myBurbank Talks

Women of Burbank: Ali Spuck, Cancer like a Mother

September 22, 2023 Ashley Erikson, Ali Spuck Season 1 Episode 56
myBurbank Talks
Women of Burbank: Ali Spuck, Cancer like a Mother
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

In 2018 Ali Spuck was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer, metastatic to the lymph nodes, liver and lung. Her daughters were just 6 and 7 years old at the time. In this episode of Women of Burbank, myBurbank reporter, Ashley Erikson, talks with Ali about her journey through cancer, surgeries, chemo and radiation treatments, and the multiple occurrences that have lead her to become a chronic cancer patient.

Ali talks about what it was like to go through divorce in the middle of treatment, and the difficulties of motherhood while battling cancer. She also shares “cancer hacks” for those in treatment and advice to family and friends on how to support people in their lives that have cancer or have recently had surgery or an illness.

Ali’s new instagram https://www.instagram.com/cancerlikeamother was just launched to continue to share her story and bring humor and light to her journey in hopes of inspiriting or helping others in the same battle.

This episode was sponsored by My Favorite Cleaning Company. https://www.myfavoritecleaningcompany.com

Speaker 1:

From deep in the Burbank Media District. It's time for another edition of my Burbank Talks, presented by the staff of my Burbank. Now let's see what's on today's agenda as we join our program.

Speaker 2:

Hi, ashley Erickson here with my Burbank and another episode of the Women of Burbank podcast, and today I have my friend Allie Spuck here. In 2018, allie was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer, metastatic to the lymph nodes, liver and lung. Her daughters were just six and seven years old. Today we're going to hear her story and the journey she has faced and continues to face each day. Welcome, allie, I'm really happy to have you here. I know this is going to be a difficult journey for both of us to go through together here, but I really appreciate you sharing your story today.

Speaker 3:

Hi Ashley, I'm super happy to be here and hopefully it will be more than not just difficult. I think that I hope to bring I don't know a little bit of my humor and heart to this, because I think you can't get through stuff like this without seeing the hilarity in it. And you know, if my story reaches somebody and gives them a little bit of hope or a boost or something, then Great.

Speaker 2:

So, and I love that about you You're so bubbly and you want to share your story and you want to talk about it, and I think that's really important. So I'd love to just start from the very beginning. Sure, way back in 2018, right when you ended up at the emergency room, tell me about that day. What symptoms were leading you up to that day when you went in?

Speaker 3:

Okay, so well. First of all, it's colon cancer, so we're going to be talking a little bit about butt stuff.

Speaker 2:

Let's just get it out of the way now.

Speaker 3:

I'm just going to unpack that a little bit. So basically in like 2016, I had been having some side pain and I went to the doctor and I had some scans and they thought it was my gallbladder and it probably was. So I had my gallbladder out in 2016. But after that I kept having sort of like lower tummy pains from time to time and it would never like. I couldn't figure out what the correlation was. It seemed like sometimes it was related to like if I ate something like really sweet or like like a croissant, like a bready, fatty something, and you know, with your gallbladder out you can't digest fats the same way. So I always just assumed it was that Okay and I would just have these like. And it was just like hard to track, which is every once in a while, I had this really terrible lower belly pain. And separate from that, one night I went to the bathroom it's late at night and I sort of you know I noticed that there's like bright blood, red blood, on the toilet paper and I was like, oh well, that's alarming. So I call my nurse health line because it's late at night, I don't want to call my doctor and she's like Well, is it? Is it bright red and I was like, yeah, and she's like you know, do you have hemorrhoids? And I was like, well, I mean, I don't know, I'm a mom, so I'm assuming hemorrhoids, like you know, anybody that's been pregnant probably like how's that I don't know. But she's like, well, if it's bright red, it's probably a burst hemorrhoid. You know, they're always like if it's dark and it looks like that's the ominous one, and I was like I never had that, yeah, and I wasn't having pain at that moment, yeah. So I was like she was like you know, just watch it, it's probably that. And I was like, Okay, so that was probably like I don't know, that was a while afterwards, probably a year afterwards, but like so I would have like intermittent, like tiny bits, like I would see blood every once in a while, never as much as it was the first time and then I would have like this crazy pain, but never with blood.

Speaker 2:

And just out of nowhere, yeah, and I couldn't and they didn't rule like, because usually like stomach pain is like IBS and yeah, and I wasn't well here's the other thing like you guys, if you see blood, just go to the doctor.

Speaker 3:

Like, like, literally she should have said it's probably this, but you need to go to the doctor 100%, like there should not be blood, so, like, go get it checked out, like that. That was the first sort of of big miss for me, that that, um, you know, looking back, of course, with 20, 25 insight, I should have been more on top of my own health care, and you know lessons learned, you trust your practitioners and Of course, yeah, and of course, I'm sure, like nine out of 10 times or nine out of a, you know nine out of a hundred.

Speaker 2:

It's fine, but but you know for me it was double chunks, yeah.

Speaker 3:

So, um, there was like a day, finally, in like early 2018 and like I guess it was February-ish, I had a bout of this pain. That was that normally these bouts would last four or five hours, but this one was like longer and it was like it was like overnight. My then husband was like left town. He was, he was um working, and so he left and I was like you know, these always go away at all, whatever. But he left. So I was like at home with my girls and I was just, it was just like not going away and it was, and it got worse and worse and I was like throwing up and it was really. It was like it was bad enough and I was like this is not, not normal. I have to go see somebody. So, of course, it's a Saturday and I go over to Burbank Urgent Care who, um, I love, I've been there a bunch and they're great, and they were like, well, it's a little too late in the day, we don't have the, we can't do the imaging that we think that you need. So they sent me over to Providence St Joseph's the emergency room and I go into the emergency room and, you know, tell them what's what's happening, and they're like, well, we need to do some scans. So they do a scan and the the doctor that's working with me is this very young attending and she's just Dakota, fanning saucer eyes and like, blinking like, like just dough-eyed and adorable, and you could tell that she's just like loving her. You know her, her, her residency, and she's very starry eyed about being a doctor and she's, you know, super cute, really nice, and so in my mind they're like in, like, like her, you know her attendings or whatever are like um, saying to her all right, you know, Becky, does that? What you named her, that's what I named her. So, becky, you know, you got to learn how to start giving people bad news. Yeah, no, me, what, what I can't. You know with her, what you know like, and they're like, yep, go and they like push her in the room. In my mind, like this is how it all went down in your mind fully so she's like you know push through the door.

