Marifran Korb

My Relationship with Cancer … and Creativity.

by on Apr.18, 2015, under Life is a celebration., Overcoming Cancer

Getting a diagnosis of any deadly disease can shut down your creativity. It is easy to be and stay in a shocked state. From my experience, the saying: “Plan for the worst and hope for the best” can be very wise. One needs to be practical. Yet the part about “hope for the best” often gets lost in the fear that comes up with that terrible diagnosis.

The timing for each of us is different in our shifting from fear to hope. Often both are occur simultaneously. The immune system, so important in health, can be lowered by fear. So it seems to me the more often we flip the switch, the better off we are.

Hope alone is a long shot. Most of us want to walk the fine line between whatever one thinks reality is, and what one thinks hope is. My thought is that creativity can help keep both in balance.

When you are creatively self-expressed, you tend to be upbeat and peaceful. Yet, many of us think we’re not creative and tend not to try things. With some friends, I spend an hour a week writing to prompts. This week we wrote to a quote that speaks to creativity: Creativity is inventing, experimenting, growing, taking risks, breaking rules, making mistakes, and having fun. ~ Mary Lou Cook

Anyone can relate to this definition. There are so many forms and so many directions to go with creativity. Most of my life, I believed what I was told … that creativity was just given to those few souls who were famous for their paintings or writings. The message I got was that the rest of us were riff-raft that had to find a way to live the nose-to-the-grindstone life. The feeling I was left with was depressing to the core. Despite myself, most of my life, I was being creative without seeing it as such.

This quote defining creativity includes me. I’m super good with making mistakes. Experimenting and having fun are innate. Teachers hit my knuckles for breaking rules and having too much fun in the classroom. Experimenting was how I learned.

Risk-taking, part of creativity, has run with me since I was an 18 month-old, climbing out of closed cribs and jumping across wide alleys. Breaking my collar bone twice before I was two, did not stop me. Wearing casts for a year, did not slow me down.

Later at age 17, I chose a college I had never seen, in a state I had never been to. Flying alone to Cincinnati that long ago September day, I started a new life where I knew no one.

Continuing to risk, I traveled to and around Europe alone, at age 23, with only a general idea of what countries I wanted see. Everything else had to be invented moment-by-moment. This was a time when, at every border, I had to obtain, learn and use entirely different kinds of money. It was also before the internet and booking long distant hotels. Getting into unforeseen challenges, I learned how to think quickly and create solutions.

For fun, I live life as an adventure. In my business: “Rising to the Occasion” I am a Celebrations Consultant. Some friends call me “Merry Friend,” and “Mary Fun” instead of “Marifran.”

Even difficulty can be greeted with creativity. That is when it is needed most. Challenges are opportunities for growth. My most recent CT scan was last December, and it had grown a little more. That was discouraging, given the many things I am doing to shrink the tumor. Still, I walk the fine line between hope of being free without surgery and the danger of the tumor spreading. For me, there are multiple dangers of a three-hour surgery that make it not an option. My reality includes the “damned-if-I-do” and “damned-if-I-don’t” predicament. Doctors offer only surgery as an option, despite admitted low chance of surgery survival. Living with cancer does not stop me from living creatively doing all I can for my physical and emotional health. Looking at the present and the past, I notice that I have invented a life that I cherish.

If your early experience around the topic of creativity was unhealthy like mine, examine what creative outlets you use regularly. Do you recognize how creativity flows out of you? Look at what other ways you might want to self-express. Knowing that creativity takes many forms, how does “… inventing, experimenting, growing, taking risks, breaking rules, making mistakes, and having fun” contribute to your life? How can it support you in challenging times?

Feel free to write your response to the questions in the comments section below on the blog.

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8 Comments for this entry

  • Barbara Berghausen

    If taking risks is being creative then I might win the Pulitzer prize, as you have done. Making something out of nothing has always been my creative side. A piece of material draped over a table as an accent piece, taking a trip abroad by myself, starting a new life by myself, looking at a sunset and painting it. Facing life on life’s terms is taking a chance and it may not turn out the way you want it, but always for your good, if you find the positive in it. Facing cancer is indeed scarey. You are a brave soul, my friend by doing your own creative way of healing. I am praying for your full recovery. Keep watching the sunrise, sunset the flowers, the birds and create a center piece.

