A medal for completing breast cancer treatment

Update: Make your own!—XJ

I was diagnosed with breast cancer in December, 2011. In January 2012, I began treatment. Chemo, surgery, radiation.

When I finished 6 weeks of daily radiation, the last of my primary treatment round, I tweeted about this milestone and my friend Michael Pusateri said I deserved a medal. Well, Michael's the kind of guy who puts a medal where his mouth is: he made me one. I love it, and I am grateful and proud. I want to wear it every single day for the rest of my life.

I want to give one to everyone I meet who makes it through to a similarly meaningful milestone in their cancer treatment. This is so much better than a pink ribbon.

During treatment, people sometimes told me that they would pray for God to cure me. I wanted to tell them to pray that science would advance to the state where it could do so. And that is my greatest hope, for me and for all of the men and women with this same disease. Science is awesome, but the science of cancer is still primitive. We need more research. We need science education, we need funding, we need things that are in increasingly scarce supply in America. And I'm not even talking about the chemo drugs.

I am not "cured," and my treatment isn't over. For instance, I just started taking an oral drug that I will have to take every day for at least the next 5 years. The side effects suck. I will be dealing with cancer for the rest of my life, and I hate that this is the new fact of my new life. The goal is to keep progression at bay. Still, the 2012 poison/cut/burn triathlon is over, and it feels surreal and amazing to be able to say this. Over. Complete. Done with.

It was not pink. It was torture. It was hell.

I am damaged. I am a different person. I occupy a body and mind that are drastically and permanently altered. I am just beginning to learn how to recover from treatment, how to cope with the resulting damage. Physical. Mental. Financial. Every imaginable aspect of my life has changed.

But damn, it feels good to be alive today, out from under the linear accelerator and off the gurney and the IV drip.

I am grateful for my doctors. I am grateful to the nurses, the anesthesiologists, the radiation therapists. I am grateful to my family, my friends, my loved ones, and all the fellow travelers I met online and in person.

I am grateful to the ones who fought for me to get access to good medical care. I am grateful to the people who held me when I cried, some of whom were strangers in the infusion room. I am grateful to the people who cleaned up my puke. I am grateful to the beautiful people who brought me food when I could not cook or shop, and to the ones who brought me cannabis so I could get food down. I am grateful to the ones who drove me to and from treatment when I was too weak, and to the ones who rescued me one day when I foolishly tried to drive myself and ended up stranded on the side of the road without enough strength to make it home. I am grateful to the ones who let me lean on them when I was not strong enough to walk; I am grateful to the ones who talked me through the moments of greatest psychological or physical pain, sometimes waking them in the middle of the night. I am grateful to the one who told me I was beautiful, and meant it, when I woke up missing parts of my body.

I am so very grateful for life. Life and love are all that matter.

(special thanks to medal-bearer Sean Bonner)


  1. So glad to have you with us, Xeni. Thank you for your candor and generosity in sharing this fight with us; it’s about time someone pulled the pink wool from our eyes. 

    As an aside, my mom’s “cancer consolation prize” was a new dog. He’s an ugly mutt, but he was a big part of her healing process and the family wouldn’t be the same without him.

  2. <3 Xeni, Thanks for all the posts through your roller-coaster of a year, You're an inspiration to so many.

  3. That’s wonderful to read Xeni, from the medal to your thoughts and reflections.  Your journalistic approach to this disease has been a wonderful respite from the voodoo one often reads as a scientist in the cancer community.  Best wishes to you, we love you here at MSKCC (and Maggie too!)

  4. Everyone should get a medal for going through the hell that is breast cancer treatment. While the recovery and dealing with the aftermath of treatment is often tougher than expected, I’m so glad to see you working your way through it.

  5. In his book about his battle with cancer the comedian Robert Schimmel told an inspiring story about his lowest point. He was in such despair he was contemplating suicide. His father, a Holocaust survivor, told him about being marched to a concentration camp and being told by a guard with a gun, “Keep walking.” His father realized that, in spite of being exhausted, in spite of going to almost certain death, to stop walking would mean death. As long as he was walking he was still alive.

    You’ve earned a medal for coming this far. Thank you, Ms. Jardin, for continuing to walk.

  6. Congratulations and best wishes!  Fire up an avatar and come see Relay For Life of Second Life in July if you get the chance. It’s worth seeing!

  7. I love your medal. I love the words on the back. I hate that we are now “sisters” but I DO love you…. I still remember that final tweet on that horrible day.  The single most powerful thing I’ve ever seen happen in real time on twitter. EVER.


  8. Welcome to the Remission club!  :-)   We’re all slightly battle-scarred, but *way* tougher than before. 
    P.S. I always figured there should be a cancer merit badge; somebody should stitch up one of those…

  9. Congratulations. Now I’m weeping. For you, for your story, and for those I know personally who have whipped cancer’s ass. And for those who didn’t. Stay well.

  10.  And another teary, appreciative comment from this person here. thank you for bringing the struggles of cancer to light.

  11. Wow.  So great to hear.  Watching you battle cancer In a lot of ways makes me think of watching Felix Bumgartner’s jump from space yesterday.  It might seem like a strange comparison but it makes sense if you think about it.  Thank you for sharing.  Thanks for being awesome, and congratulations on your milestone.

