Improvisational Theater

Monday, March 17, 2014

Navigating CANCER: The Ultimate Improvisation

 Star date: Monday - February 10th, 2014 10:00 am PST
I noticed a lump in my right breast while showering.


Star date: February 14th, 2014 (Valentines day) 10:45 am PST
Nurse practitioner: "I'm concerned and am sending you for a mammogram, right now."


5:30 pm PST-
Radiologist: "This is cancer we're looking at. 99% positive."


Star date: Monday February 17th, 2014 8:45 am PST
Oncologist: "You have an aggressive form of Breast Cancer. We need to begin treatment promptly."


In retrospect, I recognize how my professional training sculpted me to best navigate those first few days. In the moment, it was all a blur. But it was a blur of YES AND's that keep me even keeled at a time when it would have been totally reasonable for me to feel otherwise. I was calm, relaxed and ready. Like walking into an improvised scene. I was listening. I was focused.  They said "cancer" and I said "how high", metaphorically. What I really said was "Okay. So I have cancer and we're going to move forward." Because I am an improviser and not an Oncologist, I couldn't make the next "move" in a give and take kind of way. It was just like being a passenger in a scene you can't quite get the direction of. You just listen and join, listen and follow, listen and join. And that's what I did. There is no blocking, "you have cancer". You can't say, "No! You have Cancer." or "Not anymore. Wanna ride bikes." or "You're crazy. Time for your pills." You just HAVE TO accept it. Then you have to join the action, (period). The more one flails about trying to negate the cancer offer, the further one dips into delay, idling, stalling or regulating. None of those things are useful. None of those things move you forward. This was a case of first accepting, THEN understanding my role and not vice verse. Blind trust. This was a scene wherein I seemingly had no power, but only seemingly. As we improvisers know, there is an immense power in relaxed readiness. There is an ultimate power in following, joining, supporting and trusting. Without those skills I could have spiraled into doubt and fear, questioning, irrational thinking, irresponsible action...etc. This is not to say I didn't experience strong emotional reactions. I did. A lot. But I did so with my mind and body tuned into the moment. I reacted authentically to each offer, one at a time and was surprisingly able to keep myself from leaping, lurching into fantasies of impending doom, invented dangers or any other world of tomorrows. I have always know that the work I do is life affirming. I have long known that the necessary skills of improvisation translate loudly to the necessary skills for life. They teach balance like nothing else can. I am so grateful to the work I do, so thankful for its gifts.
In this time, Star Date: Monday, March 17, 2014 8:00 am PST,
I am an Improviser to my core. An Improviser who will beat Cancer without losing focus, without losing spirit, without losing myself.


Nyla McCarthy said...

Thoughtful analysis, Domeka! And what a healthy way to chart your progress through the forthcoming "acts". I am impressed with your attitude and your spirit as you move forward through this adventure. I send you light for when yours seems to fade a bit and seek bolstering. Thank you for sharing with us all.

Carla Balch said...

Domeka, Thanks for your articulate and create approach to dealing with this challenge. That is all this is...something to climb over, eventually stand on top of and throw your hands high in the air to declare, "The view from up here is spectacular." Best wishes and I'll follow your posts.