A Three-Minute Speech: Evoke Emotion and Impart Wisdom

THANC

My three minutes of podium time was preceded with an introduction by CNN anchor Chris Cuomo. His introduction was about the power of story, and specifically my expertise on the subject. He didn’t just do research on me. He admitted to me that he was aware of my work years ago. I was surprised to say the least. More importantly, I had to deliver the goods!

There is no better way to engage the audience and be memorable than with a story. How? Create a visual image, evoke emotion and impart wisdom. Is it possible in a mere 3 minutes? You tell me.

Below is my speech at the THANC (Thyroid Head and Neck Cancer) Annual Fundraising event at which I was honored for my work to raise awareness about oral cancer:

A late stage diagnosis of oral cancer can rob you of a humane life. Dr. Urken preserved my quality-of-life allowing me to enjoy the ability to speak articulately, eat normally and smile unabashedly. It’s what humans live for and often take for granted.

Just before I was discharged from Mt Sinai, the cast on my arm was removed and I saw a long curving row of black stitches which was where the artery was taken from my arm to feed blood from my carotid to the graft site in my tongue. I saw a deep red hollowed area where my wrist tissue was transplanted to my tongue. I turned away in disgust. But I knew it was me; I knew I had to own it. When I looked again, I saw a curving string attached to a red balloon. I vowed I would take hold of that red balloon because it could only take me upwards, the only direction I could go from where I’d been.

After surgery, everyday I felt a little better, and when you are feeling better there’s hope. When there is hope, you can go on. Radiation was different. Everyday I felt ‘it can’t get worse than this.’ But it did. One night, I reached that deep dark place where I made a decision. I gave treatment my best, I just couldn’t go on. That night, I wrote a note to my husband about where I wanted to be buried and a letter to my children about my dreams and wishes for them, my pride and joy in them, my values that I hoped would live on.

The following day, I felt it was only fair to tell my radiation oncologist face-to-face about my decision. We sat down in his office and he said, “Eva, radiation to the head and neck is the most difficult area on the entire body to tolerate treatment. Is there anything you want to talk about?”

In my hoarse whisper, I said ‘I’m quitting.’

He stood up, put his hands on his desk, leaned close to me and I’ll never forget his words: “Don’t tell me you are quitting. This isn’t a game you quit. It’s your life. Find the strength.”

The last two weeks of radiation were a blur of pain. Crying made my symptoms unbearable. I learned fast to control the tears. I fought ugly thoughts with pretty ones. I replaced unhappy endings with happy ones. I dreamed about my future. I watched and read anything that would make me laugh. Laughing was medicine, even if it was only for a moment! It amazed me that feeling as rock bottom as I did, I could still laugh at a joke.

It is human nature to lament your losses and a true human skill to recognize your gifts. Throughout my ordeal with oral cancer, I never lost the ability to make a choice. When we choose to face our life challenges with strength, we turn adversity into opportunity; an opportunity to leave a legacy of choosing gratitude, choosing courage, choosing moments to cherish. The virtues we choose to embody, have a rippling effect, inspiring all those who know us, and through them, together we can inspire countless others.

When I was walking the tightrope, balancing between life and death, I thought good and hard about how I would be remembered. We are remembered for how we make a difference in other people’s lives. Thank you Dr. Urken, the THANC Foundation and all of YOU for truly making a difference in the lives of head and neck cancer survivors.

Afterwards, I went over to Chris and told him that it was one of the best introductions I ever received. Chris, if you are reading this, please paste your intro. I’d like to save for posterity. It made my day when he told me, “Eva, you delivered the goods.”

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By | 2016-10-14T15:18:13+00:00 November 8th, 2015|Speaker, Storytelling, Survivorship|9 Comments

About the Author:

Eva Grayzel, a nationally recognized Master Storyteller and performance artist, was diagnosed at age 33 with stage IV oral cancer and given a 15% chance of survival. After regaining her deep vibrant voice, Eva applied her stage skills to communicate the depth of her experience in a unique and powerful way. For over a decade, Eva has captivated dental professionals worldwide using her story as a catalyst for change. She performed ‘Tongue-Tied’ Off-Broadway in New York City to a sold-out audience. A champion for early detection, Eva founded the Six-Step Screening™ oral cancer awareness campaign, for which she was recognized by the American Academy of Oral Medicine. She is the author of ‘Mr. C Plays Hide & Seek’ and ‘Mr. C the Globetrotter.’ In 2017, she created ‘My Story Legacy,’ a creative format to document family stories, life values and wisdom for future generations.

9 Comments

  1. Eva November 9, 2015 at 9:33 am - Reply

    From Catherine Trinder-Miller:
    Beautifully written. Beautifully lived. In the depths of despair, to find such strength, to receive such caring and wise council, embodies hope and great courage. Your commitment to pay it forward inspires me, and so many. I am blessed to know you.

  2. Eva Grayzel November 12, 2015 at 8:22 am - Reply

    From Bettye J. Hooks:
    Yes you did deliver the goods Eva. I thank God you held on to the RED balloon. You are awesome for continuing the fight!!! Now you are able to tell us the story. Yes your story does evoke emotion and impart wisdom.

  3. Eva Grayzel November 12, 2015 at 8:23 am - Reply

    From Catherine Trinder-Miller:
    Beautifully written. Beautifully lived. In the depths of despair, to find such strength, to receive such caring and wise council, embodies hope and great courage. Your commitment to pay it forward inspires me, and so many. I am blessed to know you.

  4. Eva Grayzel November 12, 2015 at 8:23 am - Reply

    From Rose Allshouse:
    We are thankful that you didn’t quit! You have done so much good and are continually delivering the goods. Kudos on your three minute speech. I hope to read Chris’s intro in the near future.

  5. Eva Grayzel November 12, 2015 at 8:25 am - Reply

    From Cherry Estrada:
    Oh Eva, what a wonderful speech! Congratulations for your award and recognition.But as you know, these public awards pale in comparison to the “rewards” you have gotten and continue to get from the many, many people you have helped and inspired. I am certainly not downplaying this incredible acknowledgement of your contribution to oral cancer. I am merely putting it in the perspective of the human panorama of oral cancer victims and the unseen/uncounted public at large who, through you, were made aware of the importance of oral screening and hygiene.

    I am so privileged to have watched you from the outset and witnessed your metamorphosis into this amazing woman who turned her adversity into a strength of purpose and blessing to help so many. Congratulations!

  6. Annmarie Mariano November 12, 2015 at 7:56 pm - Reply

    Eva, This is so moving, I do remember those days, at times we couldn’t even hug you to comfort you because of how much pain you were in. Before your surgery do you remember we were talking on the phone and you earnestly asked me, “why? why do you think this is happening to me?” I answered, just off the cuff, to help others…..Well! who knew what level you would have taken that to?!! How many lives you have touched! I am so happy for your recognition and so blessed to have you in our lives.

    • Eva November 14, 2015 at 5:07 pm - Reply

      Annmarie, I’ve learned since that time that the question should not be ‘Why me?.’ The question should be, ‘What now?’ It’s not about the length of our lives but the breadth of it.

  7. Rob Protz November 14, 2015 at 11:05 am - Reply

    Incredibly beautiful speech by an incredibly beautiful woman who inspires all of us survivors – OC and others too! So glad to say I know you, Eva 🙂

  8. Eva Grayzel November 17, 2015 at 8:03 am - Reply

    We all have a mission in this world and you were chosen at age 33 to raise awareness for oral cancer. Congratulations! With deep recognition for what you do for the human good,
    Dr. Suzette Barreto

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