  12. I love the medal, and love what it represents even more.  Eloquently put.  I hope you are at least considering publishing a book about what you have been through so far…  I am sure that it would help many (and might help you with some of the financial challenges of battling cancer).

  13. Stomping cancer’s sorry, sorry ass.

    How grateful those of us out here in cancerland are for YOU. From the first day you spoke fearlessly and honestly about what treatment is like. 

    And I love your medal.

    Thank you again for an awesome post.


  14. Excellent medal!  Excellent friend, to make that medal for you.

    Friends really do get you through it. Friends, and science.

  15. That reminds me; I need to turn FoldingatHome  back on so I can help kick cancer’s ass (that’s the hope). Discus refuses to let me even use the at symbol without trying to hotlink it into a user profile reference. >:[

    Thank you so much for fighting, Xeni, and not giving up. A lot of people’ve expressed their support, and I’m one of them, but I also want to recognize that you went through so much and didn’t give up, and we are all richer for it.

    Thank you for not giving up. No radiation, no poison, and certainly no cancer can diminish the fact that you are a wonderful person, and you’re still alive. Thank you.

  16. That is awesome! So is the fact that you’re done with your treatment. 

    If he were to make those on a larger scale (and at a reasonable price), I would buy them for every single one of my patients…every damn one. Even the ones who don’t “win.” I’m not kidding. Tell him to get the MakerBot cranking.

  17. Made this cancer bi-athlete (Cut, Burn), cry. 

    I don’t think I deserve a medal (mine was a walk by comparison), but I did get a certificate of participation/completion: the one line “clear/negative” on my final CT assessment. Maybe I should frame it, you’re giving me ideas.

    You have great friends Xeni. 

  18. great job, my friend. i give you a medal for your unflinching honesty, for never forgetting others who are going through the same or worse. you have kept your heart big and whole through this whole ordeal, which speaks volumes about the astonishingly beautiful quality of your character.

    love, CB

  19. Join the club, girl! I just hit my 5 year post-treatment anniversary this month. I’m off the Arimidex. Life is good!

  20. Xeni,

    One of my best friend’s wife is going through Stage 3 treatment now, while also dealing with 2 small children (4 and 6) and pretty much being told that she WILL lose her job once she uses up all of her sick days.  Oh yeah, she also had treatment interruptions because she got strep from her 6-year old, and also had to suspend treatment when the 4 year old brought lice into the house on her first day of Pre-K (got sent home) and they had to use the stupid-strong topical in the house to get rid of them.  The only silver lining, as she wryly noted, was that she herself had already lost all her hair and therefore wasn’t harboring…

    Is there a snowman’s chance in Hell, perhaps, that one could purchase these medals with the proceeds going to a “friends and family” support group of some sort?  There are days when she just needs help, and her hubby-my pal–is dangerously close to using up all of his sick days and FMLA time dealing with all of this.  If he loses his job, the whole crew is fucked seventeen ways to Sunday.

    Congratulations for reaching the end of your own road through Hades, may you never, ever have to revisit it ever ever again.

  21. Xeni, you are amazing. Courage and determination are two traits you’ve always had.. among many others that make you the incredible sister I love so much.  Congratulations on making it through this incredible trial of endurance.. I wish you strength and love and health from here on out – keep winning Xeni! 

  22. Congratulations on making it through treatment. I hope you stay in remission for a long, long time. 

    I love the medal, too. Science deserves way more credit than prayer for your current good health, as I gently remind anyone who ever brings up prayer in front of me as a cure for cancer.

  23. Im so happy to hear that Xeni, keep on kickin’ Cancers fucked up ass!

    My sweet friend, Dessi, just lost this sunday: Fuck You, Cancer!

  24. I read recently about “SuperSnöret” (loosely translated, “the Super String”) that the Swedish Childhood Cancer Foundation is giving to children under cancer treatment. The children receives a new bead representing every treatment, chemo, x-ray etc. that they go through.

    Swedish version:

    Google translated version:

  25. Holy cow. I was absolutely blown away by the giving of this gift and how eloquently you summed up your experiences. Keep on kicking ass and taking names. You’ve sure inspired me to do the same!

  26. Oh My God, I love your blog and sooo dig that medal. I blog about cancer and the crappiness of it too, and really about the part two of it…where you are. You keep going girl, one day this will seem smaller, I promise, but it will. Granted, I am six years out, but you do get there and go “damn, I did it.”


  27. Another weepy commenter here. I am so proud of you for making it through treatment with grace, humor and honesty. Your struggle has touched me very deeply and knowing that you are (mostly) on the other side is a joy. Keep fighting, Xeni. You’ve got a great family, great friends, and lots of faceless Internet folks behind you… nothing can stop you now.

  28. I love your medal, and your spot-on description of the breast cancer experience (8 months down Tamoxifen Highway I have developed an antipathy to the word ‘journey’!). Wishing you strength for the next chapter. I was given a ukulele after finishing active treatment, and am determined to learn to play the hell out of it. Sending you the (lopsided) wave of a sista from Darwin, Australia….

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