Speaker 4:

Yeah.

Speaker 3:

Yeah. So she comes into the room and like she's already trembling, is she? And she's like so, uh, they, they found suspicious thickening in your colon and she's like starts to tear up. And I'm flipping out, like. I'm like what are you saying? What are you saying? You know speaking regular words. She's like, and I was like are you saying I have cancer? Like she must have said something else. I don't remember. All I remember is you're just, she's just thickening out the colon and I'm like are you saying I have cancer? And she goes. She just like sits down next to me and she's like crying. She puts her hand on me, my knee, and she's like I'm so sorry. And I was like do you need an Uber? Like can I, can I? Do you need? Like? Do you need a hug? Like, can I? You know, like?

Speaker 2:

God bless her.

Speaker 3:

She probably thinks about that all of the time, that moment, of course, Like you have to tell this young woman I was 43. Like you know, like this woman, like who's gonna like it's gonna change her life, yeah. So that sets off, of course, a huge chain reaction of me going to like the gastroenterologist and having colonoscopy and all of the things, and so then they discovered that there was a tumor and they knew that it was colon cancer at that point. And then I had to have. So I had a colon resection, which is when they take out a section of your colon. It's just what it sounds like and like a foot of my colon. They removed a foot of my colon and it had breached the colon wall and so there were some lymph nodes involved and they took out like 15 lymph nodes. And my doctor was this he's this sort of very haughty French surgeon guy who I think is still at the hospital, so and he's very good, but like the bedside manner for me was like, but he's like, I got it all you know. I took it all out, I've got it all. I looked at you know everything, and it's fine, you're fine, you're fine, you know. I was like great. So then, I guess, like a month after that, probably after I healed, I had another scan and they were like yeah, no, it's in your liver and in your lungs too. Wow, so that you know. Yeah for sure. I mean, I think I think once it's in another organ, it's considered stage four, although nobody has ever talked to me in terms of stages, really. Nobody's ever said. This is, I mean, I guess, because they're like, well, clearly at stage four, but nobody's ever talked to me about stages. Nobody's ever. What's this metastasize?

Speaker 2:

It's.

Speaker 3:

It has to be stage four, I think so I think it depends on, like like, if it's metastasize the lymph nodes, I'm not sure. I don't know and every cancer is different and that's the thing. Like I'm part of this. Like you know, I call it the club that nobody wants to join, but like everybody's got their own little thing. You know, like I'm even a weirdo in terms of like women's cancers, because most of the time when I meet women with cancer, it's breast cancer, yeah, yeah. So they're talking about you know her to, you know hormone, this, like they're saying all kinds of words that I don't know anything about and I'm like I don't know what to say right now. Yeah, so anyway, it's stage four. We know for sure that point. And so then I start on this like massive chemo plan and it's like the hellfire chemo. This is like the nuclear bomb where and I get this, like I get this one chemo that makes me have like this terrible face rash that just looks like acne all over my face. I lose all my hair and I'll tell you, I'm a vain lady and the acne thing was harder, way harder than the hair, because I had like massive amounts of hair, like I had a giant head of hair, I don't know if you remember.

Speaker 2:

I do remember very curly, very very curly yeah, very big curly hair, and I didn't really care. You were rocking those beautiful scarfs, I was rocking a lot of scarfs.

Speaker 3:

I was. I liked being bald. Yeah, it's a weird thing because you know, cancer isn't necessarily an external disease, right? So I'm walking around. It's like when you're pregnant, you can and people can see that you're pregnant. They offer you a little extra grace. Right, you're tired if you're cranky. They, they, they compassion and they and they, and they and they. Because there's this visible thing, right, with cancer there's nothing. Generally speaking, there's nothing visible. So having this bald head was like sort of my like badge, right. So I'm having a bad day Now you see, why Give me a break. So in a way I didn't mind it because of that and also I just like kind of felt tough. Yeah, like I felt cool. I'd always been kind of you know, punk rock and rebellion anyway, but I like really embraced this like hardcore look and I like wore lots of red lipstick and kind of tried to make the best of it and they took me off the stuff that gave me this super bad rash. So my skin cleared up and I was okay. So I did that for 12 rounds. I mean like I had to wear a pump.

Speaker 4:

Yeah.

Speaker 3:

Like that, like for two days afterwards, and oh, and here's my, here's my, here's my first piece of advice If you have a chemo pump, install a command hook next to your bed and next to your toilet.

Speaker 2:

That's a great idea.

Speaker 3:

That's my tip. That was my handy tip for you, the first one. So they call that something. When people say tips, what is it called? I'm blanking, this is chemo brain. That's a tip. What? Yeah, right? But they say, oh, it's a hack.

Speaker 2:

Oh, life hack. Yeah, I have a cancer hack.

Speaker 3:

Oh, so old, that felt so old God. What are the kids call it? They?

Speaker 2:

call it a hack. There's actually an AYSO soccer team called life hackers Life hacks it's a life hack.

Speaker 3:

That's right. There's a cancer hack. God, I'm like I'm old right now. So, yeah, so it's a cancer hack. So that's cancer hack number one, because, like you need somewhere to like put it yeah, I didn't, it should be a thing, it should be a thing. Well, it is a thing. Just use a command hook and then you like, and then I had like a celebration when I could take it down I like you know, stretch the command hook stuff off and haha. I don't have to have this next to my toilet anymore or my bed. So so yeah, I did all of that, and in the meantime I also, like, I had a resection on my liver and radiation on my lungs, so this was all in that.

Speaker 2:

first out of everything, this is all the first year.

Speaker 3:

This is all. Like you know, like I was, it was like 20, it was like March 2019 when I very very first got diagnosed, and so this was like, yeah, for about a year it's a little bit less because you have chemo, like three every three weeks.

Speaker 2:

Okay.

Speaker 3:

So I think this, this whole, that whole thing ended in about January, february of 2019. And then they were like all right, you're good, I mean ish, like they're like. They're like they're like there wasn't anything in my liver yeah, my lungs look like they had responded to the radiation and I had done my 12 rounds, yeah. So they were like okay, we're going to put you on Ketruder, which is a. It's a drug that I'm not going to remember what it does, but it's like it's for, it's like an immune system thing, and there's a word for this kind of drug, but this is chemo brain and I don't have those words anymore.

