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An Ode To My Cancer

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You showed up uninvited. It was the last thing on my mind.
A welcomed guest you weren’t. It was rude and so unkind.

I knew you had to be dealt with. Aggressive moves I’d make.
So many tough decisions. But my health it was at stake.

For you see I was a dancer. A Rockette who loved to kick.
But how could I have cancer. And how could I be sick.

A healthy 34, who barely drank and did not smoke.
I asked myself on the daily if this was one big crazy joke.

Sadly it was not and off to surgery I did go.
My dancing was on pause and there would be no summer show.

The show it would go on, but not for me I had to heal.
I was back to learning basics, such as feeding myself a meal.

As a person I’m impatient, and my progress it was slow.
No…it wasn’t really, but as an athlete it sure felt so.

Would I ever get back to kicking and dancing upon that stage?
What are my future plans when I go to turn life’s page?

Four weeks and two days later, with my tap shoes in my hand.
Back to class I went…slow and steady, nothing grand.

I cried because I was happy. I cried because of the pain.
I stood in the back and took it all in, my life was not the same.

I had a new perspective. A great new outlook on life.
If only I could overcome my mental and bodily strife.

You see my brain remembered one thing and my body followed suit.
Except things were in new places with no range of motion to boot.

I struggled through the class. But so happy was my heart.
I was back to what I love…baby steps, but it’s a start!

It was an uphill battle and sometimes the tortoise wins the race.
Each day it was a struggle, unknown obstacles I did face.

I had to remember I was healthy and much worse off I could be.
Each day alive was a blessing so I lived with vitality.

5 weeks and 2 days post op, back in costume at the hall.
Just for an interview promoting the show. A victory no matter how small.

I was trying to get back to normal. “Normal”…what a funny word.
To think I’d ever know normal, was actually quite absurd.

For what I knew was different and different can be great.
Don’t get me wrong there are those days where I was dealt a life I hate.

It was time to pull it together. Enough of the negative speech.
It was back to the studio, no performing just yet but a great opportunity to teach.

My students didn’t have a clue what an important role they’d play.
They changed the way I lived my life and went about each day.

I’ve always loved to teach but never realized just how much.
80 at a time was a challenge…Jazz, tap, kicks and such.

But now I had a reason. A new story to be told.
Go after your dreams. Reach for the stars. Be daring, brave and bold.

I was beginning to make a difference. I could see how they’d respond.
The transformation was happening with no use of a magic wand.

It was just from what I’d say. So many thoughts to share.
They’d listen with their hearts and with their eye’s they’d stare.

I was inspiring to people. Something still so strange to say.
But my students gave me meaning and showed my life the way.

I was ready for my audition. To go get my job once more.
To show them all how’d far I come and leave it all on the floor.

So by now you know I got it. I finally got that call.
Year 11 on the line at the famed Radio City Music Hall.

Rehearsals started Monday. Its been a week and I’m still sore.
So much was taught my brain is full of choreo and more.

The week it hasn’t been easy. My dancing it just ain’t the same.
To the average eye you’d never know but to me a mean head game.

Everything feels slightly different. A struggle to do little things.
I hold my breathe when learning new moves and the challenge to my body it brings.

I will fight for every dance step till I’m perfectly in line.
I know I can do it. I have complete faith that by opening night I will shine.

Its been quite the journey to get here and I’ve tried to take it in all in stride.
When it comes to my job, being part of a legacy fills my heart with such pride.

So stay tuned for more updates on the life I lead post cancer.
Who knows what it holds, but I’ve a smile on my face because I’m back to being a dancer!

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Happy One Month Cancer Free To Me!

