Thursday, March 19, 2015

A Note from Courtney

Hello all.

Today I wanted to share with you a message from one of my very best friends.

Courtney and I originally bonded over our cancer journeys.  We are both 23, both diagnosed at a pretty messed up time in a persons life without a dose of cancer.  But I think pretty quickly, we realized we had a lot of the same traits, health issues aside.  Through all of our discussions, it's become clear that we're both headstrong and stubborn, proud of our talents, and eager to share those talents with the world in some way, some how.  We're competitive, in ways that sometimes make us a little nuts, but that propel us forward.

Forward is the motion we both want to go in our lives.  Forward from cancer, forward from pity.  Forward from letting our compromised health define our future, threaten our goals, and take away anything from us that a "normal" person would be able to have a lot more easily.

Except these past few months, Courtney's cancer has progressed significantly, and her condition has declined rapidly even just these past few weeks.

We've talked at length about why.  We have no conclusions.

We've talked about how this could happen...again, nothing.

We've talked about how this process could be made as painless and annoyance free as possible.  There doesn't seem to be a fool-proof way about that either.

So I asked a few months back if she'd ever considered writing.  She said she had, but was wary of
posting anything herself.  She didn't want to come off as attacking of others, or complaining, or pathetic in any way (all things I assure you, she is not).  Luckily, I told her, I am perfectly okay with attacking, complaining, and being pathetic--all things I do and am n this blog.  I told her if she ever felt like venting or just putting something out there, she could always use this blog as an outlet.

Today she sent me something she'd like me to share with you.

Here we go.  A note from Courtney:

Let me preface this by saying not only did it take me days to come up with all of the correct words to express these thoughts, but without the help of my friends and nurses I could never have remembered and typed them all down correctly. So thanks to those wonderful people. Below is a bit of a rant,
which I am adamantly against doing on social media (whine on your own time people!) however I am
making an exception to my own rule. Maybe it will be insightful for some, maybe it won't be, maybe you will think "what the fuck?" and just scroll on. Either way, it feels good to have put this all out in black and white.

I've learned so much in the past few weeks, things about myself that I never thought I needed to learn. But I did. I needed to know that I could be on my own again (internally I mean), that I could stand on my own two feet (not literally of course). Just because you have come to depend on certain people, doesn't mean that you have to. Just because you consider them your best friends doesn't mean that they consider you theirs, and it definitely doesn't mean that you have to keep calling them yours even when they act like assholes. 

Wow.  That was refreshing.  Yes, some of you are assholes. Maybe that makes me an asshole for saying it, but whatever, zero fucks given.

It's OK for things to change. Memories can just be memories, they can be happy, they can be good times, but that doesn't mean that you shouldn't love and appreciate what God has given you right matter how different of a dynamic it may be.

Sometimes you grow up and other people don't. Sometimes you are FORCED to grow up and see 
situations differently, and sometimes when people can't see something from the more mature perspective and still act young and impulsive when they're older than you, it's going to piss you off.

There are moments, days, weeks, where I have been inordinately saddened by the fact that my life is not what that of a normal 23 year olds should be. I don't go out on the weekends, I can't even really get out of bed. I'm--as Carrie Bradshaw would say--"the last single girl" and believe me with zero libido, a butch hair cut, and the fact that I can't lift myself up right now that isn't going to change. I was always at the top of everything, top of my class, smarter than some (OK MOST) of my professors and now I see people who I know didn't work as hard as I did and who were less intelligent than I am getting jobs and interviews I had dreamed of. I see people landing dream jobs in
NYC with arts administration or dancing for ballet companies and genuinely enjoying their work. And I hate it because I am jealous and bitter. I've always been a jealous person, but I've used it to my advantage, to push harder; now that I'm no longer able to do that I just have to sit back and bitterly watch all of you have the happiness that I feel I deserved too. But maybe I don't. Who knows, that really isn't my call to make.

When I'm not having one of these miserable self-loathing days I have learned to be at peace with myself. Just me. It's OK to like quiet, to just breathe. Inhale....exhale.

