Nick P. Ross is a writer, actor, comedian and film-maker. In 2007, at the age of 26, Nick was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma. He returned home to Denver for treatment and, mid-way through eight months of chemotherapy, he took to the stage at a local comedy club to perform ten minutes of stand-up. He had them introduce him as 'Nick, with cancer', so that the audience didn't think he was bald by choice. A positive reaction from the room and a feeling that young adults with cancer were being underserved inspired him to write more about all that he was going through.
Despite advances in medicine and increasing survival rates, negative connotations around the 'c' word continue to linger and confronting such a severe illness when you are young can be quite isolating. You perhaps don't have a steady partner, your friends can't relate, and you want to spare your family from having to hear about the more excruciating aspects of treatment. People often feel alone at the very time they need the most support and it is this Nick hopes his work will help to change. By approaching the subject with candour and humour, he intends to demystify the disease, not just for new patients but for their friends and families, too.
His latest project, Highly Evolved Human, is a series of short films about the specific challenges young adults face upon being diagnosed with cancer. Each story is informed by Nick's personal experiences.
Nick has been in remission for six years now. I spoke to him about how he stays happy and healthy.
YOU CAN FIND MORE EPISODES OF HIGHLY EVOLVED HUMAN HERE
WHAT IS YOUR FOOD PHILOSOPHY?
I love food. I'd say I'm a 'fresh foodist'. I like simple, well-prepared food. I don't eat fast food or anything you have to microwave. That started well before cancer (I can thank my parents for that one). A lot of my eating habits are governed by balance – not eating too much of any one thing. I think the uber-healthy are sometimes as imbalanced at uniformed eaters. I'm turned off by absolutist philosophies or exclusionary diets. Food is great; eat it with respect and integrity.
A DISH YOU COOK FROM SCRATCH:
I make quinoa and bean bowls with sautéed veggies and sometimes fish. Cilantro. Salsa. So good and so easy.
SOMETHING THAT IS ALWAYS IN YOUR FRIDGE:
Almond butter. I eat spoonfuls all the time.
BEST MEAL YOU'VE EVER HAD:
I've had a lot of incredible meals. I just thought of one I had a Baco Mercat that involved duck on a waffle, bone marrow and really good veggies. Also, I have a soft spot for fresh Italian food – crudo, fresh pasta, branzino, olive oil cake. Oh man.
WHERE OR WHEN WERE YOU HAPPIEST?
Ha! I've been happy a lot. I've lived in lots of places and had great loves. It's all the best.
FUNNIEST PERSON YOU KNOW:
Ooh, this one's tough. I came up in the comedy scene in New York City. I performed all the time at the UCB Theatre. Maybe Thomas Middleditch. He's been a friend for a long time and we used to perform improv a lot together. He's insanely funny to me.
WHAT DO YOU DO TO RELAX?
I hang out in sweat pants and watch sports.
WHAT IS YOUR HEALTHIEST HABIT?
A BAD HABIT YOU'LL NEVER GIVE UP:
THE BOOK THAT CHANGED YOUR LIFE:
Love in the Time of Cholera
A FILM THAT LIFTS YOUR SPIRITS:
Harold and Maude
SONG YOU DANCE TO WHEN NOBODY'S WATCHING:
I'd Rather Dance with You – Kings of Convenience
YOUR FAVOURITE QUOTATION:
'Love in all solutions.' –My dad.
THE MOST IMPORTANT LESSON LIFE HAS TAUGHT YOU:
You can't always get what you want. But if you try, you might just get what you need.
YOUR ONE WEAKNESS:
Dancers. I love dancers.