Monday, March 24, 2014

The Magical side of Drama

Months ago, Kiera and Lily joined a theatre ensemble called Packids.  It started last summer, Kiera expressed an interest in theatre, I looked locally for opportunities. I found PACK and they fortunately had started a nonprofit to nurture children in the performance arts- called PACKids. Kiera participated in their summer program which put on a production of Aristocats to showcase what they learned.  Kiera fell in love. She was giddy every day she got home.

I was worried. I had many preconceptions about the world of theatre and drama. I knew there were so many sides to drama. I disliked the preoccupation with pretense. I disliked the potential for rejection based on physical qualities. But as a realist- I decided to be open minded. Kiera wanted to audition for the next production. Pinkalicious. I found my niche among other parents- who seemed to be very different than what I expected. They were normal parents- helping their kids do what they loved.  I got art therapy helping paint sets. I saw the inner workings of theatre weren't much different than baseball or football or any other business- there was fundraising, there were personality clashes- there was drama. Anytime you have a deadline and a group of people- there will be drama.

Mid way through Pinkalicious, the group learned they were accepted to perform in Disneyland. I also learned that I had Stage 4 cancer. Here I was, breast cancer attacking my lungs and bones- surrounded by pink and drama. I could not have been any more out of my element. It was a welcome distraction. We were back in day at a time mode and I figured things would work themselves out. Before I knew it, the Disney performance was becoming a reality and we had to make decisions. Decisions that aren't easy normally- complicated by not knowing how I would feel, if I could travel. Not wanting to put down deposits and lose a bunch of money if things went south while we were trying to go east.

So we made decisions. We decided to look at it like a wonderful opportunity for a family vacation. Like anything else- how you approach it can make all the difference. We chose to try and be positive. And hope that it would all work out. So when Kiera came home rehearsal, after rehearsal grumpy and down- I began to wonder if this drama thing was going to work for us. I would hear Phil reciting over and over- leave the drama on the stage.  With 3 girls- we see our fair share of drama and them trying to find their way. I constantly try to find the balance between real and perceived and the magic of make believe. Sometimes when faced with the bleak realities of cancer- you need nothing more than some faith, trust, and fairy dust. Kiera was seeing that Neverland had some shadows.

Kiera and I sat and had a long talk. We talked about "paying dues", something I was recently told we just had to do. There seems to be a lot of paying dues in theatre. There is a lot of paying dues in life. It sucks when your perspective changes because of loss, experience, cancer. I've paid more flipping cancer dues than most humans and those dues bought me a role in life.  It sucks when your priorities change and everyone around you is consumed by trivial things that you only wish could fit on your list. But then you smile. And it was in the middle of this talk it occurred to me. Cancer taught me to be an actress years ago. It taught me to fake it til you make it. It taught me sometimes you just have to plaster on a smile and make it the most believable smile ever- filled with words like- I'm fine, I don't need anything, I feel good. And pretty soon the smiles feel real and lead to laughs and sometimes you laugh until you cry and then you just plaster on that smile again.

 Life is not fair. There will be roles that you deserve that go to someone else. There will be roles you get because someone just wants something from you.  There will be lows and highs and great journeys in between. But each role prepares you for the next role. Life experiences that sucked away opportunities will prepare you for THE perfect opportunity and you will have the insight to recognize it and not wonder if. We are to the point in my journey that I cannot DO this FOR you.  I simply do not have the energy to fundraise or make this easier. I cannot be the class mom right now and garner all the connections to make this journey easier for you. But I can cheer you on and believe in you and know you will do it because you love it.  I will love you no matter what. If you fall off the stage, sing off key, miss a step. I will help you up, take you to voice lessons and tape rehearsals for you to practice later- knowing full well the routine will change 5 more times before the performance. I will help when I can because the day may come too soon that I won't be able to help at all. You will have to work hard and you will be rejected and you will get your turn in the spotlight. And when it stops being fun, IF it stops being fun- then you move on to the next great journey because the things you learn now will help you then. We hug through tears. Our moment of introspection needs to be cut short- there is too much to do to get this drama show on the road.

The weekend before we leave, is drill weekend. Despite foregoing one of the chemo meds the week before- with hopes that I would feel better for our vacation- I was exhausted and my head hurt and my throat was scratchy. By Sunday a fever started. There was too much to do and between checks by my neighbor and texts to one of my mutants for advice- my fever hit the point I had to call the oncology nurse. She was amazing and did everything she could to help me avoid the ER. There were several calls, several attempts to bring the fever down- each call with a new fever limit that I could not go beyond before going to the ER. When it spiked to 102.3, my neighbor packed me up and got me ready for an afternoon in the ER. I called the onc nurse, she told me if I wasn't in the isolation room in 15 minutes to call her.  I called Phil, who was really excited to be leaving a weekend of work for the ER. He wanted to know if I could wait until he got home to assess me and I just said I didn't care if he went home and changed but I was on the way to the ER.  This sometimes happens when you don't communicate how bad things are. Kiera meets me downstairs- the little girls had spent the morning next door and she looks terrified. Phillip keeps trying to hug me and I keep telling to back off the sick momma. As I leave, I tell Kiera to stop worrying- she was going to Disney no matter what. The thought of missing them perform just about overwhelmed me- so it is not an option.

