Tig: Hi, I Have Cancer
If comedian Tig Notaro hadn’t had cancer, her life might’ve actually been worse. In those sobering moments post-diagnosis, she got up on stage and told a room of people all about it. “The crowd went wild” is an understatement and was only a taste of what was to come. Years after a recording of that standup set went viral and launched her into the cultural mainstream, Tig sits down with Stephanie to talk about living in a world of unknowns. Because as hard as her life was back then, Tig could have never imagined how good it was about to get.
This interview was recorded before the start of the SAG-AFTRA strike.
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Tig, Stephanie Wittels Wachs, Speaker 3
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 01:09
Hi, listeners, just a heads up. This interview was recorded before the start of the SAG-AFTRA strike.
So I was backstage with a handful of really well known comedians that are everybody’s in their own head, like working out their material. And I didn’t tell anybody there what I was about to do. I didn’t tell anybody there that I was sick. I didn’t. I mean, I was a hilariously sick looking, but I didn’t, you know, like, until I walked out on stage. Oh, my God. Yeah. So I was a little I was really I was pacing because I was like, Oh, God, oh, God, you know, I had so much on my mind. And I nobody, I wasn’t telling anybody anything. And this was going to be my big moment of sharing that I’m really sick and what I’ve been through, not just with the audience, but my peers. And also just for myself, I’m going to say it.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 02:13
It’s August 3rd, 2012. Work Week is done. It’s a Friday night, and you’re at a comedy club in LA called Largo. This venue is known for works in progress. So you’re expecting to see some sets that might be a little shaggy, or a little provocative, but nothing too out of the ordinary. What you end up getting though, is a raw, earth shattering confessional. Because the comic onstage is Tig Notaro. And she’s just received some devastating news. And she’s decided to reveal that news to everyone on stage tonight. This is LAST DAY, a show about the moments that change us. I’m your host, Stephanie WIttels Wachs. And today, the story of an epic risk that changed everything.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 03:28
I was so happy to see Tig when she popped up on the Zoom screen. We got connected years ago through my favorite comedian and favorite brother Harris widows. They were friends and I have always loved TIG. We did the old friends chit chat catch up thing. I told her my nine year old has been religiously watching her comedy specials on Netflix. And she told me how her twins who in my mind were still babies are now reading time people. It moves. And, of course, I asked her about her lovely wife Stephanie, who obviously has a great name.
Stephanie’s good, she’s she’s she’s writing and teed up to direct her own films and we’re producing together and she writes little parts for me and to show. Yeah, cute. Y’all are too cute. Look where I agree. I think we’re cute. But I always like to get the word out. Because people will tag us and be like relationship goals and all of that stuff. And it’s like, yeah, we have a blast, but we also are married with kids and working and we were I told her one day. I said you know, I love you 99% of the time. You are my favorite person. I love you like a crazy person. And then 1% of the time I can’t even verbalize how I feel about murder you.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 05:07
Leaves you in the desert.
Yeah. And she was like, same thing. I was always looking and searching and you know, I didn’t understand how people fall in love and look at somebody and go, Yeah, I want to, I want to do this forever with you. Because I loved people and I always say I talked in a high pitched voice, like, yeah, you know, it’s good. It’s let’s see. And then when I met Stephanie, I noticed that I was talking. Like, I met the most incredible person. And I met her while I was in the middle of all that.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 05:52
The all that that Tig is referencing is a big, gnarly series of unfortunate events that happened to her in 2012 in the window of like, three to six months. But in order to understand how TIG arrived there, we have to go back to where she started. TIG was born in Mississippi in 1971. My mother was also born in Mississippi and the way you actually spell that word is, am I Crooked Letter Crooked Letter I Crooked Letter Crooked Letter. I humped that combat guy. Anyway, she had a brother who was a year older than her and their world revolved around a single mom who was loving and fun and colorful and wild as all hell. Y’all were so close, right? Like you had the thing. The mom, daughter kid bond thing?
