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Sunday, September 29, 2013

The last year, in one minute


Last September, when I started chemo, I also started taking a picture of myself every week. I was originally going to do this for the 12 weeks of Taxol. My Herceptin treatment (not technically chemo, but chemo-ish) was to last one year, so when Taxol ended I decided to keep going, and chronicle the full 52 weeks -- September 21, 2012 to September 21, 2013. That might actually be 53 weeks. Whatever. I went 21 to 21.

It's odd to look at this. I normally don't like looking at photos of myself. Um, particularly when I look like shit. But I feel, I don't know, separate from this person somehow, even though the last photos are from just a few days ago. I feel like the girl in the photos made it through pretty unscathed, though the look on her face sometimes makes me sad. A lot of people had it a lot worse. (I sort of hate it when other people say that to me, that "it could be worse," thing. I know they're trying to be comforting. But you know what? It could always be worse. My prognosis could be worse. I could have had to do harsher chemo. I could be going bankrupt. My dog could have run away. So yes, it could always be worse. But shit could be a lot better, too.)

I'm still not completely sure why I took these photos. At first it had to do with documenting the hair saga. But it wound up becoming about something else, too. The photos became hash marks scratched on the wall, marking time spent inhabiting the world of this disease. Every time I set up the tripod was another week down. Or was it another week lost?

97 comments:

  1. Everything about this.
    xoxoxoxoxox
    j

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  2. Through it all, Emily, your beauty shines. God bless you :-)

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    1. You don't look like shit..you look like a beautiful, strong, determined woman..I applaud your bravery in making this video!

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    2. I agree you are beautiful and strong and brave x

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  3. you are one beautiful strong woman. Thank you for posting this! Congratulation on making it through the last year.

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  4. Well you probably didn't mean for your video to go "viral" but I just saw it on Yahoo and had to come straight to your blog. The simultaneous strength and agony your video portrays left me breathless and teary. Thank you for sharing your most vulnerable self with the world. And may all women gain strength from people like you.

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    1. I didn't! It's slightly terrifying :) Thanks so much for your comment and for reading. xo

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  5. Wow. You are incredible and I just happened to read your entire blog (thank you Yahoo). My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer about three weeks ago and you have just prepared me for what's to come. Thank you so so much for sharing.

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    1. I'm so sorry to hear about your mom. It's really hard and sad, but it is get-through-able. Have you and your mom connected with support organizations? I'll post some just in case. All the the best to you and your family.

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  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  7. I just wanted you to know that I think you look really pretty with short hair.

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    1. Aw, thanks. :) I like it too. I'm such a control freak that I have to grow it out though, even though I might decide to cut it short again. Just so that it was my idea to do it.

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    2. I have been through the same, nearly 2 yrs. now, on Arimidex for 5 yrs. All I can say is "what a ...journey it has been. Was mostly alone through it all, sad when friends and family just drop you when you really need support. I feel with you, good luck and keep "smiling" when you can! xo

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  8. You go girl.
    My job is to care for kids with cancer and give them chemo.
    You are awesome.
    Thanks for being an example.

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    1. You're awesome! The staff at my chemo place were some of the kindest people I've ever met. Thanks for doing that tough job.
      And thanks for reading :)

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  9. its nice seeing someone so brave usually people are chickens.
    you rock my darling !

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  10. You still look pretty, even after the chemo. You are a fighter. Landed over here, while going through Yahoo. Would also like to mention that I am from India, that means you have become so popular, thanks for sharing your story. May the Lord's infinite grace bestow upon you and usher bliss in your heart !

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    1. thank you so much! amazing that the video made it all the way to India. Hopefully the real me (not just my photo) can make it over some day too!

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  11. In a fight for life, no time is ever lost. All the very best to you

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  12. Hi Emily, I just saw your video on yahoo, sorry to hear about your situation but there is a better way. Please go here and call Donna Pessin. She can help you. I have nothing to do with this site but I use the products and it works. I am very serious. Please call her right away. http://www.uniquehealing.com/contact/

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  13. Emily,

    I just came across your video from Yahoo. You are incredibly strong and inspiring. I honestly teared up watching your video. Congrats on your progress and here's to your health :)

    Best, Brit

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  14. i LOVE your honesty and blog
    I am a BC survivor and photographer who documented my journey - diagnosed in May 2011 with stage 3a triple negative and I did the poison that is chemo and radiation but also did my smoothies and veggies/fruits.