We get to the ER and my neighbor hands me off to Phil. He hugs me and says- damn you are hot- which under any other circumstances I would have really really appreciated. The waiting room is a ghost town. This is unheard of. I think for a minute they must have moved the waiting room because I've never seen it empty so this cannot be it. Then I realize my angels must be looking out for me. Phil sits me down and attempts to check me in knowing little of the day's progression to this point except that I and chemo a week ago and I was damn hot. Yep- I was 102.8 by the time they took my temp in triage- which didn't seem possible considering I think my neighbor had every single vent trained on me and set to arctic blast.  That buys you a quick trip into isolation. yaaay. Nurses flit in and out and supply us with caps and masks. Phil and I laugh at the ridiculousness of the caps- because we have no HAIR. Protocol the nurse tells us.  As she gets the supplies ready to access my port- another nurse comes in and starts yelling out steps as the first nurse repeats what she says. I pull off a mask and ask if she's ever done this before. I don't want to offend her but my mutant friends have horror ER stories and I'm pretty sure one told me to never ever let them do it. She laughs and explains they have a new protocol that requires them to do this- she's accessed hundreds of ports. I felt better until she accessed my port and it was still sticking out. Phil kept rolling with the one liners. He finally explained to them I really was sick- usually I am much funnier in the hospital.

5 hours later, some nasty potassium drink, a bunch of bloodwork, liters of fluid - the culture comes back- there is something growing, most likely strep. I get a bottle of antibiotics and potassium and am told to report to my oncologist in the morning. The waiting room is now packed.  Not exactly how we planned it- but we were going to be there the next day for my scans anyway- which apparently strep does not get you out of.  The only thing I was banking on was feeling so crappy that I would be able to sleep through it.  That and ativan. Lots of ativan. I instruct my oncologist that I do not want to know the results of the scans while we were at Disney- that we could just meet when I got back. What if it's good? Nope- not thinking about it until we get back. I was going on chemo vacation. Not worrying whether or not tumors were shrinking or growing or which ones were and which ones weren't.

We were packing like mad people the next day. Not giving the girls' bags the usual careful inspection we do- mostly worried about costumes and medications- which require an entire carry on. Yet during the process I get a call from the hospital. I don't want to answer it- but have to since the cultures determine which antibiotic is best. Its my nurse. Strep was confirmed, I'm good to go with the antibiotics I'm on and she knows I don't want to know about scan but she wanted me to know there was a complete response. Have a good trip kiddo, I'll see you when you get back.

My eyes well up. Jen usually asks questions like- how complete- what does complete mean to you- because my view of complete may be different. Complete where- complete how- did you see the completeness of the response? What about the bones? Does it just mean everything shrunk? But Jen put away the questions- it was good enough news she had to tell me. It's a relief and I decide to not think about it until we return. Right now we have to focus on getting team Mallory off the rock.

The Mallory clan is a riot in TSA. Between the diabetic supplies, insulin, needles, sites, syringes, glucagon, test strips, extra sugars and Lily's meds and emergency shots and now my meds- it takes a small suitcase. I am being pat down- I remember to point out that I have a port and a prosthetic breast.  I look over and there seems to be problems with the kids. We expect Phillip to get caught up because of the pump- it is a fairly recognizable device now days- but off all the things TSA is briefed on- insulin pumps seem to confound them. When I am done, I rejoin the suspects.  Apparently Lily and Kiera both had packed scissors in their carry ons. Scissors. In their carry ons.

Phil- why on earth would you pack scissors?
Kiera- I though I might do some crafting.
Phil- Crafting? You are doing 2 performances and have Disneyland at your disposal and you thought you might take a break for crafting?
Kiera- yeah. That and toys usually have to be cut out of boxes and Lily hates tags on clothes.
Jen- That is actually a good point. Next time pack them in suitcase.

We make it to California. All meds, Mallory's and scissors in tact. Every trip- we have a child that acts out. Phil has a great lecture he gives about being lucky to be there. I feel lucky to be there. I feel so lucky to be with my family, to be making the trip together and getting to see the girls perform. No one fell off the stage. I didn't notice any missed keys or missed steps. It was probably because my eyes were completely mist- over. This what life is about. Life has Drama. We need to know the difference between real and perceived. The difference between what is true and make believe. And sometimes a little make believe takes you away from all the tough stuff- if only for a half an hour. That is what Disney is about- smiling and carrying on. There are not employees- there are Cast Members. The icky stuff stays below the park in the tunnels and behind the scenes. Everything else is magic. That is what theatre is about. Sometime you have to work at smiling- whether its for an audience or a friend and in return you may get applause, or a smile or a laugh. Sometime you get a tear or a shout. It depends on what kind of drama you choose.

I am so proud of Kiera and Lily- despite only a few months of paying dues- they did remarkably well! They had fun. They smiled. Later- I reviewed my pictures- mostly out of focus and not very good. I was sad for a second but realized that they were blurry either because of the tears welled up in my eyes or because I was watching and snapping pictures. I was present. I saw each girl pick a person in the audience to smile at and that person was me. And they will always be able to say- remember when I performed at Disneyland. And we will always remember the magical week we had together-          smiling and laughing together.
                                          That was the Magical side of Drama.

1 comment:

  1. I've been thinking about you all. We all enjoyed watching Lily practice. I am sooo glad you had a nice trip!


Lily Kay Monkey

Lily Kay Monkey
November 2008 Photographed by Shelley Detton (7 Layer Studio)