Gia Jones remembers the moment she was given her cancer diagnosis. So does Brian Lobel. The moment — and many after — was filled with worry, fear and anxiety. So when a physician-to-be asked what the cancer survivors would prefer to hear during a diagnosis talk with their doctor, the USC Visions and Voices guests had important advice.
“Don’t be flippant,” Jones, an alternative educator, told the medical student. “Hold space in those moments and be aware that it is the first time for that person, although it is not your first time. And it is a traumatic, life-changing experience for that person.”
Lobel and Jones spoke to the audience on Sept. 27 on the Health Sciences Campus, as part of the USC Visions and Voices Medical Humanities, Arts and Ethics Series. This ongoing series brings a variety of speakers, performers and events to the USC campuses to engage the community in the arts and humanities. In the recent event, titled “Ball and Other Funny Stories About Cancer,” the duo performed excerpts from a collaborative live show about their experiences with cancer, before answering questions from the audience.
In his performance, Lobel recalled the sequence of events after receiving his diagnosis at the age of 20, which included how he “became competitive and felt the need to be super accomplished or inspiring after surviving cancer.” This need to win extended to a hula hoop competition at a cancer survivors’ reunion picnic one year, where he went head-to-head with an 8-year-old girl for the championship — which he won.
For Jones, the performance became cathartic amid her frustration and fear, as she showed screenshots of media websites that asked readers to submit photos of their cancer experience. The happy, hopeful images did not match her experience with cancer, she said.
“Why does it always have to be positive,” she asked. “Do not tell people how to deal with their cancer.”
— Melissa Masatani