Yeah, we did. But we had a very up and down relationship. It was it was very, very up and down. And she was free spirited, artistic partier all of those things. She’s very funny, really beautiful. And you know, it’s when you’re a kid. And your mother is the cool mom and she’s wild and parties. It’s like, it’s cool. And then it’s also like, where’s dinner? You know? Yeah. She’s somebody that was drinking way too heavily. And then she would sober up. And then it was just a UP and down ON and OFF type thing. And that was that was a roller coaster. I mean, part of the roller guess. Yeah, there’s many seats on the roller coaster.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 07:39
When tickets still young, her family moves to Texas and her mom meets the man who would go on to become tick stepdad, from their their family unit continues to move around as taken her brother growing up. And this nomadic kind of wandering lifestyle follows Tig into her 20s.
I lived in Denver as a young adult. And two of my friends that I grew up with in Texas, we kind of followed each other around the country. And it was mainly me following them because I wasn’t in school or didn’t have any aspirations in that whole world, just not interested in that. Well, I was just trying to figure myself out because I failed three grades I dropped out of high school. And they were going to school and they were interested in moving out to Los Angeles. And so when my friends were leaving for LA, I said, Oh, well, me and my girlfriend just broke up. So why don’t I just throw my stuff in your truck. And I’ll go with you to LA. I’ll hang out there for like six months and just kind of lay low until things kind of settle after the breakup. And I’ll just go back to Denver. Yeah, I just I was at that point in life where you’re whatever 25 And you can kind of pick up and do whatever. So all of a sudden, we were moving to LA. And I went there to check it out just because I was obsessed with stand up. And so when we arrived in LA, when I opened in LA Weekly magazine, I saw all of the opportunity to get on stage to do stand up and after my first two weeks there, I started doing open mics. I was like, it was a very far away dream for me that I would ever even try it. It was like you dream of going to outer space when you’re a kid. That’s what standup was to me. And then when I saw the opportunity in like coffee shops and bars and clubs, even laundromats it was just everywhere you can really get on quote unquote stage anywhere and I I just immediately got into it. And I have been doing it this whole time.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 09:59
How do to even know how to I mean, you’ve been you’ve been a fan you’ve been watching stand up, because I didn’t say like, how do you even craft your first set? I mean, how did you know even how to start?
Well, I had a story. Maybe a couple of stories that were just true stories, and I just shared them. And I was talking myself over and over telling the stories, and not really accounting for laughs because I was just alone, just talking to myself. Yeah. And then, yeah, I went to this coffee shop on my 14th Day in Los Angeles, because that was my goal. I’m going to do this for two weeks. And then I’m going to get on stage.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 10:47
And I did that, and you did it. And then, and so when you told the story, and they laughed.
I was startled. Because I was like, Oh, right. That’s why I’m doing this. But then I’ve been talking to myself for two weeks. And I, I’m so used to the silence that it really shocked me. Wow.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 11:10
Wow. And did they laugh more than once? Did you get many?
Yeah, I mean, well, it’s funny, because here I am, 26 years later, and I always look back and say, and I had a really good set, but I’m sure if I saw that set, I would be mortified. But it gave me enough confidence that when I I heard about this stand up competition in like Orange County, and I was like, Oh, well, I I know how to do this. This is easy. I’ll just go do the competition. And try and win the $100. And I went down there with my friend Derek, and oh, my God, I bombed so hard. And like, abandon my set and ran off stage. No, no, no, no. And then Derek drove me back to LA. laughing. He was choking, laughing the whole time. He was like, Oh, my God. Oh, my God, that was those of us. That was, you know, just that fun of watching your good friend just nosedive?
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 12:13
Oh, no, yeah, yeah. But then you but then you got back on the bike. Obviously, that unpredictability is kind of a key tenant of stand up comedy. You kill one night and bomb the next. You see someone who totally sucks, write them off, and then boom, they get good.
And it’s just this incredible turn of events that is so fun to say. Because I would have bet my life. Yeah, I would have bet my life. They would never, ever get better. It’s such a an example of the bigger picture of life of just you really have no idea and that feeds into what your podcast is of you don’t know what’s coming. And you can think that you have everything planned out or you’re good or and this is how it’s gonna go. And it’s like, you have no idea how it’s gonna go.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 13:11
And that brings us to 2012 a time when TIG most certainly did not know how things were gonna go. To kick things off. Basically, out of nowhere, she comes down with pneumonia, which sucks, but was kind of a field day compared to what came next.
