Sunday, November 4, 2018

When Cancer Comes Back

On October 29 at 1:42pm I received the second worst phone call of my life.

“I’m sorry. Your tests show breast cancer...again.”

The worst phone call was when I was diagnosed with cancer the first time, which was also over the phone.

Phones are not really my friend these days.

To give this news some context...What most people don’t understand is the debilitating fear that cancer will return. Every cancer survivor bends over backwards to avoid recurrence, and for breast cancer survivors the magic number is 5. If you can make it 5 years without a recurrence, your odds go back to as though you’ve never had cancer. But during the 5 year window, the survivor is pummeled with fear and anxiety. So much so for me that I’m in therapy three days a week and am on two different types of anti-depressants just to get through life.

My dreaded phone call came at 3.5 years. What was fear became reality.

There are mostly questions right now, and not many answers. Has the cancer spread throughout my body, or is it “just” contained within my breast? If “just” in my breast, will I have to have chemo or will surgery be enough? Will I need a double mastectomy or will a single one suffice? Will I get reconstruction or stay flat-chested? Will I be able to work, or will I lose my business (like I nearly did last time)? Will I have to take time off from acting? Am I going to die soon?

Am I going to die soon?

I find out some answers on Tuesday when I meet with my oncologist to go over my PET scan results. The PET scan looks at the body to find where cancer is lurking. It will tell us if what I have is a local recurrence (“just” the breast) or a distant recurrence (spread outside of the breast.) If it is “just” a local recurrence, I will have treatment (surgery/chemo, etc) and then start another 5 year journey of fearing its return. If it is a distant recurrence (also called metastatic breast cancer) it is considered terminal with no cure, and a 3-5 year prognosis.

I’m emphasizing “just” for a reason. If I’m not careful, I’ll underplay what is happening and look at “cancer ‘just’ in my breast” as something positive. I guess it is, if we think the alternative. But it’s not positive. It’s gut-wrenching. And I’m somehow deprived of grieving/raging/lamenting because I don’t yet know if it’s “just” local cancer or if it’s terminal. So I’m stuck in some kind of terrible limbo between two terrible diagnoses not knowing how to feel.

I only know how to feel afraid.

The PET scan will prove one way or another, and I’ll know on Tuesday. I’m sure I’ll report back shortly afterward so that you won’t be kept hanging like I have been.

Waiting sucks.

But I’m gonna try to live fully while I wait.

Erin Cronican is a breast cancer survivor, whose career as a professional actor and career coach has spanned the last 25 years in New York City, Los Angeles and San Diego. She has appeared in major feature films and on television, and has toured nationally with plays and musicals. She has worked in the advertising & marketing departments of major corporations, film production companies, theater magazines, and non-profit acting organizations. For more information, please visit

Tuesday, May 8, 2018


Photos by Russ Rowland. Projections by L Wilson-Spiro. 

I’m proud to say that I’m in the midst of one of the most rewarding and difficult artistic experiences I’ve ever had - playing Rachel in the one woman play - MY NAME IS RACHEL CORRIE. The journey I’ve taken to finally be able to produce and perform in this play has been long and arduous.

I first heard about Rachel Corrie when most everyone else did - in mid 2003 when her death was announced world-wide. I remember that this was the first time I had ever heard of “non-violent direct action” as a tactic toward bringing change. I had no idea that were activists with the courage to stand up to tanks and bulldozers. I researched her story and grieved for her. I think this might have been the first time I thought about activism for myself.

Later that year, a theater company I had helped to start - Mo`olelo Performing Arts Company in San Diego - decided to present a world premiere play as its first production. It was called REMAINS, written by Seema Sueko, which was based on a true story about an American of Pakistani & Japanese descent going to Israel for a college program. Seema decided to use Rachel Corrie’s story as an inspiration and dramatized her true story with a fictional death of the character. The action of the play took place after the lead character died and the remains of her life - journals and clothing - were shipped back to her mother. We see this character come to life through the reading of the journals, bouncing back and forth between the past and the present, highlighting the wonderful people she met and also deep racism that she experienced. As a producer I was very proud of the show, and as an actor I was a little envious. This character was written to be non-white, so I would never get to tell this story as a performer. But I was so glad to see the play produced and received so well, especially as the company’s first venture.

So you can imagine what it was like to learn about the play MY NAME IS RACHEL CORRIE, constructed in much the same way. With my newfound passion for activism through theater, I knew I was destined to make the show happen.

Fast forward to now... I had NO idea how challenging it would be to perform a 90 minute play with just myself on the stage. Putting aside the line memorization (which is crazy!) it’s both thrilling and daunting to just have myself to rely on, to carry the show with energy and focus. No one to rely upon but myself.

But the biggest challenge has been the boycotts and protests.

This play touches on some very deep issues regarding the violence in Gaza - namely, the bulldozing of Palestinian homes in the occupied part of the Israeli/Palestinian region. By having a play that is sympathetic to the plights of those people, we’ve received angry emails from community members and longtime patrons calling for the cancelation of the play. People have said that what were doing is vile and anti Semitic and that we’re glorifying a murderer. Rachel Corrie never harmed a soul.

Though people like to think of the play as a historical play, it’s not. It’s a portrait of a girl who puts herself in harm’s way to bring peace to a war-torn region. Even the character says that her experiences are not the reality - she acknowledges that she is seeing one angle based on privilege and locale. And she also acknowledges that there’s a “distinction between Israel’s policies as a state and all Jewish people.”

