Why I am In Love with Cancer

While I was recovering from breast cancer surgery, my mind was racing a mile a minute with questions: What have I done with my life so far? Where and how do I start the real work I have, for no good reason, been putting off? How much time do I have to live the life I’ve known, from the time I was very young, I was meant to live? Why did I waste so much time planning rather than doing?

As the questions flooded in, I found myself stumbling into a rabbit hole of revelations and memories leading all the way back to the Garden of Eden. By the end of this journey, I had become acutely aware that, as I write in the play, “Shame is the real cancer that needs to be lopped off and thrown in the trash.”

During this frantic effort to capture and contain this explosion of thoughts and feelings, I began seeing myself in front of a live audience sharing this deeply personal and, in many ways, universal story. A few months later, In Love with Cancer was accepted into the United Solo Festival, the world's largest solo theatre festival and, after working intensely with an acting coach and director, I performed it in front of a live audience on Theatre Row in New York City.

Why the title In Love with Cancer? Because I believe if it hadn't been for cancer, I may never have come to grips with the reality of my own mortality, nor would I have taken the steps to truly live the life I had been putting off living. I am truly grateful to cancer for, as I say in the play, “giving me the strength to deal with what it took away,” and for teaching me that “there is no such thing as the best time, or the perfect time, or even a better time to do anything; there's only the time you have, if you're lucky enough to have it.”

Although I was grateful for the opportunity to perform the play myself, I believed that other actors could perform it as well as — if not better than — me. In January 2021, it was accepted into The Women’s Writes Festival in London, and an excerpt from the play was performed by Hannah Dando, a talented young Welsh actress. Because we were in the throes of COVID-19, the five short pieces featured in the festival were filmed on different days in front of an empty theatre, then edited into one film that was available for streaming. Around the same time, a monologue from the play was accepted for the Best Stage Monologues for Women 2021 Anthology, published by Smith & Kraus of Hanover, N.H.

Then, about a year ago, I sent the script to an actor in Los Angeles whom I had worked with in the past with the hope that she'd be interested in performing the full play on stage. Her response was, "I love the play, but I don't want to act in it; I want to direct it, not as a solo play but as play for four voices.” Over the past year, I have been working on adapting In Love with Cancer into a play for four voices, creating a whole new theatre experience. A staged reading will take place on Aug. 1, 2022, at the Road Theatre in LA. Additional information can be found at https://roadtheatre.org/readings/.

Bio: Marylou is a 1974 graduate of Colby-Sawyer College. She has a B.A. in creative writing from Syracuse University and M.A. in theater education from Emerson College. She has two grown children and lives with her husband in rural New Hampshire, where she works fulltime as a writer. Her website is www.maryloudipietro.com.