When I had been in the hospital, when I had pneumonia, I thought my symptoms are getting worse and worse. And then when I collapsed, and my girlfriend at the time took me to the hospital. They didn’t know what was wrong with me. But when I had pneumonia and went to urgent care, they gave me antibiotics. And the antibiotics cleared out my entire gut. And C Diff was the one bacteria left to survive and thrive and it just eats you alive. And it’s so potentially deadly and terrifying. And this is not an exaggeration. It is like having food poisoning every day of your life. When you’re like miserably in pain, miserably in pain. You cannot keep anything in your system, and you’re shaking and you’re sweating. And that’s what it’s like it does not stop.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 14:31
This rapid escalation of tics, illness all happens over the course of one month. And at the end of that month, tick gets even worse news.
When I got out of the hospital, that’s when my mother tripped. She hit her head because there was a place where my stepfather always sat. And then there was a place that my mother always sat and my mother would always get up and go Between her chair and the edge of his couch, where he sat. And every time he would say, don’t go through there, you’re gonna trip, you know? And then she did. And she sat up while he checked her head and she seemed okay. And then they continued watching TV, and then he went to bed. And then he got up in the morning, and she was sitting there still, but had blood running down. You know, her nose, mouth and shirt. And she was never conscious again.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 15:42
That’s horrible. Did your stepfather call to tell you about your mother?
Speaker 3 15:51
Hi, Tig. I’m afraid I have some terrible news. Your mother fell last night. And it looks like she’s not gonna make it. Please give me a call.
It’s the nightmare that anybody that you love that you you’re told it’s done. The door is shot. It’s over. There’s, there’s nothing you can do. And he you know, when my phone was ringing, I thought oh, this prime my mother. I had Mr. On my birthday. I thought we had, you know, played phone tag. And I thought oh, she’s this probably her calling to wish me a happy belated Happy Birthday. And and I picked it up. And it was my stepfather saying that my mother had fallen the night before. And that she was not conscious and that she’ll never be conscious again. And that, you know, we would have to take her off life support. I couldn’t comprehend that. I was like, Can I talk to her? Like, what do you mean? Like I couldn’t even I couldn’t I couldn’t even process what I was hearing. That’s really horrible. Yeah. And I remember the doctor when we were taking her off life support. He said, You know, even if your mother fell in the operating room, we couldn’t have saved her. But even like the crazy making moments of like, well, what if I had called and she’d answered the phone. I was just had just not, you know?
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 17:35
That seems really tough. Yeah. 2012 was a minefield of hardship for TIG. First the extreme sickness and losing her beloved mother. Then a few months later, she and her girlfriend break up. Now, if you’re listening to this, and you’re like, seriously, how could you break up with someone when they’re grieving? You can relax a little bit. TIG is very clear that her girlfriend didn’t abandon her. They’d only been together for like six months, and they just weren’t a good match romantically, which happens all the time in life. No one was cruel, and no angsty songs demanded to be written. In fact, Tiggs girlfriend had actually been a huge support throughout all this pain. She was always doing what she could to look out for ticks health, which is what she done when on top of all this other stuff, take notice that she had several lumps on her breasts that she didn’t take very seriously.
I would tease my girlfriend, who was insisting that I get my lumps checked out and I’d be like, Oh, I have cancer. Oh, and she’d be like, stop it. You This is not funny. You need to go get that checked out had several lumps in both sides. And I was like, Oh, you think I have can’t have this account. I have cancer.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 18:59
But after the breakup, TIG finally went and got it checked out.
