Tag Archives: breast cancer

Dana

 

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Today Jessica and I went to the funeral services for Dana Collins Bell. Dana performed for us in Hollywood in 2011. She delivered an amazing performance which had the audience in awe of her. Truly Dana was a magnetic person.

Dana with her mom who came every show to watch her daughter perform.
Dana with her mom who came every show to watch her daughter perform.

Back in 2010 Dana called me one month prior to the show and said that the cancer had spread to her brain but that she was still going to perform. I could not believe her strength. Dana and I laughed over the phone over her story she was going to share.

Dana had very long legs and loved to wear heels, she looked amazing for a woman having chemo. One day a woman yelled at her in a parking lot that she shouldn’t be parking in the handicap space as it didn’t look like anything was wrong with her.

Dana proceeded to yank out her prosthetic breast, slam it onto the windshield of her car and say, lady you shouldn’t judge as you don’t know what people are going through.

Dana had helped hand out literature at some of our previous shows with a good girlfriend of hers, Lisa, for a moms club they were involved with called Moms Like Me. Jessica began hearing what Dana was going through and they bonded as Jessica had recently lost her own mother to breast cancer.

Jessica and I drove to Woodland Hills today to go to the Mormon church that Dana had been going to since she was a child. It was a really lovely funeral. The Bishop that led the funeral had known Dana since they were children. He said they used to play Barbies together.

Dana’s friend and family members spoke so eloquently of her.

Dana’s mother, Cela, whom looks so much like Dana, even mentioned Dana performing in the play. Because at the time I knew she was sick but Dana never let you know how sick or maybe her positive nature just made you think she was healthier then she was.

The Bishop wrapped up the funeral and said even though Dana had essentially been dealt a very hard deck of cards in life, she was determined to stay optimistic.

In the last six months of her life Dana made it to a Pat Benetar concert and a concert by Venice. She wanted the song “The Family Tree” by Venice played at her funeral and so it was.

Dana has amazed me. Last night we kept our kids up late, I let the youngest eat from a box of cookies as we had a little dance party. Dana’s friends had mentioned that kids loved being at her house because anything went. Last night I let a bit of that spirit into our home. I slow danced with my 2 year-old boy and that’s when I finally cried for Dana.

Dana leaves behind her three children, between the ages of 13 and 6. It is incomprehensible to me to have leave your children at such a young age. Dana’s mom told us Dana admitted to her just last month that she never thought she would actually die from breast cancer. Her mother said, that is how unwavering her positive outlook on life was because she battled breast cancer for 5 years while going through a divorce with three young kids.

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There was a big wooden board with the a quote on in that really brought home what Dana stands for in my mind. It read:

Life is not about learning to survive the storm, but rather learning how to dance in the rain.

 

Dana Bell

 

Do you know Dana Bell?

She’s beautiful. She’s strong. She’s a single mother of three. She’s performed in Expressing Motherhood. She is a sister, a friend, a colleague…a daughter.
She has breast cancer.

Dana at Expressing Motherhood

Maybe you don’t know the Dana Bell. But, I’m sure you know a Dana Bell. I certainly knew a Dana Bell. My mother was a Dana.

Our audience in January of 2011 had the distinct pleasure of hearing Dana tell her story on stage. Dana is an amazing woman. The courage she has still today and had nearly two years ago to stand in front of hundreds and talk about her diagnosis, is amazing.

Dana and her mother after her performance

More courage than I can stand. Courage that cuts to the very core of me as a woman, a mother, and someone who lost a dear loved one to breast cancer.

I remember our first rehearsal with the January 2011 cast. It was a hard one for me. When Dana rehearsed her piece for us, I sat listening as focused as everyone else in that room was. As she spoke, my tears fell ferociously while the memories of losing my own mother to breast cancer came alive.

When Dana stepped off that stage in our first rehearsal, I had to run to her. I hugged her while sobbing and she hugged me as tight as any mother would and told me it will all be fine. I knew…I KNEW…her children will be ok, no matter what happens.

Every woman who steps foot on the Expressing Motherhood stage does so with the knowledge that she’s exposing her true self and a moment in her life with strangers in seats. Dana’s story is so powerful, I am still drawn to tears while thinking about it.

Dana is doing okay. As alright as she can genuinely be.

