…….I was diagnosed with breast cancer in October and the year got better! Well, let me clarify. Breast cancer and its treatment is no walk in the park and I am NOT glad to have it. I have, however, found an abundance of blessings and reasons for gratitude within the experience. But, let me come back to this after I review the previous parts of the year. It was a year of ‘firsts’ on all fronts.
I started out the year performing with the American Immersion Theatre, formerly known as the Murder Mystery Company. I nearly chickened out of the audition that previous Fall because improvisation and generally unscripted material scares me. However, I firmly believe that if you can’t stand discomfort now and then, you are not growing. What I found on the other side of this fear was that I AM good at it and it’s so much fun! Performing at private parties as a wide variety of over-the-top characters while making people laugh is truly a privilege. It has, without a doubt, made me a better actor and brought some beautiful humans into my life.
This gave me the courage to audition for Tony and Tina’s Wedding, an off-Broadway traveling interactive show that came to Cincinnati in the Spring. After I was cast, the director from New York informed me that my character sings a song at the wedding reception – Mambo Italiano, no less. What?!! Again, despite voice lessons and previous intentions to do musicals, I had conveniently avoided the risk of putting myself out there. I agreed, but shared my reservations. I was met with confident encouragement from him. It was followed by his public accolade to the cast at the end of the run when he pronounced, “Traci, you worried about your Mambo, but it was perfect!”
During that time, I auditioned for Blithe Spirit at the Warsaw Federal Incline Theater and was thrilled to receive a call-back for Mrs. Bradman, a small supporting role in the show. The director had a change of heart and asked me to read for the iconic role of Madame Arcati, instead. Neither he nor I had originally seen me as this character, but it was the role I was meant to play. Portraying this older, eccentric, British, psychic medium from an early era is the most challenging thing I have done to date. I can now honestly say that half the time it thrilled me and the rest of the time I was scared to death.
Soon after this, I was cast as Becky in the play Becky’s New Car at my community theatre home where I had not performed for several years. I was very excited to play this fun loving but conflicted character who dominates the stage most of the play with periodic lengthy monologues in which she interacts with the audience. I quickly set about memorizing the lines in preparation for November rehearsals, but at the end of September felt a lump in my breast.
I am the picture of health, had no family history, and boasted a perfectly clear mammogram only 9 months ago. I felt certain it was nothing but random fibrous tissue or something. I was stunned when I learned yet another unexpected role had come my way – that of breast cancer patient. While it is an early stage, it is aggressive. Though the prognosis is good, it will require a year of treatment including surgery, radiation and continued infusions. It begins with four months of chemotherapy, not later but now. There is no way I can play Becky. Or is, there? A wonderfully supportive director found a way. The assignment of an understudy, a plan for shared performances, and a caring, flexible cast of actors will allow me to do the role. What a gift!
In fact, cancer has gifted me other beautiful humans I would have never met, knowledge, strength, and a new perspective. It has shown me the value of so many already in my life who have filled my fridge, inundated my mailbox, lightened my load, prayed for me, over me and with me. I am living on savings with no current income, but know it is only temporary. Amidst this violent and turbulent world, there is so still so much goodness, love, and humanity. I have been inspired and feel called to inspire, whatever my circumstances.
This blog is not about cancer or my acting career though these things are currently my life. It’s about trust, facing your fears, and embracing the unexpected. Our God wants so much more for us than we can ever imagine or dream. We limit ourselves with doubt, fear, and trepidation. We are rewarded when we step out in faith. You must not sit where it’s safe and expect to soar. God gives us the free will to get in our way, to block the blessings if that’s what we decide. Choose, rather, to live in faith and believe that all is possible. Only then will you will see the miracles in it all. Even the unexpected trials which threaten to rock your world will not break you.
Happy New Year!