Sunday, February 15, 2009

Cancer makes you brave

Is it true that cancer makes you brave, even after treatment is over?

Maybe it's because of all of those "You are so brave and courageous" notes I received during treatment. Like a fledgling Hollywood actress, I may have fallen into the trap of believing my own press.

Maybe, but I think that illness and cancer force many of us to ask, "What's the worst thing that can happen?" When the answer is humiliation, heartbreak or failure and not death, well, shucks, anything seems doable.

BC (before cancer) would I have enrolled in an improv class? Hell, no. But when I "won" a class, donated by Bobbi Oliver, at the Hillsides Volunteer League's annual silent auction at Pasadena's Ice House, I signed up. And then I actually went to class.

One of the first lessons by our instructor, veteran improv teacher John Fontaine, was, "Don't worry about doing it well. Just do it." It's surprisingly liberating to hear these words. When I fail to follow them and try to be funny, I flounder, flop or freeze. When I pull a Nike and just do it, it somehow works. Sometimes.

I've gone from having hives to having fun. And there's nothing like the little high I get after I realize I've nailed a scene.

I'm still working on that one-woman show (Big C, Little C) and hope that this class will help my stage presence, confidence and timing. I'm even thinking about signing up for Bobbie's stand-up comedy class. Now that scares me. But not to death.


altadenahiker said...

I often wondered what one could gain from that kind of true perspective. I mean, I've heard some people have died from choking rather than risk embarassment. So, so, you're one step ahead of many of us.

Susan C said...

Then there are the more mundane tugs of war, like vanity vs. frugality vs. humiliation. It was a horse race, but vanity won.

susiegb said...

Yeah, I think maybe it does. About it forcing you to ask 'what's the worst that can happen?'

I've certainly done things that I would have found hard to do before. However, I'm not sure about enrolling in a class like that (or considering doing a one-woman show!) That might well be a bridge too far.

Actually, I know what would DEFINITELY be too difficult. And that's skydiving! The idea of stepping out of a plane, thousands of feet up in the air, relying on some parachute cloth is just laughable to me!!

Good on you though - look forward to hearing more about your stage adventures!!

Paula L. Johnson said...

FYI, it's the Hillsides Volunteer Network and we could use additional members!

I told Susan that I plan to woo her away from the Hillsides Guild and into the HVN. She attended the Ice House event last fall, so my evil plan is working.

Nelle said...

I first had cancer at 23 and at that time the fear of leaving my son who was three and perhaps him not remembering me was my main focus. A few years later when it sunk in that I was going to survive, I began to embrace life once again and I found joy in the little things. No one could understand what was happening to me. At that time cancer patients were told not to get to know other cancer patients because if they did poorly it would be too hard for you. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer so many years later it was totally different. I had the internet and was able to research and "talk" with others going through this and it made it so much easier. Cancer taught me to appreciate every minute of every day. To be compassionate to others and to LIVE with joy. You get it and knowing that helps me.

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