Students who have sat in my English classes over the past seventeen years have heard me make this statement repeatedly. And although it is true regarding the literature that we study, the “everyone” I am usually referring to is the students in the class. One of the reasons why I chose to teach English is because it connects so much to our daily lives. Even though a story might be a piece of fiction, it speaks to the human condition, situations and emotions that all humans can relate to whether you lived in Shakespeare’s time or in 2011. Knowing someone else’s story – in the form of fiction or non-fiction or the quiet student sitting a row over in English class is essential in getting through life as it allows us to connect with people, to realize that we all have struggles and challenges, that we have so much in common if we just listen to one another’s story.
And through the challenges my family and I have faced, I have seen how powerful “telling the story” can be. Since our family has been dealing with stomach cancer and our genetic mutation, we have been interviewed by a number of print and broadcast journalists; we have spoken at colleges that have programs for future genetic counselors and other medical professionals. In fact, we ended up speaking at one of the colleges because someone had seen our story on TV and contacted us so we could speak to students who would eventually be working in genetics.
Although telling our story can, at times, be difficult, it can also be therapeutic and, more importantly, life-changing and possibly life-saving. I have spoken with medical professionals who had had people tell them about “that family they read about in the paper” and who sought our medical advice and even genetic testing because they read our story.
If you have been personally affected by stomach cancer and do feel comfortable telling your story, pick up the phone and contact your local newspaper and ask to speak to a health reporter. Tell them that you have a story that might be of interest and give them a brief overview. The worst that can happen is they say they are not interested but thanks for calling us. But imagine that good that can come out of a simple phone call?! People – even one person – might eventually learn of your story and see similarities in their own life… and pick up the phone and call their doctor…..
We all have different personalities and comfort levels with sharing details of our personal lives, so I realize not everyone is going to feel comfortable contacting a newspaper or television station. However, at least continue to share your story with those you meet in life….. because even that could save someone’s life….