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Chronicles of #TheGirlWithTheCancer: Should I Be Thankful For My Cancer?

Stav Meishar, 28 years old, was born and raised in Israel. She is based in New York City where she founded the award-winning organization for creative Jewish education, Dreamcoat Experience. When she’s not shaping the futures of young Jewish minds, she is a stage artist specializing in Circus Arts.

Stav’s biggest project at the moment is a solo performance based on the true story of a Jewish acrobat who survived WWII by hiding and working at a German circus. She was due to spend a year in Australia developing her circus skills and bringing this project to fruition. Four days before her flight, Stav got diagnosed with colon cancer and was forced to stay in NYC and focus on her health. She has decided to chronicle her battle with cancer, one day at a time. This series of articles is a sampling of her cancer journal.

If you wish to support her art, check out her kickstarter.

If you’re just joining us, you can read the first two installments of this series here:

Chronicles of #TheGirlWithTheCancer

Tuesday 2/14/17:

When Australia became a certainty I hired a new employee to be my Assistant Director and run all of the Dreamcoat Experience classes I was previously teaching. I was certain I was leaving my organization in good hands but unfortunately they unprofessionally f**ked over one of my dearest clients, making it clear that I never want them to represent my baby.

Today I met with that client. I was afraid of the meeting, worried that I’d lose a valuable client with whom I’ve had a great relationship for the past 3 years. It pained me to think that one incompetent teacher might ruin something that took me years to establish.

My concern was unnecessary. The client was very supportive and understanding of the circumstances, agreed to work with me to figure out a solution and promised to still hire us again come next school year.

She didn’t say all these things because of my cancer but because she recognized the value of the work we do, and it warmed my heart to receive that reassurance.

Why am I telling you all this? Because when I told my roommate about this kerfuffle and its aftermath, she wisely commented:

“You should be thankful, really. Imagine that you had gone to Australia and this person would have potentially ruined your relationships with multiple communities, destroyed bridge after bridge that you’ve worked so hard to build…”

She’s right, of course. I’m thankful I avoided that.

At the same time — the reason I’m still teaching my classes, the reason I didn’t go to Australia, is this cancer. So… Should I be thankful?

Then, a week post diagnosis, I met a man (we’ll call him Cheese Guy).

We’ve only had one date so far, but I really, really like him.

After 8.5 years of torturous NYC dating, what if he ends up being what I had been looking for all along? What if I meet my lobster because cancer smashed all my dreams? Would it have been worth it?

I find myself thinking a lot about the place of fate in all of it, if any, and how random life can be.

I’ve had quite a few people telling me that the universe has its reasons, and when all this is over I’ll be able to see the full picture of why this happened to me.

To that, I reply — bullshit. There is no reason why this happened to me. It’s most likely not genetic, just random, and — as my doctors looooooove to remind me — “It’s very rare for a 28 year old to have not one but TWO sporadic cancers of the type we don’t even screen for before age 50.”

I got cancer most likely because of sheer bad, stupid, random luck.

Yet we humans, we can choose to extract something positive out of shitty situations. Even when something awful happens, we can recognize the silver linings.

I’m thankful I didn’t leave my organization in the hands of an incompetent person.

I’m thankful I met Cheese Guy, whether it turns into something or not.

I’m thankful I’m still living in my great apt with my wonderful roommate.

I’m thankful I get to watch my goddaughters grow.

I’m thankful for every cup of tea I share with my friends, for my circus home, for my amazing students…

I’m thankful for a lot.

Yes, I know how to count my blessings.

But no, this isn’t fate. Fate has no hand in this.

Like my beloved Lin-Manuel pointed out: “Fate doesn’t discriminate / between the sinners and the saints / it takes and it takes and it takes.”

Wednesday 2/15/17:

My Valentine’s date last night was utterly delightful. I took cheese guy to a Russian Banya party that seemed like an interesting place for a second date – steamy, playful, light-hearted, entertaining.

It was all of that, and more. A few dear friends were there and it was relaxing to hang out, and the music was awesome, and the hot tub was warm, and my date was getting sweeter and sweeter by the minute.

It’s so refreshing, to date a man who isn’t afraid to look “uncool” by admitting that he likes you. On both our first and second dates he was verbal and unabashed about the fact that yes, he thinks I’m interesting and awesome and lovely, and yes, he wants to see me again. We stayed there for hours and it was too late to schlep home so I stayed over at his place. He he was a perfect gentleman and his body was the perfect big spoon for mine.

And then I woke up the following morning.

And we went our separate ways.

And I took the train home, and I faced yet another day in the land of cancer limbo, and suddenly it all seemed miles away.

Last night did not happen to me. It happened to someone else, to that “other” Stav, the one I was before diagnosis.

That “other” Stav spent the whole night enjoying herself, oblivious to the possibility of cancer existing in her universe, genuinely forgetting that she carries it inside her everywhere.

It was like a dream: when you’re dreaming you’re thoroughly invested in that experience and everything is so real you can touch it. But then you wake up and no matter how real it felt you learn that it wasn’t.

It was your mind playing tricks on you.

This “other” Stav. The happy, carefree, fun woman.

I know her.

She still echoes in me.

But she feels like someone beyond a veil, I can almost touch her but she nonetheless she isn’t me. I’m not even sure what I am right now, other than #TheGirlWithTheCancer.

I know that for one night I lived a very wonderful illusion. But then morning came and I felt as if all it happened in some story I read, to this other person who only vaguely reminds me of someone I used to know.


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