So what happened was, I went in, and they did the ultrasound and the mammogram and all that and I remember the doctor came in and and she said, Well, you know? I can’t confirm without having a biopsy done. But based on what I’m looking at, it is very likely that you have cancer. And I was like, what? I was just stunned and I and it makes no sense. But I immediately was thinking but my mother just died. But I just got out of the hospital. I had C Diff I had pneumonia. I like I don’t What do you mean? My girlfriend I just broke up. Cool. Like, what we were talking about earlier is you have these ideas of how life is going to go and I had in my head, well, I’m going to do all of these shows, I’m going to save my money, and I’m going to have a child. And that’s how my life is gonna go. And I did, I did all these shows, I saved my money, and I was about to have a child. But then I became deathly ill. And then my mother died. And then I was alone. And all I had was money in the bank. And I didn’t have a healthy body to have a child and I didn’t have a healthy body to even adopt a child. You know, and there’s a lot of people that are very, like, why are people having kid Why don’t you adopt a kid? Why don’t you and it’s like, it’s not that easy. Nope. And when I sat down, sick as a dog, filling out an application, do you think people are wanting to throw their child at me when I am gay? I have no religion. I’m a comedian. I’m, I’m I’m sick. Nobody’s handing me their child. No, I have I have a GED dropped out of high school people are not like, oh, this person looks good on paper. I looked bad in person and in paper. And so anyway, it stopped my life in its tracks.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 23:25
We are back. Tig us 41. And despite how improbable It seems she’s just been diagnosed with breast cancer. It’s the latest and a line of terrible tragedies all condensed into one calendar year. Now remember, by this point, TIG is a bonafide comedian, making jokes telling stories making people feel good and happy. Talk about irony. And the very next week after getting this diagnosis, she is scheduled to do a stand up set at a popular comedy club in LA called Largo. Understandably, TIG doesn’t feel like she can go through with it. So she calls Lanie, the owner of the club to let them know.
And I just said, Hey, I I was just diagnosed with invasive cancer. And I think I’m gonna have to cancel my show. And he was like, why don’t you just leave it on the books? And he said you can cancel day have you can cancel one second before you walk on stage. But if there’s a moment that you feel like, yeah, I can do this, then let’s just keep it and I was like, What, are you not hearing me? And he knew what I had been through. I mean, he Yeah, you know, I’ve been close with him for a long time. And he was he was there throughout it and and so I kept it and then I just decided, You know what, kind of like that nothing matters. moment came over me of like, you know what? Nothing matter what I’m gonna go do the show.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 25:12
The day of or like when when did the nothing matters fuck it I’m going to do the show thing.
I think it was the day before day day of where I was just like okay, I’ll I guess I’m gonna come do this?
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 25:27
Are you writing stuff down on a napkin? Or like are you planning the set? How, like helped me understand how you figure out what you’re going to say?
Well as painful physically and emotionally as that time was, I was still experiencing some of the deepest darkest laughs with everything I had been through and and I just started taking notes of all these different thoughts that I was having. And my main concern was, if I do this show, how am I going to get into the material, because the material is so kind of dark and bleak and crazy. And and, and so that’s where when I was in the shower, right before I left for the show, I had this thought that ran through my head of like, what if I go onstage and say, Hello, good evening, I have cancer and deliver it like how comedians deliver Hey, any birthdays in the audience tonight, you know? And then I started laughing so hard, like maniacally in the shower. I was like, Oh my god. Oh my god. Oh my god, that would be so funny. And then I thought, I can’t do that. Because what if I offend people? What if people have cancer? And then I was like, I have cancer. I can do this. Good evening, hello. I have cancer, how are you? I came on stage, not knowing if I was gonna live or die. And because my life had fallen apart so quickly, I kind of assumed I was going to die.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 27:13
What was going through your head right before you walked out?