Not everything is forever, but some things are. And those people and those feelings are the ones you should cling to with your whole entire heart, because they are the ones that mean it when they say I love you and that love you every second even when they aren't saying it. I finally know what that feels like. And it feels AMAZING. I wouldn't trade it for all of the fun, "friends", adventures, in the world, because let's be honest....I've already forgotten half your names anyway. FINI.

Bitch here again.  I'd just like to say...treat the people who matter to you, like they actually matter to you.  Don't pretend they know.  Make them know.


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Crows and Things

When I was very young I picked up a dead bird.

I don't really know why I picked up a dead bird.

I can speculate as to why I picked up a dead bird.  I saw it there near this big patch of rocks by my driveway which I had cleverly called "the rock pond." I was playing a game I called "Rebecca" in which you pretend you are a girl named Rebecca and essentially that is how you play the game "Rebecca."

I digress.

So I'm playing the game "Rebecca" and Rebecca notices a stark black "thing" at the edge of the rock pond near the telephone pole (near a telephone pole no less!)
  NOTE: I am going back to first person now. I just want it to be clear that I am Rebecca and Rebecca is me and we are one and the same according to the rules of Rebecca.

So yeah, I notice this black thing and just casually make my way over to it and realize it is this big ole black crow totally frozen with rigor-mortis, belly up.

Disgusting right? Well nothing is too disgusting for Rebecca. Who is me.

I'd never seen anything dead before, and don't think I actually knew what "dead" meant.  The word didnt exist to me yet...but this bird...I knew it wasn't fake...a Halloween decoration or a toy. To me it was just a bird that was no longer living. I dunno what it was doing.

I had no concept of death at this point in my life. To me this crow was not dead. It was just not alive. It was not breathing or cawing or flying or being actively ugly rather than passively ugly.

For whatever reason, I knew I had to pick it up.  I brought it up the steps of the porch to show my dad who I instinctively knew would yell at me. But I strutted down the breezeway like I was hot shit and shouted for my dad to "come look at the stick I found!"

Oh yeah. A stick. Real smooth.

He came to the door and looked at me like I was bleeding out or something, shouting for me to put it down and carrying me to the sink to SCRUB my hands.

He, of course, explained to me that this was not a stick (which I'm pretty sure we both knew I was aware of before) and that it was dead.


Now I knew "dead".  You could be alive and you could be dead. Simple enough. Thanks, Dad!

This memory comes back to me a lot.  I've thought of it more and more since my spin in the cancer boat.  With all of the death I had going on around me, I had to approach my thoughts about death in a different way.  Especially because until this point, it wasn't really something I had to think about too often with regards to my own death.

These were kids dying around me.  Kids I was sitting beside one moment and then...gone.

The idea of a "higher power" putting people through this and then making them "dead" didnt make sense to me. I dont know what I believe in...but if there is a higher power, then I couldn't accept that he (or she) was just making them "cease to exist."  So I started reminding myself that I just don't know what happens-what the opposite of "alive" truly entails.  My coping mechanism has been to stop thinking of them as "dead" when all I really know about their state of being is that they are not alive.

Like the crow...brilliant right, see how I tied it all together?

I write this post from a pancake house in Virginia at 6:15 am. I am sitting next to a guy named Chip and jot down these thoughts in a composition notebook covered in Strawberry Shortkake glitter stickers. (You'll have to forgive me friends. I'm currently reading Lena Dunham's memoir and she is a huge fan of random, quirky details that don't necessarily contribute importance but do make the sentence unnecessarily long.  Love you Lena. Yes, I am jealous).  I came to the pancake house right when it opened at six, following the news that my Godfather passed away just around 4:15. My uncle Harry. Lovingly referred to as simply Harry.
     I hadn't been sleeping anyway because I knew that this news was short on it's way.  I'm on a six week contract in the middle of what feels like nowhere without a single person to cry on or to, so what else would I do but write over French toast next to Chip?  Thinking about dead crows that aren't dead...or are they?

   I don't friggin know.

   My Godfather and I go way back.  Yes, all the way to my baptism back, but also to a day that in my mind was an even bigger moment for me both because I actually remembered it and because it was Spice Girls related.

