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My Cancerpalooza Day & Health Update

Today is June 3rd: National Cancer Survivors Day. Today also happens to be my "Cancerpalooza Day," the 12 year anniversary of hearing the words, "You have cancer." Today, I honor my many friends and family members who have courageously battled this disease. 

I guess now would also be a good time to update the social media world with all I am going through at the current moment...
(Disclaimer: I share in hopes to inspire, help, or connect to someone else fighting a similar fight.  I DO NOT want you to feel sorry for me or get any special attention. In fact, I have waited for so long to update people in fear of those concerns.) 

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The Update:
My cancer has increased since my scans 6 months ago. And not by a little like last time... It basically doubled in size. My doctor is concerned, and so she ordered a new set of scans and blood tests for me 3 months from now. She warned me that my cancer is super aggressive compared to most thyroid cancers she encounters. She even acknowledged that it is probably so aggressive because of the radiation and chemo I received to cure Cancer #1. -_- Go figure. 

The sucky part is that there isn't really a "cure" for me... besides possibly cutting it out (aka surgery). I already underwent a MASSIVE amount of the typical radioactive iodine therapy a few years ago, which works with most thyroid cancer patients... but not for me! I guess that makes me special...?! Based on my recent CT scan and ultrasound reports, there are 5 small cancer nodules in my body: 3 in my thyroid bed, 1 in my spine, and 1 in my lung. Oy... Not good. 

So how are you feeling? ( That is the most common question I get.) 

To be honest, I am tired. I want to it to be over. I have been dealing with cancer for 12 years of my 27 year life. The doctor visits, needles, scans, blood tests, chemo, radiation, crappy insurance companies, CT scans with that toxic stuff they inject into you, the ultrasound goop, injections, waiting rooms, hospital bills... it's a lot to deal with. I try to take each day one day at a time, because if I look at the bigger picture I get a little overwhelmed and upset. I keep reminding myself that despite dealing with this crap, I am still very lucky in many ways. For instance, I am not in any pain, and I have a functional and strong body that allows me dance and teach. I am so so so so thankful for that.   

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I have taken time to meditate and reflect on what my next steps should be... and since the western medicine cancer treatment plan has only made my cancer proliferate and grow more aggressive, I feel it is time to dive deeper into the world of nutrition again, specifically the Ketogenic Diet. I truly resonate with the theories and research I have found about it, and I know doing this will be better than doing nothing. It's going to be a big lifestyle switch for me, but with a little hard work and planning, I know I can do it. I have to.... my life literally depends on it. 

The New "Brianna Is Going To Kick Cancer's Butt" Plan: 
1. Do Ketogenic Diet everyday. 
2. Chant/Mediatate everyday.
3. Dance/Create everyday. 
4. Sing everyday.
5. Give Gratitude everyday.  

Wish me luck as I move through this rain cloud...
Will update again soon! 

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"Life is filled with potential that is truly unfathomable. At last we are coming to see the enormous power it possesses. That is why we must never write anyone off. In particular, we mustn’t put boundaries on our own potential. In most cases, our so-called limitations are nothing more than our own decision to limit ourselves."

- President Ikeda 

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I Can't Keep Up - Professional Semester Student Showcase

I had a strange and scary reoccuring dream while I was undergoing chemotherapy:

I was on a baseball field by myself, and I was up at bat with one of those pitching machines.  The first ball came, and I hit it successfully. The second ball came, and I hit it, but this time not as far. The third ball came, and I missed it completely... The fourth ball came right away, and I missed that one, too. Then the fifth and six came as curve balls, one zoomed past my shoulder, the other other knocked me in the chest. I stumbled to get back on my feet, but the next round of baseballs were flying at me fast. They were picking up more speed, slamming me at all directions. I was on the ground, yelling for help, getting bruised and beaten by these baseballs, but no one was around to hear me.... At this point in the dream I usually woke up. 

This is what chemotherapy felt like to me. Helpless. Painful. Alone. Defeated.

I couldn't keep up. With each round, my whole body took a blow, and I didn't have enough time to recover before the next round hit me back down again. It was this constant feeling of growing weaker and weaker, sicker and sicker, and not being able to do anything about it but take the beating and hope your body can make it out alive. 

When I heard "I Can't Keep Up" by Tourist, I knew I needed to create movement to it, and I knew that it needed to be inspired by this dream I had.... 

What do you do when you can't keep up? How do you keep going? Where do you find strength and hope when you have none? 

I decided to take on theses answer through my movement. 

Photography by Jenna Maslechko 

This year, I had the honor of being an Alumni Choreographer for the the Professional Semester Program at Broadway Dance Center, and I chose to give them the challenge. They worked so hard at every rehearsal... and we only had 6 rehearsals to put it all together! Watching their final semester showcase at Alvin Ailey's theater gave me chills and tears of joy.

They truly brought my vision to life. It powerful and magical to watch. The chills down my spine type of good.  

The video is coming soon, but here are come beautiful moments for now, captured by Jayna Photography! 

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Student Highlight: Claire Shubeck

It's not every day that I get to work with a student like Claire Shubeck. She is humble, mature beyond her years, super detailed and articulate with her movement, and works hard to execute every picture and extend every line. That being said, it was an honor to create this competition solo for her this year. 