Well, there were a lot of comedians, you know, a lot of shows at Largo, a comedian will have their own show and then there will be a bunch of guest comedians, or comedians will pop in unannounced and, and do sets. And so I was backstage with a handful of really well known comedians that are everybody’s in their own head, like working out their material. And I didn’t tell anybody there what I was about to do. I didn’t tell anybody there that I was sick. I didn’t. I mean, I was a hilariously sick looking, but I didn’t, you know, like, yeah, until I walked out on stage. Oh, my God. Yeah. So I was a little I was really I was pacing because I was like, Oh, God, oh, God, you know, I had so much on my mind. And I, nobody, I wasn’t telling anybody anything. And this was going to be my big moment of sharing that I’m really sick and what I’ve been through, not just with the audience, but my peers. And also just for myself, I’m going to say it after I had just told my ex girlfriend, do not tell a soul, you know, and it’s hard for me to listen to that set. And not because of the time period, it’s solely because of being a comedian that you practice and you run through material and you perfect it to the best of your ability. And, and this was so raw, not just emotionally physically raw, but it was nothing was perfected. And I was very nervous. And I’m not a nervous performer. I feel like I could if somebody tapped me on the shoulder right now and said, Do you want to come perform in front of 100,000 people that have sold out stadium I will be like, Sure. And you know, and it’s not because I don’t care about stand up anymore. It’s just that I feel very comfortable. Yeah. And that night, I felt very nervous because I didn’t know how people were going to react. I didn’t know if I was going to completely tank and then just disappear and die. And that would be the final show anybody saw me. And so when I it’s hard for me to listen because the material isn’t isn’t worked out. And I can also hear this in my voice that’s a little shaky, you know?
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 29:54
Well, it was so out of your like, that’s not how you did it, you would you would polish and perfect and workshop and to get up and just, like, take a shot in the dark. I mean, it’s such a fascinating thing to listen to, because you can hear on both sides. Like the nervousness, yeah, of every one. It’s like, and there’s like the relationship with the audience the entire time is like, there could be like a course on it. It’s just like, it’s like a, like, a microcosm of human communication.
Well, yeah, I always tell people that I truly feel like those were the exact, perfect people to have been in that audience at night. And, and every now and then, and it’s maybe happened five times, I’ll run into somebody and they’re like, I was there. I was at the show. And I’m like, I feel immediately like, we are friends like bonded. Gosh, yeah. Thank you so much. And yeah, and I feel so so thankful for that audience.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 31:12
Oh, my God, that moment. Like, where? Ha, where that guy says, No, make me cry. This is fucking amazing. Yeah, you can hear you. Like, okay, because you have these moments all throughout. We were like, I should just tell a stupid joke. I like you can hear yourself in real time, which I think is like, I understand it’s not polished and perfect. But it is such a what’s so fascinating listening to it is like you’re so present in it. Your thought process is fully on display. That’s such a unique experience to see somebody working something out. And then to get the validation from them. Yes, so it’s such a beautiful 30 minutes.
Yeah, that that guy. I’m curious who he is. We got to find that guy. Yeah. Because it was. He’s like, this is incredible. And it really did. I almost started crying on stage in that moment, because it was so I mean, from his gut and heart and soul, he was demanding that I not stop. And, and it’s it was really helpful, because I did feel like I was I was concerned that people were going to feel like they wasted their money, you know, because it was such a circus.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 32:45
You know, like, as raw as one could possibly get.
You know, what if I just transitioned right now into silly just jokes right now? Oh, no, no, I want to hear more bad news. Know where are you? Right here. This is fucking amazing.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 33:19
So you go out and you do it. And you have this beautiful validating moment with this with the audience. And they seem so into it. I mean, today, I’ll just like, stand up and applaud you wildly when you were done. Was it like, crowd went wild? And it was?
Yeah, yeah. As I was so choked up. When I walked out on stage, I was choked up because I was scared. And I was nervous, and I got choked up when the guy told me not to quit. And then I was so choked up, when they gave me that standing ovation, and were like, cheering wildly. It was it was really so. Yeah, it’s crazy, because obviously, I’m well aware, and I think about it every day, that time period. But when I really break through those moments, it’s such an example of true connection and humanity on from everybody. Everybody talks about rollercoasters, you know, people are confused. People thought I was kidding. Yeah. And laughing uncomfortably and laughing so hard. And the people were like, kind of mouth open, covering their mouth, like what is happening? And then when I confirm No, I really do have cancer and then nervous laughter and seeing people crying in the audience and then getting into the jokes about it and people really laughing and it just was, it was a ride. That four months that show blew the doors open on my life. And I couldn’t hide that I was devastated. I couldn’t hide that I was so heartbroken that I was so sick. I would walk around with my finger a hook in my belt loop because my clothes were falling off. You know, I was so sick. You can’t, I couldn’t hide it. I had nothing to lose anymore and lost everything.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 35:43
Tig gives the most honest performance of her life. And then she heads out. A few of her friends were there at the show. And they all go to a diner afterwards. They talk for hours and then take goes to bed. It all feels cathartic and calm. But for some reason, when she wakes up the next day, her voice mailbox is full. So is her email. She has tons of texts, because as it turns out, word has gotten out about her smash of a set the night before. And people are impressed.
