I had an epiphany this weekend when a dear friend emailed me. She wrote…Hey Dr. Zen…and BOOM! There it was!
I had been searching for a year...for a direction, for a passion, for a clear and simple message to start blogging about. And when I read my nickname, Dr. Zen, given to me while I was working as a series regular Briefcase Model (18) on the hit NBC game show, DEAL OR NO DEAL, it all became crystal clear.
I am a cancer survivor.I was diagnosed with Stage II Alveolar Rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare childhood cancer, just a few weeks shy of my nineteenth birthday, while I was attending my first semester at Rutgers University in New Jersey. I was in my dorm room one morning, putting my hair into a ponytail in the mirror...and noticed a lump on my right forearm.
M Y...L I F E...C A M E...T O...A...S T A N D S T I L L.
Where other students were deciding what their majors would be and what their careers would look like, I was facing a much DIFFERENT DECISION. My life was front and center in a whole new way.
Looking in that mirror, not only did I see the tumor, I saw the tears and fears of a young woman afraid of what tomorrow would bring…or if there would even be a tomorrow.
I was faced with a DECISION…to embrace the adversity or to give in. I chose to EMBRACE those 365 days of chemotherapy. I chose LIFE. I chose to keep a smile on my face while receiving radiation for over 40 days. I chose to keep my thoughts and energy flowing forward in a positive mind set after going through several painful surgeries, numerous CAT scans, MRIs...and only God remembers all the other medical tests I had done on me. I survived it. ONE DAY AT A TIME.
My wonderful oncologist, Dr. Michael Harris, at The Tomorrows Children's Fund (which is connected to Hackensack Medical Center) in New Jersey, gave me a black marker and a calendar. He said this is going to be a long journey but you are going to get through it…ONE DAY AT A TIME. He told me to X off each day on that calendar with that black marker. And that’s what I did. Each evening, the big, fat X carved the calendar. And each evening, I could breathe a little better than the night before. Of course some days were harder than others but I could breathe a sigh of relief knowing that the end of chemo was one day closer.
ONE DAY AT A TIME. That is how I have been living my life ever since that life-altering adventure.
That adventure, as I like to call it these days, taught me how important it is to remain positive in adversity. Keeping a clear and positive outlook on life heals the mind, body and spirit. I call it life-altering, not because it magically made me a better a person, but because it truly taught me, in the purest form, what mattered most.
A warm smile, a gentle touch to the skin, music that touched my soul, music that made me sing, my sweet dog who always showed me such unconditional love. Family, friends, loved ones and even strangers who went out of their way to make sure that I was taken care of, that I was happy, that I was laughing, that I was fed, that I had water and ice chips and a bucket nearby, that I had a shoulder to cry on, a hand to squeeze when I was in pain and most importantly...that I was warm enough. Anyone who knows me, knows how miserable I get when I am cold.
I am grateful for my journey with cancer as it has kept me grounded in my acting career. Hollywood, at times, can get so materialistic, so cut-throat, so childish and so ego-driven that sometimes people forget to treat each other like human beings. When things get crazy in my life, I always make a conscious choice to take a step back and meditate on how good my life is because I survived...when others did not.
I believe that everything happens for a reason and I would never change a single moment of my life. We are here on earth to teach each other, to learn from each other, to love each other, to make each other laugh and to encourage each other to grow. It's the support we give one another that allows us to live and laugh and love.
I believe in paying forward my experiences with those who can learn from it and do it better than I did. I adore listening and learning from people who have wonderful ideas and stories to share with me. Ever since I moved to Los Angeles, over 10 years ago, I have been obsessed with alternative, natural ways of healing and living. I will try almost anything geared in that direction. I can't wait to start sharing my stories of what I have learned and experienced with all of you!
Hence, the idea for my new blog.
Each week I will share inspiring stories from speakers, survivors, products and companies that are all helping to change the world. Be on the look out for my next post where I will share that special video I spoke about earlier.
In the meantime, a question to ponder...DO YOU THINK WE CAN STARVE CANCER? I have some interesting news to share on this topic and I’d love to hear from you. Always feel free to send me questions and ideas on how I can encourage us all to live a healthy, natural and zen life.