   I was very young--somewhere in my Rebecca and the crow days. I was at the mall with my parents, my aunt,
and with Harry, when I happened upon a pink and white Spice Girls watch with an elastic wristband. I had lived long enough to know that I was probably gonna grow up to be Scary, Baby, Ginger, or Poshy (yeah, I insisted on calling her Poshy for awhile until she cut her hair and then for some reason something changed in me).  But I would obviously need this watch to be whoever it was I was supposed to become and fulfill my platform boot destiny (oh yeah I was very philosophical in those days).
    My parents, cruel as they are, told me that it was too close to Christmas for little gifts like this, and that I'd have to wait.  But I knew in my heart that the watch wouldn't wait.  It'd be gone.  So I cried and sulked the rest of the outing while frantically humming "Saturday Night Divas" as a means of calming myself down (I had Spice Girl schizophrenia).
     When it came time for us to part ways with Harry and my aunt, Harry grabbed my hand and pressed the watch into it. He grunted, "here."

      It was a Spicy miracle.

      But what it really, truly did was set the tone for our relationship.  I was his Goddaughter, and that
made me special, he was my godfather and that made him special.  There was a smile and twinkling of the eyes that was reserved only for me.  This was something we always shared.

     One year ago, we came to share another thing.
     We shared cancer.
     Of course, everyone's battle is their own, and no two could ever really be alike, but just as my baptism linked us, our cancers linked us.
     It's tricky though.  Being a 23 year old whose been around the block with cancer before, to then encounter someone older than you being diagnosed--let alone a family member you look up to.  You dont know how to be.  You want to say, "hey I can kind of relate to some of the things that you are going through, but I'm not going to tell you that because why would you want to hear from a stupid twenty-something how she relates to what you're going through"?

    But the first time he saw me after his diagnosis, he called me over and said "hey, I need a hug from YOU."  And I knew that that's how our odd similarity would be acknowledged.  I'd take my cues from him.
     Our "cancer talk" was always very hush hush.  Our chemo banter very staccato and quick:
                "Head gets cold."
                "Fingers are tingly."
                "Oh yeah."
                "Can't taste cake."
                "The ice tastes like--"

That was all.  That was all it took.
    I've been feeling so guilty about how happy these conversations made me feel.  Over the years our family has gotten bigger, Harry has grandchildren now, and I know that goddaughters and granddaughters are very different.  Not to say I was no longer important--but you know what I mean.
    I wish the content of the conversations was a bit cheerier  but it made me really happy in a sorts that my having had cancer before gave us those little conversations.  They were quick and brief but made me feel helpful in a way that I don't really understand but am actually grateful for. They're some of my last conversations with him.

     People talk about survivors guilt.  Yeah it exists but I didn't feel that with Harry.  I felt glad that we could have the connection.  And maybe a little guilt.

Because its there somewhere inside you.  The guilt exists.  I sometimes wake up, and touch my cheekbones with the flats of my hand and say, "you still here?"

I'm still here.

Minus one.
Minus a crow.
Minus a watch.

Rebecca taught me that just because something is no longer living that doesnt make it dead.

Words of a Spice Girls schizo...but still...

Ps. Harry--may your head be warm, your fingers untingly, may the cake taste sweet and the ice cubes fresh as a fountain.  I love you.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Resurrecting a Little Something

Came across a scholarship essay I'd written a while back. Perfectly sums up how I've been feeling lately and just wanted to put it out into the universe again:

    I’ve wanted to record my experiences for quite some time now.  I refer to bits and pieces of it all the time, whether they are sensory memories or just through storytelling and what not, it seems to come up--at least in my mind--on an almost daily basis.  Even my closest friends only know the “shell” of the story.  The frame-work.  And that’s not because I hold back when I discuss it with them.  It’s because there is really so much to it all that it is just impossible for me to say what I want to say and keep it in the context of a conversation. 
   I was only seventeen.  Seventeen.  And yes, I am aware that teenagers deal with this “stuff” a lot--more than I really care to think about—but what people don’t realize is that because I was seventeen when I was given the big C-word (not that C-word), it shaped who I am almost entirely.  When a forty year-old woman is diagnosed with breast cancer, and embarks on the war-like journey of chemotherapy, radiation therapy, etc, she is already whole.  Meaning she knows who she is.  She has experienced life and gotten to know herself as a person—separate from cancer and sickness. 
   When a young child is diagnosed with leukemia, they will (hopefully) be cured by the time their id really starts to develop.  The experience will already be over and done with to the point where a) they were so young that they won’t remember, or b) they are young enough to be able to leave the majority of the experience behind as a part of their childhood.
    But a young adult who suffers from a debilitating disease such as cancer—well, he or she is branded for life.  Not necessarily in a bad way, no.  It depends on how they mold the experience.  But because they dealt with it during the time in which they are having their initial bouts of self-discovery…wham, bam, thank you ma’am—it’s who they are.  What I learned from my experience with cancer as a young adult has directly lead me to who I am today, and plays a role in every thought I have, every decision I make, and every word I say.  And it always will.  Not to say the woman who defeats cancer at age 40 is not significantly changed—because she is—but she knows who she is separate from her illness.  And a child who beats cancer—well, they have a lot more time to develop and to move on.
    Not me.  I am my cancer, through and through.  And let me tell you—I am DAMN proud.
    Often, when I talk with people, I just naturally refer to a time ‘in the hospital’ or ‘during treatment’.  And half-way through the statement I think “shut up, Jesse, no one wants to hear about that.  It’s so depressing.”  But it is SO much a part of who I am.  It was my entire life for a year and a half.  
    When I say ‘I am my cancer’, it is not because I want everyone to look at me and think ‘poor baby, she had cancer’ or ‘there’s that girl who had cancer’.  No.  It is because the person I am today is a direct reflection of what I went through.  And I say I’m proud because I am.  I am so proud of myself.  I went from a girl who had to have twenty four hours to mentally prepare before a flu-shot to a badass chick who bit her lip every fucking night while her father injected her with two intramuscular shots in the leg (and mad props to you too, Dad).  I went from a girl who thought her life revolved around becoming some famous big-shot to a girl who realized...famous to whom?
   I will not, however, claim to be some perfect human being, though.  While I do consider myself a strong person, there are little things that I still can’t seem to shake.  Growing up—for some God-damned reason—I let society convince me that looks are important.  So when I lost my long brown hair, shit hit the fan.  I never, ever, not ONCE, went out in public without a wig on.  Now, part of that was because I never wanted any pity from anyone, and I’ll be the first to admit that the thought that immediately pops into my head when I see a bald chick walking around is---‘oh my gosh, I feel so sorry for her’.  But the majority of my reasoning had to do with vanity.
   Today, my hair is back, but very short still—and I give myself a really hard time everyday when I look in the mirror, wishing it was long again.  And I know…it’s just hair.  But that’s the thing…cancer attacks the things that seem unimportant to you.  Including  your overall health (ahhhemmm, this is dedicated to teenagers and other young adults who insist on filling their lungs with smoke,  obliterating their livers, getting high, and then driving a fucking car).   It was just hair, it was just my last performance in high school, it was just awards night (that I wasn’t even informed about—thanks West Genesee).  The only reason I even got to go to prom was because the freaking nurses worked around the clock to make sure all my chemo was given at precisely the right time, that I was tanked up on blood and platelets, and that my kidneys weren’t going to shut down in the middle of the event---yeah how’s that for pre-gaming before prom!  Woo!  (Another thing…nurses.  So freakin’ underappreciated.  High five, nurses).
    And family.  Maybe you’re surprised that I include family in a list of things that seem unimportant.  Well.  Don’t you think you take them for granted?  Pretty sure I did.  Until it was a possibility that my time with them was limited.  Give your loved ones a freakin’ hug.  Seriously.  Go, do it.
      I think you can clearly see that these events are fresh on my mind.  I remember every detail.  So when I stop myself from talking about stuff that happened to me during my illness—I have to think about it for a second, and then I let myself continue.  Because just as the things that have happened to you in the past few years are some of the freshest memories you have…I spent a lot of time battling this illness.  So many young people do.  Too many young people do.  So when you hear me, or someone like me, refer to my experience it’s not because I want your pity (trust me, if you look/talk to me like I’m a freakin’ helpless puppy, you are GOING to get called out on it), and it’s not because I want attention.  It’s because it’s who I am.  It was my life during a critical period of self discovery.  I am my cancer—whether I like it or not.  I kicked the shit out of my cancer, and I’ll do it again if I have to.  But the things I learned from it made me who I am.  

