In 2008 I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Four hours later I decided to document the entire healing journey. It was a vision that came to me and it was intense: I would use my dance with cancer to help others.
I’ve always believed that being of service is healing to the receiver as much as it is to the giver. So, as I received from my healers, friends and family….I gave….to those I didn’t know yet. However, I was a real pain in the butt, constantly asking my friends to videotape every aspect of my healing journey. In the hospital, at home, in parks, in cars, wherever. I drove them crazy.
I videotaped the rest myself…in the middle of the night, at home, in bed, in the shower, driving…everywhere. I knew what I HAD to do and no one was getting in the way. Yes, I’m an Aries.
Now four years later, I am humbled when I look back at the relentless support, love and care I received from so many people in my life and how they put up with me. As a single woman, with no kids, no mom, no siblings….I always wondered who would be there for me if I ever really got sick. Well….I don’t wonder anymore. It will take a lifetime to properly acknowledge and thank every person who was there for me during my one full year of treatment…through all my surgeries and 17 sessions of chemo…friends and family appeared and never left. And yes, we videotaped it all….to their mortification.
For three years, those tapes and DVDs sat in my closet. I was beginning to doubt my vision and think it was a wasted effort. And then, I had lunch with a friend who happened to work for Discovery. I told him about my videos and my dreams of turning it into a documentary. The short version of the story is that he made it happen…just like that. My documentary, The Cancer Dancer aired one year later and this past weekend it won a Suncoast Emmy Award in the Topical Documentary category. It was amazing and a joy. There were many, many people who helped bring this vision to air, but there is one person in particular I want to recognize today: I call her my Arch Angel, Tammi Leader Fuller.
Tammi and I met more than 20 years ago when we worked at WTVJ TV in Miami. She didn’t like me at first….she thought I was a bubble-head, I think. Must have been the long curly hair and my constant giggles. I was so happy to be working at this station, I couldn’t help it.
But it didn’t take long for us to develop a friendship that would last more than two decades. We’ve supported and loved each other through life’s ups and downs….marriages, births, family and friend’s deaths, agreements and disagreements, divorces, financial stresses, diseases, trans continental moves and so much more. We even co-wrote a book together called “Dish & Tell” along with four other women. We called ourselves the Miami Bombshells. Not because we looked like bombshells, but because we dropped bombshells every time we gathered. The book became Bombshells Musical.
And then we created Camp Bombshell, a weekend retreat for women only. The camps sparked a light in Tammi I hadn’t seen before. She had always loved her days at camp as a child and this took her right back. The last Camp Bombshell happened two weeks before my double mastectomy.
During my year of treatment, Tammi was there. She carried me on her wings to healing with her love, care and compassion. She cooked for me, took me to doctor appointments, hospital visits, and helped me videotape my entire journey. The truth is, even through the difficult moments of treatment and tapings, we had a blast. We laughed and spent real quality time with girlfriends. But it was constant…Tammi slaved over the videos logging them and organizing them when the chemo brain in me could hardly keep it straight. She worked relentlessly to make sure that we had all the video we needed…so that one day, my vision of documenting my journey to help others, would be realized by the publishing of a book and the airing of a documentary.
Now, both of those dreams have been realized. The Cancer Dancer book was released in 2010 and last year, my documentary aired on Discovery Home & Health in Latin America and Discovery Familia in the U.S. It took a village to make both of those happen: from volunteers around the world that I never met, to my co-producers at Discovery and Imagina U.S., to my volunteer videographer Dale West, editor Jaime Quintana and Lori Davis who organized the hundreds of DVDs that we shot during my journey. So many people…so much gratitude. But none of it could have happened without Tammi, who was the one and only one who believed in me and my vision enough to dedicate a full year of her life to documenting my journey with me. By the time my co-producers and I brought the documentary to air, Tammi had already moved to Los Angeles to follow her dreams. Which brings me to now.
Just like she helped me, I will try and help her. I’ll never come close to what she did for me…but this is one small attempt. So please read on. Tammi is bringing her dream to life and I want everyone I know to go. Her dream is called CAMPOWERMENT. A Malibu weekend retreat for sleep- deprived, stressed out women ready to rewrite their story (where makeup is discouraged and sweatpants required). I can hardly wait!!!!!
CAMPOWERMENT is a life-changing weekend of fun and games infused with group therapy on steroids. It’s a retreat where deep stuff can happen (or not – for some it’s a place to just unplug in nature or party with your girlfriends!
At CAMPOWERMENT, doctors, psychologists, coaches, healers and experts (I’m one of them), map out an easy to navigate GPS to help you simplify and redirect your life, dispensing do-able takeaways with the milk and cookies. Set on a magnificent hilltop 800 feet above the Pacific Ocean, this experience blends hilarious laughter with the inspiration found in nature, delivering the tools to teach you how to embrace what you want and bury what you don’t need in an entertaining, motivational, kumbaya kind of way. Camp is NOT just for kids anymore.
Join me at CAMPOWERMENT. You will not only have an opportunity to chill, relax and have fun in this beautiful setting….but you will be able to meet an angel called Tammi.
Come with girlfriends or come alone…maybe you’ll meet the friend of a lifetime there.
And remember….tell your friends and family how you feel about them. Express your love and gratitude. Every day is a gift.
I wish you health, peace, abundance, s’mores and campfires and the love of a real friend. There is no greater gift.
In Joy, Pat