Practical advice and personal wisdom from a four-time cancer survivor.

I want a job. I want to wake up, complain about waking up, turn off my alarm because it’s too early, and get dressed for a job. I want to put on my black work pants and a shirt appropriate for work. I want to stuff my breakfast down without thinking. Get in the car, already exhausted from imagining the day ahead, turn on the radio and sip my homemade coconut chai drink while navigating traffic. Traffic! I want to complain about traffic, my commute, how bad it is in Seattle now.

I want to get out of my car and roll my eyes at the flood of emails I’ve already gotten about a meeting that has been re-scheduled a million times. I want to roll into the office, smile at my friends, notice the stale baked goods in the lunch room, ignore the person that keeps trying to get me to join an after-work group, and hunker down in my cube. I want to stare out the window briefly wishing I was still in bed, knitting and watching my dumb TV shows. I want to turn back to my computer, adjust my keyboard and start typing out the first of many emails trying to get a handle on my workload.

I want to sit in a meeting bored out of my mind, texting my co-worker while trying to look interested in budgets. I want to wish it was the end of the day already. I want go back to my desk and laugh at my cube mate’s story about her/his weekend debacles.

I want to secretly, not so secretly, look through airfares for my next trip, somewhere new. Somewhere hot for the sunshine, some beach. I want to have a trip to look forward to and an excuse to buy new clothes. I want to make plans to order lunch because I’m too busy to go out. I want to order a salad with lots and lots of fiber. I want to eat beans. Feta cheese. Beets. Avocado for fun, not because it’s caloric and keeps me full. I want to pretend to debate which salad dressing to get (duh, balsamic vinaigrette every time). I want to mindlessly eat my salad while half working on my computer and half joining in the impromptu conversation started near my cube.

I want to forget to chew my food. I want to forget to enjoy my food.

I want to be like everyone else, sitting at their cube, complaining about their job, their boss, their benefits, their life.

I want to be like everyone else and order food without thinking twice.

I want to be like everyone else and finish the long day debating whether I should go to happy hour or the gym. I want to do both.

I want to go to the gym and sweat without worrying about becoming dehydrated. I want to go a bar with my friends and drink without worrying about becoming dehydrated. I want to nibble on the french fries my co-worker orders and laugh at her jokes while we eye the cute bartender. I want to have fun again. I want to wake up the next day slightly hungover and annoyed with myself for not going to the gym and eating too many fries. I want to promise myself that I will work out that evening.

I want to be annoyed about normal things. I want to be sad about normal things. I want to be frustrated by the parking ticket on my windshield. Or my boss. Or the president.

All while getting direct deposit checks into my account every two weeks.

I want a job.

[disclaimer: i can’t really do a job, this is not a request to hire me – it’s just what i wish for today…also i know that i’m oversimplifying what “normal” life is and that everyone’s got their shit, this is just the writing that wanted to come out of me today]

Shared in February on my personal Facebook page

  • Cancer Teacher
    Hi there, my name is Julie. I’m a nutritionist that’s had four cancers: melanoma, ovarian, colon, and endometrial cancer — the last 3 all at once due to a genetic disorder called Lynch Syndrome. Cancer can be horrific, painful, life-stealing. It can also be transformative, mind-opening and life-affirming. I’m working hard to get strong and find the silver lining lessons during this shit storm experience. Stay tuned to find out what I've learned, and continue to learn, from Cancer Teacher.

    Much love,

    Julie Negrin

    About Julie & Cancer Teacher

  • Words are like puppies and toddlers. The more you chase them, the further they run.

    I’ve finally learned to stop. And walk the other way. Until they starting chasing me.

    The writing voice I couldn’t find for so many years finally showed up when I stopped looking for it.

    Only when I was drugged and in so much pain, could it finally find it’s way through the complicated neurons synapsing in my brain.

    The drugs and pain creating a tunnel like the parting of the Red Sea.

    Creating a pathway for the words to finally escape.

    Now the words flood my brain every day, all day, especially late in the evenings.

    They come to me while I eat, while I walk, while I’m in the bathroom, in the shower, at the doctor.

    I tried for so many years to hold them back, afraid I would drown if I let them all in.

    But this past month, it became too exhausting to cover the holes in the dyke any longer.

    Whatever I was afraid of happening couldn’t be worse than how bad I felt trying to hold them back.

    So after a lifetime of trying to keep them at bay, I filled my lungs with air, held my breath, and removed my hands from the crumbling wall. I braced myself for the literary tidal wave that slammed into my fragile body.

    I am now gulping for air, clawing my way to the surface. Watery words twisting around my legs like seaweed.

    Currents of icy cold epiphanies and poetic prose gagging me.

    The salty sting of truths clawing at my skin.

    My only option now is to learn to swim through them and figure out how to navigate their powerful currents. And hope that I’ll master a few strokes. That, one day, it won’t all feel so overwhelming.

    But it’s a process.

    It takes time to master the river of words. I’m flailing, banging into large boulders, sometimes sinking, like a small kid suddenly thrown in the deep end of a pool.

    I’m trying to adjust. To so many things. Living with family. Surviving on liquids. Coping with pain.

    This new reality will take some time. Trying to wrap my head around being disabled, to calling myself an artist, a writer. To knowing my life will never be the same again.