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  15. My mom has battled BC three times. She had a double mastectomy, chemo, silicone implants to feel more "normal," then radiation. She's the strongest, bravest person I know. You are a beautiful young woman - inside and out. Thank you for sharing your story. Wishing you good health and happiness. <3

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  16. Your beautiful. Stay Strong !!!


    In my thoughts

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  17. Thank you for making the journey a little less scary. Was recently diagnoised myself July 2013. Looking forward to the day when I can say I'm in remission, but I know it's going to be a long journey. Keep fighting beautiful and I'll see you on the otherside. *hugs*

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  18. Thank you for posting- it is a powerful reminder that there are bad days and good day- and you got through it. AND you are getting through it. Knowledge of that- is encouraging and helping others....and yourself. talking and showing- thank you.

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  19. This was inspirational. Found this post via Yahoo and want to visit and say thank you for sharing.

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  20. Emily,
    As I'm sure you know, "The last year, in one minute" was posted on Yahoo. Surely, you will be receiving many comments here. After viewing your video this AM, I linked to your blog and read each of your entries. Thank you for documenting your experience. I was diagnosed with a very similar BC last December, and I am also in this fight for my life. Noeadjuvent chemo, herceptin, mastectomy, reconstruction...yesterday completed 25 of 28 rads. I'm on a 3 day break before completion as my skin is totally fried! Please keep the blog going. I easily relate to so much of your experience. I wish I had documented the previous 10 months, but with treatment and 2 young children, it didn't happen. I am also curious about the vaccine trial which you may take part in. Please keep us posted.

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    1. Ack, Julie I'm so sorry to hear you're having trouble with rads! It was rough on my skin too. Make sure you have a stash of the good pain meds, just in case. This saline compress helped me a bit:

      Heat one litre(4 cups) of water to boiling, remove from heat
      Add 1.5-2 tsp. of table salt. Stir until dissolved
      Pour solution into a clean container( I used a jar)
      Cover and leave out at room temperature to cool
      Make a fresh solution each morning

      To use

      Wash hands with soap and water
      Place gauze or clean washcloth in a bowl
      Cover gauze or washcloth with the room temperature saline solution
      Lay wet gauze or washcloth over treatment area for 10-15 min. Remoisten if required
      Discard gauze after use, or throw washcloth in laundry
      Gently dry surrounding skin
      Repeat 2-3 times per day

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  21. Emily, I found your video via Yahoo and was so inspired by how well you captured that beast called cancer. We work with a lot of breast cancer patients, empowering them to find their voice and share their story. You tell yours in a very unique voice I find compelling, so I hope you don't mind that I shared it with all the people who follow us online.

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  22. You are so brave and so beautiful! While some people wallow in self pity you have made something that can actually help bring awareness to those who simply brush breast cancer off. I hope you know everyone who sees your video is so proud of you even though most of us don't know you. If you are ever in Miami, FL please look me up, it would be an honor to do your makeup (for free of course) and make you feel as beautiful on the outside ("feel" because you already are beautiful on the outside as well) as you are on the inside! God bless you!

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  23. thank you for posting your video

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  24. Wow - that was like Deja Vu - I literally just had the same year as you, I even started chemo on the same day last September. I am 33, so not much older than you. What an incredible journey the last year has been - we were even bald over the same months! Thanks for posting the video, it gives me some sense of connection and to know I'm not alone, even being so young. :)

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    1. Wow, baldness twins! I'm thankful we were bald during the winter. Sweaty subway platform + headscarf would not have been good. Hope you're doing well. xoxo

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  25. Thank you so much for sharing this part of your journey. I'm really touched by your candor and think that you've created something beautiful that will get to the heart of anyone who watches it.

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  26. I find you to be awesome.

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  27. Hi Emily,

    Thank you for sharing this. I really admire your strength and honesty.

    I'm a features producer for ninemsn in Australia, and would love to share this video with our readers - would you be okay with that?

    You can contact me on lachlan.williams@ninemsn.com.au

    All the best,

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  28. True courage is sharing your vulnerability. You are a modern day heroine. Keep creating, keep loving. You are a miracle.

