An article I wrote just came out in The New York Times. This has happened to me before. Sometimes, I get lots of comments and feel famous for several milli-seconds. Other times, it’s like the world is engaging in a collective yawn and no one noticed. Oh, well. I go back to the reality of a blank computer screen and a cat who’s a very good listener.
This time, though, I got more emails and comments than usual, probably because the topic was about my bout with breast cancer 12 years ago. At the end of months of treatments, I’d found myself bereft and confused; I didn’t know who I was any more. It was over, but it really wasn’t.
Most of the communications were from other cancer survivors and some of my friends. A few included invitations to speak at meetings. All were quite nice.
But yesterday morning, I got a really weird email. It was from some guy who said he was a TV producer and wanted me to come to Hollywood so I could be filmed for an upcoming cancer special.
I had many different reactions to this:
1) Me! In Hollywood! Yes!!!
2) Obviously, this guy is a fraud.
3) First-class airfare! A limousine! A suite! The whole enchilada!
4) Who are you kidding? This is never going to happen. Get real, honey. You were born in Ponca City, Oklahoma. Remember?
5) But the glamour! The exposure! The —
6) Oh, shut up.
Still, the email was well-written and seemed valid. If somebody was pulling my leg, at least it was somebody smart. So, I wrote him back, saying I was flexible enough to show up, say, immediately.
Then I forwarded his email to my husband and my writer/blogger friend Sophie (of http://sophiadembling.com/home.htm fame ), and Sophie and I started IMing back and forth. Sophie was having to deal with her envy issues, since the piece in the Times was on the Most E-Mailed List, and she wanted to be a supportive friend and all that — but she was still pea-green. She also felt odd about envying me, since, after all, I’d had cancer and she hadn’t. All she had was her biography of Dr. Phil, which had been pulling more traffic to her blog because of rumors of his divorce. But, big deal. Anyway, Sophie said, at least she’d get a blog post out of the whole envy issue.
Then, the producer called. He sounded legit. But you never know. Just in case, I started washing some clothes so I’d be presentable. And scheduled a manicure and pedicure. And told a few friends, swearing them to secrecy. If I was going to have egg all over my face, I wanted it to be a private occasion. You understand. So:
1) I’m going to Hollywood! I’m leaving Friday!
2) Yeah, but do you have a plane ticket in your clammy little palm yet? No, you don’t.
3) But Hollywood! TV! They want me!
4) Remember all your experiences with TV? They’ve been pretty bad, haven’t they?
5) Dismal is a better word. Dismal and heartbreaking. Also, gut-wrenching. But, hey! I can always blog about it. Look at Sophie and her envy issue. Failure, when presented in a self-deprecating and humorous way, is always so fascinating to other people.
6) How sad. And yet, how trite. You really believe that, don’t you?
(Copyright 2008 by Ruth Pennebaker)
You’re a rock star!
I’ve had good experiences and bad experiences with TV.
The last time, two very nice men came to my house to tape me. They were so very nice … why did they make me look so very, very awful? I still wake up screaming…
I really hate to see myself on TV. Used to be the same way about hearing my voice on radio, but finally got used to it. Numbness sets in after a while.
I loved your story in NYT… and of course thought about my mom…
My mom has cancer… ovarian. She just turned 83. A twist of fate for a healthy, loving woman who’s now lost 30 lbs, plus her hair, eyebrows, eye lashes, arm hair… all hair! Still, she continues to worry about other people and their health. She reads the NY Times cover to cover and takes in NY theater like vitamins. She also responds very well to irreverence. That’s where I come in!
I’d love to share her story (if she’s game). I’m sure it takes an act of Congress or God or both to get an editor at the Times to read a manuscript.
Any tips you might share?… besides having to be a great writer…
Wow, Ruth!!! This is so exciting. Did I miss the link to the NY Times article? I’d love to read it.
Oh, I hope it is a wonderful experience. How long will you be out here?
They like you, they really like you! You’ve endured about the worst the universe could throw at you, so go and have a great time, come what may. You are inspiring.