Dear former self…

Three years. If you can believe it, I have now been treated for cancer for nearly three years. In 20 days another canceriversary will come and go. I am still living with disease, yes. But I am still very much alive and thriving.

The weeks leading up to the anniversary of the cancer diagnosis have me feeling reflective. It brings about strong feelings but not the types of feelings that one may expect. I probably should be more angry that this happened, but as I’ve said before I’m just not. Sure, cancer isn’t fair, it isn’t right, it isn’t deserved- it just is. So instead- look at the mountains we have moved. Look how far we (yes, not just me) have come together since that horrible day in November.

I wish the terrified 24 year old girl in the hospital bed at Charlotte Hungerford could have looked into a crystal ball and saw herself now. At that time I thought nothing could ever be the same. I thought that I’d be let go from my dream job, unable to maintain a romantic relationship, unable to see the world, stripped of all independence. Although there have been many points in the last few years when I’ve been forced to hit pause or slow down, I’ve never been fully stopped.

After nearly three years with cancer I think it’s important to reflect less on what was lost and more on what is:

  • This girl with cancer can work full time, even through weekly chemo.
  • This girl with cancer can find a boyfriend and build a relationship surrounded by unconditional love
  • This girl with cancer can educate students on their academic paths and help them follow their passions.
  • This girl with cancer can give presentations and tell multiple corny jokes in the process.
  • This girl with cancer can articulate her thoughts through writing
  • This girl with cancer can sign up for a 3 hour DDP yoga workshop on a whim (No, seriously. Fellow 1990’s WWF fans, this is not a joke)
  • This girl with cancer can cook for herself…when she feels like it.
  • This girl with cancer can clean her apartment…again, when she feels like it.
  • This girl with cancer can co-advise Colleges Against Cancer to support students touched by illness
  • This girl with cancer can travel out of the country on a (desperately needed) tropical vacation with said boyfriend (who also desperately deserves a vacation)
  • This girl with cancer can crush dead lifts and squats (with lots of encouragement from Weese Fitness)
  • This girl with cancer can travel to Chicago to attend the National Collegiate Honors Council conference
  • This girl with cancer can band together with friends and family and raise a crap-ton of money for the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition
  • This girl with cancer can poke fun at her buzz cut and dress up as 2007 meltdown Britney Spears for Halloween (and dance the night away!)
  • This girl with cancer can volunteer at a children’s hospital to support other families facing illness
  • This girl with cancer can suck down a cocktail (occasionally) with her favorite nurse
  • This girl with cancer can speak honestly about her experience in a public forum
  • This girl with cancer can binge watch seven seasons of Parks and Rec without shame or regret
  • This girl with cancer can find her voice
  • This girl with cancer can accept that it is okay to ask for and accept help from loved ones (even if it kills her)
  • This girl with cancer can accept that she is not superwoman and cannot do it all, and that’s okay (even if it kills her x2)

My understanding of cancer is not black and white. It has been a continuum of ups and downs, struggles and successes. I accept that I cannot be everything to everyone. I accept that I have limitations. I accept that I may drop the ball or have a bad day, or week, or month. But every new day on this green earth brings another set of accomplishments.

Even if the list above was more like:

  • This girl with cancer can binge watch seven seasons of Parks and Rec because it makes her smile (yep using the same example. It’s that special to me.)
  • This girl with cancer successfully had a bm after surgery, finally (I’m not sorry, this is a real struggle SO real for many)
  • This girl with cancer had an appetite today and ate half a bagel and some peaches!

…it would still be a list of accomplishments from each and every day that something improved in the slightest.

So allow me to please hop in the Delorean and travel back in time to my former, newly diagnosed, self-

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Dear 24 year old Jess Sultaire,

It’s going to be okay. Not because I know the outcome of this disease but because I know that the life you will live over the next three years will be full of far more successes than failures. The life you will live beyond the next three years will challenge you immensely and be one that brings you joy and pride. Hang in there kid.

Love always,

Jess Sultaire of the past and future

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“Your stars will realign and things will get a little bit better”

I read this article in Cosmopolitan a few days ago (thanks Mom!): I Have Cancer…And It Sucks by 25-year old Deanna Pai, Cosmo Beauty Editor. Go ahead, it’s a quick read. I’ll wait… Crib notes for lazy bones: Deanna is young, has … Continue reading

“Sorry for eating all of your cancer snacks” -Meesh

I had the best weekend. I adore my chemo off-week. It makes me feel like a “normal” human being again (for a few days at least). As the weeks go on as much as the effects of chemo are cumulative and become more intense with each cycle, I am still somehow energized during my off weeks. It’s better to just roll with it and not question where this magical energy is coming from. I took it as a golden opportunity to have some fun. One of my best friends that I grew up with visited from NYC (Michelle to my right). Since one of my other best friends (Stacey to my left) now lives in Little Rhodey, we were able to have a Torrington reunion.

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And of course spend time with my Providence home girls…(clearly I need a new pose)

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On Friday night we went out and met up with the rest of my “providence family” and a few other wonderful friends and headed downtown to the bar. There was a live band and my leg has improved enough that I was finally able to dance without fear of tipping over. Per usual I was the most hydrated girl at the bar. Despite not being able to drink, I was still able to have a great time. It wasn’t too crowded, no one got too drunk, everyone was having a great time. I loved it.

Small nice moment in the RiRa bathroom: I was talking to Michelle and Stack about my wig and a girl waiting in line at the bathroom said “I was just about to comment on what nice hair you have! I would have never known that was a wig”. I guess my wig stylist was right- NAILED IT.

Yesterday I continued the T-town reunion and overall we had some good food and I pretty much laughed all day. This visit was good for the soul. OH and I had an unexpected huge appetite. I basically cleaned my plate at every meal (So Jeannette- if you’re reading this, I hope you’re proud since second to my mother you are most concerned about plumping me up).

Anyway- just thought I’d highlight a few good days in the midst of this cancer chaos.

Gearing up for round FIVE (home stretch!) of chemo this coming week. Cross your fingers for some favorable blood test results. I will accept any and all prayers to any deity! If you need to pray to a golden calf in order to get my CA125 levels below 21, do it (but don’t tell my Rabbi).

I hope everyone had a lovely weekend. Thank you for the continued support!