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Exactly four weeks ago was easily the hardest day of my life. But it also marked the beginning of the rest of my life. Four weeks ago was cancers last stand. Four weeks ago I lost a lot but gained so much more in return. (The clichés just roll off the tongue lately)

So when we last left off in our story I had just turned 35. As a side note, my health insurance will now pay for my mammogram. The irony is, I will never have another one in my entire life. (Nothing against my health insurance as they have been amazing! Some insurance companies won’t cover mammograms till age 45 or even 50! Yikes!) The day after my birthday I was back in the hospital. I had been experiencing severe cramping in my leg and we wanted to make sure it wasn’t a blood clot. After many hours of waiting (I am ALWAYS waiting!!!!) and a doctor who was a dead ringer for George Carlin we were no closer to figuring out what was actually going on. You see, the individuals responsible for performing the doppler ultrasound (test for blood clots) went home two hours earlier. So they gave me a shot of blood thinner and sent me on my merry way. Back for the test the next day…and no blood clot. Yay for that info, boo for new pains that I now had post surgery that I did not have before.

That weekend marked my first attempt in venturing back out into the real world. My best friend was in town from LA and my man was in town from San Francisco. Mom finally got a break as I was staying in NYC that week. On any given day I walk through Times Square and my emotions are as follows: annoyed (at tourists stopping in the middle of the sidewalk to take a picture with Elmo) frustrated (at tourists stopping in the middle of the sidewalk to take a picture with Spiderman) and impatient (at tourists stopping in the middle of the sidewalk to take a picture with Mickey) When did we become Hollywood Blvd? Please go back west. Anyway…try walking through Times Square less than 2 weeks after major surgery. I had one emotion and that was scared out of my mind. No Roxy Red Tights in your half inch Capezio character shoe…please take your terrible Fosse moves and step aside so I can walk down the street! I still have full mobility from the waist down and I was ready to practice a slightly higher than waist strut kick if need be. When your well being literally depends on you walking down the street without bumping into anyone or anything, you immediately become hyper aware of your surroundings. It is truly amazing how many people in this city walk down the street, head buried in a cell phone. Of course it was absolutely freezing in NYC these few days. I could dress myself but that darn jacket proved difficult. And I HATED asking for help. But help was much needed. Being I was only two weeks out from surgery, the list of things I couldn’t yet do was pretty extensive and included the following: put on a jacket, wash my hair, dry my hair, do anything with my hair except put a hat on, open/close doors, push anything, pull anything, lift anything over 5 pounds, sleep in any position except on my back…so basically I could kinda dress myself and feed myself.

The mental struggle was real folks. I couldn’t really hug anyone. Laughing hurt, crying hurt. Actually doing anything hurt. The tears returned. Looking at myself in the mirror sent me into a tailspin. (I still required bandages) At this point I was unsure which was more difficult, the emotional healing or the physical. I just wanted to dance. Rehearsals for the summer show were in full swing and it was impossible to ignore it on social media. I so badly wanted to be able speed up the healing process but I knew I had to be patient.

At the three week mark I was given the ok to jump (well carefully climb) on a stationary bike. Off I went. I was so excited to do ANYTHING physical. I didn’t even care that it didn’t feel like a workout. Just the fact that I was moving any part of my body made me so happy! 30ish minutes of riding and a few stretches of my upper body and that’s what I was allowed. So that’s what I did. My body was SOOOOO thrilled to have the blood flowing again. Before surgery I was spinning 3 times a week, taking dance class and lifting weights. I literally went from 100 to 0.

So here I am at the four week mark. I enjoyed another bike ride this morning and my stretches. Each day my range of motion improves. I recently realized I could once again hang my towel on the hook on the back of the bathroom door. That was exciting. I can wash and carefully dry my own hair. I am no longer bandaged and am no longer bruised. The tears have been minimal as I am beginning to finally feel more like myself. There were definitely some dark days when I felt I would never be able to gain enough range of motion to dance again. Although I am many weeks away from dancing full out, I now believe that I will get there…with full range of motion! Did I mention I also hit the 212 trifecta this week? Phone call from a doctor, Duane Reade and a casting director. Boom.