Speaker 2:

So well, I'll be with mom brain, I feel like oh yeah, I'm right there with you, yeah.

Speaker 3:

So I'll remember, like in 20 minutes I'll be like, oh, it's this kind of drug. So yeah, that was the first part.

Speaker 2:

Okay, so do? You left that ER. You didn't really have a diagnosis. They were like you probably have cancer, but you need further evaluations. What was that like going home to tell your family?

Speaker 3:

Gosh. Well, in the beginning we didn't really tell my kids. We told them that I had like a growth in my tummy, because they were so little, yeah, so they had no experience with cancer. So even me saying mommy has cancer wouldn't have meant anything to them Right? They didn't know. I mean, they were six and seven years old, they were little and didn't know, and we had, you know, we were lucky enough that they didn't know anybody personally that had had cancer, and so I just explained it to them in terms of in terms that they would understand, and just sort of went piece by piece for them Like as things came along and that worked for us. My then husband was with me when I got the diagnosis, for, you know, when I was at the colonoscopy and I mean I kind of already knew. So when they told me it was I don't know, for me it's always been like I'm more scared before the news. Right, like I call it, like I'm waiting in the hall.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, the unknown.

Speaker 3:

Waiting in the hall. It's terrifying, yeah, but once the door is open, you can process and you're like all right, this is what we're looking at here's the plan. Here's what I can do. Here's how I can be active in my training Waiting time is so much harder. Oh, it's brutal.

Speaker 4:

Yeah.

Speaker 3:

And I think that's another thing that like affects cancer patients during post. So I mean, because there's just this constant sort of what if?

Speaker 2:

And all the scans you have to have right, and so you're just constantly waiting for results, constantly waiting for results You're just living from one test to the other, right?

Speaker 3:

Totally, totally. So you just have to wait and hope and wait and hope, and wait and hope, and then when they give you the diagnosis that something's actually there, then you can be like okay, the thing that I was worried about is there, so now I can Action time, now it's action time, I can do the things. Yes, and so, yeah, I just, I mean it's so, I still, even to this day, you know, and we'll talk about it but like every time I hear that there's something else, like I'm, like, I'm surprised, I'm like, but I'm a healthy person, like I don't consider myself a sick person which I know doesn't make any sense but like I don't consider myself a sick person.

Speaker 2:

I, I. Well, you're living your life, yeah, completely, to the most normal that you possibly can right, and that's all that you can do. Yes, totally.

Speaker 3:

Totally. But yeah, like in the beginning, it's. It's you know, no one expects the Spanish Inquisition kind of a thing. It's you know, everyone, like they all you hear this, it's such a cliche, like I never thought it would happen to me. Yeah, but no one ever thinks it's going to happen to them. We all walk around with this wonderful illusion of immortality, right, and even though we know, like oh, I'm going to die, but like nobody knows how or when or whatever, and suddenly you're confronted with this like kind of immediate, like oh, I might die, like this is my, my life is not going to go quite the way that I thought it was going to go. So, all right, let's you know. And of course I mean like I sound sort of I don't know life about it now, but, like you know, of course there was fear and terror and tears and anger and all of those things still to this day. I mean, you know, I'm I'm scared all the time, every day, like I walk around with like this sort of base level of like a little bit of fear. Yeah, all the time, of course, but yeah, it's just so. I think everybody, when I told all the people that I had to tell it was just like you know, the sort of mix of of like fear, sadness for me you know, and like, once in a while you see like a little bit of relief that it's not them, not in a mean way, I don't blame them, I would be relieved if it wasn't me either but like you can see it, like when people see you and they're like how are you? And they like tilt their head.

Speaker 2:

Yeah.

Speaker 3:

Like the little sympathetic hedgehog. How are you? And you see, like on their face, like this real like oh. God in like seconds. Yeah, yeah and like yeah, of course, good for you. Like I don't wish this on anybody like, but yeah, it's interesting.

Speaker 4:

Yeah.

Speaker 3:

So a mind trip all the time. I'm assuming I can't cuss on this podcast.

Speaker 2:

I mean, we've had, we've had some words flown a few times, so yeah, All right, I'll try my best, cause like here's like a sailor yeah. No, I, yeah, yeah, you know my, my aunt, who's my age, her name is also Allie, we grew up together like sisters and she's stage four breast cancer and metastasized. And so you know, just watching her through these years, you know this happened when we were 28. And so that's why I had a double mastectomy as a preventative. And so you know, she's she's doing the chemo pills and she's doing that life and just living every moment. And it breaks my heart when she says, just I really love my life and I don't want to lose it. I know she fights really hard every single day and it makes me want to cry because I think about like she just really enjoys being here, she enjoys her world, she enjoys her friends, and so I'm sure just you kind of have that always like in the back of your head, I'm sure, as you're moving through life right, especially when you have your children and you're watching them grow up. And I think I read something where you wrote that you dropped them off to school for their first day of school at junior high. And is this your first, last? Yeah, Right, it's first, yeah, are those those moments? Are you? Are you always thinking about that?

Speaker 3:

Oh, every day, all the time with everyone that I love, time is is exceptionally precious to me. The time that I get with the people that I love and, yeah, like, because that's that's our most finite resource, right, love is infinite, hair is infinite, energy is infinite, like you know. So, like in theory, like I'll never really be gone, but like, but, time is infinite, right? So I mean this is finite. So, yeah, and these experiences are, are, are, are precious to me and I think about it. You know, like, and I'm like it takes a toll on me so often my, my emotional, my physical, my mental resources are super tapped and so I lose my patience a lot. I don't have the, the, the resources that most people do to kind of deal with things that stress me out or upset me more. So, like, I lose my patience with my girls and I mean we all do how many? Like seven times I have to ask you, you brush your teeth like, you do this every day, like you're going to have to go to bed again tonight. That happens like the weird, like this brand new news to them all of a sudden, Shockingly it's nine o'clock, so that means it's bedtime again, and so, like you know, and I get angry and upset with them and they yell, or like you know, how many times do I have to tell you, like, like you, to keep your room cleaner and like, just know, and of course part of me is like I could just not care. Yeah, I do care, because it's like these little things that you can control. I guess I don't know what it is, but yeah, so I lose my patience and then I feel like a terrible person. I feel like a terrible person a lot actually.

