On May 5th, 2019, my documentary feature I AM HUMAN was premiering at the Tribeca Film Festival. The film followed three patients with brain disorders, and their decisions to undergo surgery with experimental brain technology. It was supposed to be one of the highlights of my career - but the morning of the premiere, I became incredibly ill and discovered a lump in my underarm.
Within a week, I was diagnosed with stage III HER2+ ductal carcinoma, which is basically just a fancy name for an aggressive form of breast cancer. In the blink of an eye, I had gone from directing patients...to becoming one.
I named my cancer Bob, in an effort to humanize (and humor-ize) the process. Because it had spread to my lymph nodes, the roadmap ahead was rigorous: 4.5 months of chemo, surgery, 30 rounds of radiation, 17 antibody infusions. It was the scariest thing I’d ever faced, in large part, because it wasn’t just the cancer I was navigating. While preparing for surgery, I then found myself suddenly facing the end of my 3.5 year relationship, creating an overwhelming weight of uncertainty around my prognosis and future.
In spite of the fears I felt around rebuilding my life, I tried to begin each morning with gratitude - and in November of last year, my pathology results confirmed - Bob was no more. Relief.
It’s been exactly one year since I finished chemo. I’ve since moved into a new home near the beach, where I still spend my mornings with gratitude (and RISE Nitro Cold Brew Coffee, obvi!) — and I’ve found a path to cultivating purpose from pain. Perhaps that’s what being ON THE RISE is all about, finding the fortitude to persevere, even when it’s not clear or easy.
I’ve since started a podcast and email newsletter to help people use technology and neuroscience to improve their mindset and wellbeing. I hope it honors the people and lessons who helped me through this past year. I’ve also become actively involved with a charity called HairToStay, which provides cold capping grants for low income women (this allows women to save their hair during chemotherapy.) On my birthday, we raised over $8000 in funds for these young ladies. A happy birthday, indeed.
USE CODE TarynGIVE on RISEBREWINGCO.COM. For each case you purchase, RISE will match donations to fund two cold capping treatments for low income cancer patients. *HairToStay is the first and only national nonprofit organization dedicated to helping cancer patients afford scalp cooling, a treatment that can dramatically reduce chemotherapy induced hair loss.