07/10/2013 12:20 pm ET Updated Sep 09, 2013

A Bittersweet 'Sting'

Life is bittersweet sometimes. No one knows this more than a cancer patient, as suddenly all those things we were taking for granted become not so taken for granted, and we watch some dreams die, and in the face of the new reality of our lives, hopefully find some new dreams to keep one going. But making a dream reality takes time, work and overcoming an obstacle or two. And sometimes, even when you feel like you've actually made some progress and reached a personal goal, life will find a way to hit you in the gut from another non-cancer related direction.

Six months ago, my teacher Diana at South Coast Reparatory (Costa Mesa, CA) had "kicked me out of class," as it were, to actually go be in a play. Being in an acting class is one thing; being live on stage is a whole other monster. So I set about looking for some plays to audition to and found an audition notice for The Sting at the Maverick Theater (Fullerton, CA). Never saw the movie, but I figured the premise sounded fun and be cool to go for it. So I did, and the initial audition felt great for having to cold read a number of sides paired up with random people. And I had fun doing it. Then I got a call back. Sweet -- must have done something right. Not bad for a newbie. So I go to the call back, do more of the same thing that I'd done for the first audition and get told I'll hear back within a week or two since the director really wanted to have the cast nailed down to a T.

And that's when life decided to step it up a bit. The morning after the call back, my father had a massive stroke, which ultimately ended up taking his life within two weeks. So of course, I completely forgot about the play as I went into an autopilot mode being at the hospital with my dad, communicating with the rather large extended family almost hourly about his status, and then hosting my family who flew in from New York to be there and support my dad, my brother, and I as we navigated this new reality of my father, my caretaker since I was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2009, to now being the one taken care off. Ironically, all the medical jargon I'd picked up in my own cancer journey came in handy was multiple doctors outlined what was going on in my father's brain post-stroke. My own issues of mortality and how I would want my life to end if and when it comes due to cancer ultimately helped me come to terms with how my father wanted his life to end in the face of such a massive illness and the complications that arose.

My father passed away peacefully on a Friday afternoon, less than an hour after I saw him in the hospice before going to work. The rest of the day was a blur of gathering at my dad's house to recoup and begin to figure out the answers of now that he had passed, what was next?

That same night, I got an email that night from The Sting's director informing me that I'd been cast in the play. I can't tell you the amount of emotions that hit me then, never mind all the ones I'd been dealing with the prior two weeks up to that morning. Here in front of me was actual proof that a goal I'd set myself had been accomplished, and the one guy who had been there when the idea of "I want to learn how to do that" hit while I was sitting on my coach feeling sorry for my cancer-ridden self and who'd had more or less said "Go for it." was no longer around. The irony of being cast in my first play the day my father died was just beyond words.

I had thought about dropping out of The Sting due to what had just happened and how much chaos my life was going to be in due to my dad's death, but after a day or two I decided not to. I'd been working on my dream for two years and figured there would be no better way to honor my dad by following through on a goal I'd set long before my father became ill. And now, two weeks before we close, I know I've made the right decision. I've made some great friends, had some great experiences, and just having the outlet of being a part of putting this play together really has kept me sane in dealing with not only my father's death, but my own cancer issues. Now that I can see I can make things happen that I work at despite having brain cancer, these two MRIs a year for the rest of my life are looking a little less foreboding.

Also, Dad, every single one of the performances for the entire run was for you. Thank you for everything. And here's to my cancer journey post-dad.