    All I know is that I feel so much better when I let the words OUT.

    When I give them a little bit of attention. Drawing them on paper with black sharpies. Scratching them onto tiny pieces of paper in the middle of the night.

    Entering them here into proper form for the world to see. Rearranging them. Editing them. Even when I’m falling asleep, I’m trying out different words in sentences that are running through my mind.

    Maybe, if I share the words here on a regular basis, they won’t beat their little letters against my skin, my gray matter, my heart when I need peace and quiet.

    If I share the words here, they will find other people who will grab them, hold them in their hands, and stuff them in their hearts so they won’t be alone anymore.

    If I share them here, it won’t just be me carrying the long sentences, the heavy phrases, and even the tiny punctuations, up the long, winding mountain alone.

    If I share the words here, maybe we can divide them up between us and carry them all together.

    I think my body would appreciate that very much. If I shared the words and we all put them in our pocket and walked up the lonely, cold mountain together.

    All I know is that the words want out. And writing them down in private isn’t enough anymore.

    Now they want to be HEARD. Be SEEN. Find other homes, other hearts to live in.

    And my only job, the weary secretary, is to release them to the wind.

    Perhaps that’s what art is – releasing something that we can’t hold in anymore.

    So that whatever it is that we create, finds a new home, the right home.

    Because I couldn’t stop now even if I tried.

    They are tired of living in my phone and in my journals.

    They want to fly free and I can’t blame them.

    If you close your eyes and listen only to the whispering on the wind, they’ll find you too.

  • Cancer Teacher
    Hi there, my name is Julie. I’m a nutritionist that’s had four cancers: melanoma, ovarian, colon, and endometrial cancer — the last 3 all at once due to a genetic disorder called Lynch Syndrome. Cancer can be horrific, painful, life-stealing. It can also be transformative, mind-opening and life-affirming. I’m working hard to get strong and find the silver lining lessons during this shit storm experience. Stay tuned to find out what I've learned, and continue to learn, from Cancer Teacher.

    Much love,

    Julie Negrin

    About Julie & Cancer Teacher

  • I’ve been thinking about how everyone keeps calling me brave. Because my view of myself from the inside is often a bumbling, neurotic, insecure woman. There. It’s out there now. I’m actually a very insecure, nervous nelly! I overthink everything. I dissect what I say. What I do. What I wear. How I speak. All of it. I think one of the reasons I loved living in New York is that I blended in so easily with all the other neurotics. 

    Maybe this isn’t as big of surprise to you as I think it is. Perhaps it is.

    Either way, I want to come clean. I want to come out of the insecurity closet and wear my neurosis proudly! Because, in the end, who the fuck isn’t insecure? Or questioning themselves all the time? One of the best things about being such an overly sensitive neurotic is that it makes me self-aware – some of the time too much, obviously – but a lot of the time, it allows me to sense someone’s sadness and ask if they are ok, inviting a heartfelt conversation. It allows me to think about each and every post and wonder: is this going to contribute to the Internet conversation in some meaningful way? Or is it just self-importance drivel?

    Whatever it is does, it makes me ME. And I don’t want to hide anymore. I don’t want to pretend I’m someone that I’m not. 

    There are several reasons I rarely shared anything personal on social media prior to my triple cancer diagnosis. I’m actually a very private person. Also I didn’t “get” how social media works for a long time. 

    However, the main reason I kept things professional was because my “work” was my cloak. My armor against the world. I hid behind it when I felt anxious. I hid behind it when I wanted to avoid intimate entanglements. I hid behind it when I felt awkward and strange as “just me” in the world.

    I loved telling people about my work because it was so much easier than telling them about myself.

    Because I was afraid that if I shared even a tiny sliver, eventually you’d find out the truth. That I’m a geeky, insecure, weirdo whose head is often in the clouds.

    And that felt unbearable.

    But something has happened over the course of the last three years. Slowly, as I shared embarrassing details about my health and my broken heart over losing my old life, I’ve been cheered on by friends, colleagues, family, old boyfriends, traveling buddies, even friends of friends.

    And it felt liberating.

    The words flow fast and furious from my brain, my soul, or wherever they come from through my finger tips and land in a little Facebook post box. I’d click on POST and feel the anxiety rising inside of me.

    Don’t do it! my Old Self would cry! Don’t let them SEE you! The world is a cruel place where you’ll be judged and criticized! The more they SEE you, the harder it will be to hide. Keep hiding! It’s so much safer that way!

    The New Me looked on with detached amusement and calmly counter every argument: fuck it. Who cares. If someone doesn’t like it, that’s their own crap, it has nothing to do with you. And what IF the world sees the real you, ugly bits and weird parts and all? Is that the worst thing in the world? Wouldn’t it feel good to be truly KNOWN for whatever time you’re still left on this planet? And what if some of your words, some of your pain, insecurities, anxiety, strangeness somehow makes someone feel a little bit better about their own?

    What if sharing the good, bad AND the ugly gives others permission to do the same?

    What if it reminds others that regardless of how great someone’s life appears, we all feel pain, sadness, anxiety, fear, anger, frustration, and confusion. We often focus on how we’re different. What if my words remind us that we’re actually a lot alike? Mere humans who feel a LOT of things beside the happiness we constantly see in our social media feeds.