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  29. Absolutely amazing! Thank you for sharing the most vulnerable time of your life with us. Your beautiful!

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  30. YOU ROCK...thank you for sharing.

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  31. Saw your video on tv and am so glad it led me to your blog. It is so helpful to know that there other people out there feeling the same way. I was diagnosed with synovial sarcoma (I had a tumor in my shoulder) in October 2012 at the age of 25 and have spent the last year fighting this rare and aggressive cancer. I am very grateful to say that my end of treatment scans have come back clean but I am still dealing with all the side effects. When you talk about your hair and ongoing problems with the site of your surgery it feels like you know me. I just had to have a second surgery on my shoulder due to an infection and am so frustrated. Thanks for your honesty.

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    1. Ugh, I'm sorry you're dealing with all the surgical complications! Are you able to do PT or is that not possible yet?
      Is it hard to find a support community for your diagnosis? Have you hooked up with Stupid Cancer? I went to a panel discussion of theirs, and there was this amazing woman who'd had synovial sarcoma in her foot. She was hilarious and very open.

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  32. Hi Emily,

    I'm Yasmina, a journalist working for Terra.es, a news webpage in Spain. We'd love to share your video with our readers -of course with a link to your blog and all the information. Could we get your permision?

    You can contact me on yasmina.bargallo@laviniainteractiva.com

    Thanks in advance

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  33. Thank you for sharing yourself.....I lost my Mama in 2007 to anal cancer. Being Hispanic and having a bit of a language barrier, I feel like I never fully prepared her for chemo.

    I am so happy to see you well, pretty and writing!!

    God Bless......

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  34. I know what you have gone through, I´m a cancer survivor, by the grace of God...... keep it up, thank you for sharing....God love you

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  35. You are too cute, and brave. I'll think of you when I feel whiny about what really amounts to nothing. But I will NOT take pictures. lol Happy Wednesday !

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  36. Saw this on Yahoo a few minutes ago and had to look you up and say thank you for posting that. I was diagnosed with stage II breast cancer in August at the ripe ol' age of 27. Your openness gives me comfort when dealing with the days ahead. And you look beautiful while handling this pretty crappy card we've been dealt!

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    1. I'm so sorry about the diagnosis. How are you doing with treatment? Have you been able to find the support you need? My support groups have been so super important over the last year. I can say things to them that I can't say to anyone else. I hope everything is going smoothly for you, and you're feeling good! xo

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  37. Thank you for this video. Totally a real look at what life is really like. I was diagnosed July 2012 (at 28) and went into remission July 2013. I'm wishing you all the best. These disease is such a jerk!

    Kyle
    thelumpchronicles.blogspot.com

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    1. BC is a total asshole! love your blog girl.

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  38. You absolutely made my day with this video. Strangely enough, it is the chemo that scares me. Your 1 minute video put it in perspective.

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  39. One minute video that speaks infinately for us. Thankyou for creating this x

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  40. Hi Emily! I feel so thankful to have found your blog! I am a 36 year old who was diagnosed with breast cancer, while I was pregnant with my son. I underwent a mastectomy while I was pregnant, carried my baby to full term and then 3 weeks after that, started adriamycin and cytoxan, followed by taxol, then radiation and now I'm on 5 years of tamoxifin (whew!). I'm about a year out of treatment and myself!
    Thank you so much for your posts! It's so awesome to know there are so many amazing women out there who have gone through what we have gone through!
    I look forward to reading your future posts!
    -F

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    1. Oh my god, what a roller coaster the last couple of years must have been. To many years of smooth sailing! xo

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  41. ANGIE SOUTH AFRICAOctober 3, 2013 at 2:13 AM

    God bless you Emily. may you have many happy happy years ahead of you . you really deserve it. too young to have to deal with this awful disease. from one BC lady to another.

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  42. When I look at you, all I see is how strong and beautiful you are.

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  43. Thank you you for sharing your story. You are an incredibly strong and beautiful woman and an inspiration to everyone of us. YOU ARE AWESOME!

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  44. you are truly a brave and a beautiful young woman that she need a

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  45. I'm sure you wish this last year had gone by that quickly. I wish you the best in your future! Stay well!!!

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  46. I am going to quit smoking ... I may not be as strong as you

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  47. Thank you for being so brave as to put this together. I'm posting a link to it on my own blog later today because it is so powerful.

