If you ask my family, I’ve been telling stories since I was old enough to talk. If my dad were here, he would say even earlier because I could talk with just a look. I got that from my mother.

I’ve always loved to tell stories. Not “the dog ate my paper” kind of story. But the – get into it, act it out, complete with dialogue from all the characters and sound effects – kind of story.

When I was six years old my brother told my parents I watched too much TV. Because he was older, he pretty much determined what we watched. If I recall correctly, it was a lot of cowboy shows so I probably ran around after him with my finger as a gun on my make-believe horse yelling BANG-BANG at the top of my lungs.

Maybe that’s why I got switched to a lot of Shirley Temple movies.

Anyway, I’m not surprised that when I got out on my own and the corporate world Got Me Down, I switched to entertainment. 

What I did as a kid, was now called theater as an adult.  I got into it. 

Between projects, I decided to write about a subject that didn’t always get the best press, women’s breasts. 

Conversations ‘Bout The Girls is a series of short and long stories, or monologues, told by women about their breasts. My breasts only represent a small selection of the available market so when I started writing this play, I did a series of interviews with women. Lana was one of them.

I’d known Lana for several years because we belonged to the same club, but while interviewing her, I learned even more.

Lana was a 20 year survivor of breast cancer. This powerful, beautiful, strong woman sitting before me was having a difficult time talking about her breasts.

Two decades after her breast cancer experience, Lana was still raw having that conversation. She was willing to talk though visibly agitated and confessed that she wore her prosthetic bra almost twenty-four hours a day to feel balanced.

Lana continued to support “Conversations ‘Bout The Girls” by assisting with the production, finding theaters, connecting with others who are art supporters and providing financial backing. The more we worked on the show, the more relaxed Lana became with our talks about The Girls 

It was during my initial interview with Lana and subsequent discussions that I realized the true potential and power of “Conversations ‘Bout The Girls” to heal hearts and minds and raise awareness and understanding through the telling of our stories.

I was reminded of my mother’s survivor walk through breast cancer. It’s more than just the loss of a body part. It’s a body part that often defines a woman. That often defines a great part of their womanhood; femininity, sexuality, in some cases their identity.

As with any surgery they don’t know exactly how it will turn out until they take a look inside. With my mother, there were parts of her muscle and lymph nodes that had to go. 

My mother, a concert pianist who powerfully played anything from the lilting waltzes of Strauss to the fiendishly spirited concertos of Rachmaninov, like most, was forever changed by her experience.

For my mother, Mommy, playing the piano, an activity that used to give her and others so much joy, was now associated with pain. I can only tell of my observations since Mommy lost her battle before I was old enough to discuss it with her. But I saw.

I still love telling stories and it’s so much fun knowing it’s my job as a playwright and performer. Though my default is to make people laugh, I include Lana, my mother and other’s stories of difficulty to let those in similar situations know that they aren’t alone in their ordeals.

Sometimes the struggle isn’t ours but the necessity of telling the story might be. There is a healing power to storytelling that is a captivating and significant way to share ourselves. Stories help us gain clarity and know we aren’t alone.

Tell your story and listen to someone else’s. There’s a strength in knowing someone walking the same journey not only survived but thrives.

Sonia Jackson is the author of “Conversations ‘Bout The Girls,” a performance piece about women’s relationship with their breasts. It is being presented in Breastival! An Event About Breasts, Bodies & Beyond”  In celebration the play’s 17th year anniversary to raise awareness regarding breast health and funds for Susan G. Komen. Sign up to be the first to know about ticket sales for the May 14th virtual event – https://visionsofpossibilities.org.

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