This Friday will be my first “fill” with the plastic surgeon. As mentioned in my last blog, I have tissue expanders in place at the moment. They are basically flat implants that get filled over time to slowly stretch my pec muscle and the skin. My plastic surgeon was able to fill them a little in surgery so I did not wake up completely flat. Forgetting the fact that they are hard as rocks and completely uncomfortable I have actually enjoyed being on the smaller side the past few weeks. So for all of you who have been asking if I have decided to go bigger once I am done with my reconstruction the answer is absolutely NO! Ha. Never was a boob girl before all of this started and have not become one after. I will just be happy to return to the size I was on April 19th at 7:29 am!

So what have I learned in the past four weeks? Well how much time do you have? (Kidding…kinda). I have learned I am one very very very lucky girl. And I do not forget that. Yes I was proactive about having my mammography done when my gyno found the lump, but the lump wasn’t cancerous. The calcium deposits that only showed up on my mammography were. If my gyno told me to only have an ultrasound the cancer would still be alive and kicking in my body. The timing of my test has spared me from fertility treatments and chemotherapy. Yes my reconstruction was a “plan b” per se but a small hurdle in comparison to what could have been. I am learning not to sweat the small stuff. Most of my life I have been a worrier. I let everything get to me. EVERYTHING. When the word cancer becomes part of your vocabulary, anything else pales in comparison. Everything is quickly put into perspective.

This weekend Hoda Kotb of the Today Show gave the commencement speech at Tulane University. For those of you that don’t know, Hoda is a breast cancer survivor. Hoda and I also share the same breast surgeon and plastic surgeon! Great minds think alike! (She is definitely my spirit animal!) Anyway, she shared some advice to the graduating class. In her speech she states “Don’t hog your journey, its not just for you.” When I wrote my first blog entry, it took me one hour of staring at it before I could work up the courage to hit post. I didn’t know if I should be sharing my story. I was unsure if this was something I should be putting out there for friends, family and strangers to get a glimpse of. But in my mind I knew that if I helped one person…just one… I knew it was worth it. And it was worth it. The response was overwhelming. I had emails from strangers telling me that they called their doctor and made an appointment for a mammography. Success! I heard from individuals fighting other cancer battles that they connected with my emotional journey although their battle was a different beast. I have raised a great deal of money to help young dancers fight their own fights! I thank all of you for allowing me to share my story with you.

When I was in Bali, I had the chance to get up close and personal with elephants. These creatures are amazing! I connected with them immediately! I went on a frantic search to find the perfect little elephant statue to take home to the states. I never found it. Fast forward to my birthday 2 weeks ago. Mom and I went to this little jewelry store in town that was having a sale. There it was, staring at me in the case. The most perfect little silver elephant necklace . I had to have it. My mom asked about the new elephant obsession. In Bali you see elephant statues everywhere. They are an extremely important part of the Hindu religion. They are known as Ganesha; lord or success and remover of obstacles. (I mean how much more appropriate can we get). We purchased the necklace and it has been around my neck ever since. A few days later we were sitting watching the news and they were doing a story on the elephants being retired from the circus. The elephants now live in Florida on a 200 acre facility dedicated towards the conservation and research of these animals. Research…because elephants rarely get cancer! Amazing. Who knew?!?! The things you learn everyday!

13 days till I attempt my first dance class. Stay Tuned!

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Now that I got that off my chest…

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Too soon? Gotta keep the laughter folks.

 

