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. She is an unlikely survivor, at least according to her doctors. What is presented in The Actual Dance is the story of that experience from my perch. The husband. A man whose experience with breast cancer has been that it never turns out well. Moreover, death has been somewhat of a constant companion in my life. My memory of loss goes back to when I was 4 years old, with grandparents, aunts, uncles and siblings, as well as parents, being lost to various diseases, but mostly cancer. My reaction to Susan’s diagnosis in retrospect is not surprising. Of course, in my mind, it never was going to end well. But I’m getting a little ahead of the story.
Day 7: Who do you call? Yesterday I outlined the moment we got the bad news – the area on Susan’s right breast that her internist and the breast surgeon who did the biopsy both thought was “just plain old scare tissue.” It turns out instead to be stage-three breast cancer. I ultimately call it “stage three cubed” because there are three different aspects that would themselves qualify for stage three.
And I go “dark.” In my head I “know” what the diagnosis means. Susan’s mother died from metastasized breast cancer at age 56, Susan is 54. “I understand the outcome is inevitable.” Susan, you will learn in future post has the opposite view, but then this play—this story – is about the journey of “the other person at the table.” We don’t show it, we don’t say it and yet we are much more likely to go there, quickly. “She’s going to die” What am I going to do?
So, now what? Who do you call first?
Our first call was to our Reform Jewish Temple. We had been active members for 27 years. Indeed both Susan and I had been president of the Congregation. Temple Rodef Shalom. While I made the call, once we were transferred to the clergy person on call, our Cantor, I lost my voice. “I couldn’t talk. I couldn’t say ‘the words.’” I had to turn the phone over to Susan who “calmly and matter-of-factly told him about the diagnosis and that she would be having surgery.”
That call triggered a protocol at the Temple that alerted a committee that offers to support to us and our family.
Where do you turn for comfort and support?
Stats of the Day: As of January 2018, there are more than 3.1 million women with a history of breast cancer in the U.S. This includes women currently being treated and women who have finished treatment.
Task of the Day: With the focus this month on “the other person in the room”, my suggestion is to use today to check out the community resources that might be available to you – the “other person.” Many churches and synagogues have support groups for breast cancer, though they usually are for the women. Talk to the person who manages that program and ask about starting a “men’s group” or a “partner’s group.” You can start here.
Resources of the Day: If you are Jewish, check out Sharasheret, an organization dedicated to the support of younger Jewish women with breast cancer. Most churches and synagogues have programs and resources for members going through serious illness. You can also check out Health Care Chaplain resources, like this one for Catholics. Here is a link to a Health Care Chaplain Network
The Actual Dance: Performances. Donate.