    Isn’t the ugly bits what makes us interesting anyway?

    They’ve been duking it out over the past year since I put this site up. Back and forth, back and forth.

    The New Me gaining in strength even as my body got weaker.

    The pain wracking my physical body slowly stripping away the ego. Which, as you may have figured out by now, IS the voice of the Old Self.  

    That voice that tells us it’s better to hide our pain behind laughing photos on the beach.

    The voice that tells us our crazy ideas will never work, why bother trying.

    The voice that says we’re not good enough.

    To show our real self to the world, let alone broadcast it through the Internet.

    But then, I think, Fuck It.

    Who cares. I’d rather be seen, entire self and all, and be jeered at by a few lonely trolls and cheered on by a handful of lovely readers than to hide out in my parents house by myself.

    Because I can’t hide behind work anymore. Or, by jetting around the world. Or, packing my schedule so tight, I don’t have time to FEEL.

    In the end, the idea of *actually* hiding in my parent’s basement, alone, while I try to get better sounds exponentially more terrifying than sharing my story with the public.

    I might as well bare it all. And do it with a REAL smile on my face.

    A smile that comes from truly being SEEN. And nothing else.

  • Cancer Teacher
    Hi there, my name is Julie. I’m a nutritionist that’s had four cancers: melanoma, ovarian, colon, and endometrial cancer — the last 3 all at once due to a genetic disorder called Lynch Syndrome. Cancer can be horrific, painful, life-stealing. It can also be transformative, mind-opening and life-affirming. I’m working hard to get strong and find the silver lining lessons during this shit storm experience. Stay tuned to find out what I've learned, and continue to learn, from Cancer Teacher.

    Much love,

    Julie Negrin

    About Julie & Cancer Teacher

  • FullSizeRender (3)

    This is me before a life-saving colonoscopy last week – covered by my Obamacare. My doctors are also trying to determine why I can’t eat solid foods.

    I didn’t want to write this post. I really didn’t. I’m old-school and believe voting is personal business. But I’m petrified this year. This election, my fate hangs in the balance. This time, I’m fragile, vulnerable and dependent on the government for the first time in my life. I’ve had 4 unrelated cancers by age 42 and many, many complications that prevent me from working. I have a genetic disorder called Lynch Syndrome that makes me at risk for EIGHT more cancers.

    This is the hardest sentence I’ve ever had to write:

    My name is Julie Negrin and I AM A DISABLED AMERICAN.

    This election will directly impact my life and my HEALTH. I am terrified I will lose my health insurance. If I can’t get to specialists…well I don’t like to think about it. I’m scared I will lose my disability hearing next year. Controversial government social services are now my lifeline.

    This election could literally be life or death for me.

    For the past 20+ years, I didn’t work in corporate and set aside a small fortune. Instead, I dedicated my career to educating children and families how to eat healthier. Long before it was “hip,” I became a food educator and activist. According to Social Security, I’ve been paying into the system since the 1980s, when I started working in a law firm while still in high school. I worked my ass off over the years, getting a master’s degree, writing a cookbook, lobbying for kids. I’ve had so many jobs, I’ve lost count. I’ve paid my taxes diligently every single year. And now, I’m stuck in a body that doesn’t function correctly and I’m living with my folks. I work SOOOO hard to get healthy. Every. Single. Day.

    Many people think people like me are looking for “hand outs” when nothing could be further from the truth. I want to work so bad. So bad. Get back to helping people. I’m that strange breed that LOVES working (just looked at my work history online!). But I can’t. I can barely get to all my doctor appointments each week.

    I have 8 appointments this week alone: gastro at Swedish, GI expert at UW today and tomorrow, GI Oncologist at Fred Hutch, plus my weekly “regulars” which include two days of IV fluids, acupuncture, visceral massage and therapy. All covered by my Obamacare for a very reasonable amount each month.

    I can’t survive without my Obamacare coverage.

    Also, it’s safer for ALL OF US. It sucks to think about but cancer rates are rising, a LOT. These programs are in place for you and your loved ones, just in case….. If it can happen to me, it can happen to anyone. People need to understand how important it is to keep these programs in place.

    This is not something I want to share publicly. I’m ashamed of having to ask the government for help – I used to be the one working in non-profit helping other people!!

    I have to get over that shame. I feel it’s my obligation to speak up. To remind people that the Congress races – and Presidential races – are still tight. Your vote can make a difference for ME. And 20 millions other people on Obamacare.

    Your vote could HELP me. Or HURT me.

    One party is dedicated to keeping me insured. One is not.

    Please just consider this before filling out your ballot. Think hard about the choices you’re making, not just for yourself but for all of us.

    This post may come too late for a lot of people but perhaps it will impact a few voters – I didn’t have the balls to share until now.

    I’ve dedicated my entire life to helping others get healthy. And now I’m the one who needs help.

    MY LIFE IS IN YOUR HANDS.

    Much love, Jules 

    Please feel free to share this post.

