Published on April 20, 2020
- Using your time and talents to help others may help you find solace and a renewed purpose when coping with a cancer diagnosis.
- Unleashing your creativity through writing, acting and other artistic outlets may provide mental and emotional clarity.
- To hear more of Judith’s story, visit Welcome to the Cancer Café on YouTube.
“Performing my story has allowed me to give back, to educate, to maintain those roles that I lost when I had to go out on disability,” says Judith C., who was working as a physical therapist when she was diagnosed with multiple myeloma. After making the transition from healthcare provider to cancer patient, she surprised herself by making yet another transition—from patient to performer.
Watch as Judith shares the story of how an email from a friend led her to the acting stage, where she now uses humor and creativity to cope with her cancer diagnosis while educating, inspiring and entertaining others.
This is Part III of a three-part series. Watch the previous videos in the series at Thriving With Multiple Myeloma: Judith’s Story, Part I and From Provider to Patient: Judith’s Story, Part II.
Transcript | From Patient to Performer Judith’s Myeloma Story Part III
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Hi, my name is Judith C., and this is my second video with Patient Power. In this discussion, I'm going to talk about how I ended up going from patient to performer, having never had any experience at all, really writing or acting. A friend of mine randomly sent me an email, what the class called therapeutic storytelling. I was the only person in there who had cancer, but somehow working through what was going on, having to write it and having to perform it, started to give me a direction, a way to sort of handle what I was doing.
While I had been working as a physical therapist, I was an educator and, of course, a caregiver, performing my story has allowed me to give back, to educate, to maintain those roles that I lost so much when I had to go out on disability. It helps me make meaning of life, connecting with the audiences emotionally and being vulnerable. It's a give and take. What's most important about this show that I could call Welcome to the Cancer Cafe, is that it's written for medical providers, caregivers, those with devastating news like cancer and the general population. When I'm able particularly to perform for medical providers, after the show, they share how much they laughed and cried, how surreal it was for them to be reminded of the impact they can have on a person with cancer, the importance of the difference in power dynamics and how sensitive and in what ways they can be sensitive.
From caretakers, I often heard they were liberated from wondering if they had done enough or done the right thing. When I perform at places like transplant congresses, people come up to me laughing, crying, telling me that it's not their story, but how much they could relate. In fact, once a woman emailed me shortly after the show that her decision to not have a stem cell transplant was something she struggled with until she saw my show, and she realized that it was the right decision for her. For the general audience, we all have to make decisions, often tough ones. And a young artist came up to me, a young woman and said that her life had changed since she saw the show, because just thinking about decisions was clearer for her.
Another thing that happens when I was working creatively on the show is that I learned that there's always a little more truth when you're writing. You can always go deeper. And that truth telling also helped me to stay clearer through all the parts of my journey with myeloma, diagnosis, decision to have the stem cell transplant. My mother, who I was extremely close with actually dying the day I engrafted, we were 3,000 miles away, both dealing with the precipice of life and death together. These amazingly strong experiences and emotions, I got to write into this play.
I learned that when you write a performance that you need to take care of the audience, that you need to have enough humor to be able to also share the harder realities. And that's true also for living with my multiple myeloma, having enough humor and also having the space to discuss the harder realities. My superpowers are really about staying in the present, having all my feelings, not just denying the hard things, not just making fun all the time, but balancing that. I've realized recently that writing and performing this piece, is also a little bit like leaving a legacy. It's in a way that my close and far community can hear my voice, to know how I was thinking and feeling, and how important it remained for me to help educate and level the playing field for other patients with devastating news. Many people, I find that being creative after a diagnosis like this is helpful. I had no idea. If you even think this is something that could help you, reach out, find a way to be creative. And thanks for watching my video.
Recommended for You
- Thriving With Multiple Myeloma: Judith's Myeloma Story Part I
- From Provider to Patient: Judith's Myeloma Story Part II
- What's Important for Patients With Myeloma