by MARTY McCAMBRIDGE
“What Makes You Think You Have It?”
I have a condition called osteogenesis imperfecta (or simply, OI) which causes an increase in bone fractures over the course of one’s lifetime. While I have always tried to live my life as normally as possible, there have been 50 or so broken bones that have sometimes gotten in the way. But with each of these breaks, there’s a story.
The Nordic Princess Breaks the Ice: A Tale of Indomitable Fragility includes some of these stories — of dealing with the multiple broken bones that come with my condition. The production was born in a writing seminar that prompted each of its participants to share our own life stories and it made its way to the stage for the first time last May.
Some of the instances I share onstage of breaking bones may seem horrific to those who haven’t broken any, but I’ve realized that — by adding humor to these stories (and some songs to underscore them), I’ve been able to connect with audiences through storytelling in a way that I might not have been able to ordinarily. (And I was surprised to learn that stories of broken bones might be of interest to others!)
Other stories are less physically gruesome, but share emotional difficulties. The difficulty of convincing a new doctor I even had the disease, for example. OI is extremely rare, affecting four or five out of 100,000 people, but it has always been a part of my life; both my father and sister had OI, as well, and we’ve all had numerous fractures. So you can imagine my frustration when the doctor asked, “What makes you think you have it?” It wasn’t the first time I got this response and it wouldn’t be the last. This is a question I heard far too often.
Still, the bones of people with OI might be brittle, but their spirits are strong. The OI Foundation has chosen a most appropriate phrase to put on their wristbands and the headings of all their correspondence: “Unbreakable Spirit.” Spend time on their website or any of the Facebook pages for those with OI and I promise you, you will see many more smiles and words of encouragement than sad faces and whining. These people are not asking for sympathy, but when you read their stories you can’t help but be moved by them. The components of OI may include fragile bones, hearing loss, heart problems, dental fractures causing loss of teeth, and more, but they also include an indomitable spirit.
We will present the show (directed by my husband, Michael McCambridge) at Cal Lutheran this Friday and Saturday in hopes of raising awareness of the OI Foundation and the work they do to help those with OI live the best possible lives. I hope you will consider supporting them in their work to improve the quality of life for those living with OI through research, education, awareness, and mutual support.
Bone fractures can cause acute or chronic pain, reduced quality of life and depression, or they can cause one to write and perform a one-woman show full of laughter and music and wonderful anecdotes about the joy of being, and staying, alive. I hope that if you come see this show you will sing and laugh with me, perhaps cry a bit, and hopefully leave with your eyes opened to the possibilities of living your life with an Unbreakable Spirit.
@ This Stage Perspectives allow Los Angeles theatre artists to discuss their upcoming projects in their own words — with the aim of revealing the unique voices and stories that compel them to create and perform.
You can see The Nordic Princess Breaks the Ice this weekend at Cal Lutheran. Admission is free, but donations will be accepted for the Osteogenesis Imperfecta Foundation.