Welcome to this week’s installment of welcome to the Insta-hood! This week’s interview is with @chrissyandhercancer
1. Tell me a little about yourself.
“I was born on Salt Spring Island which is a small Gulf Island off of Vancouver. It has a reputation as home to spiritualists and hippies, the running joke being ‘bare foot or rain boots’. Two of my aunts are spiritual mediums so there’s definitely some truth to it. I spent my teenage years in a small town on Vancouver Island mourning the death of Kurt Cobain and then eventually getting into the riot grrrl scene. It was moody and full of bad poetry and died black hair. I graduated high school and applied for a teaching gig in Japan thinking they wouldn’t accept me because I was so young. A couple months later I was on a plane to spend a year of my life living in various small cities in Japan. I got lost in a rice field. I was on the local news as ‘scared foreign girl’ at a fire festival, they carried burning torches down to the river except some of the older citizens couldn’t hold them up that high. I thought my face might get burnt off. In my early 20s I moved over to the big city (Vancouver) where I scooped gelato and got yelled at by a fat, angry Italian man. Not the best career choice so I switched professions to a video store clerk for a few years where I was still underpaid but hey, free rentals! I learned the hard way that sometimes doing what you loved took all the fun out of it. Having to talk about genres that I hated all day (hello French New Wave (but more specifically Godard, Chabrol is the bomb)) to film school students drinking wine out of a paper bag kinda drains you.
I’m still super grateful I got to work at Videomatica, it was one of the largest independent video stores in Western Canada and I was introduced to SO MANY great films and the understanding that you can never know enough about film. After the internet destroyed video stores I started working in coffee shops and somehow landed a baking gig in one of them, I had zero experience but found recipes pretty easy to follow and really starting enjoying every aspect of it. Without schooling I eventually worked my way up to the title of Pastry Chef which is one of my hugest accomplishments. I love the hard work of a kitchen. Which brings me to my unfortunate current status. After a misdiagnosis of colitis on New Years Day of this year I was diagnosed with colorectal cancer on Feb 1st. I had to stop work immediately to start my roller coaster of a treatment plan.We would soon find out that I’m stage IV which simply means the cancer has spread to other parts of the body, in my case the liver (which is typical of colorectal cancer). Metastasized. Metastatic. Meaning my chance of survival is GREATLY reduced. I made a vow to myself to never Google the stats, I’m more than just a statistic, but I’ll sometimes see them when researching ways to improve chemo side effects (which is fucking LAME and sends me into a worry spiral that keeps me up at night). Having cancer is like like having to learn a new language FAST. There is just so much to it and everyone’s treatment is so highly individualized. I have online friends who have the same diagnosis but their treatment is completely different. Cancer is hell. In just the last five months I have gone through the toughest, roughest parts of my life. I have sobbed so hard that it just turned into guttural sounds that I never imagined could come out of a person and I worry what my neighbors imagine is going on. Being stage IV means that as of right now we don’t know if I’ll ever get away from chemo or if I’ll ever be NED (no evidence of disease, cancer free). Then there’s the reality that if I do beat it, it could come back. I plan on winning. I keep thinking of what I’ll do after I beat cancer. The online cancer community is a huge support. I’m lucky I live within walking distance of the Cancer Agency and that I have an amazing team of medical professionals behind me. The devastating statistic for cancer is now 1 in 2. Either you or someone you love dearly will face cancer. Get a doctor. Advocate for yourself, for screening. Young adults are being diagnosed at late stage because no ones believes they can get cancer. This should not be happening. I am very angry about this. Let’s change those stats.”
2. What is your top 3 books and why?
1. “My number one all time favorite piece of literature would have to be the Lone Wolf & Cub series. I recommend it to everyone, regardless if they’ve never read a manga before. The entire series is so fully captivating and even makes learning about feudal Japan fun. It is MASSIVE. I’m pretty horrible at describing stuff but basically you follow a father and son assassin team as they plot revenge on an entire clan. You think there’s no way they could keep coming up with crazy plots for all the 8,700 pages (!!!) published but they really do. It’s one of those pieces of work that at the end you feel like you’ve been punched in the gut. Perfect.
2. Roadside Picnic, Strugatsky Brothers. This book was the basis for Tarkovsky’s Stalker, one of my favorite films. It’s a deeply unsettling story about a ‘visitation’ and the aftermath it causes. I’m amazed at the crazy imagination that went into it…different zones (cities) had different effects, one town went blind from the sound of a thunderbolt. If any of the citizens try and move away from their zone some natural disaster happens wherever they relocate to so moving has been outlawed. Scientists set up shop just outside the zone and pay stalkers good money to go in a retrieve artifacts left behind by the visitors. Of course this is really dangerous and rife with hauntingly creepy scenarios. Just like the film, it’s an intense ride from start to finish.