Speaker 2:

Why Well?

Speaker 3:

cancer feels intensely personal. It feels, you know, very much like somebody's sitting. You know, I don't know my belief in the higher power isn't exactly like you know a bearded man on a cloud, but it does feel like somebody's looking at a room of people and they're like, you know with their finger and they're like they pointed you, like you you're going to get this, this is for you. And it does feel karmic, like, and I'm constantly like I don't understand, Like I feel like I try to be a pretty, a person that lives with love and an open heart and kindness and I certainly have. I mean like I'm in no way close to perfect, like obviously none of us are, but like I try very hard to be a good friend and a good partner and a good mom, and so it's just like what? Like it feels so much like I must have done something, I must have done something to deserve this. Like yeah, and excuse me, like it just yeah.

Speaker 2:

So I just walk around and I'm like I don't, I don't because, because we want to explain it like, right, you don't have an answer and one of us have answers of all the things that are happening in this world and all the evils, and it's very hard to understand that and absorb it and comprehend it all and yeah, yeah, so. And so the girls this started when they were very young, right, and now they're in, they're in middle school, so is most of their memory of you with cancer. I assume.

Speaker 3:

So I mean, you know, every once in a while they'll say something like you know, I wish this didn't happen or I missed your long hair Cheese. Who knew that was going to be the thing? So, yeah, I just feel really guilty and sad for them that, like sometimes their mom has to just lay on the bed and can't participate in their life the way that I would like to. But they just have a vocabulary of that now it's just part of their life which is so unfair to them, like it just sucks, you know, and it'll be part of their story and part of their trauma and you know they'll write a great essay about it and get into college and you know. But yeah, I don't even remember what I was really talking about. I was just thinking about them, I think, like I guess, yeah, the transition from kind of not knowing to knowing was, it was sort of gradual. For one of my daughters it was very. She had sort of a really bad experience in her school and I don't even actually know that I want to get into what happened about that. But you know they both. Yeah, like I said, we've developed sort of this language, and I don't even mean literal language. I just mean that they know sometimes mom needs extra patience or extra time or I'm sure it's taught them a lot of compassion and patience and understanding.

Speaker 2:

I mean they are both incredibly empathetic girls.

Speaker 3:

They are really. I mean, like I was talking to one of them the other day about this I had seen on a I don't know. I heard it on a podcast or a TikTok or something. So it must be true that like there's a connection with kids to their parents, to their mothers not just their parents but they're or to their primary caregiver. That goes some people say to like nine, some people to say to 12, I would say forever, but certainly when they're little that they have like the sort of innate sense of their mother's energy or their primary caregiver's energy, so like if it's the dad, that is, that they're with the most of the time, then it's the dad, but for us it's the mom, and like they definitely, they definitely do, and my little one, I think, kind of like likes to poke the beast a little bit those younger kids, I mean they are very much like me so that is true.

Speaker 2:

I've never heard that before. But when you say that I think about my kids for 10 and 14, they can. They know the change in my voice. They know how, if I respond in a different tone immediately, something is wrong with my day and they're super in tune to it. So that's. I never even thought about that, yeah.

Speaker 3:

So so I don't know if they do more. I think they've always kind of both been sort of energetically intelligent, emotionally intelligent, and maybe this is one of the reasons why, and maybe this just who they were, but it's certainly something that they they. I think they have a little bit more empathy, certainly than most kids their age, which is, I guess, a good thing.

Speaker 2:

We all need that in this world a little bit. Right Dodger's got somebody at the door. Well, let's get back to your story again. Here with you were. You were told that everything was looking okay and they removed what they thought they need to remove and you finished your chemo and then you went on with life and I'm guessing you did PET scans and things just to kind of monitor. And then what happened?

Speaker 3:

Yeah, the first reoccurrence was in the fall of 2019. So I had been on the, the Ketruda, the immune system, whatever it was that I'm not remembering what it does but and I had a reoccurrence and it was back in my liver. So they hadn't, you know, they think they they they like cut it out and then they check for you know clean edges to make sure that they get it all, and they thought that they had gotten it all, but they hadn't, and so it was back in my liver. So then I had to have another resection and I think it was at that point that I started on Zolota, which is a pill chemotherapy, I think it was then. So I started the Zolota and then I had the liver resection and then from then, I don't think I was ever at a point where I was truly, I mean like of course they took it out of my liver and they were like okay, your liver's clean again. But I think then it was like, then it was kind of coming back in my lungs a little bit and then so then I had more radiation on the lungs and then, and then from then on, it was sort of just always a little bit and I mean in the realm of cancer. I'm lucky in that my cancer is slow growing, it's not super aggressive, it's not taking over the organs that it's in, so we've been able to kind of stay on top of it. But that's what is considered chronic cancer.

Speaker 2:

So you know I think it can't remove it, but they can keep it from growing and spreading.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, yeah, I mean in theory they can't until science and medicine catches up to it, which is kind of already happening even within my own cancer story.

Speaker 2:

Isn't that incredible to watch? It's amazing Like Even just the advancement of the chemo pills are always coming out with a new trial and you know I mean I haven't ever.

Speaker 3:

I haven't done any trials yet. My doctor is like let's, you're not in the place where you need to participate in a trial. So that's, you know what I think is, you know, sort of a good thing, because that means that I still have options as far as other drugs go. And so, yeah, I kind of moved forward. I had another liver reoccurrence in 2020, and I had what's called an ablation, which is in my mind. It's like a tiny lightsaber and they like With radiation, they like cut it out, it's like heat, so they can't test it and it's like a different thing, but it's less invasive than the resection.

Speaker 2:

They can't test it because they're just pretty much like yeah, it's like they're melting it and like it's gone.

Speaker 3:

So I had that and then so that was in like 2020, and then somewhere in like 2021 or 22, I had a little bit more pop up in my lung so I had some more lung radiation. And then in fall of 2022, my doctor was like, because I was on Zolota and I was on a drug called Avastin, which is a. Zolota is a chemotherapy drug, that's a chemical drug that sort of affects. Basically it's like a kill drug. Well, they're all kill drugs, but like it's like a chemical, it's killing it like sort of chemically. Avastin is a biologic drug. Biologic drugs affect the biological systems of the tumors. So in this case that one was it prevented the tumors from growing their own vascular systems and I'm like Wow, like how do they even figure it? I don't know. It was all so amazing to me. It was incredible. It was like a wonder. So I was on Avastin and Zolota for like two, two or three years and it was effective, although one day I was in my doctor's office and I looked at Because I learned very early on, don't Google anything and I stopped looking at my test results when they get uploaded.

