What would you do if you only had a few years—or less—to live? The new documentary mini-series My Last Days, premiering on the CW August 17 through 19, takes an intimate look at the lives of terminally ill people who live life each day not knowing how much longer they will be on earth.
One subject, 25-year-old Kat Lazo, wanted to become a dance teacher before she was diagnosed with terminal gastric cancer. Lazo is an out and proud lesbian, who (and this can’t be expressed enough) loves food and lives in Las Vegas, Nevada. She spoke with Complex about her diagnosis, not fearing death, and the people who keep her going while she fights her disease.
Complex: Can you start by talking a bit about what your diagnosis and prognosis are?
Lazo: I was diagnosed with gastric cancer, which is cancer of the stomach, and at the beginning, I didn’t know what cancer was. And when they said, “You have to get treated or there’s a possibility that you could die,” it was a little extreme. Now that I know what cancer is and what it means, it was, I believe, a little extreme for them to say, because my cancer wasn’t at a bad stage. It was stage 2 cancer and then as the years went by, the cancer kept fluctuating ... So, right now, it’s a little unknown where I stand and where I’m going to move forward with it.
I don’t want a doctor to tell me how long I have or how I’m going to do because that never goes out the way that we want it to go. I’ve been told "Hey, you are doing perfectly fine, your cancer is stable," and the next thing you know I find a new tumor or there’s something wrong ... Then I’ve also been told, "Hey, you’re terminal, there’s nothing else we can do for you," and then it has completely switched around. March of this year, I was told that I was no longer terminal, which was a huge deal. But then again, two weeks ago I was told that I have a new tumor. This is not something that is certain ... So I cannot tell you what the prognosis is because there isn’t one.
Right now, I don’t care about tomorrow. I care about right now, this very moment. For me.
Can you talk about what the most challenging part of your treatment is?
The most difficult part about being sick is being constantly in pain, being limited a lot in a lot of the things I can do ... I have made the choice to have healthier eating habits; that really hurts me emotionally because I love food. I love greasy, spicy, delicious food, and the fact that I can’t have it really hurts me emotionally.
You mentioned how the pain has become normal for you, can you talk a little bit about what a “normal life” means for you and how that definition has changed over time?
When I wasn’t sick, I just kept going. And I still do, but I have all these breaks in between ... I have to stop—and it’s not that I want to stop—it’s that my body forces me to stop. And not to have control of what your body does, that sucks. That’s not having a normal life.
Has your diagnosis changed your identity at all?
Absolutely, the cancer has changed me in so many ways. Mostly spiritually and emotionally. I’ve become more aware of my life, of surroundings, of things. I listen to the signs of life, you know? Sometimes we want things right now and maybe right now is not the time for you ... I have gained this wisdom of accepting the things that are for me right now, and accepting the things that aren’t for me.
It has definitely taught me to be a little bit more patient. I’m still working on that, but I’m learning slowly how to be a little bit more patient, and be a little bit more loving and be careful with my words. Speak with petals and not with thorns, you know those kind of things ... I love the way that I have developed myself up to this point, and knowing that there’s so much more room to grow ... if it wasn’t because of the cancer, I probably wouldn’t be so aware.
Did your diagnosis change your short and/or long-term goals?
I started following my heart, I started following my gut, and I started believing that I can make these things happen. And to tell you the truth, it has affected my goals because I no longer have goals, because now I know that, if I wanna do something, I’m gonna do it ... I’m thinking way outside the box, doing things I never would have imagined.
How have your thoughts or relationship with death changed since your diagnosis?
I am not scared of death, I am happily awaiting my exit ... I know that when I go, I’m gonna be happy to go.Why? Because I have done everything here at this moment in my life now, that I could possibly do. I can leave with my heart and my mind clear that I was a good person, that I was genuine about my feelings, that I loved—I loved with every part of my soul—and that I was happy. I enjoyed the things that were a part of my life. And I might not have it all, but the things that I do have I’m very appreciative for.
I’m not ready to go yet because I know that my mom is going to have a hard time. And I still need to prepare her a little bit. Not for my death, but to continue her life ... because she is young and she is beautiful and there’s a world out there that I would love for her to see ... I know that when I die—when my body is no longer here—I know I will still be alive because my friends and my family and people that I’ve planted my seed with will keep me alive.
What would you say you spend the most time thinking about?
There’s a couple things that I spend my time thinking [about] ... I think a lot about food, I think about french fries, and I think about some frijoles and queso empanadas from this little shop downtown here in Vegas ... I think a lot about dancing. And I think about love. I think so much about love and being able to see the world with somebody that loves me unconditionally and loves me even with all of my flaws. I think a lot about that.
The cast of My Last Days is raising funds through GoFundMe for causes important to them. Click here to help Kat raise money for St. Jude’s Childrens Hospital.