be alone again.