Three Years Add Up

It ‘s been three years since I was declared cancer-free! Three years and I’m still left speechless by the thought. Did I really have cancer? Am I in remission now? Am I sure about that?

Don’t worry. I’m still cancer free (got the clear from the doc back in April). I’ve been trying to plan what I was going to say for this post for, I don’t know, months? A year? Every step I’ve taken forward has taken me in a new direction that changes what I’m going to say, what I want to reflect on and even what I want to share with you.

And I know. It’s been a very long time since I’ve shared anything at all. And I know, I made a promise before that I was going to be back. No more promises. I’m not a perfect individual and I can’t promise anything. I use this platform as a way to share my own life experiences so that I may be able to help the next person down the road who finds themselves in my shoes. Regardless of the impact it makes on the universe around me, I want to write right now for my sake.

So, I’m going to write.

Here I am, sitting in my bed, staring at my screen wondering how I’m going to explain what I’m feeling. For the last couple years, Halloween has haunted me. And not in the cool, hipster “yeah I was totally haunted by a ghost,” sort of way. I mean in the “gross, waking up from a nightmare and vomiting in my toilet at 3 in the morning” kind of way. I mean in the “having an anxiety attack while sitting in a classroom learning about the naumachia in Ancient Greece and excusing myself to the hallway so I don’t have a public meltdown” kind of way.

For me, the treatment process is done. Chemo is done. It’s been done for a very long time. But healing is a lifelong process that I’ve been actively working on day in and day out. Each day is better, but I would get to those anniversary dates and all of my work reverts and I feel like I’ve taken 15 steps backwards in the process. And I can’t place my finger on it, but this year is different for some reason. I’m not reverting the way I typically expect.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m still struggling- I won’t lie about that. Do I still have some nightmares? Sure. Do I still catch my anxious, wandering mind drift to the insane idea that a cold I have is covering up more severe, underlying symptoms? Absolutely.

I’m also really, really, REALLY proud. I look back at the last three years and I think about all that I’ve done. Come with me for a moment in my small time capsule:

I got cancer, underwent chemotherapy, and SURVIVED.

I went from this:

To this:

And now to this:

My love and respect for my own body has never been so strong.

I went back to school, during which time I stage managed two dance productions, assistant directed a fringe festival and a mainstage production and directed my senior project which I received grant funding from the university for. AND THEN I GRADUATED. Even more I graduated with honors. This past summer after college was a bit weird. Long story short: I moved home, did an internship at a library, a directing residency at a theatre and worked at a retail store for… kicks? (Money. It was for money.)

Then my super cool residency and internship ended and I was stuck in that lost sensation of not knowing where my life was headed (side note: young adult life is just a cyclical process of feeling lost, finding your bearings, getting yourself in order, then getting the rug pulled out from under you. Rinse and repeat).

I felt this way, that is, until I got a call asking me to come work for a local theatre and I said yes. I would walk into a beautiful building with such historic grace and elegance every day and I was getting paid to do it!

And then I made the decision to walk away. A decision that is heart-breaking, but I don’t regret. I’m eager for what’s to come and who gets to come on my little life journey with me wherever it may take me.

If there’s anything I can offer to you it’s this: YOU are so much more than one event in your life- good or bad. You aren’t loved for what you’ve done or what you’ve experienced, but for who you are. You are loved because you exist.

So has it been three years since I was diagnosed? Yes. Did I really have cancer? Yes. Am I in remission? HELL yes.

When I get those nightmares or I feel my breath quicken, I look at the apartment that I’m now living in, or the office I work in and I remember I am more than that singular experience. It’s one piece of a very confusing culmination that is me: Dana. A young individual learning how to be an adult and maintain a loving soul in a world that forgets it’s okay to be happy.

But if there’s anything that I could have possibly learned from my cancer experience and from the cancer experiences of people around me is that I cannot live in fear of a date or an anniversary. I cannot live waiting for the next bad thing to happen. I know I didn’t mention them, but the last three years have brought a lot of negative experiences as well.

But they don’t matter. They don’t matter because I processed, learned and moved forward, carrying it with me to the next experience- good or bad. I lived through them. I lived.

I’m living.

Until Next Time,

Dana

Hometown Treasures

Sometimes, going home is hard. You’re leaving friends, jobs, and a place that you just got settled into. But if there’s anything good about going home? It’s that you know that place like the back of your hand and all of the little secrets that your hometown holds. The local coffee shop with the best pastries, the clothing store that always has all of its prices at 70% off, a bead shop with the friendliest owners. For me, it’s a bookstore.

I love books. I love bookstores. I love them so much that I could spend an eternity in one and it still wouldn’t be enough time. I love the atmosphere, the book smell and getting to read new stories I’ve never knew existed. My favorite bookstore is a little gem in Baraboo, WI called the Village Booksmith. If I could, I would gladly give them all of my money. It’s unfortunate that I do have bills to pay so I guess I won’t be giving them ALL of my money.

