+
upworthy
Family

If you thought you were going to die, would you still try to tell one last story? This writer did.

How do you start a story when you might not be around to finish it?

That was the question facing award-winning playwright Christopher Shinn after he was diagnosed with a cancer called Ewing sarcoma in late 2012.The prognosis, as he told his friends, was "very poor."

Chris was 37 at the time. He may not have been a household name, but his gripping work had been performed on stages from London to Broadway. He was a Pulitzer Prize finalist, a Lortel and Olivier award winner, and a faculty member at the New School for Drama. And now he was grappling with the end of his life.


What else was he going to do but write a play?

Christopher Shinn in 2012. I met Chris in the fall of 2012 when his play "Now or Later" had its American premiere at the Huntington Theatre Company in Boston, where I was working at the time. I can still remember the day he posted the news of his illness to Facebook — accompanied by a photo of his partially amputated leg. It was just six months since I'd last seen him in person.

"I'd always imagined I'd live to ninety and write twenty or thirty plays — it had never occurred to me that my career might be shorter than that," he told me.

First drafts are always rough — especially when they could be the last.

"Writing this play was a particularly intense experience," he explained via email.

"I really had to balance two things: faith that I'd be well enough to write and complete the play, and acceptance of the possibility that at any time I could be interrupted. I had to convince myself that the work would not be for nothing if I didn't get to finish it or it was delayed. That was hard since pretty much the only payoff of writing is in the finishing!"

Chris' goal was to do what he always did: tell the truth.

As he started the first of what would ultimately become 19 cycles of chemotherapy, Chris found himself reflecting on his childhood in Wethersfield, Connecticut, and the isolation he felt growing up as a gay teenager. He thought about his own struggles with love and intimacy — and the fact that his fiancé would be left behind to live without him. “I told [my fiancé], 'You have to love again' — it was my deepest wish that he love again," Chris said in an interview with The New York Times.

Deborah Hedwall in the world premiere of "An Opening in Time." Photo by T. Charles Erickson/Hartford Stage.

And then, an ending came that he wasn't expecting.

Chris's long-term relationship with his fiancé came to a tumultuous end in the winter of 2014.

Between the emotional devastation of the breakup and the ongoing cancer treatments, Chris worried that he'd never finish the play. As he told the Times, “There were so many fears. This play made me look deeper. Why have I had difficulty loving? Why haven't I been able to make successful intimacy last?"

But soon one ending led to another, more uplifting one.

The breakup was hard, but reckoning with those questions helped Chris to write a pivotal confrontation scene — and ultimately finish the play. "I remember finishing it just in advance of scans I was having at my hospital, and being terrified that finishing the play meant, in some bizarre logic ... that my life was now about to end," he said.

Adam Poss and Liam Benzvi in the world premiere of "Teddy Ferrara." Photo by Liz Lauren/Goodman Theatre. "Teddy Ferrara" is having its London premiere in October 2015, and Chris made several changes to the script to make it more trans-inclusive.

Though his life was still full of questions, Chris had a finished script — and soon, he had a production.

"An Opening in Time" began its world premiere run on Sept. 17, 2015, at Hartford Stage — mere miles from Chris' childhood home in Wethersfield, which is also the setting of the play.

And all those endings that he'd battled with since late 2012? They gave way to new beginnings.

Not only did Chris live to see his play on stage, but he recently learned that his cancer is in remission.

After six months in clinical trials, Chris is currently NED, which means "no evidence of disease."

"You never want to get ahead of yourself too much," he told me. "So I often remind myself that I could get hit by a bus tomorrow and ... haha. But it's true."

Chris Shinn answers questions about "An Opening in Time" for a crowd at the Noah Webster Library in West Hartford, Connecticut. Photo by Charles MacNaughton, website and new media manager for Hartford Stage.

As he puts it, "You never know when your time is up — so every play may be the last play."

But Chris is discovering more hope and optimism. As he told the Times, he's found himself thinking: "Wait a minute, I might live. I want more in my life. What's going to happen to me? When will I fall in love again? I feel like part of my soul is coming back to life."

And of course, this new outlook on life brought a new play with it."The new play is about God. ... It feels like the kind of play you'd read in the middle of a writer's career, not at the end," he told me. "I'm envisioning a future of many more plays now."