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Inspiration and Respect

About a month ago, I wrote up a nice little post about a boy from my past who I believe only liked me for my cancer.  Pretty much.

It sounds ridiculous, but when I look back on my life post-treatment I have to hand it to myself:  I’m f*cking fascinating.  I have all these quirks, and strange habits, and fears, and I go about my everyday life as if all of those things don’t exist.  As if 2009 never happened.
When I think back to that year, there’s kind of a haze over the memory.  The year as a whole, that is.

What I mean to say is that the year as a whole seems to have this foggy amnesia-like cloud over it.  It’s a blur.

But a specific memory—a perfume scent, a beeping sound at 3 am, the soapy taste of Ifosfamide, holding my breath while the nurse plunged a needle in my chest, cursing at people who were just trying to help—that is all as clear as the deep blue sky.

But it’s not every day that I’m accessing these memories—it’s every day that I’m accessing the fog.  I don’t really know if that makes sense.  But every day I’m aware of that foggy cloud over my shoulder whispering question marks and threatening to toss out one of those memories.

Again.  It truly is fascinating.  I’m fascinating.  I’ll say it—it’s my blog, screw humility. 

But the fascination people have with me—the fascination with my story, with memories…with those quirks and strange habits—well, I’m afraid people often confuse it with who I really am, and it blurs their judgment. Confuses them.

At least that’s the way I thought it happened with that boy.  Looking back I fear that he confused his feelings of fascination with feelings of affection. With FEELINGS feelings.
I wrote a blog post about it, but I’m pretty sure my approach in writing it was all wrong.  I showed it to him beforehand, because I felt guilty.  And he asked me something that I know is meant as a positive testament to who I am—but that could not be further from what I want from people.

He asked me why it was that he was not allowed to be inspired by me.  What was so wrong with thinking that I’m inspiring.

You may be thinking NOTHING.  NOTHING is wrong with being inspiring.  What could she possibly have against being inspiring?

But what I think…


What I feel…

Is that foggy little cloud over my shoulder.  Constantly pricking at my back, threatening to swallow me, lording it’s power…and I can’t help but think…this foggy cloud inspires you?  This awful black hole that brings so much pain and uncertainty into my life…is your inspiration?

And of course…you’re probably thinking “no, Jesse.  It’s you.  It’s the fact that you put up with that cloud that makes us inspired.”

Well, let me tell you—I wasn’t given much choice.

I’ve run all the scenarios through my head so many times.  Thought to myself…you can’t just let people do what they do?  You can’t let them spin something positive out of your experience?  They just want to be inspired.

Well, as a close friend of mine would say:
Go inspire yourself.

What I want?  Is your respect.

I don’t want to know if you’re inspired by me.  Inspiration is something that occurs within you, and if you find it in my sad little tale, then that’s great.  Keep it to yourself.
I’m after your respect.

Show me some respect, and we can be friends.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

I'm a Cockroach

Yesterday I turned 23 years old.

5 years ago I turned 18, and wondered if it might be my last birthday.


I'm a five year cancer survivor now--and yeah go ahead, have a "good for her she's inspiring" moment, I won't begrudge you that.  


One of my goals as a 23 year old bitch who is officially cured of cancer is to revive this blog.  I've had my time away from it, which I desperately needed; it got to a point where I felt like each week I was saying "Okay, Jesse.  Let's delve into the deepest darkest memories you have of your illness, add some wit, swear words, and bold lettering, and make some piece of shit blog post."

No more. 

You may be thinking--well why then, Jesse?  Why don't you start a new blog about something else?  The answer is very simple and complicated: cancer would simply keep coming the f*ck up!  It's still a pretty present aspect of my every day life, and when I ended this blog, I thought perhaps it wouldn't be so THERE all the time.  And I was wrong.

I had cancer, and it still wreaks some havoc, my friends.  But wtf am I supposed to do about it?

Well, for one thing, I'm bringing blogging back.   It will not be a weekly thing.  Probably more monthly, bi-monthly if that's a thing.  And it might not always be totally cancer focused because it really does get super depressing. At the moment I have a love-hate relationship with blogging, but I need to write to get shit out of my head, so here we are.  

