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PORTLAND STORY THEATER TELLS THE TALE AT WILLAMETTE WRITERS

portland story theater

 

Lawrence Howard and Lynne Duddy ran the first Willamette Writers meeting of 2018. For all the wishes for a Happy New Year still echoing, their presentation confirmed the idea.

 

I came in right as they started and found a seat in the back, the last seat open. I start every meeting with high hopes, like hoping to find a blog post, an overlooked insight, an epiphany even.

 

The two people at the front of the room, Howard and Duddy, ran through their business and finished with a cancer story. They told a cancer survivor story my wife would have cried listening to, which would have had the effect of making me cry, too.

 

You know what they say about the couples that cry together? They need lots of tissue, an extra supply of those little square boxes with the personal cozy cover.

 

Ms Duddy was the support spouse to her husband Howard. It sounded so familiar I nearly fell into a dream state in downtown Portland, not always the best state of mind to hit the mean streets with.

 

Duddy’s voice reflected everything I’d heard before either first or second hand. She was afraid her husband would die and more than anything didn’t want him to leave that hole in her life.

 

This is where cancer support people miss their connection with the cancer stricken. I may be mistaken, but one of the rules of cancer is stay on track. Howard stayed on the ‘living through cancer treatment’ track even when he felt his life force fading away.

 

“I knew I wouldn’t die,” he said in a sort of convincing way. And he didn’t.

 

After most meeting I make a straight line out the door. This time with Portland Story Theater was different. I’m 80K words into a cancer memoir and still open to more stories than just my own. Not that I’m bored, but why not keep a window open?

 

portland story theater

 

What kind of cancer? What sort of treatment? When did it all happen? I got the full account in between breaths telling my version of the same thing. During it all I kept thinking Lawrence Howard was the sort of cancer survivor with a compelling story I wanted to hear more about. So I stuck around, ran my mouth, and listened.

 

Talking and listening at the same time won’t cut it in polite society, but after the Portland Story Theater experience at Willamette Writers, it seemed normal, not rude. But it’s still rude with new people.

 

The details were as awful as expected, like a horror story from 2017. He kicked cancer in 2013 and there we were like old soldiers going over a post-action report, like players watching game film, like, well, two guys the same age talking about a shared moment that seemed like it would never end.

 

portland story theater

 

Coming down with hpv16 neck cancer seemed an odd deal. It still does, but like the old saying about paying the band after the dance, sex related cancer is still a bad exchange. And the price to dance that dance is so costly.

 

Which reminds me of my cancer memoir pal Michael Becker. He posted this on Jan.2, 2018.

 

I felt Michael standing with me while I talked to Lawrence. I hope he reads and understands the moment he shares with other cancer guys. My hpv16 team needs to open the door to an honest evaluation.

 

Michael Becker is a big fan of the cancer vaccine. I am too. I didn’t ask Lawrence.
About David Gillaspie

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