So on Tuesday April 19th at 6am my parents and I held hands and together stepped with our right foot into NYU Hospital (some Jewish superstition I still don’t understand). From there things moved very quickly. Signed my life away on a stack of papers and was soon after escorted into a room the size of a closet. Not a New York sized closet; more like what one would find in a nice suburban home in New Jersey. My vitals were taken and I was asked a million questions. The same million questions I had been asked each time I saw a doctor for the past six weeks. I should have just made a recording and hit play. It would have been much easier. But I get it, the last thing I wanted was for them to miscalculate my anesthesia . For someone who has never had surgery before I just wanted to wake up! We sat in a pre-op area waiting for all my doctors to stop by and discuss how the day was going to proceed. First up was my Breast Surgeon. This women is as brilliant as they come folks and she means business…just the type of women you want strapping on her suit of armor ready to go to battle with the enemy! (Ice monsters, evil gingerbread men and humbugs stood no chance with this lady….Video Game Radio City Christmas Spectacular circa 2013 anyone?) She initialed my chest with a sharpie and off she went (another random tidbit I was unaware of before undergoing surgery). Next up was my Plastic Surgeon. When my doctor walked in at 6am in a designer dress, heels, diamond earrings and a Louis Vuitton purse I knew I made the right decision. This was definitely the woman I wanted performing my reconstruction. From one perfectionist to another I appreciated her meticulous nature. I knew she wouldn’t let me down. A few markings with a sharpie and her signature and off she went. Some more people passed through our waiting area with questions and papers to sign and then it was time. Mom, Dad and I held hands and had one last cry. Well it was a cry that quickly turned into laughter because my father’s cry is more like the wailing of sea creature calling out to its lost child. But it helped to lighten the mood for the moment. Some hugs and kisses and then a nurse escorted me down (what seemed like) endless hallways to the OR. A word about walking into your own surgery. Um yeah. Whoever thought that was a good idea I would like to have a long chat with. This is not ER or Gray’s Anatomy folks. There is no hunky gorgeous guy in scrubs waiting on the other side of the door to take away all your cares and worries and send you into a googly eyed trance. I felt my legs start to buckle as they opened the door. The OR is cold…very cold and very busy. I couldn’t tell who was who as everyone was in scrubs and masks with only eyes visible. My Breast Surgeon grabbed me by the hand and assured me everything was going to be ok. She helped me onto the skinniest table I had ever sat on. Even for a skinny girl I was unsure I would actually stay on the thing. As I laid back a flurry of activity began. Multiple seatbelts were being strapped across my body (oh if it was only a ride at Disney World I was about to go on. Space Mountain would have been an awesome alternative at this point. I remember the IV entering my arm and minutes later I was out.

4ish hours later and it was all over. All my breast tissue on both sides and 2 lymph nodes on my left were history. If felt like I had taken a 5 minute nap but during that time the bus used in the Christmas show ran over my chest. I was bandaged from one side to the other and connected to a bunch of beeping machines. I remember seeing my parents and a bunch of doctors come through soon after I woke up. (I woke up!…insert craziest celebration dance tambourines and all! First success) Remember in my first blog I discussed percentages and my continued ability to defy them. Well here we go again.

So the plan was following my breast surgeons bi lateral mastectomy to have my plastic surgeon perform a direct to implant. Wake up with boobs, take 8 weeks to heal and move on with life. Not quite the outcome. We knew there was a 30% chance that once in surgery my plastic surgeon would have to use what they call tissue expanders, which are basically flat implants that get filled over time and stretch the skin and pec muscle slowly. A Plan B per se (shout out to my Rockette Sisters!) Well folks, plan B it was. I was to dang skinny! So if you ever think there is no downside to being skinny think again. My plastic surgeon, in all her meticulous glory thought aesthetically I would have a better outcome this way. And I trusted her to make the right decision for me. I will skip the next two days in the hospital. They were filled with terrible reactions to anesthesia, lying around doing nothing, running a fever and basically sleeping 22 hours day.

Thursday April 21st I got to go home! (In my mind another celebration dance ensued, maybe this time more African in nature, tribal headpiece and all). Although I was home, I was basically at the mercy of those around me. We opted not to have a home nurse visit daily because good ol’ mom was capable of all that needed to be done. Less than 3 weeks ago I was in dance class, boots strapped on, turning and flying across the floor with all the abandon in the world. Today the only thing I could do on my own was walk and feed myself. A hard pill to swallow (but one of them was valium so a bit of silver lining). There were lots of flowers and gifts waiting for me when I arrived and they all made me smile. I finally could stay awake long enough to sign onto social media and check out my Facebook page.

