How Ellen Became My Person After My Breast Cancer Diagnosis

This month, a dream of mine came true. I was in the same room as Ellen DeGeneres (along with about 20,000 others). Before Ellen appeared on stage at her A Conversation with Ellen DeGeneres in Toronto, a video introduction came on the jumbotron. But for Ellen fans like myself, the information wasn’t new (I had seen most, if not all, the clips before), yet I still got teary eyed. That is the effect Ellen has on me – she makes me cry and laugh at the same time. She feels like home in such a comforting way.

When I saw that she was coming to Toronto I HAD to get tickets. Last year when I was in California, I was crushed at not winning the lottery for tickets to The Ellen DeGeneres Show (I may have cried). This time I was determined to see her live and I wasn’t alone. There were so many other cancer survivors posting on social who were there too. Ellen even mentioned a fellow breastie who she met before the show. It seems we all need a break from our cancer reality and found a common solace with our larger-than-life best friend who most of us haven’t actually met.

My love for Ellen started when she released her stand-up special Here and Now and her book, The Funny Thing Is… back in 2003. Me and my four sisters watched her special together and each read her book. We all would be crying from laughing so hard. There isn’t a day that I don’t think about at least one of her jokes from Here and Now because they are so relatable, from the pickle jar claw, which is very different from the public toilet-paper claw, to the slight jog you take right after you trip so no one thinks you actually tripped. I can still watch that special and laugh like I did the first time.

I have been a fan of her talk show since the very beginning, but I didn’t catch it often because of the daytime schedule. Then I was diagnosed with breast cancer and suddenly had tons of time to watch daytime TV. Ellen became part of my daily ritual. She would make me laugh every day even when no one else in my life could. It was an escape from reality of the pain, sadness and frustration of a cancer diagnosis and treatment. Her show was so versatile and something anyone could enjoy, and it became an ice breaker of sorts, when visitors would stop by throughout my treatment. After I was diagnosed with cancer, I invested in a PVR (seriously one of the best decisions I made!) and set it up to automatically record every new episode of Ellen. Since being back at work I haven’t been able to stay on top of five new episodes a week (I have over 100 episodes recorded) but I can’t bring myself to delete them! I’ll get through them eventually.

When I was going through treatment, I was secretly hoping one of my sisters would write into Ellen to get me tickets to her show (and obviously I would get to meet her). It was this alternate fun reality to think about during such a hard time where I would picture what I’d do if I was ever in attendance. I want to think that I’d keep my cool and not be one of those people who cries uncontrollably when she comes out, but who am I kidding? I know I would. Just the thought of being at her show makes me feel so excited. Hopefully I’ll get a chance before she retires.

I don’t know how to sum up my love for Ellen eloquently but if I ever get the opportunity to meet her I’d say, “Thank you for being by my side throughout the hardest years of my life. You were a constant presence when there was nothing in my control. You made my laugh every day and gave me so much joy in just an hour. Thank you for being an amazing role model for how to live life to the fullest.” Emily Piercell

Emily Piercell is the Programs Coordinator at Rethink Breast Cancer, where she helps plan and execute Rethink’s educational and support programs. She also manages the Give-A-Care line and regularly contributes to the Rethink blog. Diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015, Emily was introduced to Rethink through the summer retreat, Stretch Heal Grow, where she fell in love with the organization.

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