Yeah, people were just like, oh, yeah, everybody’s blogging about this and tweeting about this. And it went viral. I was like, I don’t even understand what you’re telling me. But I always describe it as like if your great great grandmother went viral, I had no idea what had happened. I, I had done this set. For nearly 300 people. I went to a diner with my best closest childhood friends. And then I went to my home and went to sleep. What What the hell just happened? Rolling Stone magazine is reaching out I have booked deal offers and I’m like, what I was so. But then it also made sense. Because life was so confusing at this point. It’s like, what is happening? It’s like, of course. How does everybody know this? And I was also I’m not like the biggest social media person now. But if you caught me in 2012, even less, isn’t less. Even less. I did not know what had happened when people were like, Oh, you went viral overnight. I was like, what does that even mean? I was in a comedy club. What do you mean, I went viral? I could not understand how publishing companies knew while I was sleeping. And then my girls, my ex girlfriend is reading all this and that’s when she reached out was like, Oh, I’m not supposed to tell anyone and you’re telling and I you know, it just was so sensitive. So much chaos at once. And I didn’t mean for that. To be like in anyone’s face or any night. Like I thought I was going to tell intimately tell this venue and then go deal with my life. Yeah, and maybe die. You know?
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 38:20
That’s not what happened. God, we’re so glad We are back and Tig is big within 24 hours of this raw, spontaneous comedy set At her name starts making the rounds. And before she knows it, she’s hit the big time. She is getting recognition and opportunities she had never even dreamed of. I mean ticket already been well known in comedy circles. She was friends with people like Sarah Silverman and Pete Holmes and this incredibly talented comedian named Harris whittles. But there is a difference between being a comedians comedian and, you know, being featured in Time magazine. This performance launches TIG into the mainstream. But TIG was very clear on how she’d gotten there. All those hours she’d spent practicing and the sets she’d done in the past and the nosedives she’d made everything she’d done before had led her to this moment. You had been doing stand up at that point for how many years?
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 40:57
So it’s like you knew the craft, you knew how to do it. Like, that’s what so it’s not like somebody who had never done stand up like TIG who went to the coffee shop the first time and tried to do this set probably wouldn’t have pulled it off. But you took all the rules that you knew about it, and then just put this really raw, vulnerable thing on stage. And because you already are so good at it, and you’ve practiced so many times. You like sword, you know?
Yeah, yeah. I was doing standup just like.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 41:32
In a different in a different container, though, than you’d ever done it before.
Yeah, so it was a different container. But it was stand up.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 41:39
I mean, because the truth is that Rolling Stone even though you’re a fantastic comedian, Rolling Stone, and book deals weren’t coming in, did your there was something about this thing that like spoke to people.
I think that there’s something everyone can connect with in that four month period of time of losing a parent losing a loved one. Yeah. cancer, cancer touches so many people. Yeah. Loss of love and all I mean, there’s, there’s just there’s so many things. And I also think that people really love being a fly on the wall. And that was such, like we mentioned how, you know, this isn’t a polished, confessional stand up special. This is it going down.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 42:41
Post it going down, takes career advances to a whole new level. Over the next few years, she gets nominated for multiple Grammys, including for the recording of her cancer set. she publishes a book she writes, produces and stars in her own TV show. She acts in lots of other projects. And as you heard earlier, a whole documentary gets made about her life. But at the end of the day, she is still the woman who got a cancer diagnosis, she did get a double mastectomy. But the reality is something like cancer never really stops being a factor in your life. And it definitely hasn’t fatigue.
