Geri: Please tell us a little about your career.
Apryl: I’ve written and recorded two award-winning albums, Morningstar and Shape Shifter. About one-quarter of my blood is Comanche, and I’m working on a fictional Native American trilogy, based on historical fantasy. Imagine Harry Potter meets The Lion King. I’ve met with elders of my tribe and heard their stories about their childhood. I feel honored they’re willing to share their stories with me, and that they know I’m coming from a place of respect in the retelling of my native heritage. My hope is to preserve these stories and their experiences.
Did you ever pity yourself during your experience?
Never, because that plays into your positive outlook, the outlook that you have about your future. I asked the questions why, why now, why did this have to happen? But I felt that if I allowed myself to feel pity for what I was going through I could sink into that hole very easily, and I didn’t want to go there. I wanted to focus on getting myself better. As my 92-year old aunt said to me, ‘Happiness is the best medicine.’ That’s what I focused on.
What sets Tango apart from other books on breast cancer?
When you’re diagnosed with breast cancer, you find yourself searching for a book on the subject, hoping to find a ‘how-to’ guide with informative support and encouragement that answers the question, ‘is it normal for me to feel this way?’ Believe it or not, there are over 60,000 books on the subject. Most fall into the category of ‘survivor’ stories meant to emotionally rivet you, but chances are you’ll quickly tire of these accounts and want to focus on what you can anticipate.
Other books, written by medical experts, offer no insight into the realities of your life as you enter the healthcare maze. Tango literally is an open book about the feelings and possibilities you may encounter. Yes, this is my experience with breast cancer but, as I remind the reader, no one ‘story’ is the same. This unpleasant twist of fate can and be will be different for everyone.
Tango speaks of the actualities one faces when you’re not famous, like Robin Roberts or Angelina Jolie, when you’re considered just another patient. It reveals the honest truth a woman experiences personally behind closed doors.
Was there any book that you found especially helpful during your journey?
Not during my journey, but afterwards I found A Silver Lining, by Hollye Jacobs, RN, MS, MSW. This book is extremely helpful because she is a medical expert who clarifies terminology and explains what to expect from each treatment. Tango goes hand-in-hand with this book. My perspective is that of an individual who knows nothing about treatments. I bring to light the realities of what you’ll encounter in this alternate world, and the difficulty patients face when attempting to find their voices. Tango stresses the importance of relying heavily on your intuition in the search for peace.
What gave you the impetus to write the book? Was there an AHA moment?
I had no intention whatsoever to write a book. My plans were to attack this cancer like a business, to get through it, and get back on with my life. As I had mentioned, I was in the middle of writing a Native American musical at the time, had all the music written and was working on the storyline, and then this happened.
When I was first diagnosed, my loved ones would call to check up on me, to see if I was doing ok, but it was depressing to keep repeating the saga. I wanted to melt into the couch every night after I got off the phone.
A friend suggested that I instead write emails to everyone, so I wouldn’t have to repeat updates over and over again. It helped me to release what I was feeling. I used it like a journal. It was during this period that people started calling me and asking if I’d mind if they forwarded my emails to friends who were just diagnosed with cancer. I started off with maybe 15 friends and ended up with about 250 people reading the emails. We’ve all heard of individuals who claim it’s a ‘spiritual journey’–which I never got until after I went through it. The best way I can explain it was that I had a lightening of my soul in January 2014. My brain was going through a dump and letting go of everything I just went through. Then I realized that someone needed to write a book about the realities of our healthcare system; how you’re treated; how you feel being diagnosed with a potentially deadly disease.
Your husband Ken plays a major role in your journey. How did you meet and what does he do?
Ken is an architect, and the president of his company. We met sitting in the bulkhead on a plane going to LA; at the time, I was pursuing an acting career and he was speaking at a conference. Every seat on the plane was taken, except the one between us. We married on August 8th, 2000, which is my mother’s birthday. She passed away two years later, but our anniversary is a beautiful way to remember her. I really love and miss her.
Ken was my control freak as I went through all this. We were getting ready to do construction on our house when I was diagnosed, for example, and I suggested that we hire someone to water the plants. ‘No no I can handle it. I can handle it,’ Ken said. I thought, ‘how many things can this man juggle, and then throw caring for me into the scenario?’ Ken ended up with heart arrhythmia in August 2014, from stress, and had to have his heart shocked back into the proper beat.