I had fought many health battles already by the time I was diagnosed with breast cancer in March 2022. While making the movie The Warrior Queen of Jhansi, I’d fallen ill with swine influenza on the last day of the shoot in the Moroccan cold desert! I pushed so hard to keep the movie on schedule and on budget that by the end of filming, I needed the assistance of life support at NYU. I recovered and Drs considered my survival nothing short of a miracle but all I recall was thinking of editing my film with no time to allow the curtain to come down, though the impacts on my health were long-lasting. However, I just kept moving forward and doing things I needed to do––there was no other option, really.
A Warrior Queen must fight many battles, and for some of us, breast cancer becomes one of those battles. It was yet another thing that I needed to deal with while I did all the other things that needed dealt with, too. My mother at 89 years fell ill with COVID-19 before my diagnosis, and I still needed to care for her health following her recovery. We had just launched the Warrior Queen Project and there was so much to do. There was no opportunity to slow down and solely focus on this diagnosis.
I took inspiration from my friend, Urvashi Vaid. She was a prolific LGBTQ rights activist and a powerhouse lawyer. It seemed she was unstoppable. But those who knew her knew her fight against first thyroid cancer and then the breast cancer that ultimately took her life. Yet she just got up every day and did big things. Many have commented that you cannot talk about the legacy of LGBTQ activism in America without mentioning her. Cancer didn’t take away her ability to make positive change. Her legacy reminds us that our only limitations are ones we put on ourselves, and it’s often because we are comparing our circumstances to another.
It’s incredibly vulnerable to tell these stories about our sicknesses. No one wants to be the poster child for being sick. We all want to appear as though we are invincible, or always having a good time, or always successful. But we have to tell them because we all go through it, in some form. As a Warrior Queen, I’m determined to not only fight my cancer, but to fight the impression that to do anything we must do it without suffering.
By the time you die, you will have had some health issues. You’re never going to find a life that’s perfect, no one else has a clear path. We are what we make of life. So while undergoing treatment, I continued to take enjoy life by taking care of my mother, my family and embraced life with both arms. I continued to advocate for women and girls through this Warrior Queen Project and the expansion into classes at the University of Nevada Las Vegas.
We’re all in the melting pot together and someone else may have what you want but you don’t know what they’re going through. Keep reminding people to stop comparing yourself with any single person, compare yourself to yourself. Whether it’s your healing or your productivity or your ability to take care of others, you are the only person you need to look to because you are the only person who you know exactly what you’re going through and what you’ve been through. We find it easy to discriminate against one another because we think someone else has all the advantages. Yet we are all fighting our own battles.
Support others on their journey, but don’t compare yourself to them. They are Warrior Queens fighting battles all their own that they may never tell you about.
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