I have a lot of fear that comes up. Because I’ve had struggles over the past decade and I’ve had scares, I was in Toronto to film I’m on this Star Trek series. And I’m in another country in the pandemic in a two week quarantine that I have to get through in order to film. And I’m like two days away from the quarantine being over and I find a lump an inch away from the scar on my chest. And I had been told if my cancer returns, I’m terminal. And so I’m in a complete meltdown. And I’ve just spent two weeks in a hotel room. And if I leave and go see my doctor, and it’s nothing, then I’ve wasted two weeks sitting in a hotel room in quarantine for nothing, you know, or I could be terminal. And if I’m terminal then why not just film for the next few days and then go back to LA. I mean, it’s like it’s so confusing and scary and I’m just that was terrifying. Terrifying. But yeah, I don’t I wouldn’t say live every day scared. But I don’t take it lightly when I go in for test results and you know Checking my levels and scans and all of that, because I’ve seen many times how it doesn’t always go the way you want, and life slips away. And doors close. And it doesn’t happen perfectly. You’re not always, you know, lucky to be surrounded by friends and family and peacefully die.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 45:26
I assume that it was fine.
Yeah, it was benign. Okay. My body has created a few benign situations since that. And it’s just not.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 45:40
Not cool body. This, my friends, is what we call the happy sad, the relief of finding out that your second bout of lumps was fine, even if the first one wasn’t. And that’s why you have crippling anxiety every time you feel something in your boob. Or when you’ve been feeling pretty gosh darn lost and alone. But then you meet somebody, somebody new and cool and cute. Because, as TIG said, It was right before that life tsunami of 2012 that she was first introduced to Stephanie, the woman she’s happily married to today.
She and I were in a an indie film, Stephanie and I had these minor roles. And we played love interests. And I had my girlfriend at the time. But I wasn’t interested in Stephanie. And she had never dated a woman, we just really connected and had a nice time on set. But I didn’t know I had three potentially deadly illnesses while I was on set, and I just thought I had a cold or something. And so Stephanie and I are in that movie together, and we go our separate ways. And she told me that she remembered reading about and hearing about what happened. And she said, and I just remember thinking, Oh, I really liked her. That’s so sad. You know, and, and then, six months after we had filmed the movie, I resurfaced in life. And it was kind of my first time back out into the world. And I saw her. And we were like, hey, oh my gosh, we were in a movie and, and the movie was going to Sundance. And so we exchanged numbers, because we were both going to be at the Sundance Film Festival. And then now we’re married with two kids and three cats and a production company and 99% good times and 1% Hell. You know, I could never have imagined that Stephanie Allen existed. I could never have imagined. Max and Finn were I couldn’t have and then when they arrived, it’s like, of course, that’s who was coming. It’s really something how people who’ve known me my whole life can say, oh, my gosh, you haven’t changed a bit. And then when you take a second look, I am a completely different person. When I think of myself in that relationship in 2012, when I am so doubtful that I could ever have a deadly illness that I’m just there’s that’s not me. That’s other people have these tragic stories, not me. I do not know, myself. I don’t recognize myself at all. I really, really don’t. I, it makes me shudder. And that’s why I’m so thankful for that time, because I don’t want to be that person. And Stephanie and I always talk about that all the time about how you know how people use it in a negative way of like, you’ve changed. It’s like, Well, yeah. So, yeah, I hope you change too. I definitely would not have married me if I was the person before. 2012. Yeah. And I wouldn’t marry her. If she was still who she was when I met her in 2012. You know, yeah, because we’ve changed. It’s that bittersweet. Example of I’m thankful I’m thankful for that time and I cannot I don’t want to live through it. I hate that my mother’s gone. But man did it open my heart and soul and you know, I used to tell people Oh, why me like I don’t feel like I’m somebody where my friends would be like, you know the needs a wake up call is tick. And I never felt like I did. And it took me until I would say the past two years. That looking back, I did need a wake up call. And not that I needed that, or I should have had that big wake up call, but it I realized how asleep I was.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 50:22
Yeah. Well, and it’s like, you probably wouldn’t have been able to even attach to Stephanie in the way that you did. And you wouldn’t like, there. It’s like you, that’s such a crazy game to play, though, when you’re like, Well, if this didn’t happen, then this wouldn’t have happened. And then it it, it’s like, this was a fucking horrible time, it was the worst time of my life and yet, then blew the doors open and completely changed me from the inside out, right, ultimately made me a better functioning human.
