The Whitefire Solofest Presents “Embrace/Love/Free Cancer.” Written and Performed by Justin Sandler. Directed and Developed by Jessica Lynn Johnson.
Justin Sandler is a survivor. He is a victor, a warrior and he is a courageous and inspirational battler of cancer.
Last year Justin had some trouble catching his breath. He was playing sports and felt strange and ended up in the hospital where they discovered an almost foot-long tumor in his chest attached to his heart and lungs, so big it was restricting his breathing….
The doctors moved quickly and began chemo. Half a dozen or more rounds later the tumor had shrunk enough to be removed and the first of several long and arduous surgeries began. Justin’s journey from an extremely healthy, active and ridiculously busy actor, business owner and sport junky to the man he is today is the subject of his play. But cancer is not the only focus of his being and it is probably because of this and his incredible positivity that he is recovering so incredibly well. That and his wonderful support system and loving, resilient partner and wife Mary Lou.
Life can really throw us some crap at times, but how we deal with it can be the making of us or our undoing. Justin has overcome something that could have ended him and he has done it with grace and with understanding and ultimately with love.
During the play, we see some of the many hours of video diary Justin took during his treatment. Justin’s skills as a filmmaker shine even as he suffers through the chemo, surgeries and recovery. He was determined to document his incredible and heartrending experiences, good, bad and uncomfortable. It is an amazing way for him to self heal as well as share, inspire others to embrace their cancer, to love it as a part of them, and to release it as they ask it to leave! Justin does have a sweet-natured affection for his tumor, who he brilliantly acted out in character form. But in the end, the tumor knew it was time to go as they both couldn’t survive, which made for a poignant and touching twist.
“Embrace/Love/Free Cancer” is a fascinating and very unique take on what has become an illness we are sadly all too familiar with.
Justin’s triumph over it makes us grateful and this wonderful play, developed to further celebrate his victory, is a testament to his humor, his spirit and his creativity…Bravo!! It’s amazing how human beings, so fragile and so vulnerable, can be so resilient, brave and, when they need to be, so superhuman…