Creativity Is Integral to Healing

Everyone Talks About Being a Phoenix and Being Thrown in the Fire

And that is exactly what survivorship is. You're thrown in the fire and you're being forged like a hardened steel knife. And what you do afterwards can mean immense strength and enlightenment for yourself — and therefore for others — or else you just burn up. So I’m sharing my survivor journey with everyone. I am doing this for all the other people who are going to get a chapter like this in their lives.


I Am Allergic to the Only Drug Available

After my breast cancer diagnosis, I went through chemotherapy and a double mastectomy — all under the extraordinary care of my team at MSK. And then I was on the final phase of my treatment — a targeted therapy that wasn’t even available ten years ago. After only two doses, they told me I was allergic and took me off it. So I said to my oncologist, Dr. Bromberg (who is awesome), “What do I do?” She said, “Be happy.”


I Looked at Her and I Was Like, “Be Happy?”

“Be happy?” I’m angry. I’m thinking, “Where’s the alternative drug?” And I’m sitting angry on my ride home when I suddenly get it. Even if I was on the drug, what difference would it make if I wasn’t also happy? So when I saw Dr. Bromberg next, I said, “I get it.” I started to examine what she meant and it changed the rest of my life. My best chance would come from within.

People think cancer — that’s the end — but for me cancer was the start of this incredibly new sensational life.


Without the targeted therapy this thing was supposed to come back aggressively, but it hasn’t. I learned that “be happy” works. And if you asked me if I would undo my cancer, I wouldn’t. Even though my body has gone through all these changes, I wouldn’t. Here I am, happy and genuinely grateful about my cancer experience, which I don’t really think people say.


Ever Since, I’ve Channeled My Experience Into Creativity

Before cancer, I made excuses for not being creative. I told myself I was “blocked.” But I wrote about my breast cancer experience for Visible Ink, MSK’s writing program for patients, and called it “Cancer in a Jar.” You see, one night when I was dealing with cancer I went a little bit insane. I went to an arts and crafts store and got some googly eyes, fabric, and pieces of paper. And I created this goofy little thing with eyeballs. Then I went and got a tomato sauce jar and I held this thing and I said, “This is my tumor.” I put it in the jar, closed it, and the second I put it on the shelf, I felt like my tumor was removed. That was the first story I wrote for Visible Ink. I just wrote it all out. You can watch actress Susan Spain read “Cancer in a Jar” here.

Thank you.

— Cynthia (aka DJ CherishTheLuv)


I support patients through my art. You can support MSK. HONOR SURVIVORS



Cynthia is a contributor to MSK’s Visible Ink, a one-on-one writing program for patients at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. It offers opportunities for self-expression, stress reduction, personal growth, and individual success at a time when many participants face the considerable challenge of a serious illness. Visible Ink has served more than 2,300 patients over the past 12 years.