Father’s Day Special

I’m reminded of the time my father came to visit me in the hospital after my second bowel resection.

He entered the room in earlier afternoon, walking at a measured pace with his cane, neatly dressed in a suit, winter overcoat and fedora. Ignoring my mother’s exhortations that a man of 91 and such short stature shouldn’t be travelling by public transit on a wintery day, he navigated the system to come and sit by my side.

He related in extreme detail, and with great pride I might add, how he walked to the bus stop, got on the bus and leisurely rode the 35 minutes to the subway. He described all of the new buildings he had noticed along the way and admired the courage of the developers and the creativity of the architects. Getting off the bus, he transferred to the subway, agilely maneuvering down the long escalators leading to the cavernous stations. “I took my time” he cautioned, when my eyes opened wide with the image of his aching, arthritic knees adjusting to the many steps. Once off the subway his chest puffed up as he was able to breathe the cold fresh March air and coast the rest of the way by foot to the hospital.

That was pretty much the dialogue that day. I was 2 days out of surgery, still deeply under morphine influence, aching gut, and not up for company. It didn’t matter to him that I wasn’t very hospitable or communicative. He wanted to be there with his son. That was all that mattered and the conversation wasn’t that important.

For the next 3 days he repeated the trip, same suit, same hat. Same conversation.

My father’s sense of duty is an example of how the illness experience can be interpreted by a parent witnessing the illness of a child, regardless of their age (I was 49 at the time). It starts with the first sniffle as a baby.

This weekend we celebrate Father’s Day and the relationship of parents and children challenged with an illness. There’s Aza Raskin’s lyrical memory of his late father Jef Raskin, inventor of the Mac, and Pulitzer Prize winner Buzz Bissinger’s brutally honest memoir of his road trip with brain damaged son Zach. Unlike the conversations I had with my dad that week over 12 years ago, not one of these stories is the same.

Feel free to add your story to theirs.

Zal Press, on CBC Radio One – Today

Tune into Here & Now on CBC’s Radio One (99.1 FM) at 5:50 pm EST today.

Listen in as Zal Press, Founder and Executive Director of Patient Commando talks about Laugh Therapy, Patient Story Telling, and tomorrow’s performance of Cancer Can’t Dance Like This.

Read Friday’s National Post’s article on Patient Commando here http://www.patientcommando.com/blog/?p=61

Patient Commando’s debut play hits close to home for Zal Press | National Post

When Zal Press was 29 years old, he went to the hospital with a pain in his gut that felt like he had “a cat trapped in [his] stomach trying to claw its way out.

“A doctor came up to me as I was lying in the hospital and he says to me, ‘Mr. Press, you have a serious illness. You have Crohn’s disease,’ ” Press recalls. “I couldn’t even spell Crohn’s, I had never heard of it. All I wanted was a pill so I could get on with my life.”

Thirty years later, Press has moved on with his life, but he certainly hasn’t forgotten about Crohn’s. About two years ago, he set off on a journey to try and get involved in changing the Canadian health-care system and the way patients perceive chronic illness.

“I became attracted to patient advocacy and patient empowerment and this whole new movement of this educated, informed, Internet-aware patient who’s engaged in their own health care,” he says.

Last year, after giving up a successful art business, Press started Patient Commando, a theatre production company that uses storytelling and humour to empower patients. The company’s debut production is a performance of Cancer Can’t Dance Like This, Daniel Stolfi’s comedic dramatization of his two-year battle with cancer.

The production has been staged in Toronto and Montreal since its premier at Second City last May. To date, Cancer Can’t Dance Like This has raised more than $60,000 for cancer research.

“Patient Commando is a great organization that is all about putting the power of health in the hands of the patient,” Stolfi says. “Many times, people dealing with illness are led blindly through treatment with little say in the process. … By sharing stories that come directly from the mouth of the patient we can gain a much better understanding of what a patient is going through and how they are feeling in all aspects of treatment.”

Patient Commando is the only entertainment company in Canada producing theatre, workshops, video and speaking presentations with a focus on the patient experience.

“Everyone has a story to tell,” Press says. “And the very act of telling our stories makes us feel good. And when the stories are funny, when they come from a place of honesty and they’re well-told, they have the power to change people’s lives.”

Dr. Sandy Buchman, a palliative care physician and president-elect of the College of Family Physicians of Canada, agrees, and suggests that healthcare providers will also stand to benefit from this kind of endeavor.

“Often the doctor-patient relationship is two-dimensional,” Buchman says. “We are dealing only with the disease rather than the whole illness experience. … It’s beneficial for us to get a fresh perspective and lighten our own lives, too.”

Cancer Can’t Dance Like This runs May 12 at Toronto’s Glenn Gould Studio. For more information, visit patientcommando.com.

– Rebecca Spence, National Post


Patient Commando Presents – Cancer Can’t Dance Like This

On Thursday, May 12th, CBC’s Glenn Gould Studio will play host to Patient Commando’s presentation of Cancer Can’t Dance Like This.

With comedy at its core, this one-man show vividly portrays Daniel’s experience with cancer. Told mercilessly with a thrill and lust for the finer things in life, Cancer Can’t Dance Like This recalls the pain Dan endured during his treatment while embracing his own saving grace – the fine art of comedy.

This production will benefit Lilah’s Fund, which raises funds for cancer research that mostly affects children under 5 years old. The fund is led by the bubbly, 6 year-old Lilah Petersiel, whose own battle with cancer inspires all affected children with the hope of a healthy outcome.

Seating is limited. Purchase your tickets here

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