You may also recall that about a month ago, in the midst of working two jobs, I tried to start a tumblr.  I posted one little thing and then disappeared.  

No more. 

 I will be posting just some of my self-indulgent little essays and such on there.  I can't even remember what the tumblr was called or what the link was.  Hold up.  I'm gonna look into it.



My own insecurities are urging me to inform you beforehand that I have less than ten followers.  I would rather you hear that from me than log on and say to yourself "oh wow, Jesse has less than ten followers."  ...I feel as though it softens the blow if I tell you ahead of time.

I'm excited to bring this thing back because I really do have things I want to bring forth that I feel are important aspects of living as a female young adult cancer survivor--because there are a lot of differences and separate issues that come up when you look at each demographic separately.

Some of my ideas I believe are going to make people mad.  I've decided that I need to get over that.  I was always that girl who would do or be anyone so long as no one was mean to me.  Middle school, high school, college...I just never wanted people to be mean.

But ya know what?  F*ck that too.  This blog is back, and it's gonna get heated.  Maybe.  Maybe what I think of as heated is not what you think of as heated, because on a heating scale, my tendencies are lukewarm at best...but we'll see.

What the hell am I talking about.

Who knows.

So to get this revival started on the right foot,  I decided to leave y'all with an actual list  (not a cutesy, joking, sarcastic list) of things I believe have helped me become a semi-functioning cancer survivor who doesn't curl up in a ball in the corner of the room rocking back and forth reciting the steps to safely heparin lock an IV or bloodline:

10.  There is no fixed timeline for your life.  It doesn't all have to happen by such and such a point in your life.

9.  You have to find a decent balance between health and happiness.  You can worry your pretty little head day in and day out about preventing illness, having a perfect body, doing cleanses, keeping up with the latest cancer-causing products and avoiding them like the plague--but sometimes things happen that are just unpreventable and out of your control.  So go ahead.  You can have MacDonalds on a Monday.  Just don't have it Tuesday-Sunday.

8. You are never going to find someone who fully understands and comprehends the things you are going through.  When they try, take it easy on them.

7.  You are never going to be able to fully understand and comprehend the things that other people are going through.  You can try, but take it easy on them.

6.  "One day..." has to become today.  It just has to.

5.  You cannot be mean to yourself.  Whatever that means to you.  I don't care how nice and kind you are to other people, or how self-centered this sounds.  I thought for a long time that I hated who I was.  And then one day, I was contemplating death--as a cancer-survivor often does--and I realized that I would miss myself.  I would miss having my mind, thinking my thoughts, spewing my sarcasm, and just being Jesse Pardee.  I realized then that I like the person I am.  It was a really big moment for me.

That's why I go out by myself sometimes.  I'm a great date.  Which brings me to...

4.  Never be afraid of alone time.  You're not a loser.  You're not a hermit.  You're not weird.  It doesn't have to be a scary or sad thing.  Make it a therapeutic thing.  You have that power.
3.  Night time is not solve-all-your-problems time.  Shut the f*ck up, take an ativan, and go to bed.

2.  Look out the window once a day and take a mental picture of your surroundings.  Realize that your life is not something that exists only when you have achieved a certain dream, or become successful, or found love, money's right now.  It's you and that window in that setting in those surroundings.  Now.

1. Your family can become your very best friends.  Your very best friends can become your family.  Let them :)

Until next time...whenever that may be...


Friday, September 13, 2013

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Song of Purple Summer: THE END.

When I was first admitted to the hospital, I had a "thing" about needles.
I didn't want them.  No needles for me.
But I quickly came to understand that needles were now a part of my daily life.  Every few days I would go and get blood drawn, and for the first few weeks it was an ordeal every time.  My dad would come in and sit with me, holding my hand, and the nurse's would hold their breath, hoping they didn't get messed up, as I was a bit of a loose cannon which is a nice way of saying huge bitch asshole.  They'd bring in the IV team, and even they had trouble because I couldn't relax, couldn't stay calm, couldn't keep from getting worked up.

Once, when we were on our way in to check counts, my dad suggested I find a song that made me relax, and play it on my iPod while they drew my blood.  Well, at this time, all I listened to was the original cast recording of Spring Awakening.  It was the perfect blend of anger and hope for a teenager going through hell.  And so I took in my iPod and played "The Song of Purple Summer"--the final song in the show.  