A word about my Rockette sisters, past and present. To say that I am blessed, that I am lucky, that I am grateful, that I am humbled, are all understatements. These group of women showed me support like I have never experienced in my entire life. There is a mutual understanding amongst this group. No one else will ever understand what we go through season after season. One of our dance captains said it best. “ We do up to 300 kicks per show, 17 shows a week, but the thing that makes it possible is the support you have of the 35 women standing next to you everyday.” I may have felt as I had been standing center stage on the worlds largest indoor theater looking into a sea of 6000 people, but in the wings were a group of women, (all between the heights of 5’6 and 5’10 ½ ) ready with whatever I needed. They are all the sisters I never had.

On a similar note, a thank you to the rest of my Radio City family. Every one from the crew, to security, to operations to PR, to production to athletic training has reached out. This is a company I have called home for 11 years. Not many people can say they have worked for a company that long. I consider these people extended family and they have shown me the most amazing jaw dropping support when I needed it most.

To my friends who have reached out with texts and messages and phone calls…I promise I will get back to you soon. It has been amazing to hear from so many of you. I look forward to catching up and reconnecting with so many of you.

 

One final thought.

 

Today is my 35th birthday. If you asked me months ago how I would celebrate this day I would have said with a big party only an “Epstein” knows how to throw.

I won’t be dancing up a storm today or downing glasses of champagne but I will be celebrating. On Monday evening (after sweating it out till 5:45pm) my Breast Surgeon called with my pathology. The cancer had not spread to my lymph nodes. The decision to do the bi lateral mastectomy was the right choice and I am now cancer free. My journey is far from complete but I will be able to avoid chemotherapy. A huge step!

Last night I saw myself in the mirror for the first time without bandages….I stood there and cried. Mourning the loss of the body I once had. But knowing on this day, my 35th birthday I can start to heal. Knowing that the hardest decision of my life was the right one and I will be able to celebrate many many more birthdays in the future.

Thank you to all of you have donated. The response has been amazing. I have updated the donation page making it a little easier so please consider giving if you can.

 

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

 

 

 

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A word about Cancer…

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Cancer sucks. I would know….I have it.

I was going for the “just rip the band-aid off real quick and it will hurt less” kinda announcement. How’d I do?

Anyway, let me rewind. In early February I returned from a trip to Miami, ready to get back to life after completing my 10th season as a Radio City Rockette. I was dusting off the audition book, returning to dance class and of course making all those doctor appointments one never has time for during a super hectic Christmas season. During my annual visit to my gynecologist she found a lump in my left breast that she thought I should have someone take a closer look at. Now this was not concerning to me…I had been though ultrasounds before. I had a history of benign cysts. The lump was small and felt like all the others. Because I am almost 35 we decided it was probably time to do a base line mammography. (Insert the worlds biggest thank you card to my amazing gyno…this women SAVED MY LIFE! I repeat…SAVED MY LIFE) Fast forward a little through some more tests, 2 different radiologists, more images, more tests, a biopsy (and a partridge in a pear tree…shout out to my Rockette sisters) Oh and waiting…a whole lot of waiting. A word about waiting. I’m pretty sure the idea of waiting was created as some kind of medieval torture device. I have done my fair share of waiting in my life. Waiting for that phone to ring with the next job offer, waiting for that guy to text you back after a great first date. But waiting to find out if you have cancer is a whole different can of worms. I tried to keep busy. For a few hours I forgot I was waiting for results as I taught a Rockette Experience (more on the power of dance later).

Saturday February 27th started off as a pretty awesome day. I was up early and headed to Newark Airport for my Global Entry Interview. For those who don’t know Global Entry is this great program to fast track your way through customs after traveling outside the country. Interview took all of 5 minutes and I was approved. Woohoo. You see I was about to finally put my passport to some good use. I was scheduled to leave for London the following Friday. But that was only the beginning! 4 days after returning from London I was hopping on a flight to Hong Kong and then continuing on to Bali. BALI!!!!! That evening I settled in with some take out (fish tacos) and some Netflix. I hadn’t had time to check out Fuller House previous to this night and a few episodes were on my to do list for the evening. And then the phone rang. It was my parents….they were at my apartment door.

