Livestrong: Stigma and Silence

So, this isn’t the documentary I was supposed to be in. While in my face to face interview with Mat, I spoke about the stigma associated with cancer for a college student still struggling to go to classes. I talked about not having any hair, and being pointed at (and called a lesbian…). I also spoke about the difficulty of being a cancer patient when people don’t really know what to expect. A guy I had gone out with a few times refused to see me again because he was afraid he could catch it, even though we were just friends and no longer considering each other as potential dateable people. (I wanted to punch him in the face.)

Enjoy the documentary!

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Relapse.

You know those days, when you just want to crawl back into bed but can’t because of “obligations”. When I heard I had a relapse a few weeks ago, I thought, “Hey, this’ll be cake. I’ve kicked cancer once, I can kick it twice.” I don’t know why it’s so hard this time. I mean, I don’t even feel that gross from the chemo… it’s nothing I can’t handle. Then why am I so upset?

Someone called me a Cancer Survivor the other day, at the hospital. I nearly punched the unsuspecting person in the face. I felt like I was being patronized, like an eight year old being taught how to read, but has known how to since she was three. Makes me think back to my “Voices of Survivors” written word that I wrote, but has sat in my inbox with edits for about a month. For those of you who don’t know the project that Lynn Lane is the creator and producer of, then shame! Voices of Survivors is a short documentary filmed by Lynn, and it’s from the mouths of actual cancer “survivors” defining what they think is a “survivor”. (This is why I’m using a copious amounts of quotes, because there isn’t one definition of survivor – it’s different for everyone.) There is also a section for written statements, ranging from 400-2000 words on the subject. Mine is a bit long, at 1600ish words, but it sure as hell gets my point across.

Anyways, back to the person. They didn’t know I was upset, but I did hold myself back from a verbal and physical abuse. I just smiled, said thank you for the kind words, and went off on my way. I thought that, by having a relapse during the school year, then more people would be involved and then I’d have some sort of “cancer experience” that I missed out on the first time. How stupid does that sound? I can’t believe I’m actually typing it, let alone thinking it. I talked about this in my Livestrong video, about feeling alone and physically being alone, and of how much it sucked. But now that more people know and are getting involved, I almost wish it was the summer again, and that people weren’t around at all. Apparently there is no pleasing me.

(Forgive me, I’m just kind of typing what I think, and I know it’s disjointed… welcome to the world of how I think.) Last night I was so upset that I couldn’t sleep for hours, and my roommate took pity on me and sat up with me for a bit. I feel like my faith is being ripped from me, like having cancer once wasn’t enough, so our vengeful God has given it to me again. I’m like a child who’s gotten in trouble twice for the same thing, but still doesn’t know what she’s done. It’s not fair! *stomps* Yes, it’s my own version of a digital temper-tantrum, but God DAMMIT I fucking deserve it this once, don’t I? I’m tired of being everyone’s dumping ground for their own problems. What about MY problems, people? Does cancer look easy to you, like I’m coasting the fuck through it, so hey, why not we tell Kristin all these problems we’re having because she has her shit together. Well, I don’t. I have no idea what I’m doing. In relation to my cancer, I do, simply because I’ve been here before, but for fuck’s sake, I do have my own problems I have to work through. I don’t give a flying fuck what your boyfriend said to you last week that made you feel fat and unloved. I’m dying. Let me have my pity party for once! Let me cry and break things and wail about how life isn’t fair, BECAUSE IT ISN’T. When you’ve got cancer too, please, come join my pity party and then unload on me with your problems, because at least then we’ll have something in common. But until then, GO AWAY. Take your stupid problems with you, and unload them on someone else.

/steps off tantrum box/

Apparently I really needed that. I mean, I had the tantrum in real life too, but I feel a bit better. /end pity party. I’m still not fixing your problems for you, so if you have one, run the other direction before I squeeze your brains out your nostrils. I fucking hate cancer. It has absolutely ruined my life. RUINED. I should have graduated by now, and have a fucking job, but nooooo, I’ve been put back TWO BLOODY YEARS in school, with no end in sight. I’m not made of money, Cancer. I have to still pay out of state tuition (that’s another rant for another day), plus my insurance company keeps denying claims and raising my rate. Now that I’ll be 26 in November, my rate goes up to the next level anyways (the 26-35 level or something), plus the special “Cancer Tax” that most health insurance companies add.

