Hello my name is Vivi. And I am Survivor.

27 Apr

Hello my name is Vivi.  And I am Survivor.

The first time I was diagnosed with cancer, I was 18 years old.  I was 10 weeks out from my high school graduation.  Cervical cancer.  I went through surgeries and radiation and kept my diagnosis and treatment under wraps.  Mainly because I didn’t want to be pitied or singled out for something I had no control over.  I was embarrassed by it, and felt like it would define me, and who wants to be defined by something so crappy?

Plus, it’s a female thing, right?  We don’t use words like Cervical Plate, Ovaries, or Vagina when we’re trying to meet new people, or G-d forbid get a damn date.  Discussing any piece of female anatomy makes people uncomfortable.

I was 18; I decided to share less and date more.

teen heaven blechAh, the college dating scene.  It had it’s moments.
Happily, none of them looked like this. 

At 19, I was diagnosed a second time.  Treatments were more aggressive, and I was so weak, that I had to accept help.  I was a sophomore in college and have fond memories of a friend who literally wore me like a backpack to get me to class, while another friend carried my satchel, and after class the two would come to get me again. I had allies.

But it still remained ever important to NOT be known as THAT girl.  Sick, Separate, Fragile.  So no one talked about WHY I was so tired.  Or slept so much.  Or had become secretive about things. I wouldn’t allow it.  On the days I felt good, I was a normal college student, doing normal college student things.  I didn’t offer any health details, because I had polyps on one of my ovaries.  Feel that right there?  I said Ovaries?  NO ONE wants to hear about your ovaries.  So I moved on.  Much like I am now.

In my mid 20’s, I was in graduate school and in treatments once again, this time for intestinal polyps. Intestines being something everyone has, and therefore not as embarrassing as gender-specific diagnosis.  How stupid, right? I had the “treatment trifecta”, including radiation, invasive surgeries, and chemotherapy treatments.   And this (third) cancer diagnosis made me realize that accepting TRUE help and actually trusting in others might actually be beneficial.

I was very sick, make no mistake. My chemo cocktails could have brought a rhino to its knees.  Twice I had to be rushed to the ER for severe dehydration, because I couldn’t stand or talk due to the lack of fluid retention in my body.   But even delirious, I wasn’t a very good patient.

chemo1 Fun Fact #254.
I was once forced to reschedule a Chemo Cocktail Appt.
because my blood alcohol level was too high.
Can we say Bad Bad Party Patient?

I was a terrible listener.  Inwardly, I resisted praise and warmth. Outwardly, I scoffed at kindnesses and sympathies offered up in my direction.   I didn’t want to be special.  Or different.  Or blessed.  I didn’t listen when others told me how tremendous it was that I was even breathing.

Air goes in and out, right?  How is that so fucking special?  I didn’t feel fortunate, or blessed, or saved.  I felt like a fraud.  SURVIVOR was not in my vocabulary until other people started labeling me as one.

Hello my name is Vivi.  And I am Survivor.


Who Me? 

For me, this was NOT group therapy.  While it has great value I am sure, it didn’t work out for me.  The Norris Center nurses insisted on group therapies and I reacted, shall we say, POORLY, to that environment.  I was too young and too apathetic.  And being in a room with variety of scary sick people? Wasn’t really the problem.  But being in a room with people with whom that was the ONLY thing I had in common?  That annoyed me.  These people were the most depressing people I’ve ever been forced to spend time with. Ever.* Like an addict that figures out he can check his dumbass out at any time, I did.  Usually of my own accord, but I was also asked to leave a few. **

therapy manicurist

Every survivor has to find the support group that works for him/her.

So how did I survive? Early detection? Experimental drugs? Having excellent health, a strong will, a loving family, and blood pressure one step above a zombie’s?  All important factors, I am told.  My parents loved me, but they didn’t get it. They cried too much.  It was really annoying.  So what really saved me?  I survived because I found a support system that suited me.  

Not many people can say that Drag Queens helped save their lives, but I can.  And I will.

I just did.

ru paul glam
Yes, Yes. This is the Queen Of All Queens.  ROYAL RU.
Who is definitely on the top 5 list of Bitches I Want to Have a Martini With.

My Queens were amazing.  A-MA-ZING.

When I was really suffering, those who had empathy, through survival stories of their own, rather than sympathy? These were the people who helped me survive.  They understood me and loved me.  Acceptance is not to be taken for granted when you’ve been labeled Unacceptable and Inappropriate for much of your life.  They didn’t judge me or pity me, even when I had a meltdown and my eyebrows wiped off my face with a single swipe of a washcloth one morning. They waited until I came up for air, gave me a martini, and taught me how to draw those suckers back on.

I let this support system into my life and they saved it.  Beyond the smaller obstacles of managing synthetic wigs, creative stage-to-street make-up, and sitting upright for longer than 30 minutes at a stretch?  They taught me to own my decisions, the good ones and the bad.  They taught me to create the beauty on the outside that I felt inside, to look objectively at the world in order to demand that it view me that way too.  And do it in four inch heels.

They got it.  That support was what I needed most in the world at that moment.  That, a straight man who could make a decent dirty martini, and a wig that would stay put.

Hello my name is Vivi.  And I am Survivor.

keep calm fight cancer


Posted by on April 27, 2013 in BLOG DEPOSITS


7 responses to “Hello my name is Vivi. And I am Survivor.

  1. Tomboy Debutanre

    April 27, 2013 at 11:28 am

    I gave this speech last night at a Relay For Life kick off event last night at a local college. Slightly modified, of course. But I was proud to walk the victory lap around s baseball field in four inc platform wedges.

  2. Kat

    April 28, 2013 at 1:47 pm

    I’m curious to know how you came to know them, what the circumstances were. Please put more details in your memoir! 🙂 Also, I love that you have a “top 5 list of Bitches I Want to Have a Martini With.” Who are the other 4?

    • tomboydebutante

      April 29, 2013 at 1:03 pm

      Lee (My Drag Mother) was my next door neighbor, and was wonderful. I had moved to the east coast when I learned that he’d died and it was a big part of me that died too. It was the start of a very hard time for me. And the Top 5 list? Well you’ll just have to keep reading to find out! :o)


    April 29, 2013 at 12:59 pm


    • tomboydebutante

      April 29, 2013 at 1:03 pm


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