I had breast cancer. 34 years old….and I was just diagnosed with breast cancer. Its amazing how one little word can stop your world dead in its tracks, flip it upside down and hit you like a mac truck going 90. Did I mention the part where I passed out (2x) upon hearing this news and smacked my face against a wall causing a hairline fracture in my tooth???? Oh yeah, that happened. Anyway back to the cancer…now what? Well for the moment I packed a bag and went to my parents house in New Jersey, because the last place I wanted to be was anywhere alone.

I didn’t sleep that night. I laid in my parents bed with tears streaming down my face. Scared. Confused. In a state of utter disbelief. How does a healthy 34 year old end up with breast cancer? I just couldn’t wrap my head around it.

Two years ago I watched as my mother helped plan the wedding of my brother and sister-in-law. I thought that was the most overwhelming experience I ever bore witness to. Until cancer entered my life. One is never prepared for a cancer diagnosis. Its not like it shows up at opportune times in your life. It shows up when you least expect it and throws a wrench in every aspect of your life and the lives of those closest to you.

I am lucky that I have the worlds best radiologist. BEST! That weekend we chatted many times on the phone and he even took time to meet me in person on that Sunday to help guide me as to my next steps. Here’s the heartbreaking thing about breast cancer. We all know someone who’s been through it. Think about it. I can guarantee every single person reading this can think of at least one person who has had to fight this terrible beast. With that said…I had many people to reach out to. I needed doctors. By the time Monday rolled around I had a list a mile long. Then the phone calls began. A word about phone calls. (All friends in “the biz” can relate) Before all this started, seeing a 212 number come up on your phone meant one of two things; Broadway was calling with a job offer (or at least a New York based casting director with a job for you somewhere) or your prescription was ready for pick up at Duane Reade. Now a 212 number was Dr’s offices confirming appointments and test results. Hey Broadway…I haven’t changed my number…feel free to call anytime!

4 days till London. We (I say we because my parents have not left my side since the diagnosis) were able to get in to see one doctor before I was scheduled to take off. I left the doctor, somewhat hopeful, but scared out of my mind, overwhelmed with info and just sad. Now I had to get on a plane. A week ago I was beyond excited to be going to London. Not only was I headed somewhere I had never been, I was being reunited with an amazing guy I hadn’t seen in a month. A guy who after hearing the girl he had met only a handful of times and was now diagnosed with cancer still wanted to travel the world with me. Now I just wanted to cry. My mother came in that day and helped me pack, I remember just crying. Questioning whether or not I should actually be taking this trip. Taking any of these trips. Every doctor told me to take the trips. Take all the trips. So off I went.

Nice easy 6ish hours to London…oh if only it were that easy. The next part of my story is 100% true, you won’t believe it when you read it but I guarantee this is how the next few hours of my life unfolded. I was on an overnight flight to London. We were about 3 hours into our flight, cabin lights were dimmed and we were smack dab over the Atlantic Ocean. I was dosing off and trying to get some much needed sleep. That was until a blood curdling scream for the flight attendants and a doctor quickly brought me back to attention. About 10 rows behind me, a young gentleman was having a seizure. He continued to have seizures for the next 2 hours. The pilot eventually informed us that we would be diverted to Shannon, Ireland to help this man get the medical attention he very much needed. We land in Shannon and the medical team helps this gentleman off the plane. We need to refuel and restock every medical supply the flight crew used for the past few hours to help keep this guy alive. Approximately two hours later we are on our way to London. A quick one hour flight and we are there. Since we landed 4 hours after our original arrival time, my guy was already at the hotel (we had planned to land 20 minutes apart from each other…yeah, that would have been to easy). The cab to the hotel felt like hours. I finally arrive, open the door and collapse in his arms. The tears I cried were tears of relief and happiness. I was finally in London and I was finally with him again. We enjoyed a late lunch in the hotel, chatted and just enjoyed being in each others company once again. I decided I needed a nap before we went out to explore the city that evening. Back to the hotel room we settled in for a relaxing few hours. Maybe 30 minutes later we were woken to the sounds of a blaring fire alarm. Seriously?!?! We called down to the front desk to see if this was a test….nope not a test, the hotel was on fire. We grabbed our jackets, wallets and passports and opened our door to a wall of smoke. We were quickly escorted down stairs and away from the building. Standing in the middle of the street in London and looking into the lobby of our hotel currently being drenched by sprinklers was just to much. Another emotional breakdown ensued. After shedding a few more tears we decided drinks were in order. We plopped ourselves down at the nearest bar and enjoyed some beverages as we waited to return to our hotel. Turns out it was only an electrical problem and there was no fire, just a whole lot of smoke. A few hours later we were allowed to return to our room. The rest of the trip was amazing and uneventful. I did every touristy thing in the book and had the best time doing it. Hong Kong and Bali followed soon after and were unforgettable. (No crazy incidents to report there.)

