Now that’s one heck of a question, isn’t it? We read that in our email inbox and thought, yeah, why does everyone have cancer it seems? Sure, we have a general idea of what cancer is, but I don’t know a single person who doesn’t know someone who has suffered with it, is dealing with it or has passed from it — or who has themselves been diagnosed. From friends to relatives, I’ve been touched by it — and many times it’s hard to know what to do, how to help, or even how to fully begin to grasp what the person is going through (not to mention dealing with your own fears of that person being sick). And for those going through it? Well, it can be an incredibly lonely, maddening, terrifying and life-changing thing.
Which is exactly why Allison Gryphon made the documentary WTF Is Cancer and Why Does Everybody Have It? We recently got to chat with Allison about the documentary and her story of how she turned a stage 3A breast cancer diagnosis into a call to action and used fitness and Pilates as a source of strength throughout her treatment. Talk about inspiring.
Interview With Allison Gryphon of WTF Is Cancer and Why Does Everybody Have It?
1. Why did you want to make this documentary? I found my lump on a Sunday. By lunch on Wednesday, I had a diagnosis, and by Friday, I was staring at a stack of books, binders and handouts laying out what I was facing. Before I dove into enough reading materials to get a Master’s in my cancer, I wanted a simple and honest overview of what I was facing. I wanted to hear from doctors and other cancer fighters. I went to Netflix looking for a cancer 101 thinking there would be a two-hour answer on demand. I didn’t find what I was looking for. I’m not sure I wanted to make the movie as much as I personally needed to make it. I had the resources, the drive and the support. It would have been crazy not to do it.
2. How has your experience with cancer changed your life? Cancer has changed my life in many ways, but most of all I would say I live with much more freedom. It has liberated me from sweating the small stuff. Beyond the emotional component, I’m much more educated and in tune with how I treat my body, what I put in it and what I put on it. For the most part I live a natural-product, immune-system boosting, organic-food, low-stress, happiness-driven lifestyle.
3. How did a healthy lifestyle and fitness help you? With the fabulous title of this publication being Fit Bottomed Girls, I must say that my fit bottom saved me on several levels. Having been through a mastectomy and lymph node dissection, I was unable to engage my chest muscles. With four years of SPXFitness Pilates Plus classes under my belt, I was in tip-top shape going into surgery and for weeks following I struggled to open the refrigerator and even hold a fork. Having a very fit lifestyle with an understanding of my body helped me identify how to help myself. I engaged my abs to roll out of bed. The plié move got me up on my feet and down into a chair. I used my core, booty and legs for almost everything. Fitness got me through cancer treatment on several levels.
4. What’s the No. 1 thing people need to know about cancer? Listen, Love, Fight and Let It Be. The morning after my mastectomy I woke up to an iTunes gift from a good friend. It was the song, “Let it Be.” It weighed on me heavily then and has stuck by my side ever since. Letting things be whatever they need to be is the number one gift I feel every one needs to give themselves in regard to cancer. Cancer is a personal attack that a person’s body has on itself and each case is unique to that person. I think it’s important that we all understand that guidance, support, truly listening and giving each other permission to let each other be in our choices on how to fight cancer is the most important thing.
5. What advice can you give people who have just been diagnosed with cancer? What about those supporting others? For both cancer fighters and caregivers, my advice is be honest about the situation, what you are able to do and what you’re not able to do. Remember that you need to take care of yourself first and foremost. Most of all my advice is to really listen to each other and do your best to be heard. Fighting cancer is a pro-active sport for everyone involved. The more you engage in what it is you want and need, the better everyone involved is going to be.
Inspiring, right? Watch the documentary here — and bust out the tissues for an honest, empowering and informative look at cancer. —Jenn