We started in a very collaborative way---  journaling in our notebooks, looking at images, sourcing movement organically with no music or counts. I always love working this way in order to create movement that fits the dancer. It is important to me that they feel connected to the movement and self-expressed through the choreography... especially as a soloist.

Thank you, Claire, for working so hard to bring this piece to life. Watching you dance brings me so much joy.. and also chills. I am so incredibly proud of you.

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j u l i e t

I'm a doggie mama!

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So the story goes... 
I am an animal lover. Cats, dogs, bunnies... anything with fur and a cute face. I am that girl who walks by a dog and squeals with excitement because I can't contain how much I love them. I thought about getting a cat a long time ago, but that idea died when I found out Barney is highly allergic. So... to satisfy my animal obsession, I started dog sitting for a while in my neighborhood. And I loved it! What's better than making a little cash for spending time with a pup?! But there was part of me that was so sad every time they left. I wanted one of my own. 

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Time passed, and my twin sister came to visit for a few days. The first thing she said when she sat on my couch was, "Your apartment is missing something.... You need a dog." (She is a doggie mama herself- rescued a Sharpei Labrador Mix 2 years ago from Puerto Rico!) She was scrolling on Instagram, and then showed me an account called Susie Home for Senior Dogs. There was a dog on there with terminal bone cancer. She said, "Look! This dog has cancer like you! They just need someone to give it a happy life! He could be your cancer buddy." 

That was when the seed was planted. 
I thought for a while. My main concerns were be 1. Do I have the time to take care of a dog. &  2. Do I have the money to take care of a dog. 

My responses to my concerns: 
1. Yes- I do have time and a very flexible schedule- more so than a 9-to-5er. and Barney is willing to help. It is more accessible to ask for help now more than ever with these new dog walking apps. & 
2. Yes. I am certainly not the richest person in the world, but I can budget. In fact, having a dog would mean I have a little creature depending on me. Adopting a dog would mean creating a future of finanical stability. Which, as an artist, I would love to have. 

That being said, I submit an application to adopt this dog. I went through the process, had a phone call interview and everything....  and then sad news came. The veterinarian said dog only had about 1-6 months left to live. So the shelter and I decided it was best to keep him in with his current foster mama for the remainder of his life. It was sad, I just figured I would find another doggie for me another time! 

On a random Thursday evening, the shelter calls me asking if I would like to foster a dog they pulled from the shelter. They warned me that she was very scared, shy, and sick, and just needed a quiet place to recover and get some love. I said YES, without asking any questions. She said "Great! We'll drop her off on Saturday!"

It's kind of silly and totally unreasonable now that I think of it now, but perhaps it was also just a sign that the universe had my back...? Deep down I knew it was the right thing to do.

Long story short. I am a foster parent failure. I was only supposed to keep Juliet for a few weeks until she got adopted... but when the adopting applications started coming in, I couldn't imagine my life with out her. 

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I think I fell in love with Juliet the first moment I saw her in her crate when they dropped her off. Her eyes her droopy, her head was low. She was so skinny and weak. In need of love. Her spine and ribcage protruded from her mange infected skin. She smiled of must, and would sneeze green doggie snot across my apt every 5 min. She was taking like 4 different medications for a couple weeks, along with medicated baths and ear drops. It was A LOT to do at first, but she was also SO CHILL about it all. It was as if she knew it I was there to help her. 

I'll never forget the time I was sitting on the couch, and she cuddled up next to me and just started gently licking my hand while looking up at me. It was as if she was saying thank you. 

I adopted Juliet in March, and it was the best decision I have ever made IN MY ENTIRE LIFE so far! She has added nothing but joy and love to my life and to my community. I am also happy to report she is COMPLETELY healthy and STRONG  and LOVEABLE as can be. (She is cuddled up next to me as I type this.)

Love truly does heal. 


On a visit to the Associated Humane Society of Newark, one dog in particular caught our eye. Extremely skinny Juliet was standing in the back of her kennel with raw and red skin, swollen paws covered in sores, shaking with her head down. We did not know exactly what was wrong or what she had been through, but we were certain that she not only needed medical attention right away, but that she needed out of the shelter as soon as possible. It was clear this poor dog had suffered horrible neglect for a long time, and that she physically and emotionally could not survive the stressful shelter environment.

Juliet was terrified of everyone and everything. She would not take a treat from a person’s hand. Her tail was constantly tucked between her legs and she avoided being touched. Juliet broke our hearts, and we made it our mission to get her out of the shelter. She reminded us so much of other dogs we had rescued, and we believed that with a little bit of patience and some medical care, Juliet would eventually come out of her shell. Although she was so fearful, we could see just how sweet and loving this girl is deep down.

Luckily, we were able to find fosters Brianna and Barney who were looking to help a dog in real need. With antibiotics, some medicated baths, and most importantly love, Juliet started looking and feeling so much better after only a few days. She warmed up completely to her foster parents, who quickly decided they could not let her go.

Thank you to Brianna and Barney for not only adopting sweet Juliet, but for opening your hearts and home to a dog in such great need. Juliet is a genuine example of resiliency, forgiveness, and unconditional love that makes rescue animals truly special.
— www.shelterchic.org/success-stories

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Weight of the World

Human beings are amazing. I believe the human spirit is the strongest force there is. Even at our lowest lows, our spirit can remain unbroken and fighting.

Here's to those that choose to fight and never ever ever give up. 

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