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A life changing encounter

Encounters don’t have to be long to be life changing.

When I do Stages, I like to go out to the lobby immediately following the performance. Since so many people have experience with what this show is about, and considering they just spent an hour listening to me talk about my journey, I think it’s nice to be able to say hello and learn about the folks who came to see it.

Yesterday I had a performance at USC-Aiken. Grad School classmate/blog reader/sports fan/all around great person Mary Fran Crook, along with her husband Paul, and the School of Nursing, brought me in for a Saturday matinee.

I love a good matinee. I can’t think of a better way to spend an afternoon than on the stage. And then you’ve got the rest of the day to do whatever the f you want.

Yeah, matinees are the best.

Yesterday after the show, instead of heading to the lobby, I went to the dressing room. I needed some medicine for my hip. Then I took a seat, had a sip of water, and reflected on the performance. It was the first time I had told the story since September. A lot has happened since then. My breathing is way better, but my back and hip are driving me crazy. This thing can make you feel like Sisyphus, pushing the rock up the hill, only to watch it roll back down again.

Next thing I knew, ten minutes had gone by. I went to the lobby to see who was still milling about. The first person I saw was the Dean of the School of Nursing. As we were talking, this young African American woman made a beeline to me. She introduced herself, but this being right after the show, her name went in one ear and out of the other.

She was shy. Painfully shy. I could hear it in her voice. Coming up and speaking to a total stranger was not something she did on a regular basis. Or maybe not ever.

She was a survivor. She had a bout with lymphoma a couple of years ago. The treatment was a success and she hasn’t had any recurrence. A wave of jealousy swept over me. I quickly swept it under the rug.

Even though she hasn’t had a recurrence, the whole ordeal has led her down a spiral of severe depression. She talked about how she envied her classmates, living normal lives, while she sits in her room. She tries to be hopeful, but sometimes it’s too much. Religion helped her, she said, but you could tell this experience had shook her faith in even that. She talked about how she tries to put a good face on for her family, but that it’s hard. It’s really hard. She appreciated hearing me talk about it being hard too. I made a joke about how much I hated Hope Porn. She laughed. She knew exactly what I was talking about.

If you read my blog last week, I admitted that a small part of me thinks this show is trying to kill me. I obviously don’t believe that. Except for the 5% of me that does. Cancer has this strange ability to make a person feel surrounded by love and completely alone at the exact same time. There are thoughts and fears that we can’t share with any body else. Not unless they’ve been through it. I was given the gift yesterday and having something I wrote make someone feel less alone. Someone whose name I can’t even remember. And her telling me a fraction of her story made me feel less alone as well.

Barack Obama said, “We’ve all been put in a position where there’s something we can do that’s going to make a difference in someone’s life.”

I was put into her life, and she was put in mine. Proving that encounters don’t have to be long to be life changing. And that even if the show was killing me, which I know it's not, it's probably worth it.

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