Speaker 2:

you don't look? Yeah, no, I don't look at anything.

Speaker 3:

I don't look at anything, because I would freak out about tiny fluctuations in numbers and I don't really know, and I would come in and I would be like I'm dying or whatever. And he'd be like no, this is fine. So I was like I'm just going to let the doctors say now is the time when we need to panic or we need to do some work. Otherwise I don't look at anything. But I happened to look at the screen that day and I saw that he had made a note that eventually there would be a breakthrough. It would fail. That's what it said. Eventually, we know this plan will fail and I was like fuck, sorry you get the one, you can say that that's the one. That time I was like, oh my god. And I was like and then I had to, I saw. The next time I saw him I was like I saw this thing. I usually don't look at this stuff, but what does that mean? And he was like well, I had to be very clear for this thing. But I knew somebody else was going to read because it was like another doctor was going to have to read this and stuff like that. So I had to say that basically, but we hope that it won't. But I love my oncologist. He's great, he's full of hope, he's super frank. I know when he's like now's the time and we get to work. I know that if he's not worried, then I don't need to be worried. And what's really been interesting the entire time and this is a blessing for sure is that no one's ever said anything to me about timelines. No one's ever been like well, six months a year, five years. He talks in terms. He's like 10 years, 20 years, 30 years.

Speaker 2:

That's incredible.

Speaker 3:

I don't know if he just says that because nobody wants to hear a year or two, but I like it because it gives me the hope that I need so, yeah. So in the fall he was like, yeah, it's growing again. So he took me off the Avastin and he was like we need to put you back on the nuclear bomb.

Speaker 2:

Basically, that's the one that really affects you badly.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, it's real chemo. So I was on a drug called. I stayed on the Zolota and then I started a drug called oxyloplatin, which is a platinum-based chemotherapy that I had been on in the beginning and that was also like. It just felt like I was like going right back to the beginning and I was like I can't believe I have to do this again.

Speaker 2:

Like God, but with the chemo it doesn't make you lose your hair, Not that one, no. So you're having all the other symptoms, but nothing that's showing like how we talked about with being pregnant. It was just yeah you're just kind of fighting that battle alone.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, and it is super lonely. Like it's super lonely and I had some support. My boyfriend would go to all my appointments with me, and all of that because, oh yes, in the middle of it. Yeah, let's you want to start.

Speaker 2:

We can open that.

Speaker 3:

We can unpack that one we can unpack that too.

Speaker 2:

So, in the middle of the hardest part of your life, you and your husband separate?

Speaker 3:

Yes, so I, you know he always had worked away from home. His producer and you know his, his job would take him to sets kind of all over. So we were kind of used to this lifestyle where he would be home or you know, a good chunk and then like three or four weeks he would be gone. And shortly after I got diagnosed he came to me and he was like I think you're doing really well. I feel like we're in this season of like amazing creation. I really want to leave my job and start our own company. I'll be able to make more money. You won't have to work as much because of screen rights. So I would still be able to sort of screen right and and and do that kind of thing as I could. But you know, like I really think this is the time to do it. And I, you know it was like, okay, I trusted him and I was like that sounds, that sounds good. And you know I had some friends that were, that were kind of stepping up to help. My mom was nearby, so I had some support and I thought, okay, well, we can, we can figure out how to do this. And so he traveled a lot because now it was our company, so his travel stepped up and he was gone for longer amounts of time.

Speaker 2:

Were you in treatment at this time. You were going through treatment alone at home while he was gone traveling.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, yeah, and I mean he was working, I don't know yeah. I don't want to say that he was like traveling, but that's hard to be alone.

Speaker 2:

Sure Kids doing all that yeah.

Speaker 3:

And then he would come back and you know we would, we would have our time or whatever. And I just kind of like buckled down and did it because I didn't really feel like I was. I had a choice. It seemed like it was and it was going well, like we were making good, you know, money through the company and all of that. But you know he was gone a ton and you know I can't speak for him as to like whether or not it was, you know, sort of a what's the word I want? Sub subconscious. You know, like I can't be here to watch, right.

Speaker 2:

He felt he could support further away.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, and so yeah, like he felt like I, I don't know what I'm supposed to do there. I know I can make money if I'm somewhere else no-transcript. But it did feel I don't know. In the beginning it felt okay, and then it just started to get more and more like wait a minute, like I need my partner here, like I need my person here, and we just kind of, you know, grew like sort of further and further apart. I didn't really understand why he wouldn't just find work locally. He kept insisting that the work was better other places. And maybe that's true. And then, like COVID hit and he was like well, I need to go back to Vancouver, because if I don't go to Vancouver, I won't like they're going to close the borders and we won't be able to get any work at all.

Speaker 2:

And I was like, okay, and you were in recurrence at that time.

Speaker 3:

I was in like I wasn't. There wasn't an active recurrence until like a little bit later, but I was in like you know, chemo and stuff and they closed the borders and so we didn't see him from like April to October and so I did all of COVID with my kids by myself and it was super lonely and really hard and I found, you know, emotional support other places and he found emotional support other. You know, we all we had communities. Yeah, but it just wasn't our. It wasn't like my partner.

Speaker 4:

Yeah.

Speaker 3:

And then it was just kind of like that was, that was kind of Completely detached at that time. Yeah, and then we didn't even. I mean, it's weird is that? Like we always had a really great like working relationship with our company and we parent really well together. But yeah, our marriage just didn't survive. We just didn't prioritize each other, each other's feelings, each other's needs. I felt really abandoned and I will be the first to admit that like that's my super trigger. I am like classic abandonment issues, lady. But like I knew that and he knew that. So we should have, we should have taken better care and we just didn't. And I think we the fact that we didn't is telling, but it happens a lot.

Speaker 2:

Yeah.

