From Stage IV to Center Stage
For many, cancer is a death sentence. But for Denise DeSimone, it was a chance to live a better, more fulfilling life.
An active and healthy 49-year-old, DeSimone suddenly faced the threat of having only three months to live when she was diagnosed with stage IV throat and neck cancer. While most would start naming beneficiaries, DeSimone named her cancer and gave it permission to teach her the lessons she needed to learn.
"The presence of cancer was the best present I ever received," said DeSimone. "Befriending my cancer as opposed to battling it was critical to my overall health. The world is constantly waging war on so many fronts, from drugs and poverty to AIDS and terrorism - I knew that waging a war with something that was already raging within me would be ludicrous."
She recounts her journey of courage, strength and deep spirituality in her new memoir, From Stage IV to Center Stage, to empower readers to find the opportunities in their struggles and turn pain into purpose.
During rigorous treatments of both traditional and alternative medicine - in addition to regular doses of self-love - DeSimone vowed that should she live, she would use her life to inspire others. And she's done just that: Although the semi-professional singer was told she may never sing again, just 22 months after diagnosis, she sang the National Anthem before a sell-out crowd of 35,000 Boston Red Sox fans at Fenway Park. One month later, she pedaled 87 miles in one day to raise money for children's cancer research.
Bernie Siegel, MD, author of Love, Medicine & Miracles, praises DeSimone: "Reading this book can be a guide for anyone facing one of life's difficulties. If you have the courage and are willing to show up for practice and not fear change and failure, then let this book become your coach and guide you to a healed life."
Says reader Jack Santos, "The richness of life comes through as DeSimone describes her journey in a way that makes it a lesson for us all. The lessons in this book are ones worth sharing with the world, whether you are a cancer survivor or not: Stay present to love. What a present this book is."
Denise DeSimone is an ordained interfaith minister, an inspirational and motivational speaker and a singer. She is certified in multiple alternative healing modalities and is a wellness coach to cancer patients. DeSimone also created Pray Peace, a multimedia offering of personal and global peace. Currently, she resides between Greensboro, N.C., and Newburyport, Mass. This is her first book.
From Stage IV to Center Stage
Author: Denise DeSimone
Interview with Denise DeSimone
Question: Can you tell us a little bit about your story?
Denise DeSimone: My life as I knew it would never be the same. Never
I had just received the diagnosis - Stage IV throat and neck cancer.
My mind raced with thoughts of everything I ever wanted to do and didn't do. I questioned how much time I had. Most importantly, how would I share the devastating news with all those I loved so dearly?
On the physical plane my situation was very serious. On the spiritual level it was an opportunity to hold the high watch. To say I wasn't scared would be a lie. I was very scared. And, I chose faith over fear.
In my heart of hearts I knew battling with something that had already raged a mini war within me would be ludicrous. There was an opportunity in my midst - shifting the paradigm of how I and our culture perceived cancer.
Intuitively I sensed this cancer would be the most profound teacher in my life. I began a dialogue with my cancer as I would a friend. As I asked the cancer questions, I wrote down its answers. I was amazed to learn that the most important lesson that came through this exercise (from the cancer) was that self love is the most powerful medicine. My path to healing required that I love myself unconditionally. The more I loved myself, the less reason (room) there was for the cancer to stick around.
Question: What inspired you to write From Stage IV to Center Stage?
Denise DeSimone: Just eighteen months after being told I may have only three months to live, enduring rigorous treatments of radiation and chemo, being fed through a tube in my stomach for nine months, and surviving a neck dissection (a four and a half hour surgery to remove the entire left side of my neck), I became the poster child for that year's Pan Mass Challenge. The PMC, as it is affectionately called by Bostonians, is a 192 mile bicycle ride through Massachusetts. The largest athletic fund raiser in the country as it raises over thirty million dollars annually for children's cancer research. After registering to participate as a rider the executive team at the PMC got wind of my story. They were intrigued with my approach to cancer; befriend - don't battle your cancer. I embraced my cancer as a teacher, mentor and sage. I learned that self love was the best medicine of all. As I recounted my story with the PMC, they wanted to share it in a public way in newspapers across the state of Massachusetts as a way to inspire people and also use my story as a way to increase fund raising.
As our relationship grew the executive team at the PMC discovered I was a semi-professional singer who was warned by my team of doctors that I might never sing again. But the reality was
I could sing and my voice grew stronger with each passing day. I was invited to sing the National Anthem before a sell out crowd of 35, 000 Red Sox fans on July 14, 2007 at Fenway Park in Boston. The Boston Red Sox are the presenting sponsor for the PMC. The media frenzy spanned several New England states with, of course, a heavy focus in Boston. It accomplished exactly what they intended, it inspired thousands and thousands of people as well as raising thousands of dollars for this great cause.
From that moment on I was contacted by people all over the county as I became their real-life inspiration. The nationally syndicated show Inside Edition asked me to do a segment for them when Michael Douglas was diagnosed. People from all pockets of my life continually encouraged me to share my story in an even more public way by writing the book.
Question: You've said "The presence of cancer was the best present I ever received" can you please explain what you mean by this quote?
Denise DeSimone: Cancer was a gift to me. It was an invitation to take a closer walk with God. The presence of cancer allowed me to investigate places within me that required a deeper level of healing. During challenging times in our lives we often approach these situations from a victim standpoint. I felt it was easier and much more peaceful to approach this challenge from a place of inquiry. Look at this as a gift that I could open and learn more about who I am.
Interview by Brooke Hunter