April in Glenwood: Fighting with six feet of soul
I often think about a comic friend I met several years ago through stand-up. She is fighting leukemia. Battling with every ounce of her funny soul — if souls are even measured in ounces.
Maybe it’s more like feet.
When I think of a song that represents my six-foot-tall friend, a mainstay in the rousing Denver scene, it’s Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down.” The second track from 1989’s “Full Moon Fever” album is one of my favorites. Partly because it reminds me of Tom Petty CDs being played over and over again in college. The song also triggers fond memories of seeing Pearl Jam open for Tom Petty in Denver from the 10th row of the Pepsi Center.
If I were to suggest a Bucket List show, that would be it.
The lyrics of “I Won’t Back Down” resonate with practically any situation that feels unbearable: “Hey baby, there ain’t no easy way out/Hey I will stand my ground/And I won’t back down.” “Full Moon Fever” was Petty’s first solo album, and it only makes sense his words can inspire us to fight and persevere with all that we have.
Sometimes even alone.
If Walter Bradford Cannon’s fight-or-flight response theory holds true, we either react physiologically to threatening scenarios by fighting or fleeing. Cannon found that hormones estrogen, testosterone and cortisol, and neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin, affect how organisms react to stress. Now that I’ve birthed a baby, I see how important hormones play in pregnancy.
Especially during childbirth and subsequent motherhood.
Fighting was my innate response, and my son Will’s, during our difficulty journey of his birth. Call it a mother’s intuition, or just a gut feeling I had when he and I were on hospital bed rest. I just knew he should carry the name Will, known for meaning “strong and valiant protector,” and a common name on both sides of our family trees.
Will just felt right.
Not backing down and battling with bravery is the motivation my comedy friend Heather Snow incorporates into her cancer fight. Her resilience through the long hospital stays and countless procedures, including a bone marrow transplant, has been nothing short of miraculous. Not that every day is like the scene from a rom-com where a single white cancer patient falls in love and suddenly finds herself cured. She discovers a shiny diamond engagement ring in her chocolate pudding cup and everyone lives happily ever after.
It could happen.
As funny as she is on stage, and if we’re anything alike, Heather often takes more of an honest, humorous and real approach to her cancer fight. Think more like the medical comedy “Scrubs.” She has been open about the leukemia experience since her surprise diagnosis after an impromptu emergency room visit. So much so, she continues to write her blog, sixfeetofsnow.com, describing herself as, “The bald girl you probably saw at Walgreens. She probably told a joke.”
I can totally see that.
Heather also provides updates on Twitter at @sixfeetofsnow and posts photos on Instagram. A recent pic of a fat medical file folder with caption reading, “My medical chart is so big that they have a ‘Volume II,’” prompted some witty commentary, including Denver comedian Jill Tasei’s clever hashtag #humblebrag, on Facebook. In August, Heather used that humor as medicine and motivation, joining fellow Front Range comics in the High Plains Comedy Festival to tell jokes and bits about her battle.
The words valiant, and fearless, come to mind.
I first met Heather when my dream of pursuing stand-up comedy for a living was in full fruition. I had aspirations of fame and stardom then, and the two-and-a-half-hour drive from the mountains to Denver for stand-up was necessary for quality stage time. Heather ran a show at the Beauty Bar off Colfax, combining comedy and cocktails with manicures and pedicures.
It was everything it sounds like, and more.
It’s common for comics, along with musicians and artists, to always remember those first friends made in a career’s beginning, when creative souls are virgin and green. I treasure those early friendships from Denver comics made in those initial years of stand-up. There’s a bond formed in sharing that unwavering fear of performing in front of complete strangers for the first time. Like Tom Petty sang, there ain’t no easy way out of a bit with no laughs. To make it, there’s no backing down. And it takes a lot of inner-strength and will.
That, as Heather knows, can also be said about life.
April E. Clark sends healing vibes to Heather and friends and family of Jordan Wieleba, another groundbreaking woman in the Denver comedy scene. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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