Over the next decade, I entertained at educational conferences with interactive storytelling. A non-healing sore on my tongue was eventually diagnosed as stage IV oral cancer. Tragically ironic for a storyteller! The radical surgery and treatment was devastating but my outcome was extraordinary.
A couple of years later, the ADA (American Dental Association) launched an awareness campaign with the message, ‘There is a painless way to know if this is serious.’ The voicemail I left on their 800 line was succinct, “You need to know my story and I want to help you.” They called back.
In 2003, for the first time, I told my very personal story in a public way, in front of 9K dentists at the Annual ADA Conference. The details motivated a call to action. Doctors from across the country requested a presentation for their regional dental meetings. My speaking career took off. Patient stories matter.