The Village Booksmith is a bookstore in Baraboo, WI that sells new, old and rare books for a great price. A popular book that typically sells for $20-$25 could sell as low as $5 at the Village Booksmith. Plus, they have a great variety of books to offer: history, science fiction, gardening, architecture, biographies, foreign language, books for kids, etc. They have any book you could possibly imagine. I even saw some old Vietnam military manuals once. And if they don’t have a specific book you’re looking for? They will help you locate in online and get it shipped right to your door. They’re book wizards I swear.

THEY EVEN HAVE A WHOLE THEATRE SECTION.

For you non- Thespians, let me explain a thing or two about finding a theatre section that sells theatre texts for reasonable prices. To find a bookstore that has a theatre section that has more than Shakespeare in it and contains more than a shelf of dusty Ibsen scripts is like finding a unicorn in your backyard. In other words, it’s nearly impossible.

But the Village Booksmith has done it! They have created a unicorn in their store for the theatre nerds. Their theatre section is a whole 8-shelf bookshelf filled with books on every genre of the theatre: scripts, theatre history, costume design, directing, makeup design, scene design, prop design, sound design, acting, stage management. And scripts. Lots and lots of scripts! Needless to say, it’s my favorite spot in the whole store. The last time I was there, I purchased about 10 theatre books that would normally run for $400-$450 for about $80. It was such a good deal I almost felt bad. Almost.

So if you’re in the Baraboo, WI area, be sure to drop by the Village Booksmith. You’re sure to find a treasure or two in there. I know that when I’m back in my hometown, the Village Booksmith will be the first place to visit (even before my parents)!

 

Until Next Time,

Dana Qualy

Let’s Chat

Hi everyone,

13269362_495596163976343_2083116012_nHow are you doing? Well? Not so well? Hopefully you’re doing well. If not, I’m putting a picture of my dog in this blog post to brighten your spirits just a little. Look at that adorable face!

How am I doing? That’s a hard question to answer. Things are… seemingly good. My blood work is good, my apartment is not on fire and it is not a chemo week. Things are good. So why am I still making that grumpy face when I know something isn’t good?

It’s because we don’t talk anymore.

I’m not saying you and I don’t talk anymore. There’s a good chance I have no idea who you are so we’ve never met (Hi, by the way. Nice to meet you). I’m saying people don’t talk about the hard subjects anymore. When I say hard subjects, I’m referring to tragic events that have happened and once they’re over, no one calls it by what it is anymore (ex: bombings, suicide, abandonment, etc.) Why don’t we talk about them?

The easy answer would be “technology has ruined the future of communication,” but I don’t believe that. Others would argue “it’s not socially acceptable to bring up such things,” but I don’t believe that either. There are YouTube videos and blog posts and news articles about challenging content that we as a society choose to click away from. The opportunity is there and we do not take it. There are people telling their most personal stories to inspire others and we step away from them hoping that they’ll stop for our convenience. People pour their hearts into that work and we ignore it. For whatever reason, we don’t want to know. We don’t want to ask. I catch myself doing that all the time. In fact, I did it to a fellow woman who posted about her cancer story. I got about halfway through her story, realized that it was going to have a very sad ending and CLICKED AWAY LIKE A MONSTER. Who does that? Me. I did that. Why?

The answer is hard to admit: I was afraid. I was afraid to finish the story and to get to know this person even if I never got to meet her in real life. I was afraid to make a connection and care. I was afraid that what she had to say would alter the world that I live in now and I didn’t want my world to be screwed with. I have a whole blog dedicated to positivity and good vibes for people. To bring a smile to someone’s face when they need it. I could’ve reached out and sent her good thoughts or at least finished reading her blog post. But I didn’t do that and I should have.

So let’s talk for a second. Can we do that? Are we at that level yet?

Everyone has something that has touched their lives and yet they won’t talk about it because they’re afraid. Afraid of what others will say, afraid of the answers they’ll receive, whatever it may be. For me, it’s cancer (insert scary music here). I’m beginning to believe that there’s some folklore where if you say “cancer” in a darkened bathroom three times, a nurse with chemo drugs will pop up in the mirror.

It’s not that I’m afraid to talk about it but I’m afraid that what I have to say will turn people away so I try really hard to not talk about it unless it’s in a cancer update post. And even then I try to spin it in the happiest way that I can so I don’t alarm anyone.

Because cancer has become such a large part of my life so quickly it only makes sense that I think about it and talk about it a lot. I know that I have friends and family out there who want to ask me questions about it but refrain for whatever reason. So I want you to know something:

You can talk about it with me.

Cancer is a really scary word, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t talk about it. The only way for our worldview to be broadened is by talking about the hard stuff. Cancer is unruly. It is real. It affects a lot of people, so let’s talk about it. Maybe then we can try to find something positive and good about something that’s really horrible. I’m not one for tip toeing around problems. I’m not a medical professional nor am I an expert on anything, but I am willing to answer any questions I can about it, so don’t be afraid to ask. Being curious about hard subjects is not wrong and shouldn’t be punished. The more we talk about these hard subjects, the more room there is for finding some positivity as we move forward in our lives.

Or, if you’re not ready yet, we don’t have to talk about it at all. We could talk about the weather or some other topic you’re really into. I am also down for that. You just let me know and I’m ready to listen.

 

Until Next Time,

Dana