Purpose Your Pain

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By Mike Gugat

Like anything in life, the pain that comes from the loss of a loved one or a life threatening medical diagnosis reminds us that our time on earth isn’t infinite. Lately I’ve witnessed and have been inspired by friends using personal pain to motivate their purpose. Better yet, these friends are using the art of filmmaking to impart onto others a sense purpose.

One of those inspirations is my friend Vidal Marsh, whom I credit for the expression “purpose your pain.”  I was introduced to Vidal when our Retail Politics project failed to launch (I will come back to Retail Politics in a subsequent blog post, as we haven’t given up on trying to elevate the discourse in our country).  Vidal is a producer who recently produced the truly innovative podcast called “The Human Kind Podcast.”  HKP brings together folks of different backgrounds, races, and religions to get comfortable with uncomfortable conversation topics.  You should check it out on iTunes.  

In one of our first conversations, Vidal mentioned that he was inspired by his Aunt Almetris Marsh Duren, who, after losing the love of her life, dedicated the remainder of her life to bringing people together.  Ms. Duren is responsible for having integrated African American students into the University of Texas in the racially turbulent times of the late 1950’s.  This was no small feat for the 4’11” Ms. Duren, as the University didn’t offer housing for students of color.  Ms. Duren would establish co-op housing for these students. In 2007, the University dedicated the Almetris Marsh Duren Residence Hall on campus. Come October of this year, Vidal will begin production on a documentary examining Marsh Duren’s contributions to the University of Texas and beyond.

Also in October, the short film BARE directed by my wife, Kerith Lemon, will premier in LA, NYC, and DC during Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  BARE is the true story of our friend Rebecca Hall’s breast cancer diagnosis at age 25. The film was inspired by a short story Rebecca wrote about processing the diagnosis in the company of her closest friends.  Rebecca is a professional medical writer who co-wrote the script for BARE.

I first met Rebecca back in February while in our hometown of Santa Cruz.  Rebecca and Kerith were collaborating on BARE at the time, and I was so impressed by this young woman throwing herself into a creative venture having just had a tumor removed from her brain. 

I got better acquainted with Rebecca on the set of BARE.  With everything going on, she took an interest in my Mother who had just gone through a double Mastectomy and was experiencing swelling from Lymphedema.  Rebecca was familiar with the compression garments needed to ease the symptoms of Lymphedema, knowing that they aren’t cheap and, in most cases, are unattractive.  She took it upon herself to share a gift certificate, allowing my Mother to pick from a stylish collection of compression garments. It was a true act of kindness.

Today Rebecca is living with stage 4 metastatic breast cancer. Her pain is purposed by teaching yoga to others living with cancer, while also working tirelessly to support organizations like METAvivor, a non-profit that dedicates 100% of donations to stage 4 breast cancer research.  She’s proof that all stories are worth telling.  Be sure to read her blog, Cancer, you can suck it!

We’d appreciate hearing from you.  How are you purposing your pain?