Wednesday, June 14, 2017

I'm Writing A New Blog

Hi People!!!

It's been quite a while since I've written in this blog, and I'm sorry for that.  But I've actually started a new blog that I'd love for all of you to check out.  It's not survivorship-centered.  Just more me shooting the shit about my neurotic behavior/thoughts/life.  I'm so grateful to everyone who made this blog a success and I'd love for you all to follow me on to the next adventure :)

Love Always,


Thursday, March 24, 2016

Cancer and Me

It is March 25, and today is my 25th birthday and the day Jesus died (even though this website says its Thursday, March 24, because they are on Pacific time which is stupid, so there).

The two facts are not at all synonymous, but I feel that I cannot address one without addressing the other. 

I am only here to talk about the first, as the details surrounding the second are largely unkown to me.

I have officially begun my quarter-life crisis.  In part because my aging process has been a bit wonky. Let me break it down for you:

                    Jesse Pardee is, at present, 25 years, 0 days old.
Jesse Pardee is, of mind, 23 years, 0 days old (due to health pause)
Jesse Pardee is, of body, 56 years, 0 days old (due to chemo/cancer havoc)

You can see where it might get a little hairy (no cancer pun intended).

But my crisis is mainly due to the fact that I don't quite know who I am and where this momentous illness fits...or will ever fit, in my life.  And I still don't quite know how it's changed me.  Over the past few weeks I've been re-reading these blog posts and cringing at what I must have thought at the time was cheeky, or witty, or something.  "Cutting edge", bolded statements, excessive swearing.

I also marvel at how earnestly I believed that people were interested in my life.  The blog, in all sincerity, was a simple writing project of sorts.  I guess the true intention was never to really deal with or to think through the experience, which is likely why I got so sick of writing on it.  I'd chosen the topic of my cancer because it was something unique that I could talk about.  I wanted to write about something that would stand out among the things that other people my age were writing and blogging.  I guess you could say I played the cancer card: a right which, whether I like it or not, I have duly and irrevocably earned.

These past weeks, approaching my 25th birthday,  I began to feel differently about my life.  I look back on its first quarter--"quarter" very likely being generous in reference to my time on earth--and realize that my biggest accomplishment is beating cancer.  Which, ya know, is great and dandy and all.  It's just not what I wanted or pictured for myself.  Obviously.  That's not the kind of "win" I'd hoped for.
And then I realize that "win" is like, the biggest understatement.  I faced death.  I watched others--mostly children who will never have a "quarter-life crisis"--fall all around me.  Gone.
My quarter-life "win" was not landing a dream job, or getting married, or having a child, or even having money to pay the bills--which in New York City is more like a monthly "win".  And not that those things aren't huge accomplishments, and wonderful for people who achieve them within the first 25 years of their life.  But my quarter-life "win" was in a battle for my life.  Survival against a very deadly disease. "Malignant tumor" is the scariest phrase you'll ever hear come out of a doctors mouth besides "rectal exam".  

So at 25 years old, why is my triumph and survival not something that makes me proud?  I hate to say it, but at times it really makes me embarrassed or even ashamed, and I couldn't tell you why.

So in September I started regularly seeing a therapist who specializes in trauma and PTSD.  Through this I've realized that I never truly allowed myself to look back on that year of my life and really bring that chapter to a sensible conclusion.  Instead, the memories replay in my dreams, lurk in my sub-conscious, and hold me back.  And, for the most part, I let them.  

They make me feel as though I'm living on borrowed time, and instead of motivating me to live in the moment, I get scared.  Many times I look in the mirror and see a coward.  A girl who sits in the back seat while the trauma drives her around and makes all the decisions.  Every light is yellow or red and everywhere she goes is a hazard zone.

In the past month, my therapist has begun EMDR treatments.  You can look it up, because God knows on this "good-est" of Fridays that I cannot explain it here.  It's essentially a semi-hypnotic re-working and re-living of traumatic events in order to find some closure.  Because although in many ways, I'm doing quite well, my cancer is still driving the bus.

25 will hopefully be a year of discovery and recovery.  I'm learning that post-cancer Jesse is a lot different from pre-cancer Jesse, and for the first time I'm allowing that to be okay.  Pre-cancer, I dreamed of being on Broadway, and thought that that was the only thing that could make me happy or make me feel successful.  Immediately post-cancer,  I forced myself to pick up right where I left off--unaware, or unwilling to see that perhaps things were different now.  Perhaps my dreams have changed or are changing.  

Am I done auditioning in NYC?  No.
Am I positive it's the right life for me?  No.
Do I now think that there are other things that will bring me happiness?  Yes, 100%.  

And whether or not I decide I still want this or not, I think that's a healthy attitude to have.

And "healthy" is what I'm trying to put at the forefront right now.  When I moved here, I shoved the cancer baggage to the back of my mind, telling myself I should be over it by now--unaware that it was still in control.  So now I begin the next year of my life putting my health first.  I am continuing therapy and EMDR.  I am still living in New York City, loving this city, loving the cozy spot in Washington Heights that I share with Matt.  Maybe some auditions here and there.  Hopefully more classes.  Maybe even some writing workshops.  Maybe I'll even learn to write about something other than this black cancer plague!  I know I'd like to. 

I'd like to close the cancer chapter.  I'd like to make it an important chapter in my life that I glance at from time to time--but no more daily re-livings.  I'd like to get to a point where the dreams stop, and I don't wake up from sleep with the idea that I have to get ready for first period wind ensemble because they've sent me back to high school to make up for the missed time.

I'd like to stop thinking about the missed time and think about the time to come--however much or however little that is.

Be well.



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