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My Alter Ego

Jahcobie Cosom, 27, was diagnosed with Stage 4 Nasopharyngeal at 19. He is a writer, filmmaker and arts educator who holds two commendations from the City of Los Angeles where he is based. He’s a native of Boston, raised in the Dorchester/Roxbury communities. He is a "Sambassador" for The Samfund and loves having a cancer community. Jahcobie’s film work has been on Comcast on-demand, and his play "Qui'Mo Chic" has been developed in Boston and Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

So there I was at 19-years-old, in my hometown of Boston, sitting inside a blank white room

waiting to find out why I had been passing out or why my nose would randomly bleed or why I’d become a vampire with my new-found sensitivity to sunlight. I couldn’t move my neck and it felt as if every moment I was a stiff piece of winter ice and people were stepping on my head and neck during rush hour racing to work. It was toward the end of my freshman year of college at CalArts, and I was annoyed because I had to fly home a month before finals for aggressive testing. Plus, all the best parties happen either at the end or beginning of semesters!

The door opens, and out hops and wobbles (literally) a really cute guy on crutches, trying to

manage a binder full of loose papers. I burst out in laughter as his cheeks turn rosy red and

when he finally makes it to his seat I clap. Back then I really had no filter. He bursts into laughter with me and comments on my sense of humor. My father sits stiffly beside me and suddenly the doctor’s laughing stops abruptly as he looks through loose notes. He stares at the paper a bit longer and in one moment the air goes stale in the room. He explains he’s filling in for another doctor and in the same breath he murmurs, “You have Stage 4 Nasopharyngeal Cancer,” and my dad lunges right into questions. I just knew that I must’ve heard him wrong. He repeats it, while looking at me, and honestly I just kept thinking how cute he was! He repeats and I’m so far stuck in my head thinking about our first date -- Is he an Aquarium guy or stroll-through-city-lights kind of guy or maybe experimental Jazz?

“You have Stage 4 Nasopharyngeal Cancer” -- with these very words my alter ego, “CoCo” was born. CoCo is fierce, smart, sassy and flirty. Jahcobie was the one who had to process the

hundreds of hours he spent in the hospital. Jahcobie was the one that got his hopes up when

his medical team told him that he might be able to take a day off from infusion (but it would

never happen).

During my chemo rounds, where I had to spend a week, 24 hours a day, getting chemo pumped into me, CoCo was the one who had dance parties in the cancer ward, or invited his friends to come and do a cancer fashion show with him down the halls. CoCo was the one who was having a photoshoot when the nurses would come in to change a bag, or give meds or just wanted a good laugh. CoCo was protection: Jahcobie was a wilting flower; CoCo was the one sprinkling glitter on the wilting flower and letting him know that he was strong.

Jahcobie was the one who loved listening to stories of others in the infusion center -- the heiress who inherited everything from her late husband who was a diamond broker but used to be a ballerina, or Harry who was a furniture maker and a war veteran that was a history buff, or Bill who had lost his wife to cancer and volunteered in the Cancer Center.

CoCo was the one who the grumpy nurse always had a “talk” with because he/she organized an impromptu comedy circle when we would find out another one of us died last night. CoCo loved imagining that he was the diamond heiress who went to the cabaret and sang with a Cruella Deville cigarette extender, wearing the perfect shade of red. CoCo emerged at every letdown or heartbreak.

After I was declared cancer-free, my survivorship doctor told both Jahcobie and CoCo to start

thinking about gratitude. When all the treatment was done and I walked out of Cedars Sinai with my radiation cast I sat in my car and I put on a rock & roll song, blasting it through the parking lot. A few weeks later, back at CalArts, I handed in my final assignment which was a play I wrote all throughout my cancer treatment -- this was Jahcobie and CoCo on pages. It would eventually turn into my play “QUI’MO (chemo) Chic.”

A package arrived sometime during my transition back to life -- I opened it and it was my new license plate that read “<3 JACOCO,” reminding me that the greatest gift I can give is self-love with some fierceness on the rim. When all was said and done, I realized that my flower had grown into a garden when it died. I am as much of CoCo as CoCo is me.

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