Speaker 3:

And there's a huge percentage of marriages where the wife is, or partnerships where the female partner I don't know about same sex partnerships, so I'm just speaking about like yeah, suze had partnerships Like in sort of like that kind of a male female partnership. If the female gets sick and has some sort of chronic or terminal disease, then the percentage of the male partner leaving is astronomical.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I did read that it was like seven times higher, like seven to leave women versus women to leave.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, yeah, it's really high, and so high that I've read some articles where nurses are like I feel like I need to warn my female patients, like this is a distinct possibility that you're going to end up doing this by yourself, and yeah, so I think it was, it was a number, and then there's other stuff that I'm obviously not talking about here, but yeah, like it definitely happened with us and it's it was. It was a really sad thing. You know, like you think you're going to spend your life with somebody and then yeah, nobody prepared.

Speaker 2:

Nobody prepares for cancer, nobody prepares for divorce, right, you don't prepare for anything. These things yeah.

Speaker 3:

I mean, yeah, I think people prepare for, prepare for divorce probably more than they prepare for cancer. Like you know, people do pre-nups and all of that, Like they're thinking maybe this isn't forever, but yeah, nobody ever like runs and goes through their life thinking they're going to have cancer.

Speaker 2:

So I don't I feel like that's like that Now more than ever from. I have friends who have like severe cancer anxiety just from watching people around them suffer. It's any kind of headache or stomach ache or anything. They're like going to the doctor and you know, and were you like that beforehand? Or you never even thought about it.

Speaker 3:

No, I wasn't like that at all I wasn't like. I mean like and, and I've had like other little like health things. You know, I had this weird like growth on my liver. But again, like I said at the beginning, like every time I get news about something about my health, I'm always shocked and surprised, yeah. But I want to address what you said about people having cancer anxiety, because I think from inside it I can offer a little reassurance to those people. That would be great. Cancer hack number two. I mean I don't know if it's a hack, but like the thing is is that cancer is a very different disease now than it used to be and we've all been taught that if you hear that you have cancer, it's like the worst thing that anybody can say to you. I mean, I'm a writer and like, how much cancer use is a trope in Hollywood. It drives me crazy. It's like the easy way to like gives a character a hurdle, kill off a parent, Like. It's just like. So you know. So we're taught over and over and over again that cancer is just like you know. If you hear that you have cancer, then it's over, and I think that that does us a bit of a disservice, especially where we are now with medicine because, no, I don't, going through chemo and all of those things isn't easy. But, like I think that if we can learn that, like many cancers are now, you know, sort of like can be considered, like you know, like a diabetes or another, you know, like a long term management, super long term management. The treatments are more well studied, more refined, so that you're not getting quite so many of the side effects that you once were. I mean, like I'm back on that crazy drug that gives me the rash now and, like you know, if you look at me, you can see that my skin looks a little bit like I have like acne or something like there's. I have like lots of little bumps on my skin and sores and, like you know, it's not cute, but like makeup or whatever this lighting is doing wonders on you, fantastic. I'm not going to go to someone at home, but I promise it's like, yeah, it's like I look at it every day and I'm like, yeah, because you know, but like, even from then to now, like when I first had it, like it was terrible and this, just like it was itchy and uncomfortable and just like this massive rash like from my like, like basically my like nasal labial folds, like all the way down from my nose to my chin and then all over my chin. It was, I mean, it was awful and uncomfortable. And this time I don't know if I'm on the same amount, I don't remember but like it's bad and there are times when my face is really broken out, but it's not anywhere close to that. So I think my point is I'm getting off topic a little bit. My point is is that if we can start to reframe a little bit so that we aren't living our lives in fear, then if God forbid you do get that diagnosis, you can come to it from a point of like I know that the science is there. Certainly, if you're living in a city like Los Angeles, the medical support is there for you. I mean, like a person living in a small town they don't have access to the same kind of thing, so it's a little bit different for them. But like, if you're living in a major metropolitan area you have access to well researched especially, you know breast cancers and colon cancer, leukemia, like these very well researched cancers. People are surviving them more and more and more. I don't want anybody to get cancer and it sucks, but like I don't know, I feel like the fear about it. It's the waiting in the hall.

Speaker 2:

Right, it's the waiting. You're waiting for the shoe to drop right, like eventually someone's going to tell me this, and so you're just like constantly waiting for someone to tell you it. And then, I'm sure, once you're heard, you're like great, now I can move on from this, now you get to work.

Speaker 3:

I mean cancer steals a lot because, like I spend. This is the thing about cancer too. It's like you spend your life, you know. I mean it affects my relationship with my girls, it affects my relationship with my boyfriend, you know. It makes me, you know, often like less of who I'd like to be because I have this thing. You know, I've had, I've lost lots of friends over the years. I feel like, partially because maybe they're sick of dealing with me and the cancer, partially because, because of the cancer and the treatment, like, I don't have the capacity to like, like I am naturally a little more self-centered than I was before because I have all of these things that I'm constantly thinking about. So I dropped the ball more often than I should. I'm, you know, much more jealous and possessive and my abandonment issues get triggered at the drop of a hat. So I don't, you know, I don't have, I just don't, you know, I don't have all of my, all of my faculties. So you know, and cancer, cancer does that, and so I mean, like I said, I'm saying two things don't be afraid of it, but also it sucks, but like, as far as like I don't know, I just don't want people to walk around being afraid, because I'm telling you right now, in the middle of it, like I mean like You're going on trips, you're enjoying things.

Speaker 2:

Sure, yes, yes, it's, it's been a, it's been a long journey for you. It's not like it's an overnight Right and that changes. I mean it changes your life overnight, but it does. You have brought so much hope into it and this, a humor to it and this, you know, comedic relief, which I'm sure is like a way to you know, help with everything. But I see what you're what you're saying, because I do. I get the, the anxiety all of the time and you know what you're saying is very eye-opening and I appreciate that.

Speaker 3:

Oh, I mean I don't, yeah, like I don't know it's so. Yeah, like I just want to. I just like I really love life, I love living life, I love my life. I love, you know, being able to travel when I can. I love you know, sitting out on a summer night listening to music and drinking a glass of wine. And you know, like there's so much, you know little. You know, like the butterflies this year, like I don't know, like I I don't know whether it's just me, but I feel like there's so many butterflies this year and every time I see one I'm like look at the beautiful butterfly. I planted a pomegranate tree like three years ago, and like it's fruiting and I'm so excited.

Speaker 2:

That's amazing.