  • Cancer Teacher
    Hi there, my name is Julie. I’m a nutritionist that’s had four cancers: melanoma, ovarian, colon, and endometrial cancer — the last 3 all at once due to a genetic disorder called Lynch Syndrome. Cancer can be horrific, painful, life-stealing. It can also be transformative, mind-opening and life-affirming. I’m working hard to get strong and find the silver lining lessons during this shit storm experience. Stay tuned to find out what I've learned, and continue to learn, from Cancer Teacher.

    Much love,

    Julie Negrin

    About Julie & Cancer Teacher

  • Retiring from Teaching Cropped

    I just found old photos of my VERY first cooking students I taught in Seattle in ’97 when I worked for WA State Dept of Health. It was so long ago, there are peanuts on the table! These kids are close to 30 years old now.

    It breaks my heart to say it out loud. 

    I know it’s weird but my work has been the love of my life for the last twenty years.

    Unfortunately, it’s time for me to admit the truth: my body can’t handle the manual labor that goes along with culinary work.

    I was also in denial when I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis when I was 17 years old. I acted like other college students, drinking alcohol and eating cereal for three straight meals in a row. I lived like that for four years before I was ready to take responsibility for my health.

    Denial is part of the healing process.

    The stakes are higher this time, of course. 

    Three cancers and the impact it’s had on my body requires my full attention.

    And yet, I still managed to live in denial for two years after surgery!

    It’s hard to let go of something we love, especially when it’s a huge part of our identity.

    When people ask me what I do, I don’t say nutritionist or author, I say “cooking teacher.” It’s how I perceive myself first and foremost – and always leads to delightful conversations. 

    And now I have to let it go. 

    I’m retiring from teaching cooking. 

    There, I said it out loud.

    I’m retiring from a career I adore while living with my parents, broke, beaten down and fighting for normalcy in any area of life I can.

    I wish desperately that I could work like a normal person. But I’m at doctor appointments 4-5 days per week. Fluids take up two half days per week, visceral massage, acupuncture add up to another half day. I usually see a specialist of some sort – or this week, I am meeting with a survivorship person at the cancer center. Last week, I met with a gynecologist oncologist – between driving, waiting for an hour, the administrative crap, my appointment took a total of 3 hours. One appointment! 

    And this doesn’t include how crappy I often feel or how emotionally draining some appointments and cancer screenings are.

    I’m often so exhausted by 4pm, that I crawl into bed and stare out the window.

    Some days, I wonder what I’m fighting to get back to, where I’m headed. If I’m in a particularly dark mood, I think about the fact that I have basically no retirement, no way to support myself in upcoming years, my parents can’t keep working forever. They won’t always be around.

    What will I do then? What if more cancer comes back? I have my siblings, of course, but they have their own families to support. I could win the lottery. I could finally grow the fuck up and choose a partner already. But still, nothing is certain. 

    There are no guarantees.

    It’s hard to live with such uncertainty. 

    At a time when most of my peers are firmly locked into careers, homes, and families, I feel completely untethered.

    I don’t have anywhere to be each week except for doctor appointments that I could cancel at any time.

    My friend pointed out that I can create anything for my life now. This is huge reason I never settled down: I loved reinventing myself, starting a new career chapter, moving to a new city, discovering a new lover. 

    That’s changed now. Feeling untethered when everything else in my life is so uncertain makes me feel anxious instead of free, overwhelmed instead of buoyant, afraid instead of confident.

    I guess that’s why it was so important to me that I start this blog before I moved back to Seattle. I needed SOMETHING to focus on, something to connect me to the outside world.

    Otherwise, where do I exist? What is my purpose on this planet?

    I don’t know where I’m headed. None of us do, of course. 

    But most people’s uncertainty is a dull dinner knife pressed against their fleshy backside they can ignore most of the time.

    My uncertainty is a razor sharp fisherman’s knife digging into my jugular. 

    One wrong move, one bad diagnosis, one fatal test result and I’m gone.

    It’s a strange way to live, untethered, uncertain, unattached to normalcy. No money. No career. No partner. No kids. No home of my own.

    My community has always been important to me. 

    But now it feels like my lifeline. 

    You are my family. You are my work. You are my loves.

    That’s all I got right now, are the people in my life. 

    More and more, it’s becoming clear that it’s the only thing we need besides food, water and oxygen. 

    When all you have is love in your life, you hold onto it pretty damn tight.

    Of course, it’s only when everything else was taken away that I could see this. The longer I live without tangible adult identifiers (business owner, renter, girlfriend, employee, freelancer, professional, traveler, gypsy) the easier it is for me to see the real treasures buried underneath the labels.

    The people and the love.

    So now when someone asks me what I “do” for a living, my response will be simple:

    “I’m in school, I’m learning how to be a better human being. I may be failing a couple of subjects but I love it. I love learning what’s important. I love gaining better perspective. But most of all, I love learning how to love.”

  • Cancer Teacher
    Hi there, my name is Julie. I’m a nutritionist that’s had four cancers: melanoma, ovarian, colon, and endometrial cancer — the last 3 all at once due to a genetic disorder called Lynch Syndrome. Cancer can be horrific, painful, life-stealing. It can also be transformative, mind-opening and life-affirming. I’m working hard to get strong and find the silver lining lessons during this shit storm experience. Stay tuned to find out what I've learned, and continue to learn, from Cancer Teacher.

