The Actual Dance is a play that presents the events of the year 2000 from the point of view of the spouse of the woman going through breast cancer. From diagnosis to her life as a survivor, Susan Simon, my wife has endured. An unlikely survivor. The Actual Dance is the story of that experience from my perch. The husband. This the 4th year of my October daily blogs, my focus is a bit more on myself
Day 22: Going Dark. “Dr. Blonder comes back to tell us that he has found a lump on Susan’s chest at the incision point [of the mastectomy] and it needs to be looked at right away!
During our first post mastectomy visit to the oncologist Susan picked, I made a snap decision to be in the exam room as the oncologist performed his first post-surgery exam. It was very “weird” watching as another man put his hands on Susan’s bare chest. I had not anticipated my reaction. Of course there was just this set of long, stitched incisions.
In the middle of his examination: “All of a sudden he stops. He does a military style about-face and walks to the opposite wall and picks up the phone.”
He has called Susan’s surgeon to make an appointment for her (us) for the next day to check out a lump he just felt on Susan’s chest at the lip of incision tissue from the double mastectomy. There is NOT supposed to be a lump on Susan’s chest post-surgery. Hell, there wasn’t even a lump pre-surgery, just cancerous breast tissue. Dr. Blonder is clearly not happy. Nobody, not the oncologist and not the surgeon and not me, is happy.
It is as if the lights of the future have just been flipped off. I can’t see the future anymore. I look out in my mind’s eye and everything is black. I understand in a different way the aphorisms of “putting one foot in front of the other” or “one day at a time,” it is because I can’t see beyond each step any more or each day. It is just all dark.
Stat of the Day: The National Cancer Institute spends more on Breast Cancer Research than on any other type of cancer. In 2017 it spent $545,149,951 on breast cancer research compared to $250 million on leukemia research, the next highest category.
Task of the Day: Finding peace in the moment of stress is not easy. “Take a Breath” is the advice given often. This task is about mindfulness in the moment. Developing techniques to deal with the “dark moments.” The task is brought to mind by an article in the Washington Post about the growing popularity of mindfulness as a strategy during the morning commute. And isn’t the breast cancer journey also like a commute – getting from here to there.
Resource of the Day: Carol Fox Prescott has taught me for nearly 15 years as an acting coach, teacher and mentor. Her method is known as “On the Breath.” I am lucky to have found fellow student Gabrielle Maisels to be my dramaturg in creating The Actual Dance and who also now teaches the technique. I recommend the process not just as a tool for acting, but a tool for living. There is no better gift than breath and unwrapping that gift is what learning how to breathe through the most important times of our lives is about.
The Actual Dance: Performances Donate