Monday, June 9, 2014

Valisia's 525,600 Minutes - Survivors Day, Rutgers Cancer Institute of NJ

Yesterday, Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey's (CINJ)  held their Annual Survivors Day Celebration. I have been on the planning committee along with 3 other survivors for the past few years. In the past to celebrate National Cancer Survivors Day, we have had authors, breast cancer survivors, wellness days, days reminiscent of being on a cruise ship and tours of CINJ. This year was very special for me.

Back in December,  I learned from a friend's tweet that Broadway star Valisia LeKae had just been diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Valisia was playing Diana Ross in MOTOWN- the Musical and she had to leave the show because of her diagnosis. I tweeted to Valisia that her Teal Sisters were there for her and we began exchanged tweets during her treatments.  So when the time came to suggest speakers for this year's event I immediately thought of Valisia. The committee voted to ask her and I direct messaged her to see if she was interested. When she said yes, I was thrilled.

Yesterday, I got to meet Valisia in person. And what an honor it was for me to introduce her to the more than 200 survivors, caregivers, doctors, nurses, researchers and social workers in attendance.

Introducing Valisia at Survivors Day
Valisia began her talk by asking us if we knew the song 525,600 Minutes from the Broadway show Rent. She was going to tell us what her last 525,600 minutes have been like.
Valisia LeKae

In June 2013, she was walking the red carpet nominated for a Tony Award for her role as Diana Ross. In the fall, she visited her doctor who saw that a cyst on her ovary was getting larger and told her that it should be removed. On December 2nd she learned she had ovarian cancer. Another surgery and six rounds of chemotherapy meant she had to leave MOTOWN the Musical.

During her recovery and treatment,  Valisia told us of the wonderful support she had from so many people. Support from her fellow cast members of MOTOWN  who wrote the original song for her "I am Here (For Valisia)" ( ). (Be sure to have a tissue ready when you watch it. ) Then she spoke of the support and love of her partner- now fiance and how her faith in God helped on her journey with cancer.

Valisia also shared with us her need to spread awareness about the disease. Currently, she is the national spokesperson for the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition and has completed a PSA for Mount Sinai Hospital where she was treated.

During her talk and the question and answer period that followed many of her responses brought tears to her eyes and mine. She was kind enough to share how humming and singing was helpful during treatment and she even sang a song for us. My how this disease can impact our lives and at the same time show us places and experiences we never thought we would have. It certainly was a wonderful day. Thank you Valisia for sharing your story with us.

Yesterday, her 2 month anniversary of finishing chemotherapy, she came full circle- 525,600 minutes later.  It was the night she would appear on the red carpet as a host of the Tony Awards Red Carpet Special on

Valisia and I

My friend Valisia,
I wish you many years of clear scans and many years of lighting up Broadway.  May God bless you.

Every Day is a Blessing!

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