    Stay strong and stay well!!

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  48. From one currently in breast cancer treatment may I just say gawd, you're fantastic! A friend just told me about your blog and I've only read a few entries thus far but I've already fallen in love with what you say and how you say it. Brilliant. I love my own blog. I may love yours more. Keep keeping it real.

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    1. thank you Sherrill! Please send me link to your blog if you feel comfortable sharing. xo

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    2. kickinitgood.blogspot.com. xo back at cha

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  49. You're pretty as it looks right now. There're some inner calm and strong characters implanted. All the best, smile and be loved.

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  50. Hi Emily!

    I found this video on a Belgium site and it led me to your blog. I wanted to thank you for this video: I had cancer myself at a young age (19 till 20) and had pretty much "the same year". I had chemotherapy and radiation and I've been bald, just like you. Right now I have a short haircut. It was difficult at first, but now I really like it. You should too. You are a beautiful, strong and inspiring woman!
    Thanks for sharing this blog and making this video. It makes me (and a lot of people) connect, knowing that you're not alone.

    Congrats on your therapy and on this past year. You are an inspiration to a lot of people.
    Be strong, be healthy. I wish you the very best!

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    1. Thanks Caroline! I'm glad your liking your hair now that it's back :)

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  51. I was one of the 13,000, too. That figure still blows my mind. I was Stage 4 right from the start, and I'm on my third chemo now. I sort of wish I'd done something similar with the photos. Cancer can be such a lonely place; I feel like blogging about it makes it a little less so. All the best to you as you recover from this beast!

    xoxo
    Jen

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    1. Jen, thank you so much for reading. I'm so sorry to hear about you diagnosis. Seriously, fuck this disease. How is chemo treating you?
      I think you should start your project now, anyway...I think it's fine if it's not the exact beginning. Or, maybe you could do something on a different time line, not necessarily the chemo schedule. The documenting has been a really important thing for me, but I couldn't work up to doing it until almost two months after dx.

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  52. You are so incredibly brave and we are honored to feature your video on WomenYouShouldKnow.net, you have touched many lives in one minute! Much success and health to you.

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  53. Your courage and honesty is a gift to all of us. Beautiful.

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  54. I just watched your video and was curious about the pad you pulled out of your shirt and that led to further questions about the tubes. Have there been permanent changes to you, like surgery etc? I'm impressed by your strength.

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    1. What I take out there at the end is my prosthetic boob. It's noting fancy, just one I crocheted. I've had loads of complications with my reconstruction, culminating with the decision to just put everything on hold and let my body take a breather. So the implant that had been there was removed, and I'll start the process over again sometime in the next few months.

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  55. Hi Emily! We stumbled upon this video on Yahoo and found it incredibly inspirational. Thank you for posting it and sharing your story. We'll be posting a link to the video on our Facebook page today.

    Stay strong!!

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  56. You are brave and beautiful and witty and adorable and real. I'm all caught up with your blog and will continue to check in. Cheering you on . . .

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  57. You are truly beautiful. Bless your heart. I'd love if you checked my blog, which is on my profile. I'm fighting paralysis. God bless you.

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    1. Your blog is amazing! Hope you are well.

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  58. I have so much respect for you !!! You are very brave to share this with the world!

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  59. Latecomer to the viral video wagon train, but I went back to the first entry and read the whole thing up to here. I'm just sorry I wasn't your next-door neighbor this whole time, so I could make you cookies for dinner and vacuum up all the pet hair. D.

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    1. You're too sweet! Oh the pet hair... thanks for reading!

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  60. Thank you so much for this. I was just diagnosed and watching this made the year ahead of me so much less frightening. You have no idea how much this blessed me on my journey. Love and prayers to you.

    Laurie

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    1. Laurie, I'm so sorry to hear about your diagnosis. I'm honored if I am able to help you in any small way with this. Community has been so instrumental to me in this last year. Have you been able to find support? All the best, and lots of good healing energy to you.

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  61. You are so young. That's all that kept running through my head watching this. My sister went through this, my aunts, my friends, my friends' sisters, my friends mothers, my friends aunts. The montage is very powerful, anyone who hasn't been there won't know your pain, but the images are powerful, and so are you.

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