From storyteller to oral cancer survivor, to motivational speaker, to patient advocate.
My name is Eva Grayzel
I’ve got a story to tell…
Part I: Becoming a Storyteller
My life changed at the sound of a bell. I was pursuing a career as an actress in New York City while working at an after-school program as a teacher. One day, the principal came into the room furious, “Didn’t you hear the bell ring?” she demanded. “This delay has caused quite a traffic jam outside!” Several students protested, “Yea, but wait, tell us the rest of the story.” Her mouth dropped. This was unprecedented, hearing students beg to stay after the bell. With the help of this principal, Story Theater was born. Within 5 years I carved out a career as a speaker in the educational arena, providing value-rich assembly programs and educational keynotes on interactive storytelling techniques. Eva’s Professional Day and Teacher In Service programs are described as ‘unforgettable and engaging.’
Part 2: Transition to Motivational Speaking
Over the next 12 years, I was speaking nationally at educational conferences and performing interactive storytelling shows, when a non-healing sore on my tongue was diagnosed as stage IV oral cancer. Tragically ironic for a storyteller! I never smoked and rarely consumed alcohol. The radical surgery and ensuing treatment was devastating. Fortunately, my outcome was extraordinary.
While waiting at a bus stop in New York City after a follow-up appointment, a bus went by advertising a young woman, a sore circled on the side of her tongue, with the messaging, “There is a painless way to know if this is serious.” Holy Smoke (pun intended)! The ADA (American Dental Association) logo was prominent. I called and left a voicemail, “You need to know my story and I want to help you.” They called back.
In 2003, at the opening ceremonies for the American Dental Association Conference, in front of 9,000 dental professionals, I delivered a speech on the patient perspective. The details shocked listeners and motivated a call to action. Patient stories matter. Calls came in from doctors across the country to request a talk for their regional dental meetings. My speaking career took off.
Part 3: A Calling to Patient Advocacy
As I contemplated my own extraordinary recovery, silence was not an option. I couldn’t stand by and allow what happened to me, happen to others. I began speaking professionally for meetings and conferences about my personal story including state dental associations, dental hygiene associations, dental consultants, dental referral events and dental schools.
I was motivated to reach more people and began speaking to all healthcare fields including pharmaceutical, nursing and cancer survivorship events.
What about all the people who don’t see a dentist? I saw educational posters about women’s cancers at my gynecology office; I saw information about skin cancers at my dermatology office, but dental offices seemed to lack the material to educate about oral cancer. Committed to raising awareness about this disease, I founded Six-Step Screening. The posters can be displayed in all office break rooms. The postcards educate about a self-exam and the signs and symptoms of the disease.
More than a personal choice, I feel an obligation to be a part of the revolution, awakening healthcare providers to the urgency of detecting oral cancer in the early stages and educating the general public.
Part 4: Using Storytelling to Build Business
After presenting a keynote at a dental conference, a Henry Schein sales manager approached me and said, ‘If my team could tell a story like you do, we would be golden.’ I gave my first teambuilding workshop for a sales team on finding and crafting the story to showcase individual strengths, build rapport with clients and inspire trust. A newbie to the team used my methods to score the sale of a high ticket item, proving that story is an effective way to build business. Since then, I’ve designed programs to meet the needs of my client: they provide a percentage for how much education, inspiration, motivation and fun they want! And, it’s so much fun for me, too!
I’ve expanded my model for teaching a story platform using personal story, particularly in developing a story for your website bio that effectively articulates what makes you stand out among the competition and communicates your value.
A two-book series empowering children with coping skills and communication strategies when someone close to them has cancer.
A 12-page guide for documenting personal stories, an invaluable resource for future generations.
An oral cancer awareness campaign. Eva had been given a 15% chance of survival which fueled her passion to prevent what happened to her from happening to others.
A collection of short, easy-to-read value-rich stories designed to provide a motivational lift. These stories promote thinking about life values and can build a foundation living in a meaningful way.
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