Earlier this month I was watching a morning show in between my yoga classes. Robin Roberts and Giuliana Rancic were sharing their stories about being cancer survivors. Since October is National Breast Cancer Awareness month, like you, I’ve been seeing pink paraphernalia from the grocery store to the billboards. I thought to myself, what can I do with my platform in support of breast cancer awareness month? I put on my pink yoga top and went to teach class. That was a start.
While I was driving to class on the 134 (LA Freeway), an idea came to me. One of my dear friends, Elisa Perry, is a breast cancer survivor. Elisa is actually celebrating her 5th year anniversary as a survivor. You go girl! I felt the urge to share her story and spread the joy. Congratulations Elisa, I am beyond proud of your resilience and determination to live the good life on your terms.
Over the years I have learned a lot about Elisa’s story. Part of her story is that she lost her mother to breast cancer at the age of six. Breast cancer had been haunting her for decades. Elisa carried a tremendous amount of worry and stress that she would have the same fate as so many of her family members. Gone before their time. Thankfully, Elisa beat breast cancer.
Elisa believes a combination of her genes and stress led her to what she feared the most. In her late thirties, Elisa received the phone call that changed her life forever. Her tumor was malignant. I know many of you have had similar experiences with yourselves and your loved ones.
Elisa endured invasive surgeries, intense chemo treatments, radiation and so much more. She spent many days beside the toilet. As part of the process, Elisa lost all of her hair. In spite of it all, she was surprised that being bald was not so bad. Elisa was given a fabulous wig from a local charity, The Foundation for Living Beauty (more about them later). During her most vulnerable times, Elisa recalls all of the good deeds from friends, family and perfect strangers.
Those days of physical and emotional trauma are far behind Elisa. Now she’s into receiving weekly acupuncture, working out at the gym, chiropractic treatments, and going to sweat lodges. Her favorite place to sweat out her toxins is Shape House in Larchmont Village.
Elisa also testifies that practicing yoga before her diagnoses mentally prepared her for what was coming. Elisa shared, “Yoga was not only physical therapy, it was emotional therapy as well.” She explains the emotional therapy significantly helped with chemo and radiation treatments. The fear of the unknown is overwhelming. Staying present helps keep patients sane. Elisa’s favorite neighborhood yoga studio is Yoga Works also on Larchmont.
I asked Elisa how she felt about the month of October. She explained October feels bitter sweet. Elisa was diagnosed on Oct.31st. Therefore, it is a constant reminder of her cancer journey. Elisa also knows that awareness is key so the fact that we see Breast Cancer reminders everywhere is ultimately a good thing.
This past Sunday Elisa had a performance at The Lineage Dance Theater. It was a fundraiser for The Foundation of Living Beauty. A non profit organization that has been known to save the souls of woman both going through cancer and remission. I have taught yoga for the foundation in the past. I have witnessed first hand how lives are truly transformed from the support and compassion provided by Living Beauty.
I thought going to Elisa’s performance would be a cool way to support my friend. Let me tell you, the performances were so moving. From the dancers, to the musicians, to the speakers, to the videos, I was touched to my core. I gained massive insight. There was not a dry eye in the intimate theater. Lot of laughter was heard as well. Of course, I got so much more out of attending to the event than imaginable. I literally had a front row seat to the loss and the triumph experienced by those affected by breast cancer.
Below is what Elisa shared with the audience. Get ready to laugh out load, learn some cancer etiquette, and probably shed a few tears.
Elisa’s 10 Revelations about Breast Cancer
October 31st, 2007, 2pm was the hardest phone call I ever had. It was the day I got the results of my biopsy. While sitting in my car in the front of the shoe repair shop in “The Valley” I was told that the tumor in my right breast was malignant. The doctor said, “I’m really surprised because I thought it was benign.” I said you are surprised, I thought you just didn’t know how to use the sonogram machine, and that’s why you ordered the biopsy.
Well I guess I got it wrong again. October is breast cancer awareness month that doesn’t mean get the disease! I was never really good at following directions. I guess I know what I’ll be for Halloween, ‘a cancer patient.’ Well now I get to be a ‘survivor’. At that moment, I had to figure out how in the hell am I suppose to drive home with this news.
Needless to say I did make it home. I told my honey Dave the news and he let me know he would be the rock I would need to get through this journey.
From that day on I decided that breast cancer for me would not be about sadness, fear, or anger. Instead it would be a journey of faith, appreciation and new revelations. It was the beginning of my new normal.
David Letterman is not the only one with a top ten list.
- 10. Sometimes people really don’t know what to say, and sometimes they just shouldn’t say anything.
- 9. The best pictures I ever took were not head shots, but the nudes that save my life.
- 8. It pays to have a dirty old boyfriend. he found my lump. We now call him Fingers. One problem, he wants to offer free breast exams to all my friends.
- 7. I learned to really embrace my inner yogi. Downward facing dog never felt so good.
- 6. Going bald really forced me to appreciate my face.
- 5. I changed India Irie’s song “I Am Not My Hair” to “I Ain’t Got No Hair” and made it my theme song.
- 4. Thanks to chemo, I will finally have that “good hair” my Southern relatives always brag about. Thanks to chemo, I finally lost those seven pounds that I’ve been trying to lose for sever years. Unfortunately they found me again.
- 3. How to really play the chemo card: I’m so sorry; I won’t be able to go to your son’s accordion recital. I had chemo this week. No, I can’t watch your four kids, I had chemo this week. I really wish I could take you to the airport, but I had chemo this week.
- 2. Angels come with names and faces of those who supported me through my journey.
- 1. The number one revelation I got out of my journey with breast cancer:
“I never knew how much I was loved, appreciated and cared for until I got diagnosed.” In the words of Sally Fields, “You like me, you really like me.”
Recently, Elisa’s friend, Regina said something that brought even more clarity to her journey. Regina recalled that Elisa had been living with cancer since the age of 6, not just the past five years. This is no longer flooding her subconscious. Now, every morning and every night Elisa repeats a very special mantra. “I am emotionally and physically cancer FREE.
This experience has given Elisa the confidence and courage to go after her dreams with no apologies. Recently Elisa has taken a massive leap of faith, choosing to pursue acting full time. The roles have already started to come in.
This is more like a life tip from Elisa. She told me that all of her choices are made to give HER, (not those around her, including her loved ones) PEACE of MIND.
Bless you my friend.
(photo credits: from Cindi Lee from Amy Peterson- Satchu andWalter Tabayong, slider photo: app.com)