Yeah. And every, if you’re lucky, every devastating experience in life is that invitation. And honestly, one of the most positive things that came out of all of the loss and destruction and pain and sadness, and everything is that I really, and I can’t say I do this 100% across the board, but I try my hardest to do what I want to do. And I want to make sure I’m making decisions that, okay, I want to go take this job, or I’m gonna go have lunch with this person, or I’m going this is going to be, you know, good for me or fun. And it’s going to come from a positive place to the best of my ability, because I always think, if I get any kind of call, a devastating phone call, and I’m doing something so pointless and stupid and waste of time, or people that suck my energy, or I want to feel like I can look around, and at least not be mad at myself, that I was doing what I was doing in that moment.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 52:18
Oh my god, now I feel really even more deeply honored that you’re here. I always like to wrap these things up by like, just asking, you know, what the snapshot is today?
What does it look like? What is the snapshot of my life, I mean, I always go back to this, and it’s that I just really am so thankful that I have crawled out of this many holes. And, and I just want to be able to maintain what I have. I really, really want to be able to maintain that. I love Stephanie, I love my children. I’m so thankful for my health, and I work on it all the time. It’s obviously scary. You know, talking about my cat, the show I did about having cancer and stuff that haunts me, and I have fear around my health and being 15 years older than my wife and having young children and I haven’t been as sick as I was. These past 10 or 11 years have been a roller coaster with my health and, and I just get, it keeps me on my toes. But I it sent me in the direction of eating better. And exercising and prioritizing my health because I do want to be around. Yeah, I really do.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 54:03
The kids. They really. They really do change the game.
Yeah. And even Stephanie. When we when we got together. I remember she was saying. She was like, yeah, I want to live to be 100. And I was like, whoa. And in my head. I was always like, Oh yeah, it’d be fine if I made it to like 70 or something. But then after meeting her, she was like, when I said 70, shoots 70. She said, No, I want to tie together. And I was like, Well, I’m 15 years older, so I’d have to live to be 115, and she was like you can do it. And now I am here on a mission to try my best to live to be 115.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 54:56
I think that’s the most romantic thing I’ve ever done. Wow, that’s amazing.
Yeah. So it’s back to balance of trying to figure out how to maintain good health and have the reasonable amount of concern about my life and well being but also not be controlled by held hostage by it, right? Yeah. Yeah. It’s hard.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 55:30
And I feel like Yeah, I think, yeah, we’ll spend the rest of our lives trying to master it, and then we’ll die. Eventually, you’ll be 115.
I know. Stephanie, we’ll be 100 and we will hold hands and pass peacefully, as you drift to sleep with Max and Finn and our 89 year old cats around us because they also started eating vegan.
There’s even more LAST DAY with Lemonada Premium. Subscribers get exclusive access to bonus content like an AMA with yours truly. AMA stands for Ask Me Anything in case you didn’t know. So just FYI and FYI means for your information. So subscribe now in Apple Podcasts. LAST DAY is a production of Lemonada Media. The show is produced by Kegan Zema, Aria Bracci, and Tiffany Bui. Our engineer is Brian Castillo. Music is by Hannis Brown. Steve Nelson is our Vice President of weekly content and production and Jackie Danziger is our Vice President of narrative content and production. Executive Producers are Jessica Cordova Kramer and me Stephanie Wittels Wachs. If you’d like what you heard today, we have three other seasons that you can check out. Have a story you’d like to share, head to bit.ly/lastdaystories, or click the link in the show notes to fill out our confidential Google Form. follow and subscribe wherever you get your podcasts or listen ad free on Amazon music with your Prime membership. You can find us online at @LemonadaMedia and you can find me at @WittelStephanie. Thank you for listening, we will see you next week.