3. Anything by Shirley Jackson. Seriously. Just pick up any story of hers. She was an agoraphobe and resonates in her writing. I don’t think I’ve ever read such pure hatred for people by anyone else. ‘The Story We Used to Tell’ will leave you just barely holding onto your sanity.
Honorable mentions: I’m a huge fan of old creepy science fiction/horror, Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, William Hope Hodgson (sea ghosts!), MR James (British ghosts!). I picked up a copy of Robert Aickman’s short stories that were so disturbing I had to take breaks in-between stories. Fairy tales from different cultures, Italo Calvino’s Italian Folktales stands out for me. Agatha Christie. Nancy Drew & Trixie Belden. ANY Moomin comic/story, seriously The Moomins are one of my favorite things on this earth.
Old horror comics. I appreciate comic book culture but I don’t read all that much, just basically anything John Higgins colored. That shit is INSANE. We have a photo book of Smallfilms (Bagpuss, The Clangers) that Jonny Trunk put together that is like sacred text around here.”
3. Can you talk about your go fund me?
“Cancer is expensive. I’m lucky I live in Canada and don’t have to worry about paying for essential services. I had to have emergency surgery for a colostomy because the tumor was almost fully blocking me, I was close to it turning into a septic situation. Colostomy supplies aren’t covered under basic healthcare and they are FUCKING EXPENSIVE. I have some coverage under something called Fair PharmaCare but it still ends up costing a couple hundred a month. I’m also trying to do everything I can to make treatment easy and most effective. I go to a cancer recovery specific physio clinic that helps cut down the fatigue side effects. Fatigue is the thing I’m most scared of. There’s no way to describe it, the best I can do is imagine you’re the most tired you’ve ever been in your life. No matter how much sleep/rest you get, it doesn’t let up. It feels like you can’t escape it. Physio helps manage it so you don’t feel SO tired but still, it costs a lot. It’s the best choice I’ve made during treatment and I’m seeing some great results. The go fund me was created by a close friend of ours as a way to let our friends and family help us. It was an easy answer when people earnestly asked if they could help, instead of me saying “I don’t know…” I can tell them $5 for a cup of coffee would brighten my day. Also if I make it to remission, my partner and I finally want to go on a trip together. We’ve never been able to afford to go anywhere, we’ve been together for almost ten years and the furthest we’ve been is Portland for a few days. We would love to go to Spain andItaly, see where some of our favorite films were made. There’s also the very real fact that I might not survive this and I want to make sure Sam is financially stable to go through life while he recovers. My address is down at the bottom of the page. Getting mail really picks me up so if anyone feels inclined to just send a card (especially if their lives have been touched by cancer) I’d really appreciate that. It’s also my birthday on at the end of the month (June 24th), I’ve been told there’s a possibility that I might have around three years left to live so now is your chance to send a birthday card. I plan on sticking around for longer than that. Always hope.”
4. What are your favorite things to do and why?
“My schedule these days is pretty unstable, I never know when new appointments are going to pop up or if there’s another ER visit around the corner (five and counting, mostly colostomy complications) so it’s hard start a new project/hobby. Before my diagnosis I always wanted to start all these hobbies, sewing my own clothes, learning embroidery (specifically sashiko which is a Japanese style of mending), learning how to knit, working on baking projects, making things from my large collection of vintage craft books. I’ve always been a creative person but I was finding that I just didn’t have the energy. I would get easily frustrated with myself when I just sat around doing nothing but now we know why. They think I’ve had this cancer for at least two years. So now I try and be gentle with myself and just rest. I watch a lot of films and old TV shows. I read a lot.
One of my favorite things is listening to old horror radio shows, there’s a great curated podcast on Relic Radio called The Horror. I highly recommend it to anyone, there’s nothing like it. I I’d like to start baking again but right now it’s a huge mental block. It’s something I love so dearly but with surgery and chemo I’m left with no strength and zero confidence. I’m hoping to work up the courage to start back slowly again. I’m also hoping I continue to tolerate chemo as well as I have been so I can actually do things. There’s always the fear that next week is when and if my health starts to rapidly deteriorate. But as Sam says, we can’t live in fear. Before my diagnosis and when I was pretty healthy I’d come home from work, rest for a bit and then start cooking dinner. I love to cook and I hope to develop that skill to like, crazy chef stuff (fermentation, homemade staples, etc) while I’m in treatment. Lately I love just getting out and walking around the neighborhood. Nothing like facing mortality to make you appreciate nature. We’re not allowed cats in our building but there’s a couple of completely ridiculous and friendly neighborhood cats that I can go visit. I’ve been playing Nintendo my whole life and make the effort to save up for the latest console. I’m a classic Mario fan and also go for anything that is ridiculously cute (Animal Crossing, Yoshi, Taiko No Tatsujin) so I spend a lot of time playing those. But really most days I try and go for coffee with friends. The most important thing right now is spending time with people I love. I have zero time for bullshit.”
If you like to learn more about Chrissy her IG is:
Thank you so much for the interview!
Until next time!