Why Would Anyone Want To Do This?

Like most cancer patients, when I was diagnosed, I was in a state of shock. I asked myself “why me?” and “how did this happen?” and I was dismayed by the knowledge that I would never actually answer these questions.

   

For Ed and me, the subsequent question then became, "how do we get through the next year?"  With two small children, no family nearby, and a lot of treatment ahead, we had to begin to confront some tough questions about our own competencies, both practical and emotional.  Looking back now, it was one of the scariest parts of the whole ordeal; the not knowing - neither outcome nor process. 

To begin, we first had to evaluate what we did know.  What we knew is that attitude would play a big part in how the year went. To that end, we knew that I do much better, at everything, when I have a plan and that I thrive when I have a project.  Finally, we knew that, probably partly due to my acting background and partly due just to my personality, I am a fairly open person, possibly to a fault.  So, we knew, in general terms that the more opportunities I had to connect with people throughout the treatment ordeal, the better I'd be.

My idea was to do a radio journal about my experience.  After coming up with the idea I immediately pitched it to producer Paul Conley at KXJZ because I thought that if I waited I might well chicken out.  Paul ran the story idea by Joe Barr, the station's news director, and they got back to me quickly with their positive response.  I was, frankly, surprised by their enthusiasm.  And then freaked out that I had really committed to doing this thing. 

What made this project possible was Paul and Joe's absolute support as well as the creative freedom they gave me to approach the project as I chose.  They met with me in Joe's office, sat with me while I cried, lent me the necessary recording equipment, and then stepped back. 

Paul and I talked only very infrequently during the year of my treatment.  Yet it was the knowledge that Paul is both a terrific editor and a truly nice guy that allowed me to be completely emotionally honest as I recorded my thoughts and experiences.  I knew that, both as a person and as a professional, he would not be judgmental and that he would respect my wishes when it came to the creation of the final piece. 

Though I didn't know it while sitting in Joe's office a year ago, it became clear to me soon after what my assignment for myself had to be: when I was most afraid, it was time to turn on the tape recorder - the first scary weeks after diagnosis, in the waiting room just before double mastectomy surgery, sitting in the infusion room chair about to receive my first dose of chemotherapy.  And then, in between, just chatting, sharing my thoughts and feelings as well as those of family, friends and doctors.  

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