Doorbell camera catches boy's rant about mom's chicken

When you're a kid you rarely have a lot of say in what you get to eat for dinner. The adult in your house is the one that gets to decide and you have to eat whatever they put on your plate. But one little boy is simply tired of eating chicken and he doesn't care who knows it. Well, he cares if his mom knows.

Lacy Marie uploaded a video from her doorbell camera to TikTok her son. The little boy is caught on camera taking the trash out venting about always having to eat chicken. He rants all the way to the trash can, being sure to get it out of his system before he makes it back into the house.

"Chicken. No more chicken. Tell me you like, we have chicken every day. Eat this, eat that, eat more chicken, keep eating it," the 10-year-old complains. "It's healthy for you. Like, we get it. We have chicken every day."

Keep ReadingShow less
Health

Doctor explains why he checks a dead patient's Facebook before notifying their parents

Louis M. Profeta MD explains why he looks at the social media accounts of dead patients before talking their parents.

Photo from Tedx Talk on YouTube.

He checks on your Facebook page.

Losing a loved one is easily the worst moment you'll face in your life. But it can also affect the doctors who have to break it to a patient's friends and family. Louis M. Profeta MD, an Emergency Physician at St. Vincent Emergency Physicians in Indianapolis, Indiana, recently took to LinkedIn to share the reason he looks at a patient's Facebook page before telling their parents they've passed.

The post, titled "I'll Look at Your Facebook Profile Before I Tell Your Mother You're Dead," has attracted thousands of likes and comments.

Keep ReadingShow less

A map of the United States post land-ice melt.


Land ice: We got a lot of it.

Considering the two largest ice sheets on earth — the one on Antarctica and the one on Greenland — extend more than 6 million square miles combined ... yeah, we're talkin' a lot of ice.

But what if it was all just ... gone? Not like gone gone, but melted?

Keep ReadingShow less
Family

This is the best mother-daughter chat about the tampon aisle ever. Period.

A hilarious conversation about "the vagina zone" turned into an important message about patriarchy from mother to daughter.

A mother and daughter discuss period products.


Belinda Hankins and her 13-year-old daughter, Bella, seem to have a great relationship, one that is often played out over text message.

Sure they play around like most teens and parents do, but in between the joking and stealing of desserts, they're incredibly open and honest with each other. This is key, especially since Melinda is a single parent and thus is the designated teacher of "the ways of the world."

But, wow, she is a champ at doing just that in the chillest way possible. Of course, it helps having an incredibly self-aware daughter who has grown up knowing she can be super real with her mom.

Case in point, this truly epic text exchange took place over the weekend while Bella was hunting for tampons at the store.

Keep ReadingShow less
Health

27-year-old who died of cancer left behind final advice that left the internet in tears

"Don't feel pressured to do what other people might think is a fulfilling life. You might want a mediocre life and that is so OK."

Photo courtesy of Remembering Holly Butcher/Facebook used with permission.

Holly Butcher left behind her best life advice before she passed away at 27.

The world said goodbye to Holly Butcher, a 27-year-old woman from Grafton, Australia.

Butcher had been battling Ewing's sarcoma, a rare bone cancer that predominantly affects young people. In a statement posted on Butcher's memorialized Facebook account, her brother, Dean, and partner, Luke, confirmed the heartbreaking news to friends.

"It is with great sadness that we announce Holly's passing in the early hours of this morning," they wrote on Jan. 4, 2018. "After enduring so much, it was finally time for her to say goodbye to us all. The end was short and peaceful; she looked serene when we kissed her forehead and said our final farewells. As you would expect, Holly prepared a short message for you all, which will be posted above."

Butcher's message, which Dean and Luke did, in fact, post publicly shortly thereafter, has brought the internet to tears.

Keep ReadingShow less

You know that feeling you get when you walk into a classroom and see someone else's stuff on your desk?

OK, sure, there are no assigned seats, but you've been sitting at the same desk since the first day and everyone knows it.

So why does the guy who sits next to you put his phone, his book, his charger, his lunch, and his laptop in the space that's rightfully yours? It's annoying.

Keep ReadingShow less