I want people to take from my message what their heart needs. – Kat Lazo
I once saw this video where a room was divided in two. Two people sat and talked about things that made them happy and that if they had one wish, what it would be. Neither side knew who was on the other side and what they would say. The video begins with one person wishing to traveling the world, to gain riches and to experience success. Deeper into the video you learn what the opposite side of the room said when they were asked what made them happy and what they desired most in life. These included simple things like smelling flowers or taking a walk without assistance. The two that stood out for me were one from a 14-year-old who wished that cancer did not exist and one from a mother who wished she didn’t have to work three jobs so that she could spend more time with her two daughters who suffered from leukemia.
This video reminded me of when I was going through treatment. My name is Kat Lazo and I have been fighting cancer for five years. I have come to the conclusion that while the medication, chemotherapy and the radiation kills you slowly (which is why I no longer undergo chemotherapy), there are things in life that lift you right back up.
One of those things is a little something I like to call the “Chemotherapy Survival Kit.” This kit can be made of material and non-materialistic things. It’s a care package, it can be a gift from others or one from yourself to yourself.
The first iteration of the chemotherapy kit came from myself. It was a metaphorical one. I filled it with things like laughter and art and cleansing tears. I also filled it with words, because I was hurt and I was inspired to read and write things that brought peace to my soul.
Luckily I count with a huge number of people who make up #TeamKat. This Team is made up of nurses, friends, family and complete strangers. One of those #TeamKat members brought me my first real chemotherapy kit, and when I say real, I mean there was an actual box with actual objects inside it.
I am not a materialistic person but, this kit really did get me through chemotherapy. The box contained some of my favorite things in the world.
Lotion and Scented Candles: The Japanese cherry blossom scent from Bath and Body Works to be precise. First of all, I’m obsessed with lotion. Mostly, it was the smell of it. It was the scent of pure happiness. When I smell it, I am happy. It’s an unforgettable smell. Even if I am not using it I will always remember the smell and my heart will smile. It’s crazy to say but my heart really smiles. So find a candle the smell of which makes you happy and take it with you. Consider it your Prozac for the nose.
Flowers: My flowers of choice are Calla Lilies and Sunflowers. People say Calla Lilies are funeral flowers, but I don’t feel that way about them. They are elegant and simply beautiful. I love the long green stem. The white calla-lilies are simple and pure. They represents life not death. Sunflowers also brought happiness for me. It was like ‘this day is hard but the new day that’s coming is going to be better.’ Find a flower that represents life to you. It will bring you hope that it will get better. Try to keep them near to you at home or at the hospital.
Stuffed Giraffes: I haven’t counted but I have probably 17 to 20 tattoos. My most favorite ones are the ones of Giraffes. You will find the animal tattooed on my arm, my fingers, my back, my ribcage, my breast, my waist and my leg. When I was in the hospital I had this nurse tell me that the giraffe was my spirit animal. And I was like ‘what?! What do you mean?’ So I looked them up. I started seeing that I was similar to the giraffe in the quirkiness and the weirdness. Like at moments when I was losing my hair and weight and not feeling or looking my greatest. So I started comparing myself to giraffe’s even more and I realized, they are very smart elegant creatures. I looked at their elegance and the talent they have that not all other animals have. Like their long necks; they use them to get food where other animals can’t reach. So there were things I started appreciating about the giraffe and therefore appreciating about myself. They helped me feel ‘ok’ with what was going on with me physically.
Arts and craft materials: I started painting with paintbrushes on clean canvases. Mind you I had never painted in my life. I was just drawing things. I was trying to keep my mind off my pain and next thing you know here is this drawing. I got really into painting trees like the tree of life. Almost every painting I made was of a tree. Some in darkness, but some on the backdrop of beautiful sunsets representing life. Painting released physical pain for me. When I look at some of those paintings, I can tell where I had my most pain, because of how hard or how light the color was on the canvas or how steady my lines were. I can tell where the pain was. It reminds me of Frida Kahlo, she also painted through pain.
Hair Wrap: Chemotherapy is a procedure that takes away your hair and yes, you are uncomfortable about it. You may never have been bald before and the one time you were, you were a baby and you don’t remember. All your life, having long hair or having longer hair, you don’t realize the difference it makes when it’s no longer there. The wrap kept my head warm. You have no hair, so your head gets cold and you have all these headaches. You also use it for styling purposes. You can make them big, tight, loose, long or short. You don’t have hair so you have to work with what you’ve got. Even when I had hair I would use my wrap. It gave me comfort cause guess what? When you no longer had hair, you couldn’t have a bad hair day.
GUESS gift card: Yes, aside from being a cancer patient I’m also a GIRL! Who knew? After undergoing rounds and rounds of chemotherapy I lost about 45-60lbs. I needed to buy new clothes to fit the skin and bones that now made up my body. But, also because as women we use shopping as an excuse for stress relief. Being sick is NO excuse for being underdressed. wink wink.
Other things in my kit included: healthy chips, chapstick, gum, books, movies, hand sanitizer, make-up, organic tea and cozy socks.
Some of the more practical things in my kit? Sunscreen, biotene for dry mouth, coconut oil, anti-nausea ginger gum (causing you’re throwing up a lot) and although sugar is extremely bad for cancer patients… lots and lots of candy! Candy didn’t make the side effects of chemotherapy disappear, it just helped make them more tolerable.
Although I am a lover of these chemo kits, I always agonized about the day I’d have to make one for someone else. I knew the day I did make one, it would be for someone I really loved. One day my fear came true. I fell in love! Not just any love, a magical love at first sight fairytale. I fell in love with Juan, a 10 year old little boy fighting leukemia. At that very moment I became the “founder” of #TeamJuan.
One day after Thanksgiving 2015 at 6am, Juan grew the most beautiful pair of wings I had ever seen. The wings were almost as perfect as he was. Even though my heart was not ready I knew how lucky I had been to experience an eternity by his side, even in the short time I got to have him with me. He gave me endless forever’s in his sweet smile. There are days where I can’t wait to fall in love with him again. But, I just know that if I beat cancer, in a way he will too. If I survive he will survive too and if I live a happy and healthy life, He too, will be living. ” I love you my love, you will always live in my thoughts. You will always be with me because you have rooted in the deepest parts of my heart and soul where no one else had ever been and where no one else will ever be.
— To learn more about Kat’s most compelling story, be sure to watch her in Season Two of My Last Days.