Since I can’t steal “March Madness,” I thought I’d go with this! Plus, there certainly was a lot of magic, and unlike my whole diagnosis and treatment, this is an experience that I WANT to relive… over and over! So, I excitedly wanted to tell you about my amazing March (and we may just spill into April by a few days…).
First, was the official news that I was NED (no evidence of disease) on March 1st, the first day of Colon Cancer Awareness Month. I’ve received so many signs along my journey, and this was certainly one of them. We met with the same lung surgeon and the radiation oncologist who declared that my radiation treatments last October produced “satisfactory results” (surgeon speak) and now, it was determined I did not require additional radiation at this time. That report, coupled with my first clear scan at the end of January declared me NED. Since Stage IV colon cancer has one of the highest recurrence rates, the doctors don’t talk about “remission” or “cure” for at least 5 years, which means I keep going for chemo every 3 weeks indefinitely. They call it “maintenance chemo” to keep the cancer away (that’s the goal). Maybe it’s a lower dose, but I still feel sick, fatigued, and generally cruddy. And I’m still on my 48 hour poison pump, which is a pain. Many survivors have been NED and then suffer a recurrence somewhere, so I have to stay hypervigilant and on top of this shit. Next scan is at the end of May. Feel free to start the focused prayers/positive vibes now…
March 2nd was my bigger than life (literally) appearance on the Nasdaq screen in Times Square to “Join Genentech in the fight against colon cancer.” Thank God it only rolled occasionally and for one day. No one should be subjected to “Big Stace” quite that big. But what a trip! Every time I watch Shark Tank and see Kevin O’Leary standing in front of that screen at the opening credits, I always shout, “that was me!!” Just getting the word out… in a BIG way!
March 4th was my next great day – National “Dress in Blue” Day for a future free of Colon Cancer. A couple of friends of mine (Lynne Yater and Alissa McLellan) organized a fundraiser for the Colon Cancer Alliance in my honor, which was hosted St. Clair Fitness Center. The girls ran a few pretty intense exercise and body pump classes – all I could do was witness in sheer awe… I took part in the brunch! LOL! I got to tell my story to a gym full of people who appreciate taking charge of one’s health through sweat and hard work! I admire these folks! One highlight was meeting Arthur Moats (Pittsburgh Steeler), who was there to work out. And he listened to my story! What an honor! Now I have heard of Arthur Moats but when I was introduced, I just wasn’t putting it together (FAIL!), so I looked like somewhat of an idiot. Meanwhile, Arthur is one the most sincere, down to earth, gracious individuals that I have ever met. So respectful – so humble. Wow! It was really a pleasure to make his acquaintance. THANK YOU Lynne & Alissa for a GREAT morning filled with positivity and lots of oxygen flowing in that room!
I hopped the T (I know… hard to believe that a big celebrity like me didn’t have a car service… scoff, scoff) downtown the same day to speak at the UPMC Integrative Oncology Breathing Room event at the Fairmont Hotel for my buddy, visionary oncologist, Dr. Lanie Francis. Again, I told my story (backed up by my UPMC Medical Mondays video) to a room full of supportive folks who believe in the power of touch, movement, nutrition, and mindfulness to augment effectiveness and offset side effects of traditional chemotherapy. This is my 2nd year participating in this event that raises money to provide services such as yoga, reiki, massage, and acupuncture to patients who cannot afford them. Until we can get the insurances to wake up and reimburse for these treatments, UPMC continues to rely on outside support and is constructing a Wellness Suite at Hillman Cancer Center to accommodate a space for providers and patients. It is a “labor of love”, and I am proud to be a part of it.
[Breathing Room Images Credit: Kylie Kristine Photo]
Next up – March 16th: partnering with Genentech for a Satellite Media Tour. So what is a Satellite Media Tour, you ask? Good question! My treating oncologist, Dr. Vincent Reyes, and I sat in a studio in downtown Pittsburgh (after a heavy makeup application – for me, not Dr. Reyes) while different radio and television stations called in back to back for us to speak live or taped about the importance of screening for colon cancer. I told my story and Dr. Reyes was the resident expert to speak about incidence and treatment options. It was a loooong day being that “on”, but we had so much fun! Dr. Reyes and I both love the camera, so we took it super seriously, but were just able to be ourselves, which made it super comfortable. We joked that we need a road show, because our relationship really showed through, which was what I wanted; as well as to impress my motto: “if it can happen to me, a total healthy rule follower, then it can happen to anyone! DON’T IGNORE SYMPTOMS!”
Other than that, I wrote an article for Everyday Health, was interviewed for another article in Dr. Oz’s magazine, managed to fit in 2 chemo weeks and celebrated a blessed, happy Easter! (He is Risen! Alleluia!). Well, I am exhausted just writing this, and I’m in a treatment week yet again, so I am heading off to rest. Thank you for reading this and for supporting my mission and passionate purpose. I really mean it when I say, I love you!