Turning Negative Into Positive Series: Chemotherapy Perks

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Breast Cancer Awareness Month starts on October 1st. I was diagnosed with stage IV triple-negative breast cancer at the end of 2016. I started treatment in 2017, receiving six rounds of chemotherapy, a double-mastectomy, six weeks of radiation, and six more surgeries in 2018. My experience was life-altering, and shifting gears from fear into love and gratitude was the secret to my healing and thriving. In fact, I founded a company called Zero Negative, spreading love and gratitude through accessories that give back to UCLA’s Jonsson Cancer Center Foundation. I can honestly say that stage IV cancer was the best thing to happen to me. Today, six years later, I am passionate about helping others turn their negative diagnosis into a positive, healing journey.

Let’s talk about chemotherapy. If you decide to go through chemo (because your oncologist highly recommends it), you might as well try your best to enjoy it, no? You might as well believe it’s going to help rid you of cancer cells, leading to a cancer-free life, no? When we commit to treatment, it’s so important to believe in its purpose and value. If we go into something kicking and screaming, our bodies can become resistant to the gifts of the medicine. I found it really helpful to search for the perks that might come with chemo, allowing me to surrender, embrace, and appreciate this highly designed medicine, instead of fighting and protesting the dreaded “poison.” I had to dig deep at times, but that was okay. The goal was to focus on all the good, and not talk about the bad.

My six rounds of chemo were three weeks apart. Taxotere and Carboplatin was my “chemo cocktail.” I was fortunate to find an oncologist who believed these two would do the trick, and I would not have to take Adriamycin, known to be the “red devil” (he was the only oncologist that believed this). He did say, however, that if the first two were not effective in shrinking the tumor, then he would add the “red devil” to my treatment. (Thankfully the first two worked perfectly!).

There isn’t one side effect listed on the internet that would make anyone excited about chemo. In fact, so many patients choose not to go through chemo, opting for alternative treatment. Personally, I trusted my doctors so much, I had no desire to counter their expertise. If the goal is to save a life, your mindset can make or break your chemo experience. Leaning into the benefits and perks of chemo helped make my treatment successful and tolerable.

I perceived chemo as my “chemo-cleanse.” I chose to say ‘yes’ to chemo, ‘thank you’ to chemo, because I too wanted it to save my life. In my mind, chemo was medicine that I was lucky enough to receive. All the years of cancer-research would pay off, and this chemo cocktail would work magic on me. It was fascinating to be at the center of an experience that revealed how powerful our thoughts are. We can’t change our situation, but we can change the way we see it––I think that is so beautiful and empowering––and how we can deal with everything that happens to us.


And now for the perks!


Perk #7: As the patient, you have the right to ask your caregiver for anything you need—which can be limitless. For example, you might need a massage to ease your anxiety, or you might not feel up to cooking dinner, or you’d like to be distracted with a night out at the movies. JUST ASK YOUR CAREGIVER. And while they’re up, have them walk and feed the dog—you get the point. You can never overuse this key phrase, “C’mon, I have cancer—I need you!” There’s nothing wrong with asking for what you need, even if you don’t really need it, but you want it. Consider it an act of self-love. You deserve it.


Perk #6: I had a handicap placard—OMG, the best. They give it to you because chemo can take four to eight hours, making it impossible to get up and put money in the meters. With all of my surgeries, it helped with the hassle of finding parking spots. This might not mean much to you, but there are never enough parking spaces if you live in Los Angeles, so this was awesome. (I told you, you need to dig a little!)


Perk #5: My skin… I had this “glow” going on—porcelain, blemish-free skin, and everyone told me how healthy I looked. I had a “chemo glow” with my “chemo-cleanse.” I felt like crap, but I was looking really good, it definitely boosted my morale. Six years later, my skin is still so much better than it was before.


Perk #4: You have the “cancer card.” Play it whenever necessary. Need I say more?


Perk #3: I saw the beauty of humanity in all forms, my favorite being the material forms. Who doesn’t love presents? Expect some great care packages, random presents, even food—just because. Whether from a friend or family member, or even a family member’s friend, people are just nicer when you have cancer, and I appreciated it very much. It touched me deeply when people I didn’t know showed compassion—it was beautiful. Fueled my soul.


Perk #2: I didn’t have any more PMS symptoms because I never got my period once I started chemo. Not having to worry about “that time of the month” was freeing for me. Yes, it also comes with a downside, but that is what I am saying, if we want to uplift ourselves, we lean towards the uplifting thoughts.


Perk #1: I lived! Chemo saved my life. My tumor shrunk so fast that my doctors were shocked. After the third round of chemo, my oncologist said he could barely feel my tumor, which was about the size of a tennis ball to start. We were hoping by the time I had my double mastectomy surgery, I would be cancer-free. Because of chemo, this was all possible which would mean that chemo saved my life—a definite perk.


For more information about Zero Negative, visit www.ShopZeroNegative.com, and check out the book I wrote with my husband, Everyone Needs a Larry, on Amazon. It’s a he-said-she-said story about how we survived love, marriage, and stage IV cancer, and it’s written by the patient and caregiver. We hope to help couples turn their negative cancer journeys into positive, healing experiences!


To a healthy and happy world,

Jenn Greenhut


Jennifer Greenhut Tollin turned her stage IV breast cancer diagnosis into an inspiring, uplifting story. The lessons she learned led her to create Zero Negative (www.ShopZeroNegative.com), which promotes love and positivity through accessories. A portion of the company’s profits is donated to UCLA’s Jonsson Cancer Center Foundation to support cancer research. Jennifer’s story and products have been featured on Extra Tonight, Good Morning LaLa Land, the Hallmark Channel, Ventura Blvd Magazine, and in various podcasts. In addition, she was honored by UCLA Health and the Lakers in their Laker For A Day program, sharing her story at a Lakers Game. She was a US National Gymnastics Team member and an actress, singer, songwriter, and yoga teacher.

In addition, she also wrote a book with her husband, Larry Tollin, called Everyone Needs a Larry. Told from both the patient and caregiver perspectives, Everyone Needs a Larry is a he-said-she-said quirky and humorous survival story that shares the mistakes, lessons, challenges, and joys of a couple fumbling their way through love, marriage, and cancer. Whether you face the challenge of cancer or another adversity, Jenn and Larry demonstrate how our scariest times have the possibility to become our greatest chapters. Life is about sharing stories, healing ourselves, and helping others, and now on the other side of cancer, Jenn believes you will always win at life once you LOVE who you are and the challenges that come with being you.

Jenn lives in Southern California with her husband, Larry, and their dog, Bo.Visit www.EveryoneNeedsaLarry.com and www.ShopZeroNegative.com to learn more.



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