"Be Brave" - Go Behind the Scenes with a Gynecologic Cancer Survivor

Uploaded by CDCStreamingHealth on 19.07.2012

Well, I've certainly never had this much attention
paid to my looks.
I mean, imagine!
I feel like Richard Nixon here a little bit.
Some people feel that it was the perspiration.
MAN: Take 3 -- mark.
WOMAN: We're rolling. So, who are you?
-Who am I? -MAN: Hold on a second.
[ Laughter ]
These are my friends.
I'm Jenny Allen, but...
WOMAN: And action.
Who am I?
My name is Jenny Allen,
and I'm a mother, a writer, and a performer.
And one more thing --
I'm also a survivor of uterine and ovarian cancer.
I even wrote a play about it.
When I took off my scarf,
my few wisps of hair would stand up straight,
so I looked just like a dandelion going to seed,
which I thought was funny.
Before cancer, I took my health for granted,
kind of like the air I breathed around me.
And I always had a -- a kind of dismissive attitude
about my own ill health.
I didn't really take it seriously.
I kind of brushed it aside if I didn't feel well,
so that when I had persistent symptoms,
I didn't take them seriously enough.
I felt these low, achy abdominal pains
that felt to me like menstrual cramps
and periods that were heavier and longer than usual for me.
I thought that it might be menopause-related,
but I also kind of didn't want to make a bother of myself,
that attitude really just doesn't apply
to your health, it seems to me.
And I didn't know what it was, but I kept downplaying it.
I never thought I had cancer.
My diagnosis was uterine cancer.
When I was operated on for the uterine cancer,
the surgeon discovered that I also had ovarian cancer.
I remember at first feeling almost...
almost in denial about being so sick.
For somebody who's been healthy their whole life,
it is pretty shocking to hear
that you have two kinds of cancer.
I had radiation for the uterine cancer,
and I had chemotherapy for my ovarian cancer.
During my treatments, I felt very hopeful
and very -- even energized,
'cause we were doing something about it.
But it was after my treatments, when I went home,
I felt a kind of sadness and fear.
I was afraid I would get sick again.
And with the passage of time, these fears eased,
and I do feel that I'm actually a happier person
than I was before I had cancer, as unlikely as that seems.
There is life after cancer.
I started taking notes while I was sick,
while I was being treated,
because I thought if I was a writer,
I really couldn't continue to call myself a writer
if I didn't take notes about what was happening to me.
I didn't know what I would do with the notes,
but I've always liked performing as well,
so I blended the two.
I wrote a performance for myself.
And it was...great.
I mean...
[ Laughing ] It was great for me.
I don't know if the show was great.
I hope the show was great.
You simply cannot look this healthy and be so sick.
Maybe you don't have real cancer.
Maybe you are just cancer-ish and it'll pass...
like the flu!
We performed it in New York,
and now I perform it around the country.
And the show is called "I Got Sick Then I Got Better."
And it tells the story of my diagnosis and my treatment
and the effect of the disease on my family,
and it has a happy ending.
"Cancer" is such a scary word, so who wants to think about it?
Who wants to actually do anything about it?
Of course you hope it's nothing, but take it very seriously.
Take your symptoms as seriously
as you would take the symptoms of a child of yours.
If you have symptoms that last two weeks or longer, be brave.
Go to the doctor.
Ask questions.
The odds are you don't have cancer,
but find out for sure.
Now I am feeling healthy and happy and hopeful.
I want to travel more.
I want to write more.
And I want to be a really great grandmother.
I am so lucky!
I got sick... and then I got better.