To preface this piece written by my cousin is near impossible. But, here goes.
What I can say is this. I have always been so incredibly proud of you my ‘little cousin’ Maya. To find out at 28, you would be; and are fighting against the dreaded ‘C’ was|is devastating. I am amazed at how inspirational your post is, how much courage and strength you possess and how absolutely beautiful you remain.
Sharing these words is a privilege. For those going through any battle – let it light and guide your way, and I hope you look forward to your next visit to the Dentist!
You may be thinking wow, your sister, aunt and now cousin? No it’s not genetic; it’s a ‘bad luck’ of the draw & it sucks. You should know we actually have pretty damn awesome genes thanks to dip (carol ann), dorry (dee) & ducky (sands) I mean HELLO, our amazing Nana survived for a couple of years in complete heart failure and with a triple G cup which by 84 meant her b**bs reached her knees, which could kill anyone! We are all fighters !
My, My My, just don’t you ever forget we ARE in your corner, we have done it with debs, aunty dip and we will do it with you!
Here are a few tidbits about our My My you may not know.
When younger we were all enthralled by our littlest cousins antics – her bronx accent? Whilst born and raised in Cincinnati? Giving herself timeouts (yip herself), her refusal to wear socks if they weren’t inside out, her not so soft renditions of all the songs from the Lion King, her mushroom hairstyle and refusal to change it, her dress sense *cringe* and then her ability to melt anyone’s heart with a little smile and those dimples.
At that tender age her stubbornness and tenacity shone through (even getting my tough rugga bugga dad dressed up as a ‘pretty ‘pretty princess’).
Who knew that so many years later these traits would become crucial in her world and to her existence.
As Maya grew up and the age gap between us shrank figuratively ,us girls Mishie her sister (another beauty and rocket scientist I adore) become far closer than cousins. We truly are the best of friends and heart sisters. Soulmates who share the same stars in the night sky – even living 10 000 miles apart.
In fact Maya and I are incredibly similar…. in personality, humour and perhaps a few (or more *big eyes* quirks here and there oh and our stubbornness.
That’s where it ends, unfortunately for me 🙂 She is the beauty, brains and ….. b**bs.
I stand in awe of a cousin who grew up to be absolutely magnificent, incredibly capable, successful beyond.
Someone who literally walked and worked with the ‘stars’ whilst to me, outshining them in every way.
My My thinking of you today and always my mind drifts back to memories of you belting out and of course making us all sing “Hakuna Matata” – “Means No Worries For The Rest Of Your Life” and “Can You Feel The Love Tonight” – my cousin let it be so, and not just tonight but every night until I see you later this year, I hope you feel the HUGE amount of love I have in my heart for you.
Now for that post | note | most inspirational entry
Journal entry by Team Maya — May 22, 2019A few days after I got my diagnosis in November, I went to the dentist. A few days following that news meant that the world was raw and triggering. Every minute felt terrifying. So when my hygienist asked, “Have you had any recent changes to your health?” the poor woman really had no idea what she was unleashing.
I spent the hour fighting through tears and silence and awkwardness. When I checked out, the receptionist asked if I would like to schedule my next appointment, six months from now. I froze. I didn’t know much about my diagnosis, but I knew enough from the glimpses of terror in my mom’s voice to know that things did not look good. That there might not be a six months from now.
Today, I got a reminder that my dentist appointment is on 05/28, six days from now. 05/28 also happens to be the birthday of one of my very best childhood friends who passed away in a tragic hiking accident. I made 05/28 the password on my phone as a daily reminder to myself to live my days as fully as she did. I couldn’t help but marvel at that coincidence and reflect on how much has permanently changed. So much can happen in an instant, yet the world keeps turning and everything’s the same. It still rains on days you want it to be sunny and is sunny on days you want it to rain. There is still life, death, taxes, and the dentist.
I haven’t written much about this whole experience, but lately I started to write a letter to myself, to the Maya who stood in line at reception wondering if she should make her next appointment, from the Maya now.
In it, I talk a lot about odds. The odds of getting into Stanford. The odds of getting a job at Google. The odds of getting stage 4 ovarian cancer as a perfectly healthy 28-year-old. With 0/20,000 cancer genes. With parents, an uncle, and a sister, as doctors.
What I conclude from these head-scratching odds is this: life is going to be short for everyone, no matter how long it is. And while we walk the planet, the only thing any of us has is our ability to extract meaning from experience.
What I have taken away from this experience is:
1. That life is a sport, best played as a team. And my team fucking rules. My parents are the most phenomenal souls I know. My sister is my hero. My friends and family are who you want by your side in a boxing match, in an ER, or in bed on a lazy Friday after chemo. Soulmates come in all shapes and forms if we let them. They can even come as dogs.
2. That you should write down 3 things you are grateful for each day. Especially on the days you feel like you have nothing to be grateful for. The last entry I wrote in the gratitude journal that sits by my desk reads, “getting to start chemo tomorrow.” Tonight, I will write “getting to finish chemo tomorrow.”
3. That you should be kind to strangers and generous to the world. You can learn a lot from your neighbors. Even if they are 82, they can become your friends.
5. That with all my unexplainable odds, I am no more, or less, special than anyone else.
Throughout this journey, I have held mantras sacred. My dad shared one a while ago that I use often — relax, trust, go downstream. He also taught me a very important one, “I am not attached to the outcome. No matter what happens, I will handle it.”
I do not know the outcome of tomorrow. Or the next six months. I pray it is the end of treatment for me. But it may not be. What I do know is that I will go to the dentist next week. And I have never been more excited for a dentist appointment. That horribly mundane, dreaded experience has now become a chance to celebrate that I’m here and a chance to remember everyone I love.
I end my letter to Maya-At-The Dentist saying this:
Your experience has been an extraordinary one. Let it undo you. Let it break you and make you whole again. Walk away from it bigger, brighter and filled with what you need to live like your soul is on fire.
That is how you live a vibrant life in the face of death, darling. You stare it down and blind it with compassion and laughter and love and human connection. You defeat it with the conviction to make it better.
I would not be here, able to have any conviction, without you — my team in the arena, on the bench, and in the stands far away. For the unwavering messages of love and support, for “being there” in every sense of the term — thank you. Thank you thank you thank you. I cannot say it enough.
I hope someday I can find a way to repay the amount of generosity I’ve received back into the world but, in the meantime, I hope you can find a way to look forward to your next trip to the dentist.
With love and appreciation,
Follow Maya’s journey here