Friday, July 18, 2008

Keep Moving, Keep Sharing

Ilana Minkoff was in the shower when she discovered a lump in her breast. She knew immediately that she had cancer.

She stood in the shower for a long time, thinking. Thinking how she always knew she was going to get breast cancer (she is the 4th generation diagnosed with the disease), thinking that she was glad it was her instead of her sister. Thinking about how her life will never be the same again. She turned off the water and stepped out of the shower. She stood soaking wet on her bathmat and decided that she was not going to let this be her "mother's disease". This was an opportunity to show young women what having cancer can be like.

Ilana submerged herself into helping others cope with cancer. She began telling her story, word for word, describing details others have been too quiet to share. She started emailing it to family and close friends, and soon the blog/letter (a "bletter", as she likes to call it) was being read by 250 people. Her wish is for readers to know that it is "okay to not be okay."

Her biography is impressive; she is involved with multiple fundraising and non-profit ventures. She candidly describes "getting so bored there is nothing to do but come up with genius ideas." She is warm and well-spoken and genuinely happy. She uses these talents to propel her to help others.

Ilana has not really dried off since that day in the shower eighteen months ago. She just returned to her home in San Francisco after white-water rafting in Montana with other cancer patients and survivors as part of First Descents, "the only program of its kind specifically focusing on the young adult cancer population, (18-39 years of age), and utilizing the beauty and healing properties of the outdoors and adventure sports to give participants their lives back and allow them to realize that while cancer is a part of their life, it does not define them."

Ilana relays the parallels of rafting to fighting cancer, "You get in that boat, trust the counselors will save your life, and commit to a line," she says. "It is as scary as hell, but an amazing journey." She credits her experience at First Descents for helping her commit to radiation. "I was too scared to do radiation, but they took the fear out."

"I am in a place between diseased and healthy," Ilana says. "I am on the brighter side of the gray scale." Ilana keeps active doing yoga and is working with Yoga Bear to join a yoga studio near her home.

"I think it is so important through cancer treatment to keep active," Ilana says. "Getting fresh oxygen in my lungs, it makes treatment bearable."

1 comment:

Jessica Tuntre said...

WOW, Ilana, you are incredible! Truly an inspiration to those living with cancer. Rock on!