Cancer, Musical Theatre & Other Chronic Illnesses

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I am currently in my 12th year of sole survivorship from a rare Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. From where my brain space landed in that time, I tend to look at cancer very differently than I did in the earlier years of surviving. I always saw ‘living to tell the tale’ as more difficult than being a patient, but now, the more removed I am from being in the hospital full-time, I can see cancer for what I really was – the best thing that ever happened to me.

First, let me elaborate on the ‘living to tell the tale is more difficult’ part. As a patient you’re often pushed and carted around from appointment to appointment, told what to do and where to be, what to eat and what not to eat, and in some instances, what you can and cannot do. Every aspect of your life is controlled, dictated, and spoon fed to you. Once you’ve gotten that coveted clean bill of health, all of that goes away and you find yourself free-falling in the abyss of a life that you no longer recognize; that is when the real hard part begins.

Now, cancer being the best thing that ever happened to me. I know! Some of you reading this might feel some indignant feelings about that phrase, and I completely understand, but hear me out. Of course cancer destroyed my body, my brain, my career, and some friendships. Yes, I was broken up with in the middle of chemo right before a stem cell transplant. Naturally I coped with booze and indiscriminate sex with strangers just to feel level, normal, and numb. Choices were made. Thankfully, I survived them all.

Yes, I spent the first three to five years of post-hospital life floundering, figuring out who I was again, what I wanted, and where I was going in life. Eventually, I got there. And I got there by brain vomiting the whole experience, including the aftermath, into a book. My book Cancer, Musical Theatre, & Other Chronic Illnesses, chronicles the WTF feelings throughout diagnosis to get-out-of-hospital-free (and not so free, as I found).

Having created something out of this dark time has given wings to my life in a way I never would have expected; I have a whole career, essentially, that centers around cancer. If you had met me back in the early years, it would have been the last thing I wanted. I never wanted to play the cancer card, I never wanted to be ‘the sick kid,’ I never wanted to spend more time talking about it then I felt I had to. But… jokes on me because now I can’t shut up about it (I promise I’m not THAT annoying about it). With that said, who knows where I’d be had none of this happened. I can only guess what my life might have been like, and to be so frank and honest with you, I don’t want that life. I like this one – the one I have now.

By: Edward Miskie