She been living with stage 4 breast cancer for quite a while, I’d say she is exceptionally strong. Dana has been on my mind since our last show closed. A dear friend of hers came to see Expressing Motherhood in Burbank and filled me in on Dana’s current health status.

She needs prayers. Her children need prayers. Women everywhere who are fighting this thing they call breast cancer need prayers.

This is the list of women I know…or knew with breast cancer:
Mom. Susan, Sharon, Grandma, Carrie, Patty, Terrie, Santa, Terry, Jana, Gail, Phyllis, Theresa……Dana.

Way too many.

I will continue to raise money for this disease, because I can. Because I truly do believe cancer will one day be a ‘chronic disease’ we treat but live with. October is only one of the twelve months I consider “Breast Cancer Awareness Month.”

And to all the Dana Bell’s I know….keep fighting the good fight. We are all behind you.

Today Was…

This is a glimpse at today through the eyes and mind of Co-Creator/Producer Jessica Cribbs.

Today Was…

Emotional for me.

I’ve had a lot of my mother’s home decor in tubs on the back porch for over a year…

Things I haven’t looked at for a lot longer than that.

She was creative…extremely creative.

Most of this she or her sisters handmade.

In the middle is her favorite cancer hat…and the sudoku book she did nightly.

She even signed her initials at completion of a puzzle. Best yet…her cardboard box full of recipes.

Today was nostalgic, joyful and emotional.

Looking forward to using this stuff at Christmas… And giving my own children memories like mine.

Jessica Cribbs

Jessica Cribbs is the Co-Creator/Producer of Expressing Motherhood. She moved to LA 9 years ago from Michigan. She lives in Burbank and is raising 3 kids. The Rose Run is a charity run she began in Michigan in honor of her mom, Rose, who passed away in 2009 from breast cancer. 

 

When I became a mother for the first time, many things surprised me. For example, having contractions during nursing for a few days. That was awful. Or how about how you truly feel when a good night’s sleep is 3 hours in a row. I probably would have been nicer if someone had just stomped on my foot with cleats…the metal ones. Oh, wait, I know…waking up one morning and looking in the mirror and truly to the bottom of your heart not recognizing who you’re looking at. That one threw me for a loop.

 

Jessica with her first baby over at Co-Creator Lindsay’s house.

It took me a little less than a year before I was no longer able to recognize myself. It would have been totally awesome if the reason I didn’t know who I was, was because I had dropped 50 pounds and was suddenly tan. Not even close. There is no baby book out there that could have prepared me for the shocking identity crisis I was left with.

It’s been 7 years since that first baby was born, I’ve had 2 more since then and I still sometimes have a hard time figuring out who I am now. Yes, I know I am a mother. I am a wife..a caretaker..an occasional writer..a show producer..a race director..a friend..a sister..a daughter.

Jessica in NYC when she put on Expressing Motherhood there in 2010. Morning sickness had just ended for Lindsay and as they were on the plane back home it kicked in for Jessica. She wore her sunglasses the entire flight.
Jessica directing the annual Rose Run back in Michigan.

But who is Jessica now? Several things have contributed to this moment of me evolving into the person I am. My parents divorce. Having children and the death of my mom.

 

What I struggle with most, as I hear a lot of other mothers do, is the strong internal fight I have with myself. If people had bought tickets to a fight in my head, there would be two very strong opponents. In one corner of the ring.. there would be me, happy to be in the home taking care of things..my husband, my children, my house. I like this part. I really, really do. The domestic me would have a glass of wine, folding clothes while the three kids dramatically decorate the living room with every single toy they own. And I love it.

 

But in the other corner of the ring would be me, who has taken a shower. I would have just finished the book I want to write and unloaded all of the photos I had taken on my whirlwind trip through Europe. Ok, that’s not entirely true, but it’s the creative self who has a strong desire for output. Thats the part of me that needs more time devoted to it in order to thrive.


And this is where the struggle lies. I truly, truly don’t want to miss these years with my kids while they’re young. However, I constantly feel that my own desire for creativity conflicts with my desire to be domestic. I wish there was a way I could set that creative self of mine up on the shelf for just a couple of years until the littlest one gets into school. I wish I could do that. But the Jessica I know, needs it. She needs it to complete the circle of being whole. If I weren’t creative, I’d have certainly sent my children to the moon by now.

I suppose until I get it all balanced out…I’ll just have to keep doing things like this with my kids..