Hi folks! I’m Christina, and I’m excited to officially introduce myself to the Cactus Cancer community. I’ve been a program participant since 2019, and I may have already met you in programs like our Art Workshops or at events like Drag Bingo. I’m a firm believer that everyone has a story to tell, and I’d like to share a bit of mine with you.
I grew up in southern New Jersey, just across the river from Philadelphia. Growing up, my dad owned soccer retail stores, but I was quite terrible at sports and declared at age 6 that I did not want to play soccer and instead, I wanted to dance. My parents enrolled me in ballet, and a few years later I auditioned for my first musical. I loved the feeling of slipping away into someone else’s world for a few hours and getting to be someone else.
Once a theatre kid, always a theatre kid. I went on to study theatre in college and then got my master’s degree in educational theatre. From there, I started teaching students ages 4-18 and directing, while still finding time to audition and perform myself. It was a pretty charmed life for several years.
You probably know what happens next: the cancer diagnosis. I was diagnosed with a rare soft tissue sarcoma at the age of 28. It’s safe to say it interrupted my life in a profound way. I went from teaching yoga, going on hikes, and traveling whenever possible to trying to eat small, bland meals and feeling tired constantly.
Since my tumor is so rare, I started a blog just after I was diagnosed as a way to shout into the void to see if anyone responded back. To my surprise, a woman just around my age and only an hour away reached out to me after a google search turned up a few of my posts. When we met, I felt such a sense of relief: finally, someone who just got it without my needing to explain. I felt that same way when I attended my first Cactus Cancer event. Here I met people that would listen to my writing, laugh at my medical jokes, and offer empathy and strategy in equal amounts.
My diagnosis is chronic, so I am still in treatment and likely will be for the rest of my life. I have tried to build a life I am proud of in spite of the revolving door of appointments, scans, side effects. I have a small shih tzu named Daisy who keeps me accountable for getting out of bed at a reasonable time each day. I love to travel, especially to National Parks. I absolutely love to read, and I still try to see theatre whenever I can. By no means do I have this all figured out: I am still learning. But I’ve figured out a lot of strategies to care for myself and can usually figure out what will bring me joy on my hardest days.
As I start my time as the Program Coordinator here at Cactus Cancer, I’ll be both behind the scenes, helping get the word out about the amazing things we do, and in programs, putting that educator hat back on again. I will also be writing a new series called Christina’s Corner, where I’ll share recipes I’m trying, movies and television I’m watching, and anything else that I think you might be interested in trying out for yourself. Life with cancer is really hard, but there is community here like none other: I’m really glad to have found my people.