Courtesy: Ethan Zohn
Courtesy: Ethan Zohn
Ethan Zohn's body may still be fighting the battle of its life, but his spirit remains indomitable. And the same goes for his girlfriend, Jenna Morasca.
"It is really amazing that he can tackle these challenges in an inspirational way and stay strong and positive," his longtime love and fellow Survivor winner said in an interview Thursday with E! News. "But, we all have our moments. Not every moment is positive. Some days he will look out the window and wonder, Why?'...But he is really remarkable that he handles it in such a positive way."
And they're both still pretty convinced that the Kardashians cure cancer.
"Both of us wouldn't be able to power through this without the constant reminder of all the people who have supported us from the very beginning until today," Morasca said.
"The people who take time out of their day to tweet us and post comments...I cannot begin to explain. Even the Kardashians, they have been so sweet and great through all of this. Whenever Ethan is sick we watch the Kardashians. We believe that the Kardashians cure cancer."
She and Zohn are hoping that the stem-cell transplant he received from his brother yesterday is going to do its fair share, too. The procedure itself was fairly "anticlimatic," Morasca says, noting that the process is "more emotionally and psychologically draining" than anything else.
Morasca says that Zohn will be in "the Bubble"—their affectionate nickname for his hyper-sterilized hospital room—for at least another four to six weeks so that his immune system remains uncompromised.
Of course, she adds, Zohn's doctor told him that one guy made it out of "the Bubble" in 24 days, so he's "determined to beat that record. That is the competitive side in him."
But "this is the moment we have been waiting for," Morasca says. "It's all been building up to this. The transplant was the goal of the treatment. We hope that these stem cells mean we don't have to deal with cancer again."
Zohn, who conquered Survivor: Africa in 2001 and started seeing Morasca shortly after her Survivor: The Amazon victory in 2003, was first diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma in April 2009. He started chemotherapy immediately and, though he wasn't out of the woods that year, received a clean CT scan the following April. Last September, however, the cancer came back.
"Now that he has been infused with the stem cells, they will set up shop in his bones and organs," Morasca continues. "The doctors are waiting to ensure that his body accepts the stem cells. When he gets his counts back up, then we can go home. But, it will be like Ethan is a newborn baby. He can't go in to crowds and he will be on a special diet. So, right now we are just watching and waiting."
They've been watching and waiting as a team for some time now. We had to ask how Morasca copes with being in school (she's getting her master's in psychology at Columbia) and, not only caring for a loved one, but also dealing with the emotional roller coaster of seeing Zohn go through his battle.
"We have always taken the stance that we are going to make cancer our bitch," she says brightly. "We try to find humor in everything." The Bubble, for instance, "is a he." (And yes, it has its own Twitter account, @EthansBubble.)
"I am coping with this the best I can," Morasca says. "Today, I posted on Facebook all my caretaker duties, just kidding around. And then I looked and was like, ‘Holy crap!' I do have a lot on my plate. But you do what you have to do."
Plus, up until the transplant, Zohn—who ran the New York City Marathon in November, FTW—had been practicing yoga, lifting weights and otherwise staying in shape. All things that Morasca believes will help him get out of the hospital faster.
"This might sound corny, but the first thing I want to do is just hold hands," she says. "Since we got to the hospital we have only been able to touch with gloves on. To be able to lie in our own bed, in our own space. I plan on filling the house with blue and green"—said to be healing colors—"and balloons and make it a happy healing space."
But don't her fears or exhaustion ever get the best of her?
"For Ethan, the hardest part would be fighting for the ultimate prize, which is being able to live," Morasca says resolutely. "The hardest part for me is to try and maintain a relationship in the midst of a war. It is hard at times to remain caring and considerate and to keep perspective.
"I am trying to make sure when all of this is over that Ethan and I are in the best place. That I put in the work and that he put in the work, even when it was exhausting. My goal is to start our lives together. Am I scared and nervous and anxious? Yes!
"Am I scared he is going to die? Not in the slightest."