    Much love,

    Julie Negrin

    About Julie & Cancer Teacher

  • Thanksgiving photo with title

    This was taken on Thanksgiving ’13, a few days before I got the call about the cancerous colon polyp that was just the beginning.

    I realized the reason I’ve been in mourning the past year is that I’m grieving the death of someone. A very important person. You could say the most important person in my life.

    I’ve been trying to cope with the death of myself. My former self. My pre-menopausal, fertile, fiber-ingesting, energetic self.

    The woman who would hop on a plane and travel abroad alone.

    The woman who could juggle 8 different freelance gigs at once.

    The woman who could work 10 hour days on her feet, then go for a run at 9pm at night.

    The woman who spent 5 years healing her colon in her twenties so she could travel and eat the foods she loved, salad, popcorn, kale, nuts, dried fruit, beans, grains. 

    That beautiful, lively, brash, opinionated, feisty, athletic fearless woman died on March 14, 2014.

    The doctors love to warn you about the potential death of your body.

    Nobody mentions your metaphysical death.

    The hardest part is trying to figure out who this new self is in the regular world.

    I still have knee-jerk reactions from my old life:

    Sure! I’ll come to your party in a few weeks!

    Yeah, let’s plan a trip next year!

    Absolutely, let’s grab a bite out next weekend!

    Then, reality sets in. Parties stress me out because my energy and digestion are so unpredictable. I can’t travel. Eating out is fraught with anxiety unless I’ve tested the restaurant and found my “safe” meal.

    I wish I knew how to explain this new self to others. But the truth is she is still a bit of mystery to ME.

    I’m getting to know her while you’re getting to know her.

    When I’m around others, I’m thinking: Did I laugh at the right moments? Is it weird that I am visiting the bathroom every five minutes? When people ask how I’m doing, how much do I share? Or, do I pretend I’m normal so I don’t make people uncomfortable?

    I attended a family gathering right after I moved back to Seattle in May. I saw someone I grew up with and the poor guy, trying to make casual conversation, asked where I was living. I figure most of the Jewish community knows my story. But just in case, I test it out. “I’m living with my folks, ya know, recovering from some cancer!” I try to hold my smile as horror washes over his face, clearly unsure how to respond. Damn, he hadn’t heard. Fuck, walk away, Julie. Just walk away.

    I used to love socializing, being outdoors, eating fabulous food, my culinary career, dancing with friends….

    What happens when most of your identity gets stripped away? 

    How do you evolve into a new person when you’re still figuring out your physical limitations?

    Why does our mainstream medical world expect us to carry on like nothing has changed?

    Where do I fit in the world now that I’m this different person?

    I still laugh easily. I’m still a hugger. I’m still passionate, feisty and overly protective of the people I love. 

    But I have changed. I’m more serious now. “Life is short” isn’t some motto I see on Instagram and keep scrolling. That ambitious self slipped away along with my hormones and my uncertain future. My focus is finding a way to stay alive AND improve quality of life. And hopefully help some other people while I figure it out.

    What I DO know: this new woman is more introverted and quieter because talking takes energy. I’d rather paint than go to a party. I’m more compassionate – I’ve always been a mushball but now I’ll cry along with you during your grief. I’m less reactive – most things aren’t worth getting worked up about.  

    I think I’m near the end of grieving for my old self (will it end?). Last week, I realized that I was crying for someone that wasn’t all that happy anyway. Yes, I could travel and eat more freely. But I was also a chronic worrier, a workaholic, angered easily and struggled with expressing my feelings.

    I’m not the first person to go through cancer and feel like it’s a chance to start fresh. 

    A rebirth.

    I think a lot of the pain over the last few months was grieving AND labor pains. Trying to give birth to this new version of myself, one that isn’t scared to call herself a writer and an artist. Or, share her innermost and feelings thoughts after a lifetime of hiding them.

    Best of all, I’m finally starting to grasp the alchemy of love. Understand it’s dimensions, it’s depth, it’s power. How it feels to open yourself up to it, ask for it, receive it from all kinds of sources, ANY time, ALL the time. More importantly, this new Julie Negrin knows how to give love, unabashedly without hesitation, hollering “I love you” across the street as we part or into the phone as we hang up.

    And that’s how I’m managing to walk away from the old me and head toward the new one. The old me could do a lot of things I can no longer do. But the new me truly knows how to love.

    I’m not the same person. But…I’m finally accepting that this might be a good thing.

  • Cancer Teacher
    Hi there, my name is Julie. I’m a nutritionist that’s had four cancers: melanoma, ovarian, colon, and endometrial cancer — the last 3 all at once due to a genetic disorder called Lynch Syndrome. Cancer can be horrific, painful, life-stealing. It can also be transformative, mind-opening and life-affirming. I’m working hard to get strong and find the silver lining lessons during this shit storm experience. Stay tuned to find out what I've learned, and continue to learn, from Cancer Teacher.

    Much love,

    Julie Negrin

    About Julie & Cancer Teacher

  • FullSizeRender (5)I’m surrounded by “stuff” right now. Things I’ve packed into suitcases and shlepped from San Diego to Seattle.

    One of the reasons I’ve led a gypsy lifestyle is because I love change, the excuse to purge, start fresh somewhere new. It feels cleansing, emotionally, spiritually – the feng shui magic tidying of it all.

