I Need to Get This Off My Chest

I’m home from Berlin and there aren’t enough swear words. Trust me.

I know, I know. What happened to this enviable adventure? The world traveler? The six months of reckless abandon? The torrid affairs? The food? The stories? The art? Well, I had some of that and now I have breast cancer. Passport and boarding pass, please.

Perhaps you just gasped, swore, dropped something, sat down, stood up, almost threw up, actually threw up, yelled, reread it, cried, clutched your hands to your chest…¬† Oh, don’t I know it. Because the few of you I’ve had the strength to look in the eye and say out loud that I was sicker than any girl my age has a right to be sick… Don’t I know what you’ve just done.

Now, don’t get that hurt look on your face because I should have called you, met you for coffee, said something at the party. You see, I wake up every morning and a herd of elephants has trampled my lungs. Millions of mad babies are screaming. Billions of metal objects are scratching themselves down a universe-sized chalkboard. Every time I have to hear myself tell the very worst truth I could ever tell, a little part of me gets left on the floor. Every time I have to tell it, I know I am upsetting someone. Every time I have to know the words I need to say, I have to know a little more for myself. It’s the cruelest joke. The insult of all insults to exclaim. It is anger and fear, frustration and disappointment. Loathing. And it is what I wake up with every morning knowing you don’t know and I am fighting for the words to tell you I am fighting for my life. It is not because I don’t love you that you didn’t hear it from my lips. It is exactly because I love you that I am telling you now.

It doesn’t matter what it’s called, what Stage it’s in, how big the tumor is, or when I found it. If I told you you probably would throw up, so just know that it has a long name, it’s so special they can’t Stage it, and it’s big. What really matters is that I was able to spend the last few months with a few incredible people, hiding out in “the eye of the storm” in Amsterdam, Paris, Berlin, Prague, taking photos, painting, writing, drinking, smoking, eating, dancing, kissing, living. With every cell of my body. And if anyone has been paying any attention to me at all over the last year, they would have felt a distinct shove forward, seen a spotlight that was aiming towards a life that was long overdue. My life. Get that taste of freedom in your mouth for the first time in ages and My. God. Just get on the plane. Go. Live. And I was living, right alongside a giant wall of terrible injustice, the Wall, and it would seem I have run smack into it. But… If you have been paying any attention to me at all over these last 38 years, you know exactly what I’m about to do.

I know the real truth. I am a lucky girl to have the life I have and the people I have in it. If not for you there would be no writing this, no taking pictures, no getting through last week, last night, tomorrow. “How can I help,” is an OK question to ask me. It’s the very first question, and it is the very best question. I am bracing myself, shoring up, battening down and I don’t know what I need because the storm is only just now hitting. I’m getting better at asking, and all I really need this moment is for you to ask me about my most recent adventures and let me tell you the rest in my own time. As for what happens next, well that doesn’t matter either. If I told you you would throw up. I did. Just know that right this minute I am exhausted and hopeful. Over the next 6 to 8 months I will be very, very sick and in the end I will surely come out of this but just as surely I will not come out of this looking like I went in, for the rest of my life.

And for all that we don’t know, know this. There will be photos.
For the rest of my life.
I have the 10-4 from Sniper 1 to shoot my way through this.
And I will not stop.

Week 2, #12 – Biopsy Series, 2011

I am Botticelli’s Venus. I am Helen of Troy.
I am the Winged Victory of Samothrace.

Fuck You, Cancer. I am Ali.

36 thoughts on “I Need to Get This Off My Chest

  1. Jess Smith

    Sorry to hear of your current challenge, but I have faith that surviving is going to be the next thing you can add to your list of life’s accomplishments. I will be sending you positive vibe juju every day. Peace.

  2. Jess Dickey

    You just rocked my world in such an amazing way with that post. You are brave. You are courageous. You are alive. So much love coming your way, Ali. I am so privileged to have crossed paths with you. Namaste. -Jess

  3. Darcy Stillman

    You inspire me, Ali. For me, and in your honor, I will take this adventure by the balls and live and love every moment. You give me no excuse. I love you, friend, Darcy

  4. Beverly

    You are beautiful Ali, and you are strong. Your spirit is so much stronger than ANYTHING those doctors tell you. And remember- you are very loved

  5. Ant Sally

    How raw and honest, Ali. Pure and true, courageous and, I’m sure cathartic…you will get through this but keep expressing yourself in the way you most need, through your artful ways….we’ll be right by your side!

  6. Audrey

    Well Ali when you said you had a lot of stuff going on I thought you meant you opened another business, maybe a gallery, or had an art show coming up. I had not clue it was this. I don’t think I can give you words back like the words you just gave in that post. All I can say is you are an amazing writer and maybe that is something to explore now when you have all these emotions. You’re a strong lady indeed. Hope to see you soon!