  • Rosemary Molloy

    I was past 70 when I started acting and appeared in a major role in “Steel Magnolias.” Since then I’ve been in about ten–maybe more–actual stage productions and have presented seminars on both employment and the Dionne Quintuplets to a number of audiences. Last month, I completed teaching a course on acting for the FELS program of Stockton State College. I had ten students and three days ago, I directed them in a show which incorporated five “playlets” I had written. It was well received.
    Also, I am leaving New Jersey, where I’ve lived all my 78 years and am moving to California as soon as I can. I have to either rent or sell my fairly large house and somehow deal with all my possessions. Am I nervous about this venture so late in life? NO! I’m so thrilled and excited, I can’t wait!
    Maybe I’m bragging a bit, because I’m proud of my involvement with the theatre, my writing skills, and my imminent move. But I’m prouder of the fact that I was able to overcome, as my much-loved cousin, Marifran did, the stifling effects of a conventional, middle-class, Catholic girlhood that never met a creative act it actually approved.
    My love to you, Cuz.

  • Rosemary Molloy

    I can’t understand this. I wrote a fairly long comment, pressed “leave comment,” and the black box above is what came up. Within the box is my name; when I click on that, my own blog comes up! Darn, I wonder if my actual comment can be retrieved. If not, I’ll have to approximate it.

  • Rosemary Molloy

    April 18th, 2015 on 4:47 pm
    I was past 70 when I started acting and appeared in a major role in “Steel Magnolias.” Since then I’ve been in about ten–maybe more–actual stage productions and have presented seminars on both employment and the Dionne Quintuplets to a number of audiences. Last month, I completed teaching a course on acting for the FELS program of Stockton State College. I had ten students and three days ago, I directed them in a show which incorporated five “playlets” I had written. It was well received.
    Also, I am leaving New Jersey, where I’ve lived all my 78 years and am moving to California as soon as I can. I have to either rent or sell my fairly large house and somehow deal with all my possessions. Am I nervous about this venture so late in life? NO! I’m so thrilled and excited, I can’t wait!
    Maybe I’m bragging a bit, because I’m proud of my involvement with the theatre, my writing skills, and my imminent move. But I’m prouder of the fact that I was able to overcome, as my much-loved cousin, Marifran did, the stifling effects of a conventional, middle-class, Catholic girlhood that never met a creative act it actually approved.
    My love to you, Cuz.

  • Lyn

    Great article! I don’t think I’ll ever hear the word “cancer” without joining it to “creativity”. To me, you are Merry Wonderful.

  • Joann Sommer

    I have always loved your creative energy Mary Fun. You’re like a little ball of fun that just keeps rolling along inspiring people as you go. My creativity shows up daily in my home and gardens (can I tell you how excited I am that spring has sprung). I enjoy moving things around to get a different perspective in the room ( or garden). This creates a different energy for. I change pictures, furniture, plants – I usually do it while cleaning.

    Love you,
    JoAnn

  • Karen Wythe

    My dear Mari-friend… I love your creative writing. And I know you have told me many times you don’t feel creative, I have never for a second doubted your creative nature. In ever so many ways your creativity shines. All I can say is a firefly never sees its own light. It’s light is behind it. And like a lightning bug you have a long list of your creative ventures in many forms visible behind you.

    This piece stimulates so many thoughts… First I wonder how can we ever think of not being creative. We wake and live a day. That In itself takes creative action. Then I think of it in the context of illness and having witnessed my brother’s creative genius dry as he was unknowingly just weeks from death and my own dealings with health issues causes me to recognize our creativity ebbs and flows. I like to believe it is always there waiting for the moment we can put our physical issues aside and open our hearts and let it flow…maybe creativity is an unnamed emotion…and much like other emotions that get squelched by life, it’s traumas and trials creativity simply gets squelched till we find the kindling that will reignite it again.

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    Dream big – Both Leos and Cancers like to dream. Cancer men usually have a running narrative in their heads, and they tend to understand things best through moving images. Leos operate in a similar manner. This means that the two of them have a very real possibility of making their dreams come true together.

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