Speaker 3:

It's like I don't know. I think it goes back to what I said before about this illusion of immortality and our egos. This whole thing has been just this supreme breaking down of my ego. I'm a super in two ways. I'm a super egoic person anyway. I'm not a wallflower. I want to be big and in the center of things, and all of that because it feels good and it feels like I like to be. We all like to feel seen. I don't think that that's unique to me, but it is our ego, right? Nobody wants their ego to be destroyed, right? It's this sort of long letting go of that. I don't know if that makes any sense, I love it.

Speaker 2:

We're going to take a quick, short commercial break and then we will be right back.

Speaker 4:

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Speaker 2:

All right, we are back. I wanted to talk a little bit about some energy work and therapy stuff that you've been doing. What has been helping you through this journey?

Speaker 3:

Well, I think that one of the things that's important for a person that's going through cancer is finding places where they can feel a sense of control, because so much of this feels wildly out of your control. One of the places that I feel like has been a place where I can hold on to that is through alternative healing modalities. A friend of mine introduced me to Kundalini Yoga and I was like, oh, this is a thing. I can go to this place and do this thing and that feels active in my healing and my care. Reiki, sound baths, meditation all of these things are mentally healing and unphysically healing and feel like something that you can do, that's active in your care For me. I've tried all kinds of things. There's a great charity, your organization, called the Foundation for Living Beauty, that offers access to a bunch of different alternative healing modalities for women with cancer, and all at no cost. They're just this amazing organization. A lot of the stuff I found through them. They do retreats and all kinds of stuff like that. This isn't a commercial, but they just happen to be the one that introduced me to some things I've done craniocacral therapy, I've looked into essential oils. I think that anything that you can do. That gives you a sense of control and hope is valuable. I do that in the Eastern medicine in conjunction with the Western medicine. I think that that's important for me. It's just something that I think is a way to self-soothe and to offer myself something. It takes your mind off of everything. It does that for anybody.

Speaker 2:

Self-care in general is so important for anybody. It's important to find something that's for yourself you have power over. You've got some cancer life hacks you gave us. What advice would you give to somebody whose family member or friend is going through cancer? What is something you can give to the support team?

Speaker 3:

My first silly one is don't send mugs, coffee mugs, coffee mugs. We get so much mugs, so many mugs, so many mugs. We love it, but now we have to store mugs, I think because people don't know what to do. They're like I'll do something that's soothing. They send lovely tea and a mug. I did get this beautiful hand-knitted blanket from somebody. I got a lot of blankets.

Speaker 2:

Also hard to store.

Speaker 3:

But I did get this beautiful hand-crocheted blanket from my friend's temple in Texas Totally unexpectedly. That was lovely, but generally, yeah, I think stay away, if you can, from sending stuff. Here is the actual hack or the biggest piece of advice that I can give. This actually works for anybody in any kind of when they're in a situation where they are incapacitated in some way. There's been a death, they've been diagnosed with cancer, their kid is God forbid sick or something. Any time you don't know what to do. Think of something that you want to do and tell them what you're going to do. You don't ask them what can I do for you? Because suddenly you've given them something else to think about. It adds another layer to their stress. We know that you're well-meaning and it's not that we don't appreciate it, but now I'm like, okay, well, what do I need and what can I ask for and what is too much?

Speaker 2:

Is it easier just to say I'm fine, I don't need anything, just easy to say I'm fine, I don't need anything, I'm super good, because then I don't have to.

Speaker 3:

Then I've not overstepped, I've certainly. Just recently, with a mom group of mine, I found out that they weren't as happy about the amount of stuff I'd been, the support that I'd been asking for and the way that I've been. It was becoming too much. I was like all right, now I know, like, offer it, be like I'm going to make you dinner. Can I bring it over Wednesday or Thursday?

Speaker 2:

What are good things to offer? Meals? Meals are great.

Speaker 3:

Or just send them a DoorDash gift card. If you're not in town, send them a DoorDash gift card or something to have food delivered to them. That's a great thing. They don't have to store anything. Somebody's fixing dinner for them. That kind of stuff is awesome. I'm going to come over and do your laundry for you. That's a great thing. I'm going to drive you to your next appointment. I'm taking my kids to the movies. I'm going to come get your kids. Don't just be like Saturday, I've got your kids. Your kids are taken care of, whatever. That way, if you're offering, then you know that you're giving what feels good for you. They know you're giving what feels good for you. They don't feel like they've asked for too much. They don't feel because feeling guilty. I feel like a burden all the time to everybody that I love and that loves me. It just is part of it. If somebody's offering, then I know it's not a burden and it's a joy for them. My boyfriend he goes with me to every cancer appointment. He doesn't. It's not me asking, he's just like when's the appointment we're going?

Speaker 2:

That's a whole ask for help. Even in general, I'm sure Nobody wants to say they need help. Someone offering is different. If you need something, you have to ask Are you able to do that? I feel like I wouldn't be able to do that.

Speaker 3:

There have been times when I've been just like, yeah, I got to ask. I just had a procedure. Last Friday my mom came over and was with the girls Friday and Saturday nights. She went home and then Sunday I was like, oh no, I still need you. I called her and I was like I need you to come back over, even with my mom I mean, she's my mom but even then I'm still cognizant of the fact that I ask for a lot from her that way. You don't it. Just you walk around feeling I mean, at least I do. I don't know if everybody has cancer does, but I walk around feeling super burdensome and really self-conscious about being the cancer lady, which was why, for many years, I didn't have a voice about it. Really, it just started an Instagram. I said on it it says I started in the middle because I was like all right, I'm going to be like. I feel like clearly I need to be talking about this more, I need to be having a voice about this more. Yeah, I just feel super broken a lot. That's a way that people can pick up some of your pieces for you and you don't have to feel guilty about it. I remember another time. Right when I first got diagnosed, my friend Tracy was like I'm going to the grocery store. Do you need anything? I was like you know what? Yes, I do. I don't have stuff for my kids lunches this week. Can you get me these five things so I can make my kids lunches for school? She was like yep, totally happy to do it. I was like great, that felt so good.

Speaker 2:

Off your shoulders, I'm sorry.

Speaker 3:

It was a very specific thing. I didn't feel like it was too much asked. She was clearly offering. It was like one of the easiest moments of asking for care because she offered something super specific. I needed that specific thing and I knew that it wasn't too much, but anytime, I think it's really about the offer and not letting them get to the point where they have to ask because it's just so hard being just let me know if you need anything. They're never going to.