  7. Kathy Johnson

    You go and kick some cancer ass Ali! Sending you West Coast vibes of health and healing! We love you.

  8. marcia

    you are amazing and this is NOT going to stop you, sister! I am there with you from way over here across the water. Kick butt as I know you can!

  9. Roy

    Hallo und Grüss Gott! Wünsche sie alles gut, mein Freunden. Das freute mich dass du hatte zeite im Deutschland verbrachte. Tchusse!

  10. Debbie

    Be BRAVE
    Be LOVED

  11. Tyler Carter

    FUCK YOU, cancer.
    You took my wife’s mother.
    Run away in shame,
    don’t take the life of another.
    She’s not my sister and
    I’m not her brother,
    but Ali should know
    that an old intermittent friend…
    does in fact love her.

    Best wishes Ali. Looking forward to reports of nothing but progress.


  12. (Blauntie) Chris

    Ali — Besides praying (and I will storm the heavens with those), how can I help? It will be tough; but I too will be there for you — whatever you need. I promise! Take heart; know that you can beat this. All my thoughts and prayers are with you Sweetheart!

  13. Leah

    Robbie forwarded this blog on to me because I too have fought this fight (8 yrs. ago). We could never express what truly goes through our minds when we get the news. And then comes the determination along with the ever present fear. The treatments are difficult but probably won’t be as bad as you imagine. Dig deep, summon the strength, and fight. The battle is worth the benefits. Would be happy to communicate with you if you like. Just shoot me an e-mail. Trust!

  14. Don

    Damn, I’m sorry life threw this at you. Please add me to the list of people standing behind you, ready to help. There are more of us out here than you might realize and I have no idea what I can do, but I’m hoping that there’s some way I can help you win the fight.

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  16. Melinda

    What a honest and authentic post! But then, I don’t know that Ali has ever been anything but delightfully authentic. Although I have told her, she was and is an inspiration to many people. I have seen her get up and dust herself off after events that would have left most people wallowing in self pity. In this fight my bet is on Ali. Always has been , always will be.

  17. sara

    Ali, you write so beautifully and the support system you have around you is tribute to the person you are..stay strong, I am thinking of you..

  18. sue g

    Hi Ali,
    we’ve never met but i learned the news yesterday from some mutual friends. there are a few organizations around the area that are here to help when you don’t feel like calling a friend – one http://www.Amystreat.org who can arrange transportation to appointments even to downtown Boston. and there’s a service to come and clean your house, free of charge. I don’t know where you’re getting treatment but Dana Farber, for me, is the best there is. Be hopeful – let the tears flow – keep good company –
    blessings- sue

  19. Sara R.

    Ali, you are in my thoughts and prayers woman! You will beat this cancer… you will stomp on it’s evil face and say F*CK YOU! Know that we’ll all be here saying it with you too! Be strong, be determined, be a fighter Ali, and show this cancer who is boss (um, YOU!!!). Sending you a big hug from Seattle. Love, Sara

  20. Stephenie Williams

    Ali you are an inspiration to all women!!! You will KICK that cancers ASS!!!!!
    Love you and will be thinking of you!!! What can I do to help?? Let me know!
    love and peace, Stef

  21. Kim

    Wow, Ali, you are amazing. An incredible writer, you make me laugh and cry and make me realize the trivial things in my everyday life are minor. You are a true inspiration and survivor. Fight, fight, fight, you are strong!

  22. Bruno

    Dearest Ali, Cancer is deeply affraid about everithing you are and represent : joy, energy, beauty, light… You’ll win, Beautiful !!!
    And of course, please tell me : “Comment puis-je t’aider ?” …
    I’m here, with you.. For you…

    1. admin

      Mon Cher Bruno – Ensemble, nous prenons sur le monde! Laissez-nous commencer quelque part au chaud quand c’est fini 😉

  23. Dara Turransky

    Dearest Ali,
    We’ve only met in passing when you organized cakes for an Art with Heart auction. You also took time from your busy day to answer “shop” questions when I began my own business. I remember your vibrant spirit, and the sunshine I felt from your voice pouring over the phone. I send you warm thoughts, healing energy, and sunshine for the gray days. Don’t ever lose hope‚Ķever. My very best to you and your family during this challenging time. -Dara

  24. Jean Williams (Miss Jean)

    You are amazing. I have never seen anyone who lost her hair who looked so beautiful. Your inner beauty, faith, spirit and strength make you glow. Cheli sent me the link to your blog a few days ago, but it took me this long to respond, because I was in such schock after reading your initial telling of your CANCER. I am sitting here with tears in my eyes. You are in my prayers every day and I will put your name in the prayer list at my church. If you can think of anything I can do for you, please let me know. LOVE YOU, LOVE YOU.


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