    When I moved in the past, I’d imagine my new life during the purging process. When I was packing in New York for San Diego, I’d decide what belonged in my new life: black clothing (no) bathing suits (yes). It was fairly easy to decide what to keep. I always had a vision for my new life, wherever it was.

    When I look through my closet now, I see the jacket meant for running outside, the shirts and pants purchased for office work, the cookbooks full of recipes I can’t eat.

    I’ve been very emotional regarding the move from San Diego to Seattle and now I’m beginning to understand why. It’s not only going to be physically taxing. And psychologically jarring to leave the cocoon of my current apartment. And awkward transitioning to living with my folks. Those three things are enough to warrant apprehension.

    The real doozy is that I don’t know what’s next. I have no idea if my old skirts will still be in style by the time I rejoin the world. I don’t know if I’ll ever have the energy or a healthy enough tummy to run outside again. I don’t know if I will eat normally again. 

    I have no fucking clue what the next chapter of my life will be about – or if I will even get more chapters.

    Why will I need nice shirts if my life revolves around getting IV fluids twice a week? What good are cute shoes if I’m getting undressed for visceral manipulation and acupuncture every week? Cooking my meals from scratch? Laying in bed several days per week? I’m only half way through life and all I need are sweat pants every day – which would be fine if it was temporary – but IS IT? I find myself giving things away. Why keep what I may never use?

    Right now, my “stuff” is taunting me. Reminding me of a life I can’t have, that I may never get back again.

    People try to reassure me – which I appreciate. I much prefer people try to say something than not say anything at all.

    But what’s happened to me is so mind-boggling fucked up that no one knows what’s next. Even my therapist, who is very, very good, stumbled when we came across this one. She told me that people that need kidney dialysis or become paralyzed have to make peace with their situation. Which is true. But all that did was make me cry harder.

    The truth is my case is so unique, there is no predicting how any of this will pan out.

    And now, my world is about to shrink even more than it already has – to a bedroom, a kitchen, an infusion center, doctors offices, and fortunately, soon, hanging out with my family.

    Everyone complains about how much stuff they have but that’s because YOU HAVE A LIFE. Mementos from trips, athletic gear, holiday decorations, clothes for lots of activities, tools, crap your kids brought home.

    Is it such a bad thing? If you feel like “stuff” is filling a gaping void in your life or you’re trying to keep up with the Joneses, then yes. But if it’s because you have a busy, full life and don’t have time to unload often, then probably no.

    Because trust me, you don’t want to be looking through your house and thinking “will I need this if something bad happens to me in a year?” “will I need this if I have no energy for another 2 years?” “will I need this if I’m not able to work in an office for a long time?” – or worse, “will I need this if my life is cut short?” 

    These aren’t questions you want to ask yourself. 

    A couple of weeks ago, I saw one of my “clinic buddies,” Eddie, where I get fluids. He was near the end, dying of cancer – he passed away a few days later. I drove home knowing I’d never see him again, trying to process watching someone literally die in front of me.  I ended up behind an expensive, convertible for several blocks. I watched the driver preen as we crawled along the busy downtown streets. And I thought of Eddie – who was about to leave his body and couldn’t take a damn thing with him. I stared not in judgment but in fascination. 

    It’s a funny thing about “stuff.” We want it so badly. We grow so attached to it. We’re broken hearted if we lose it. We spend so much time searching for it. And even more money buying it.

    In the end, though, except for keeping you dry, warm and fed, “stuff” doesn’t solve a damn thing. I’d trade my few belongings and everything I could possibly own for the rest of my life for a functioning body. 

    Every. Single. Item.  

    I have no idea how I’m going to get through this move…but I can do this.

  • Cancer Teacher
    Hi there, my name is Julie. I’m a nutritionist that’s had four cancers: melanoma, ovarian, colon, and endometrial cancer — the last 3 all at once due to a genetic disorder called Lynch Syndrome. Cancer can be horrific, painful, life-stealing. It can also be transformative, mind-opening and life-affirming. I’m working hard to get strong and find the silver lining lessons during this shit storm experience. Stay tuned to find out what I've learned, and continue to learn, from Cancer Teacher.

    Much love,

    Julie Negrin

    About Julie & Cancer Teacher

  • FullSizeRender (1)

    When I started painting for this post, I ended up with my theoretical children: 1 girl, 2 boys. Or is that me with 2 boys? Hmmm…I guess a part of me still wonders what they would be like…

    I wrote this Facebook post after casually mentioning in a previous one that I was “okay not having kids.”  This is the follow up.

    I realized in my last post, I glossed over the “I’m ok not having kids” topic without giving context. The reason I haven’t discussed losing the ability to give birth is because a) I am still processing it b) it’s SUCH a delicate topic. Some people get upset (offline) when I discuss certain topics, especially regarding kids/families. They feel I’m minimizing their experience when I share mine. I NEVER intend to hurt anyone when I express myself. If anything, I hope others realize they aren’t alone in their pain. I simply need to share my truth. It’s kept me sane throughout this entire experience. If a topic appears too painful, I completely understand if you can’t read it. I support you in doing what YOU need to do in order to stay sane!

