“ I KICKED CANCER’S ASS!
Meaghan Edelstein is one amazing mAss Kicker! She is the Founder of Spirit Jump, a nonprofit organization designed to provide hope and comfort to people battling cancer by providing uplifting cards and inspirational gifts during this most difficult time. She is also the author of the blog, I Kicked Cancer’s Ass. She has been featured on: TLC’s Miami Inc, Good Morning America, South Florida CBS, and Cure Magazine. She has spoken or is scheduled to speak at: the BlogWorld conference Panel featuring “Stand Up To Cancer”, “Alex’s Lemonade Stand”, and “Drew’s Cancer”; the Gravity Summit Panel: Social Media Meets Social Good: Cause Marketing Case Studies and Strategies; and the Cervical Cancer Awareness Rally in Washington DC. We were very lucky to find time to ask her a few questions.
mK: Hi, Meaghan! Thanks for spending time with us. Why did you start Spirit Jump?
ME: When I was battling cancer I was afraid that friends and family would forget about me. In the beginning I received cards, flowers and small gifts. I distinctly remember thinking, “this will stop, they will forget about me and go on with their lives”. The loneliness I felt was indescribable. But, the cards, gifts and visits didn’t stop. Not a day went by where I didn’t get a little something from friends, family and even strangers. These daily gestures of kindness kept me going. I looked forward to something and felt inspired by those reaching out to me.
There are so many people still battling. I want them to feel the same love, comfort and joy I experienced. While there are many amazing nonprofits working for a cure there are thousands of cancer fighters laying in hospital beds who need our support. This is why I created Spirit Jump
mK: What/ when was your diagnosis? How did you find out about your diagnosis?
ME: In February 2007 I was diagnosed with stage 3b cervical cancer at age 28. In December 2006 I went for my yearly OBGYN appointment not thinking anything was wrong. I had never had an abnormal PAP, STD or irregularity of any kind. During this visit the Gynecologist told me something was seriously wrong. Of course I was shocked and when I shared this with friends and family their reactions were the same, get a second opinion. So that’s what I did.
The second doctor told me that nothing was wrong. The PAP’s came back normal and while I had bleeding they didn’t see anything irregular. But the bleeding continued and got worse. Eventually I was unable to leave the house without wearing pads, tampons were too painful to use. I continued to call my doctor and go in for visits. Each day that passed new symptoms arose and the old ones became worse, bleeding, pain and nausea to name a few. But my doctor just brushed me off saying things like, “if you were 60 I would say you have cervical cancer but your just too young” and “there’s too much blood for me to see anything come back another day”.
Eventually I went for a 3rd opinion. This doctor told me I was suffering from PTSD and that it was all in my head. He prescribed sleeping pills and Seroquel (this is a medication that is given to people with chemical imbalances). At this point I had completed stopped sleeping due to the pain I was experiencing. After about 1 1/2 weeks without any sleep at all I brought myself to the ER.
A CT scan revealed I had a very large tumor that crushed my ureters causing my left kidney to rip open. It was now February and the doctors beleive my kidney was ripped for at least several weeks. My prognosis was poor and while in Florida I was told treatment would be futile. However, I was flown to Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston Massachusettes to start treatments.
mK: Scary… who is your hero or heroes?
ME: This is a tough question. While undergoing treatment my friends looked for another young advanced cervical cancer patient so that I would have someone to talk with. The one woman they found was Heather. Heather was also 28 when she was diagnosed with advanced cervical cancer. She had so many similarities with myself including a sister who was six years younger. Unfortunately Heather had lost her battle with cervical cancer in 2005. Sara, Heather’s friend, wrote an amazing article about her. This article inspired me to fight hard. I would say Heather was my Hero during my fight because I know how hard she fought, how much she wanted to live.
My doctors and nurses are also my heroes because not only did they save my life, but they treated me with dignity, kindness and compassion. My friends, family and everyone who visited me, sent cards and gifts. While it may seem like a small gesture their kindness pulled me through on the hardest days. When I wanted to give up I was reminded that so many people in the world were rooting me on and would miss me terrible if I were to lose my fight.
Now my heroes are all those who make my dreams possible. My loving boyfriend Bryan who started dating me post cancer even though I was sick all the time, scared and emotionally scared by my fight with cancer. Dominique my dear friend and Executive Director of Spirit Jump. She stood by me through my battle and has made my dream of helping others through theirs. I could go on and on because there are so many amazing people in this world and they all inspire me daily.
mK: What motivates you?
ME: My battle with cancer. I remember lying in my hospital bed thinking, “this has to be for a reason”. Well, this is my reason. Spirit Jump and helping those who are still in their battles motivates me. Cancer doesn’t take a day, minute not even a second off and neither can I.
mK: When was the first time you felt like yourself after your diagnosis?
ME: I don’t think I knew myself until after my diagnosis. Often I wondered how cancer was going to change me, what I would be like after I finished treatment etc… What I learned is I didn’t change I just grew. I am wiser, more compassionate and my eyes are open.
mK: What makes you laugh, cry, angry?
ME: After chemo, internal radiation, external radiation, nephrostomy tubes, rib and kidney removal, dozens of surgeries and more I have PTSD and am in menopause so anything and everything makes me laugh, cry and angry.
mK: What songs would be on the soundtrack of your life story and why?
ME: I know this isn’t the direct answer to your question but, Last Tears By Indigo Girls was the song I wanted for my funeral. When I was diagnosed doctors gave me little chance of surviving. I came to terms with death and shockingly was not afraid. What scared me was how devastating my death was going to be on others. I didn’t want my legacy to be sadness. One day I heard this song and it said everything I wanted to tell those I was going to leave behind.
mK: What was the toughest challenge you faced as a young survivor? How did you overcome it?
ME: There are so many challenges it’s hard to answer this question. Being different from my friends and family, memories of pain & sickness, not being able to have children, survivors guilt, fear of recurrence, anger over what was stolen from me. BUT, strangely enough I feel like cancer also gave me gifts. I look at things differently, appreciate the small things, have more meaningful relationships and understand the importance of being charitable.
mK: What is your guilty pleasure?
ME: Trashy Television!
mK: Oh, man. What do you like to do in your spare time?
ME: There is no “spare time”. I use my time to help others,whether through my nonprofit, by working with other fighters/survivors, taking care of my niece or being a friend. Everything I do has a purpose and is important to me.
mK: Except for Trashy TV! j/k.. hahaha! What are you doing now?
ME: An interview with the amazing cancer fighter Eric Galvez!
mK: We hear that guy still watches cartoons. Any advice for people or loved ones that get daunting diagnoses?
ME: I wish I had the magic words to make it easier but I don’t. It’s a hard, scary and messy battle but remember it’s a battle. The diagnosis is not a death sentence. Fight and fight hard. Accept help from those who offer. After the tumor was discovered the first doctors told me not to even take treatment. But, I fought and am today am cancer free happy and healthy.
mK: Tell us something about yourself that people probably didn’t know… anything.
ME: I’m very open and don’t really have “secrets”. After my treatments I got a tattoo on Miami ink. It’s hidden but very large.
mK: We hear those things hurt! Any parting words for all the mAss Kickers?
ME: I KICKED CANCER’S ASS!
Thanks for hanging out with us Meaghan! Check out her amazing organization, Spirit Jump. Watching too much “Jersey Shore” will turn your brain to mush. PUT DOWN THE REMOTE AND WALK AWAY SLOWLY…