After two days of travel to return home from Bali, I woke up to a slew of doctors appointments along with more tests. More stress and more decisions. More info and more confusion. But this time there were no more trips booked. It was time to deal with the fact that I have cancer and it needed to be treated.

So what is my actual diagnosis? Glad you asked. I have what is known as DCIS; ductal carcinoma in situ. It is a noninvasive form of cancer, sometimes considered stage 0. One may say, “Stage 0, wow that’s great! Doesn’t seem bad at all.” Still cancer my friend, don’t kid yourself. And if left untreated becomes invasive. DCIS did not show up on my ultrasounds, it was only visible on my mammography (hence the saving of my life bit a little earlier). So lets not even think if I were to follow the current suggested age of 40 for my first mammogram. Yikes.

So I was presented with a slew of options on how to treat this. I knew right away I wanted to be aggressive in my treatment. I have a lot of life left to live and I wanted to return to it as quickly as possible (without fear of a recurrence down the road.) My doctors and I agreed that for me, based on a number of contributing factors (not necessarily the case for everyone) the best choice was a bi-lateral mastectomy with immediate reconstruction. Woah.

Every time I walk into a Dr’s office for an appointment, they take my vitals and then the onslaught of questions come. Medications? Allergies? Family History of Cancer? My favorite question is previous surgery?..to which I always answer “no”…and then follow up with “I figured go big or go home.” Some find this humorous (and I appreciate their laughter) others just think I am off my rocker. They might be on to something. Ha

Now I have never been a “boob” girl. I actually enjoyed the fact that I was on the smaller side. It never got in the way of my dancing. But as a 34 year old women, coming to terms that part of what makes me a woman, and feminine and sexy was about to be stripped away from me was quite daunting. I knew though that this was the only way to move forward in life with a clear mind and less anxiety. My boobs were trying to kill me and they had to be dealt with.

Monday April 18th should have been my first day of rehearsal for The New York Spectacular; the all new summer show at Radio City starring the Rockettes. Turning down that contract was heart breaking. It was the first realization that my life for the time being was about to change. When these performing opportunities come around you take them because you don’t know when the next one will come your way. As a dancer you work so hard to be able to perform and stay in the game. You train hard to be in the best possible shape. I have always been able to work through injuries in my career. In 10 years at Radio City and 11 productions later I have missed one day; 2 shows. That’s it. Over 1000 performances and I only missed 2. For the first time I felt helpless…my body was failing me and it was something my athletic training team couldn’t fix. So while my fellow leggy sisters lace up there boots and strap on their tap shoes I will head to the hospital for my last minute preparations for my surgery the following morning. My treatment following my surgery is yet to be determined. The pathology of my tissue will dictate the next step for me. The hope (and we will just put it out there that this is the case) is that I will have surgery and be done with it. I’ve got things to do, kids to teach and a summer show to promote!