    Giving birth or not giving birth – so many deeply painful experiences regarding this extremely personal issue. The truth is I’ve been ambivalent about it for years. I imagine some of it is due to the fact that I helped raised six young children when I was still a kid myself. There are four kids in my family and my four young cousins lived across the street. I had a baby on my hip for much of my childhood. Or, maybe it’s because I developed a chronic disease when I was 17 and have had serious health issues on and off my entire life. How could I knowingly pass my genes on? Or, maybe it’s because I’m an extremist – I would either be a total hippie mama with a bunch of kids running around while I garden or I throw myself 100% into my work, my writing, my art. I don’t know. It’s clear from my writing and painting that I’m still working it out.

    People say I can still adopt, which is true. Most agencies would probably have a hard time overlooking my “poor prognosis” (which is bullshit, of course, I’m not going anywhere). I think it would be tremendously unfair to burden children with the possibility that I may not be well enough to care for them. If I end up inheriting kids by way of a relationship – that’s different. There are two healthy individuals who are in charge of their well-being. For everyone’s sanity, I need to stay in a secondary position like Fun Auntie. Plus, I’m no spring chicken anymore. If others are cool with being older parents, go for it. I’ve been wiping baby butts since I was six years old. I’m good.

    I wish I’d been more cognizant of this internal struggle – which is why I need to write about it now. I remember feeling a lot of struggle, guilt, and worry that I kept walking past Door A. But without much conscious thought, I kept choosing Door B instead of the one expected of me. As a Jewish woman from Spanish descent, the pressure to procreate is epic. I didn’t comprehend the enormous pressure I felt until the decision was made for me.

    By the time I heard “you have two huge masses in your ovaries,” my response was “get them out.” Door A slammed shut. For the last two years, I’ve processed each loss when I felt up to it. I kept tiptoeing around this one wondering if a tidal wave of regret was going to wash over me. I waited. I waited. And finally, I realized, it wasn’t coming. If anything, I feel relieved. I’m relieved I didn’t pass on my genes. I’m relieved I can rest when I need to rest. I’m relieved I can use my spare energy with my wonderful nieces and nephews. I’m relieved I can care for my folks as they get older. Most of all, I’m relieved that I’m relieved.

    I know that there are many, many women who would not feel relieved in my shoes. Or, don’t have a bunch of nieces and nephews to get their kid-fix from. Or don’t want to adopt or have the means to do so. Nobody wants to have this choice stolen from them. Nobody. To call it heartbreaking is an understatement.

    My heart goes out to anyone that is struggling with this right now.

    You are not alone.

    Love, Jule

  • Cancer Teacher
    Hi there, my name is Julie. I’m a nutritionist that’s had four cancers: melanoma, ovarian, colon, and endometrial cancer — the last 3 all at once due to a genetic disorder called Lynch Syndrome. Cancer can be horrific, painful, life-stealing. It can also be transformative, mind-opening and life-affirming. I’m working hard to get strong and find the silver lining lessons during this shit storm experience. Stay tuned to find out what I've learned, and continue to learn, from Cancer Teacher.

    Much love,

    Julie Negrin

    About Julie & Cancer Teacher

  • IMG_5840

    Lately, I realized I was ducking my head when I passed people in public, especially when I had a hat on that revealed my bare head. Embarrassed, the cancer patient, I looked down and away. Not always but enough times for me to notice. And then at my oncologist, there was an article in some cancer magazine about Kathy Bates going through cancer twice and her quote caught my eye “I realized it wasn’t necessary to hide. Nobody should be ashamed to have cancer.”

    Was that why I didn’t tell anyone when I had melanoma in 2011? Is that why I was hanging my head when I passed people? Because I was ashamed? Screw that! I didn’t even realize that’s what I was feeling until I saw that quote. Last night, I went on a walk to the beach with a friend (because thankfully I live in a city where I can DO THAT, sooo grateful) and my head was hot. For the first time in two weeks, I took my hat off in public. Nobody even glanced at me! Granted I still have some hair – not completely bald (yet?). But still, it’s pretty bare. It was liberating to realize that I don’t need to hide! I don’t need to feel embarrassed or ashamed! Ridiculous, isn’t it? But based on how many people are calling me brave, I’m not alone in feeling ashamed to share my diagnosis, or my pain. Why is that? Why are ASHAMED of going through something hard in life when it happens to everyone at some point?

    Having cancer sucks. No doubt. But the best thing about it is gaining perspective. And realizing how resilient we really are. I remember thinking it was the end of the world in January when they said I had to lose part of my colon. Ha! As the news kept getting heavier, everything before it seemed smaller and less significant. That’s how I feel about a lot of things now including the hair loss. While it’s still hard for me – granted I still have eyebrows and lashes which is pretty awesome – it’s shifted my perspective on: a) what makes me feel beautiful (lots of other things besides hair!) b) what I appreciate about my body – I have never in my life been so damn grateful for eyebrows and lashes! c) how much I can really handle which ends up being quite a lot.

