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Crazy Sexy Cancer: Tips from Survivors
After my tunnel trip (encased in a fluorescent MRI coffin for two hours), the verdict was epithelioid hemangioendothelioma, an extremely rare vascular cancer affecting the lining of the blood vessels in my liver and lungs. Stage IV. Translation: Holy shit!
When I was first diagnosed, there was not much in the way of books or movies that dealt with the situations and problems facing young women with cancer. Everything was geared toward kids or people much older than me, and most of it was either really sappy or really depressing.
This is crap. Cancer needed a makeover, and I was just the gal to do it! I quit my job, moved, got really healthy … and took a huge artistic leap, writing and filming my journey.
This book is a collection of facts, hints, hell-yeahs, how-tos, and know-hows for all you glorious Cancer Babes out there. Some of my Cancer Babe cronies even contributed their stories and tips for this book. These are fundamental, practical, silly, real, fun, crazy, sexy ways to live your life — with cancer.
1. Create your own sassy cancer stitch-and-bitch
My posse makes me howl! Our conversations range from everyday stuff like dieting, boyfriends, jobs and plans for the future to funny cancer escapades and deep “what ifs” that only a CB (Cancer Babe) can understand.
I pictured support groups like some awkward teary cancer AA. “Hi, my name is Kris and I have cancer.” “Hi, Kris!” No thanks. It had to be on my terms. So I picked up the phone and called everyone in my Elvis Presley address book (a souvenir from Graceland). “Do you know any young women with cancer?” The e-mails and phone numbers began to pour in, and my first Cancer Babe playdates were scheduled! There is a lot of crap you have to cope with, and your posse can help.
2. Play cancer telephone
Let’s face it, getting diagnosed is just really good gossip. So you may want to make a preemptive strike before the word gets out.
My friend Erin Zammett Ruddy (left), a columnist, writer and activist, has a great gossip story: “My worst cancer experience (other than being diagnosed) was hearing from my high school boyfriend that he’d ‘heard through the grapevine’ I was dying. I wasn’t dying, I was eating a slice of pizza and watching ‘The Bachelor,’ thank you very much.
“You never want to hear that you’re dying, but when you’ve just been diagnosed with cancer and you have no idea what your future holds, you really don’t want to hear that you're dying."
3. Create a medical binder
Information and medical documents will be flying around faster than thirty-something fashionistas at a Manolo Blahnik sample sale.
Write down your questions before your appointments … track all of your treatments including medications, dosages and side effects … And include important phone numbers, insurance information, extra paper for note taking, and maps of the area around
your hospital, including good restaurants — especially those with takeout! Cafeteria food sucks. You need a backup plan.
4. Wear a sports bra with no metal in it
This way you can avoid flashing boob every time you lift an arm or adjust your position on the CAT scan bed. I swear hospital gowns were designed by a man! No matter how stylish you are with your Jimmy Choo heels … the second you don the gown you feel exposed and utterly style-less.
You can create a smashing Diane von Furstenberg “hostess gown” knockoff … Download patterns at www.lazygirldesigns.com, invite your Cancer Posse and make it a girlie craft night. If you’re not feeling crafty but still want a stylish gown to wear to the hospital ball, check out www.spirited-sisters.com. A fabulous alternative to indignity.
5. Take the fifty-cent tour
My beautiful cousin Suzanne Donaldson (right), the photo director at Glamour magazine, was diagnosed with leukemia four months after she got married. She offers some great advice on how to prepare yourself for your first day of treatment:
“I wish, I wish, I wish they had just walked me down the hall on a calm day to check the place out before I started treatment. I know I would have been better prepared if I’d had a mental image of where they were taking me and what was about to happen. When they brought me into the chemo room, I officially lost it! Tears came streaming out … My cancer suddenly became very real. I was now going to have to go through with fixing this thing inside me that I couldn’t even feel."
6. Don’t get steamrollered by the hospital routine
When Heidi Adams (left), founder of The Planet Cancer, was 26, she was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma. Here’s a nugget from her treatment experiences: “When I checked in at the center where I received treatments every six weeks or so, I put a sign on the door: ‘NO PAPER. NO TRAYS. NO ICE. I WEIGH 135 POUNDS.’ This was to keep people from waking me up at the crack of dawn, and ferret out what was important and what was just stupid hospital bureaucratic routine, and refuse any invasiveness that wasn’t absolutely necessary.”
7. Eat your veggies
What should I eat? Healthy or sick, it’s a question that plagues us all. Low carbs? No carbs? Macrobiotics? South Beach? … It’s so confusing, and it seems like everyone has the Holy Grail answer. The body is phenomenally mysterious, and yet the answer is actually quite straightforward: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” (Michael Pollan came up with this.) “But of course I eat food,” you say. But do you? Food isn’t made in a laboratory.
8. Shake your ass
The body heals eight times faster with exercise. Eight times! Exercise floods the body with oxygen and rids it of toxins via the lymphatic system. I can recommend lots of different types of exercise, everything from yoga to karate. But the best kind is the kind you’ll actually do. Shake your ass, do some down dogs, buy a hula hoop, round up your posse and do some double Dutch.
Try a mini trampoline or rebounder. As you bounce, your cells get gently squeezed by the alternation of weightlessness and gravitational pull. Toxins are flushed and nutrition floods your body.
9. Try alternative detoxing
The benefits of detoxification are many. Massage, acupuncture and acupressure are terrific for moving blockages and creating better circulation and lymph drainage. Saunas and steam baths are both excellent forms of what I call “hot box detox.” Heat helps stimulate your liver, gallbladder, kidneys … Far infrared sauna therapy is used at alternative healing centers as detox for cancer patients, and it penetrates the tissues at a much deeper level — great for pulling out heavy metals and other poisons.
10. Explore some cancer kama sutra
Dare to be lusciously lip-smackin! Don’t shelve yourself or your erotic sparks. My friend Terri Cole (right), a licensed psychotherapist, TV acting teacher and talk-show host, says: “Sex is unbelievably life-affirming anytime, but especially when you are plagued with thoughts about your own mortality, sex can make you feel alive. It wasn’t just sex that made me feel that way: Slow body massages, foot massages and back-tickle sessions with my husband, Vic, all made me not only feel loved, but still powerful, myself, normal.”
From Crazy Sexy Cancer Tips by Kris Carr, copyright 2007. Republished with permission of Kris Carr and skirt!. Based on Kris Carr’s “Crazy Sexy Cancer” documentary film as featured on Oprah and available on Gaiam DVD, chronicling her journey and her outrageous, girlfriends-guide approach to surviving and thriving.
Visit Kris Carr's website at http://crazysexylife.com.