In the one-woman show, The Pink Hulk: One Woman’s Journey to Find the Superhero Within, written and performed by Valerie David, Valerie share her journey through cancer. The first was a non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and the second, a bout with breast cancer. As a two-time post-treatment survivor, she continues to act and completes bike events to raise money for cancer as a marathon cyclist. During the show, Valerie does not ask for our sympathy. She chose to do cancer her way, to be in charge of her treatment and how she deals with the disease. She discovered resilience comes from taking charge. Valerie is a survivor.
The show is a comedy, not a drama. After the show, which I saw as part of the DIVA Fest at the Indy Fringe Theater, I talked with Valerie. I was impressed with her energy and her attitude of “I’m not going to let anything get the best of me.” She used three tools of resilience to get her through the difficult times: humor, friendship and being in control.”
Cancer can be seen as something that happens to us over which we have not control. That viewpoint would be considered having an external locus of control. We’re just along for the ride and have no control over what is happening to us. This is how Valerie felt about her first occurrence of cancer. When we feel we have control, we lose hope. We lose our sense of power and any say over the outcomes. We feel powerless, at the effect of what is happening to us and most importantly we feel like a victim.
Valerie’s second occurrence of cancer proved quite different. She focused on scheduling her treatment around her acting. She asked for the support of friends and she chose when to cut her hair. Even though there were side effects from the treatment, she felt victorious. She was in charge and she was resilient.
Resilience Comes From Taking Charge
When we let others or circumstances have control over us, we are not resilient. We often become depressed or give in to the situation no matter how much we do not like it. An elephant can be controlled by a chain around his leg as a baby elephant. From this learned behavior even when the elephant is big and strong enough to easily break the chain, the elephant has stopped trying. Are there areas of your life where you have stopped trying because you feel that things are out of your control?
One of my favorite quotes comes from Stephen Covey, “When we focus on the things we can control, what we control grows.” This is resiliency in action. When we focus on what we can control, we are resilient. Even controlling small things such as the day and times of her treatment and speaking up when she had questions or felt that treatment was not going right made a huge difference in how Valerie felt about herself and her life. Valerie is a survivor. Valerie is resilient.