    This last point has been on my mind lately. Many people are struck by my attitude throughout this experience. I realized that having a chronic age 17 to 26  helped me pick up a lot of coping skills. While other people came of age in prime health, I grew from kid to adult as a sick patient. I think that and the melanoma experience taught me how important it is to just ride the wave. Sometimes life sucks and sometimes it’s awesome. Most importantly, I learned that I can HEAL. I defied the doctors the first time by healing my colon which they said I could never do, I got strong again the second time after barely walking for four months, and I WILL DO BOTH AGAIN THIS THIRD TIME. I must believe that.

    The other huge lesson I’m learning this round is to not be ashamed! The difference between my melanoma experience and this bout is HUGE. That was intense but this is technically way worse. And yet I was way more depressed that time. This time, I’ve felt a lot of emotions but not that dragged down depressed feeling. And I think a lot of it has to do with opening myself up and sharing my REAL experience and my REAL feelings. Bates is right. We shouldn’t be embarrassed. I have cancer right now but I have no reason to duck my head. Or hide. It’s simply something I’m going through right now. So, now when I walk by people with my bare head peaking out, I just smile and say hello. So what if I’m bald? I can do this.

    I wrote this on July 22, 2014 two months after starting chemotherapy.

  • Cancer Teacher
    Hi there, my name is Julie. I’m a nutritionist that’s had four cancers: melanoma, ovarian, colon, and endometrial cancer — the last 3 all at once due to a genetic disorder called Lynch Syndrome. Cancer can be horrific, painful, life-stealing. It can also be transformative, mind-opening and life-affirming. I’m working hard to get strong and find the silver lining lessons during this shit storm experience. Stay tuned to find out what I've learned, and continue to learn, from Cancer Teacher.

    Much love,

    Julie Negrin

    About Julie & Cancer Teacher

  • IMG_5819

    I’ve been quiet on updates because it’s been really tough and I didn’t want to depress you guys. Behind the smiley photos, there’ve been struggles. I didn’t understand how many complications could result from 18 rounds of chemo and major abdominal surgery – and I didn’t understand hints my doctors kept giving me about my prognosis….until a few weeks ago when one finally said it – mind-shattering to hear but at least he was honest.

    Apparently I have a “terrible prognosis” because I’ve had 4 cancers by 42. This seems obvious now but at the time… Denial anyone? Denial is part of the grieving process which I now recognize I’m going through. We don’t create space for patients to grieve their medical trauma, so I’m bumbling through it on my own, finding helpful tools, reading books on spirituality, processing it with my therapist (a former one from Seattle who takes my insurance – don’t know why I didn’t think of it before!), philosophizing with my yoga teachers, other survivors, Buddhist friends. But it’s really, really tough living in a body that doesn’t work: dehydration requires weekly IV fluids, messed up digestion has limited me to 10 foods (low-inflammation, moist/mashed, and now candida cleanse), fatigue causes me to sleep a lot, trying to build immune system back up so taking 12-15 supplements daily. This is why I look fairly *normal* – which I’m grateful for – but it’s a bit of a mind-fuck because I feel like a tired, fragile, old lady on the inside. I loved seeing my family but I was wrecked for a week after. That’s the reality of cancer recovery. Weird shit happens to your body after a lot of chemo (I’m klutzy now!). It’s a long, arduous road back to health.

    On top of the physical challenges lately, I’ve been in the sad stage of the grieving process – mourning the loss of my young, pre-menopausal, hyper-active, up-for-anything-travel-anywhere-eat-all-foods woman. She is gone. And she isn’t coming back. I experienced so much loss in such a short amount of time – what most people go through over 10-20 years (menopause, body breaking down, losing organs), it’s been mind-blowing to process.

    I don’t know this new person – I’m getting to know her but she is very different. Quieter, lower energy, doesn’t like crowds or parties anymore (I KNOW – can you believe that one??), very introverted. I realize this can change. And I will grow to accept it but I’m not there yet. For now, my energy must go towards work, fixing my health and family. I have JUST enough juice each week to get my obligations done and that’s it. When I can muster it, I love visiting with friends. The rest of time I’m in bed as I am now, writing this awkwardly with my computer wedged next to my body – resting before I head to a doctor appointment.

    Cancer patients often feel like different people after their experience. We are re-birthing our new selves. I’m ok in my cocoon for now. Winter is coming, I’m finally writing like I’ve always dreamed of, and look forward to healing up. I feel lucky to have an awesome integrative team helping me get through this. And of course, I have my incredible family and an army of supporters that believe in me. I believe in my ability to heal. I don’t listen to the doctors bad news, never have. I’m in this for the long-game, heal myself, travel again, live a LONG time, dance at my babies’ weddings, prove those slaves-to-stats wrong. For now, it’s a lot of work and focus to get well again. Just doing what I do: one foot in front of the other.

    I can do this.

    This was posted on Nov 4, 2015 to Facebook friends

  • Cancer Teacher
    Hi there, my name is Julie. I’m a nutritionist that’s had four cancers: melanoma, ovarian, colon, and endometrial cancer — the last 3 all at once due to a genetic disorder called Lynch Syndrome. Cancer can be horrific, painful, life-stealing. It can also be transformative, mind-opening and life-affirming. I’m working hard to get strong and find the silver lining lessons during this shit storm experience. Stay tuned to find out what I've learned, and continue to learn, from Cancer Teacher.

    Much love,

    Julie Negrin

    About Julie & Cancer Teacher