THOUGHT OF THE DAY  When I was listening to a PBS tribute of Richard Pryor, it became apparent how our history plays out in the present. It’s especially true if you have a friend or loved one living with, or dying from cancer.

OBSERVING LIFE

Pryor grew up in a house of prostitution in Peoria, Illinois owned by his grandmother. Although many of the experiences were unbelievably painful, what he learned about human foibles went far beyond his observations of customers and prostitutes.

MIRRORING OTHER COMEDIANS

In his early days as a professional comedian, that unique understanding was hidden beneath attempts to mirror established safe Black comedians such as Bill Cosby. During a performance at the Aladdin, a Los Vegas nightclub, he had an epiphany: his comedy could only be authentic if it was based on his experiences. In the middle of the set, he walked off the stage.

BECOMING AUTHENTIC

The club’s mob owners were furious and banned him from all major nightclubs throughout the country. Performing in small bars and clubs, he abandoned his set routines and drew from his past. The brutally honest and funny stories were embraced by audiences who were more interested in truth than preserving acceptable images.

As I counsel people living with cancer and their caregivers, I’m struck with how pulling their past into the present changes them—just as Pryor’s past did for him.

We go through life layering ourselves with defenses and a list of needed “oughts.” Some are platitudes for how to react when a friend or loved one says “I have cancer.” When the “oughts” are tossed and we pull our past into the present, a honesty develops that enables us to become more useful to those living with and dying from cancer.

“A MUST READ” according to people living with cancer, their caregivers, physicians, and cancer researchers. “I Have Cancer” 48 Things to Do When You Hear Those Words. On sale for $.99 on Amazon until December 1 when it’s released. Thereafter at $3.99 from all major online booksellers.

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