I need to take a moment and thank some people. I don’t want to mention them by name but they know who they are. I chose to keep my diagnosis very private initially. Its overwhelming. And navigating through just seemed easier with a small boat load of people oppose to a cruise ship. To those people who have battled this beast and stepped up to help I am forever grateful. It is hard to explain to people the emotions but for someone who lived them it is all too familiar. Thank you for being a shoulder to cry on, an ear to listen to or just a friend to talk to. Your care and concern has gone beyond and I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Thank you to the small group of friends I opened up to. Thank you for the texts, phone calls, walks, hugs, email and support. Though some of you are far, your presence is close to my heart.

A word about my parents (I’ll give you time to grab a tissue…seriously, you will want to go get one)

Fern and David, Golfern and Mr Dave, Yo Fern and Fern’s Husband or just Mom and Dad (however you may know them) are the world’s two most amazing human beings to walk this planet. I have said it before and I will say it again; I have the world’s most incredible parents. One of the hardest parts of the past six weeks has been watching them cry. No one wants to watch their parents cry. There is something incredibly gut wrenching about watching tears stream down their face and knowing that they are crying because of you. They are crying because they can’t take away the pain. They are crying because they would do anything to not watch their own child suffer. They are crying because as a parent they just want to make everything ok. They have not left my side since my diagnosis. They have accompanied me to every single appointment. EVERY SINGLE ONE. Yes ladies and gentleman you have not experienced embarrassment until your father sits in a plastic surgeons office squeezing breast implants….and giving his opinion. But I am so lucky and thankful. I wouldn’t have it any other way. They have shown up to take me to lunch or help with my laundry or just to go grab a milkshake. There is something about a cancer diagnosis that makes you feel incredibly alone. No matter how many people may be around, you always feel like you are suffering alone. I know my parents will do everything in their power, till the very last cancer cell has left my body to make sure I never feel like I am alone. They are amazing. They are my superheros. And there are not enough thank yous in the world. (Now go call your parents and tell them you love them!)

A word about dance. No one chooses the career of professional dancer because its an easy one. You choose it because it’s your passion. You choose it because there is nothing else on this earth that makes you feel alive and sets your soul aflame the way movement does. I dance because I don’t have wings to fly. One could argue a career in dance even chooses you. I know this is my case. How do I know you may ask? Well if I have learned one thing from being a dancer it is how to be strong. Physically of course; but more so mentally and emotionally. My path has not been an easy one. There have been more no’s than yes’s. Some years more downs than ups. But you keep going…because you have no choice. Its a way to survive. A life without dance is like a life without water or food. If I had taken no for an answer I would have never found any sort of success. This bump in the road is only that. I may have shed more tears in the past 6 weeks then in the previous 34 years combined but that does not make me weak. It makes me human. The show must go on! So bring it on cancer. I’m ready to kick your butt! (pardon the cliché, I mean I had to throw it in somewhere).

Why am I sharing my story? For starters, I am the walking example that early detection saves lives. If I can help one person out there it was worth it. So ask your mother, grandmother, sisters and aunts if they are up to date on their mammographies. It might just save their life too. When it comes to my treatment, I am very lucky to be in a fortunate situation with my healthcare. I know that others do not share this luck. There is an organization I’d like to let you know about called “I’m A Dancer Against Cancer.” They are amazing. Their mission is to provide financial support to dancers, dance educators and parents impacted by cancer. It is so inspiring to see young dancers fighting so hard to beat cancer. Dance has brought so much joy to my life. I want to see these young dancers thrive and grow up to follow their passion! I ask that you take a few minutes and click on the donate button on my web page. Any amount counts and it matters. My 35th birthday will fall the week after my surgery…I am not asking for flowers, gifts, cards…(maybe some diamonds. Ok kidding…kinda) I am only asking you donate. Click there now! It makes such a difference in the lives of these dancers!

Thanks for reading my novel. Sorry it was so long. I had a lot to say. Stay tuned for updates!

One final thought:
the odds of becoming a Rockette based on number of women who have auditioned….less than 1%
the odds of someone developing breast cancer between age 30-40…..also less than 1%

Defying the odds one improbability at a time!