Fuck you, cancer. I so totally hate you. If you were a person, I’d swear you off as a mortal enemy, and I’d put out a hit on you. *growls*

Operation: Livestrong a total success

I forgot to post on how my day of filming went. It was pretty awesome.  I was tired – I had maybe 2 hours of sleep the night before – but in good spirits. The film crew, which consisted of the cameraman, Wilson, the director/sound guy, Mat, and the two Livestrong representatives, Laura and Devon.  Laura and Devon were super fun to hang out with while interviews were being conducted with my friends.  The three of us stood off to the side and gossiped, and I gave them a swift tour of the “Betty Crocker classroom” at OSU.  It’s a classroom with a kitchen on a stage, complete with 1950’s accouterments.

People both in my physics class and at Post-Fragua were not thrilled that a camera crew was tagging along with me.  They asked, “Gah, Kristin, why didn’t you tell us so we could look nice?”  And I responded, “Well, we’re supposed to look like normal. Now, it wouldn’t be normal if the guys all wore ties and collared shirts, now would it?”  Livestrong, last week, sent a box with gifts for the Newman Center people, so I’m going to give those out at PF next time I go.  They filmed me walking a lot.  I remember them asking me to walk past the camera, ignoring them, and then stopping right afterwards.  Then, they’d film me walking to a certain point, where I’d stop, they’d walk past me, and the process would start all over again.  I had to have pretend conversations with my friends, unmiced, and then miced, staged conversations about how cancer feels, or how my friends and family helped.

The most awkward part of the entire situation was the hour-long interview with me sitting in Sue’s office at the Newman Center.  They asked me all sorts of questions, like, “What were you diagnosed with?” “How did chemo affect your schoolwork?” “What suggestions do you have for newly diagnosed college students?”  To be honest, those probably weren’t even the questions they asked.  Well, damn, I don’t know.  Now that I think about it, I answered some of those questions in ways I wouldn’t have answered now that I’ve had time to think about it.  They want pictures from treatment, when I had no hair and looked like crap, but I have very few pictures from that time, simply because I didn’t think I looked very pretty.

I’m glad the entire situation is over with, but I enjoyed the time I had with Mat, Wilson, Devon, and Laura.  I sort of wish I got a second day with all of them!  I did take a few short movies with my video camera while I was at McMenamins, and if I get them uploaded, I’ll post the links eventually.

Livestrong Documentary: Livestrong at School

Well, T-1 day until the documentary filming.  For those of you who don’t know, I was asked to participate in a documentary for the Livestrong Foundation (Lance Armstrong’s foundation for Cancer Research, Support, and Awareness).  Well, I’ve been on and off about participating for a few weeks.  At first, when they said they wanted a “day in the life” of someone with cancer, I thought, “Hell no.”  A part of me still thinks that, tbh, but I’m warming to the idea of helping out.  I can’t really say no, now can I? Not when they’re HERE and will be filming me tomorrow.

I guess I’m supposed to talk about the stigma a college student receives when she has cancer.  Well, in a nutshell, I felt very isolated.  My friends stopped coming by, stopped calling.  Some got angry at me because I wasn’t well enough to go out and have fun with them.  I lost one best friend because he wasn’t willing to understand that I couldn’t go out and see him while he was visiting.  He gave up on me.  So, for me, cancer showed me who my true friends were, and what mortality really feels like.  I wrote letters to my family and closest friends, saying goodbye in case I died.  When I knew I didn’t need those letters anymore, I threw them out and opted to look towards the future.  No, I’m not a driven student – I’m still as lazy as can be when it comes to doing work – but I do know what’s important in life.  My faith is important to me; never have I experienced something so scary, but so beautiful at the same time.  No, cancer isn’t beautiful, but it’s cleansing, like a phoenix being reborn.  You remake your life by keeping the things that mean a lot to you, and purging the activity and friends that you no longer have any need for.

So, my day starts tomorrow at 8 am, when the film crew from Alpheus Media will be coming by to film me driving to OSU, and getting coffee. I’ll be going to classes, and then mass at noon.  They’ll film me talking to Fr. Lucas and Sue, and hanging out with my friends at 5 pm at McMenamins (woo!).  They’ll film Post Fragua, and my talk about the Apostolate.  Then that’s it 🙂  It’s less painful than I thought it would be.

I’ve got to run to class, or I’ll be late. If anyone has any comments about Alpheus Media’s documentaries, please leave some below.  If you get a chance, you should watch a few. Fr. Lucas fell in love with them, and after I watched one, I can see why. Ok! Have a good afternoon. *waves*