My Name Is CC, and I Am a Cancer Survivor

“Hello, my name is CC, and I am a cancer survivor.”

I never thought that those words would sit together in the same sentence, let alone with a great deal of comfort and elbow room. I never thought that the word “cancer” would be applied to me at all. And I never thought that I would carry the words with me still, after it was all over. You see, I was hoping I would be able to tuck cancer away, someplace small and sacred, and be able to forget that I was ever that sick, forget that I ever did all that chemo, and forget that my life was forever changed.

But that’s not what happened. That’s not the story.

I was young. I was active. I was social. I was ambitious in my career and excited about the future. I was a “healthy” and “normal” 29-year-old when I was diagnosed with stage IV Hodgkin lymphoma in the sleeting February of 2016. After getting totally emotionally sidelined by the diagnosis, I completed six rounds (12 infusions total) of ABVD chemotherapy. That’s a total of 36 hours in the infusion center’s bustling waiting room, 72 hours in the chemo chair, watching 259,200 drips trickle down from the chemo bag into the big blue vein in my arm. That’s 12 lightly toasted bagels from the café downstairs, an infinite number of hand holds and arm rubs from my mother, and countless times the floor dropped out from beneath me to swirl with the walls.

WebsterSisters
With my sister, Ashley, in July 2016, before my final treatment.

When I tumbled out the other side into remission that sweaty August, I tried to pick up my life and career where I had left it, but it just wasn’t the same. Something was missing. It was like my doctor had sent me home with a stick shift when I only knew how to drive an automatic. Everything I had built for myself had seemed to disappear, sinking between my fingers. All of my dreams and my excitement for the future fell in a heap on the floor, having lost their glitter and gleam. I had to rebuild by finding and following my sense of joy, passion, peace and purpose.

My observations and perspectives surrounding my experience with cancer may ring true to anyone who has sat in that chemo chair, or who has shown up to a cocktail party with a fresh buzz cut. But more than a cancer story, my story is one of facing challenge and surviving. It is a story about the power of the physical body and the emotional self. It is a story about love. And most of all, it is story of hope, with a little bit of humor.

I want to tell my story in this blog post and in the next ones to come, with this community specifically, because this is where I came for help, too. Stay tuned. I can’t wait to share my story with you.


CCWebster_PhotoCC Webster is a recent survivor, patient of Weill Cornell Medicine/NewYork-Presbyterian (WCM/NYP), and author of So That Happened, a memoir that offers a candid reflection on her experience with cancer as a young adult. Diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma at the age of 29, CC completed treatment under Dr. John Leonard and his team at WCM/NYP’s Lymphoma Program. Now in remission, she is sharing her story, perspective, and insights in hopes of raising awareness of the disease and helping others through the battle – always with a little bit of humor. Her book is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Goodreads, and through her site and publishing platform Webster Works. CC lives with her husband, Matt, in New York City.

WCM/NYP Partners with LLS to Host Blood Cancer Survivorship Event

Thanks to a valued partnership with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS), Weill Cornell Medicine and NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital (WCM/NYP) were proud co-hosts of “Life Beyond Blood Cancer,” a free educational event for patients and caregivers. The program explored various aspects of survivorship as experienced by people with lymphoma, leukemia, myeloma and other blood cancers.

The event drew in nearly 100 members of the New York metropolitan area’s blood cancer community for an evening of shared information and inspiration. Speakers included a range of experts across the WCM/NYP cancer care team, as well as blood cancer survivors who shared their experience and insight into living with Hodgkin lymphoma, chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) and acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL).

Here are a few highlights:

WCM/NYP Lymphoma Program Chief Dr. Peter Martin explained that innovative advancements in personalized medicine, immunotherapy, and targeted therapy have positively influenced blood cancer survival rates. Almost 1.5 million people in the United States are living with lymphoma, leukemia or myeloma. Dr. Martin noted that as patients are living longer, more clinical attention should be focused on treating the whole patient and his/her needs, as opposed to treating just the cancer cells within the body.

Alan Astrow, Chief of Hematology and Oncology at NewYork-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital, explained that a cancer diagnosis can affect a patient’s life in ways that exceed the strictly medical, and many patients welcome discussion about their spiritual, religious and existential concerns. Dr. Astrow advocated for increased communication between physicians and patients regarding spiritual needs, since a clear understanding of a patient’s hopes, fears and values can provide guidance when making decisions in the face of medical uncertainty.

Kelly Trevino, PhD, a clinical psychologist at WCM/NYP with a specialization in psychosocial oncology, discussed strategies for managing the anxiety that often accompanies a cancer diagnosis. Threatening situations like cancer can lead to worry and nervousness, muscle tension, shortness of breath, tingling/numbness and difficulty concentrating – all of which can have a negative impact on quality of life. Coping strategies include deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, pursuit of distracting activities and even scheduled “worry time” to prevent anxious thoughts from infiltrating the entire day.

Three survivors across varying ages and diagnoses then shared the ups and downs of their treatment and post-treatment journeys and provided the audience with insight into life beyond cancer.

We at Weill Cornell Medicine and NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital are honored to be able to offer educational programs and resources to people affected by cancer, and we are committed to doing our best to address the needs of our patient community throughout all stages of the cancer journey.

LLS
The event concluded with an interactive question-and-answer session between the speakers and audience, moderated by WCM/NYP outpatient oncology social worker Susan Marchal, LCSW.