Speaker 2:

they're never going to. Anything is so vague. I'm sure that's like they're just never going to ask because they don't know what's too much to ask. Yeah, what about company I'm going to come over today, Is that?

Speaker 3:

Yeah, I'm going to bring a book. We don't have to talk, you can do whatever you want. I'm just going to, literally I want to be in your space with you, fine, like if you're in the hospital. I would like to come and sit with you, now that people can go to the hospital again, these kinds of things, or if you know somebody's recuperating and maybe they don't have somebody at home with them. I'm just going to. I have this chunk of time, or this chunk of time I'm going to bring a book. You don't have to do anything.

Speaker 2:

Just not being alone, and I'm sure it feels so good.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, because it's super lonely.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, ultimately, it's just you, Right? No one can really express it. You can't explain to people how you're feeling inside. I'm sure no, and so now you're taking your voice and you're bringing it to the social media world. You've started an Instagram, yes. What other projects are you working on so?

Speaker 3:

yes, Cancer Like a Mother. I'm sure we'll say that again.

Speaker 2:

We will have that in the bio so everyone can find her.

Speaker 3:

Cancer, like a Mother, and another really cool thing that I'm working on. When I was at the Disney Cancer Center here in Burbank, I met this awesome woman. Her name is Allison Mann and she's a breast cancer survivor and she's just this brilliant force and so she, like of almost any, I mean she's a lot like you. She's doing something to impact her community with her life and I admire that so much and, you know, I find myself wanting to do more of that and like not really like knowing where to do it. You're great about that, like you're finding, like all of these ways to positively impact Burbank and the community at large, and I think that's such a cool thing, Thank you. I was talking about coming on here and I was like this is this woman and she does all these things Anyway. But so I met this woman, allison, and she does. You know she started this a foundation for to help, like kids from disadvantaged backgrounds and children kids of color, kids, you know, the LGBTQ community sort of access opportunities in animation and learn about like it's called the Brick Foundation. It's really cool. So she started that and she did this like really cool, like coffee table book that like benefited forgetting something, the vote voting. It was like a voting coffee table book. It was like this really cool thing. So she knows all of these really amazing women in animation. She introduced me to this other woman in Monica Lego, katis, and she was like and Allison said to us, she was like, I have this idea for an animated short and so I write Monica, you know, produces and creates and Allison is directing and we've bringing on, but I'm blanking on everybody that's working on it right now but like, so it's this entire team of people in the animation industry creating this short called tunnel vision that you know we hope to sort of get into the festival circuit and things like that. That's all about basically the waiting in the hallway moment and sort of this woman who's getting ready to get her results and sort of the two paths that she's seeing before her and you see, sort of just like the you know the sort of two different visions of what her life is going to be. I mean, like I wish I remembered everybody's names because the composer is just like amazing, like Disney person and it's just like. I mean like the talent on this.

Speaker 2:

This is being currently worked on.

Speaker 3:

right now it's currently being worked on. We're going to get into the. It's like been storyboarded and like characters have been designed and all of that. So we're going to we're going to have to fund it to actually get it made. But everybody that's working on it either has had cancer or has been directly impacted, like a parent, a spouse, a child with cancer. So it's everybody's donating their time to this project and I'm just like you know, I wrote on it and I'm just really proud of it. And Maggie Malone and Stevie Wormers are two other of the other women that are working on it with us and just I mean amazing directors and writers that, like, are helping to put this thing together and I just think it's going to be a beautiful piece.

Speaker 2:

And you'll post it on your Instagram. Sure when things are taken off.

Speaker 3:

Yeah Well, I don't mean like there might be some kind of like go fund me, or something. You have to raise an insane amount of money. Animation is ridiculously expensive, so but I think it's going to be a really meaningful, important piece. That's awesome and I'm so proud to be part of it, so I'm really I'm excited about that.

Speaker 2:

That's coming up and you're going to be speaking at the Tequila's fundraiser, which we're I'm working with Patricia Tequila's Burbank. We do a fundraiser every year, so you're going to be our guest speaker this year, so I'm very excited it's going to be on November 1st.

Speaker 3:

I'm excited. It's going to be great. I'll drink some tequila and guess a lot more than.

Speaker 2:

I'm guessing right now, yeah, so stay tuned for that and thank you for being here and sharing your story and sharing some positive life and light on this. And you know, I, just I really I love that you're coming out and talking about and sharing your story, because I'm sure for a lot of people that are going through similar journeys, it is very lonely, and so to have someone else be like, hey, I'm going through it and this is how I'm feeling, you know, and putting that vulnerability out, is really incredible. So thank you for being that person, thank you.

Speaker 3:

I really appreciate it, so happy to be here. I think it's I tell, I tell people a lot because people ask me to speak to their friends a lot who have just been diagnosed, and one of my favorite things to say is that this road has already been paved for you, so you don't need to walk it alone, and it's and it's not the road that it once was.

Speaker 2:

Yeah.

Speaker 3:

If I can be a hand to hold or just a familiar face or just help somebody feel seen and heard and understood, and I think that that's, you know, good work and important in a way that I can turn all of this into something meaningful and better If you can impact one life.

Speaker 2:

right, that's all that counts. Right, if you can make one person's journey a little bit easier by being there. I hope so. Right, I think so Wonderful. Thank you, allie, I really appreciate it. Welcome and thank you guys for listening to another episode of Women of Verbank. We'll see you soon.

Speaker 1:

My Burbank talks would like to thank all of my Burbank's advertisers for their continued support Burbank Water and Power, kusamano Real Estate Group, ume Credit Union. The Burbank Chamber of Commerce, gain Credit Union, providence, st Joseph Medical Center Community. Chevrolet. Media City Credit Union, ucla Health, tequila's Cantina Grill, ups Store on 3rd Street, hill Street Cafe.

Allie's Journey
A Cancer Diagnosis and Treatment Journey
Living With the Fear of Illness
Living With Cancer
Living With Chronic Cancer and Priorities
Cancer, Marriage, and Emotional Support
Cancer Support and Self-Care Advice
Animation Supporting Cancer Survivors and Fundraising
Burbank's Advertisers Appreciation Conversation