BY BETH DEDMAN
Valerie David was walking into the theater for a tech rehearsal to perform her show about surviving cancer twice when she received a call from her oncologist. She would have to undergo treatment for cancer, this time Stage IV metastatic breast cancer, once again.
Despite the devastating news, David performed the show not only that night, but for all of the shows she had scheduled for that week.
“The show must go on, and it did,” David said. “I performed that night and completed my week’s run. I was determined to not let cancer stop me. And I continued to keep performing The Pink Hulk in other cities, despite this diagnosis and its side effects.”
David, now a three-time cancer survivor, will perform her award-winning solo show “The Pink Hulk: One Woman’s Journey to Find the Superhero Within” at the Women’s History Artist Month Festival at 7:30 p.m. on March 21 at the Goddard Riverside Bernie Wohl Center Theater.
David fought Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 1999 and then breast cancer in 2014 and 2015. She was diagnosed for a third time with breast cancer in fall 2018.
“When I was diagnosed, I didn’t know what was gonna happen with my future,” David said. “I lost my superhero. It was the most devastating news I had gotten in my whole life and I had to reactivate my super hero. I said ‘I don’t know what’s going to happen in my future, but I’m not going to give up hope.’”
After she received the third diagnosis, David took her healthcare by the horns. She researched medications herself and requested to be put on a medication that required no surgery, radiation or chemotherapy. Less than 3.4% of patients have a 100% response to the medication, but David was one of those people within five months time.
As of April 2019, she has beaten cancer yet again.
“This is a true miracle,” David said. “My goal is to give people hope to never, ever give up, even in the worst of circumstances. The irony of my show is that while performing The Pink Hulk, I have had to change my show’s ending 3 times because of the changes in my diagnoses: I am thrilled to have been invited back to the WHAM Festival for 3 years in a row with 3 different endings!”
David’s show is not just about cancer, she said. She wants it to make an impact on audiences with a universal message of hope and empowerment.
“It is about fighting back from any adversity in life,” David said.
David wants to remind her audience that they should empower themselves to face their dire circumstances and take charge of the direction of their life. She has received accounts of people quitting their jobs to pursue their dream careers because of how inspired they were by her story and her message.
“I got my inspiration from the audience too,” David said. “When I found out I got metastatic breast cancer, they inspired me and helped me. The love and support has been unbelievable. I think my own show saved my life.”
David is particularly proud to encourage women to take back their womanhood in the face of illness and adversity. Navigating women’s health is an extra challenge because of how dismissive people can be.
“Follow your gut,“ David said. “If there is something nagging inside you, don’t ignore it. If you feel there is something wrong, don’t ignore it.”
The show, which has a runtime of 75 minutes with no intermission and a 30-minute special panel talkback, is directed by Padraic Lillis and Maris Heller.
The show has been a hit in 23 cities and four countries. It is full of humorous stories, such as a time David snuck out of the hospital to go get food, but is also full of moments of intense emotion. David tries to approach these sensitive subjects with humor.
“Having cancer three times taught me a lot about myself and inner strength and relationships,” David said. “I am grateful for everyone who has been in the trenches with me. It’s been a really great thing.”
General admission for the show is $20.
More information about the show is available at pinkhulkplay.com.