In honor of National Cancer Survivor Month, marked annually in June, Stories From the Stage, a series of live storytelling events broadcast on PBS and online, highlighted a handful of storytellers who beat cancer. The episode “Beyond Cancer” dived into the experiences and advocacy of three Black survivor-advocates—Megan-Claire Chase, Dwayne Brown and Erinn Budd. View their inspiring stories here and in the PBS video below.
“In providing a platform for storytellers like these eight survivors to share what they’ve been through, Stories From the Stage hopes to give others the hope and support necessary to manage their own challenging days,” explains WorldChannel.org, which produces the series in partnership with Count Me In, the Broad Institute’s cancer research initiative.
Black Americans experience the highest risk of dying from most cancers compared with any racial or ethnic group, according to the American Cancer Society.
Chase, who survived Stage II lobular breast cancer, has been cancer-free for six years.
“I want people to hear my story—the pain, the humor, but also see the natural resilience—and feel empowered,” Chase told World Channel. “I hope the audience will come away with how layered it is and how complicated it is when you get a cancer diagnosis.”
Chase’s blog, “Life on the Cancer Train,” delves into life after breast cancer and connects her to others with similar experiences. “It lets me know that I’m not alone, and I want others to know that they’re not alone. This cancer journey, even if you have wonderful family and friends around you, if they’re outside of what I call ‘Cancer Land,’ it’s hard to connect,” she said. (You can read her writing on CancerHealth.com and RealHealthMag.com.)
Brown, a former All-American offensive lineman who beat cancer twice, uses his voice to empower other African Americans who may not feel welcome in health care spaces, a longstanding issue for many people of color.
“When you look at the numbers, it’s killing us. We die of cancer at a disproportionate rate. I want to try to be an advocate and give people that voice,” Brown said. “There aren’t people that look like me that talk about cancer, and my story is very, very unique. I felt like I’d be crazy to not share it and be able to help another athlete or another person in general.”
Although at first, Budd found it difficult to share her story of self-advocacy onstage, doing so gave her a new outlook on how she could help others.
“There’s something about actually being in an intimate space and baring your soul to everyone there. Crafting this story…felt like I was pouring more of myself into it, and it was a little scary. But putting it into words and speaking it out loud is bringing truth to something that feels a little distant at some points,” she told World Channel.