A summer's day a mother sings a song of purple summer
through the heart of everything.  And heaven waits, so close, it seems
to show her child the wonder of a world beyond her dreams.
The earth will wave with corn
The day so wide, so warm
And mares will nay with stallions that they mate,
foals they've born.  And all shall know the wonder
Of purple summer.

Listening to the words, I opened my eyes to realize that the tourniquet was off, the band-aid in the nurse's hand, and my blood in tiny vials on the desk.  It was over.  

I didn't have much trouble with needles from then on.  I played "The Song of Purple Summer", and closed my eyes, and it was over before I knew it.

"Those You've Known" became my anthem for my fallen friends, "Bitch of Living" for all those times I wanted to kick people in the face, rip out the tubes, and give up.

The Make-A-Wish Foundation, being that I was 17 at the time of diagnosis, was generous enough to offer me a wish.  I had only one.  I wanted to just get to audition for the show.  I knew they probably weren't looking for replacements, and I knew it was a long shot anyway that I'd actually be cast in the show.  But the music of the show was so much a part of my treatment that it was in my blood now--really, though.  I just wanted to get to sing it, and live it.

That, or Disneyworld.  That's what I told them.  

But the Make-A-Wish foundation made it happen, and the entire creative team of Spring Awakening was kind enough to dedicate an afternoon to audition me in New York City, three months after my treatment ended.  

Well, I was absolutely terrified, and the day of the audition, I couldn't believe what was happening. It was such a liberating day.  I worked with everyone: the casting director, the director, the music director, learned choreography, worked on music, read scenes...

A month later, I received word that they were extremely impressed with my audition and that the tour was coming to Rochester, NY...and would I do the ensemble track for a weekend of shows?  You don't say no to was so unreal.

On a Friday morning I drove up to Rochester and spent five hours going over harmonies, learning music, choreography, movement, and staging.

And that evening, I had my opening night with the cast.  Everyone on the tour--the cast, the stage management, the crew--everyone involved was so unbelievably welcoming and kind to me, and there were so many experiences from that weekend that I will never be able to forget.

But one of those moments that stuck out the most was during my last performance.  During "The Song of Purple Summer" there is a moment when the ensemble stands on the chairs and sings the chorus a capella, before swelling into the final section.  And as I stood on my chair singing those words, it was like a slow motion scene in a movie.  It became hard for me to sing, and all of a sudden I could feel tears stinging my cheeks.  The ensemble members on the other side of the stage must've seen, because they smiled at me as they sang, and I even saw a few of the characters onstage tearing up--that moment was mine.  

Because in that moment, I realized how I'd come full circle.  I'd been a sickly little girl listening to this song, squeezing her dad's hand through pinpricks and spinal taps, injections and MRI's, chemotherapy and radiation...and here I was, on this big stage with some of the most talented theater performers, singing "The Song of Purple Summer", doing what I've wanted to do since I was young.  I kept asking myself, did you ever think in a million years when you were laying in that hospital bed that one year later, you would be here, singing this song onstage with the national tour of Spring Awakening, a cancer survivor?

That moment...marked the real ending of my cancer experience.  As cheesy as it sounds, it was my liberation from the dark year of 2009.

This post is my "Song of Purple Summer."  It's the end.  When I started this blog one year and forty posts ago, it was a healing tool.  It allowed me to get all of my frustration, anger, and triumph out of my head, and filed away somewhere.

But I feel it becoming more of an obligation than an outlet.  Because now I've outgrown it.  This blog has served its purpose in my life. If I continued this blog, I would be dwelling in the past.  

So that's all there is, folks.  Jesse doesn't want to be disgruntled anymore--and it's a good thing.  It's a milestone.  I'm graduating from college in December, and I'm really ready to start fresh.

The blog won't be gone.  It'll be here.  Every once in a while you'll hear from me.  But right now, I'm done confessing.

I want to thank you all for supporting this blog.  I never imagined it would gain the following that it has, and I'm extremely grateful--and of course, any of my fellow cancer fighters who need somebody to shoot the shit with (and really, anyone in general), can contact me by email (

Now, my children, go forth, and listen to some Lana Del Rey.

Much Love,