Many Jewish people who have seen the show have said that it was not nearly as controversial as they had feared, and one proudly Pro-Israel gentleman even said, “This is exactly what I hoped the play would be.” But it’s still challenging for people to set aside their concerns for 90 minutes to hear an alternative point of view. As one patron shared, seeing a single performer share one side of an issue for that long can be alienating. Just the other day, in the first 20 minutes of the play we had a patron shout “This is insane!” at me multiple times and then later storm out, leaving this little note for us in the lobby before she slammed the door behind her. I was left stunned on the stage, as this happened right to me as I was performing.

This is the note left by the woman who shouted at me during my performance

We’ve had deep conversations at the end of each play where the audience members get to talk about their experiences with the subject matter and their impressions about the questions the play raises. And this is the most rewarding part of the whole thing - hearing people from all sides TALK and not just ignore and rebuff what the other side has to say.

But all of the conversation in the world is useless if people aren’t able to learn about the show. Many reviewers have refused to critique the show - our press rep said that she received significant pushback when she sought reviewers. But audiences have been making reviews of their own, most of them very positive (and some of them incendiary.) You can see those reviews here:

We are in the final week of shows, so if this post has piqued your interest, I would absolutely love for you to come. Here’s my show schedule:

Wed, May 9 - 12pm

Wed, May 9 - 8pm

Fri, May 11 - 3pm

Sat, May 12 - 8pm

Sun, May 13 - 4:30pm

Tickets range from $10-$30, with free tickets to AEA members who show their cards at the door. Tickets can be purchased at

Photos by Russ Rowland. Projections by L Wilson-Spiro. 

Erin Cronican is a breast cancer survivor, whose career as a professional actor and career coach has spanned the last 25 years in New York City, Los Angeles and San Diego. She has appeared in major feature films and on television, and has toured nationally with plays and musicals. She has worked in the advertising & marketing departments of major corporations, film production companies, theater magazines, and non-profit acting organizations. For more information, please visit

Monday, January 1, 2018

2017 Retrospective ... In Questions

I originally got this idea from Bonnie Gillespie. Every year, this casting director answers the same batch of questions, and I've taken it on for myself. (Check out this blast form the past from 2010 - I was such a baby back then!)

So, without further ado, here is a recap of my 2017...

What did you do in 2017 that you’d never done before?

I traveled by myself to Italy! I took advantage of an offer from the Daniel Ferro Vocal Program to work in their office for 6 weeks in exchange for rom and board in Tuscany. All I would have to do was pay for my own ticket to fly. It was an amazing experience - I was there for 10 days and was forced to use a language I didn’t know and meet people I otherwise wouldn’t have. I can’t wait to do something like that again.

A view of Positano, Italy

I met these fiesty Australians in my adventures on Florence

Did you keep your 2017 resolutions? Will you make resolutions for 2018?

I always have the same resolution - “This will be the best year of my life.” I came up with this on New Year’s Eve 2000/2001 (holy crap- 10 years ago.) I had listened to the old song, “Summer of 69” by Bryan Adams, and there’s a refrain that says, “Those were the best years of my life.” I realized that I couldn’t claim this -- I had no “best years” and, by god, I wanted to create some.

What I really focused on in 2017 was reclaiming my life from cancer. I committed to making enough money to cover rent with performing gigs, so I auditioned more frequently and by October I reached my goal! I’m now singing at a church once a week and am the standby on two Off Broadway shows. Amazing!

My 2018 is all centered around working less and earning more:

• For my coaching business it means moving a lot of what I do online so that more people can benefit, and then I can make sure I have enough time for the in-person coaching for those who really need it.
• For The Seeing Place it means applying for more grants, building a board, and delegating to more ensemble members so that we can raise more money with less work hanging over my head.

• For my acting career, this means that I want great representation and the ability to do TV and film projects whose residuals will make a better lifestyle much easier.

• And personally, this means that I want to treat my body like the temple it is and create energy and strength now so that I can keep it healthy for years to come.

Did anyone close to you give birth?

Not "close" close, but I know a lot of people who had babies or are pregnant and I can’t wait to hold them?

Did anyone close to you die?

Not terribly close, but there were some incredible losses in our community

What date from 2017 will remain etched upon your memory and why?

December 23 - the day I went on as a standby in SISTAS - my first commercial Off Broadway credit!

What countries did you visit?

Italy, though I didn’t fly through Germany and went through customs there...

What would you like to have in 2018 that you lacked in 2017?

More physical strength, which has been hard to get back after surgery for cancer. I also would like to have more money.

What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Definitely going into the two shows Off Broadway. I didn’t have a formal rehearsal for either project, so my time on stage in front of an audience was my first rehearsal for both musicals. But I rose to the challenge and had a blast, and I can’t wait to do it again!

What was your biggest failure?

I had to borrow money from my mother earlier in the year because I was having trouble paying rent. My coaching business ebbs and flows, and as I was trying to get my acting career to the next level my coaching career suffered. It wasn’t until the fall that things started to stabilize. That was a really hard time.

Did you suffer illness or injury?

I’m still dealing with the fallout of cancer and its treatment, and I was diagnosed with anxiety and major depression. Luckily I have therapists and medication that are helping me navigate everything.

Whose behavior merited celebration?

My boyfriend. We’ve been together for 6 years and he never ceases to amaze me. He took a huge step forward at work by becoming one of their best and most well loved employees, and he also does great work with our theater company. Not to mention that he also has worked hard to keep our relationship strong.

Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

A certain president who shall not be named, as well as a certain speaker of the house and that person’s cohorts. Boooooooooo...

Where did most of your money go?

Rent. For sure. Eating out is a close second.

What did you get really, really, really excited about?

My gosh... getting cast in THIS ONE’S FOR THE GIRLS and then actually going on in the show were the best experiences! It felt like the culmination of so many years of work finally fulfilling on a dream.

What song will always remind you of 2017?

“This Girl Is on Fire”

Compared to this time last year, are you:

happier or sadder? Much much happier. Medication really helps with that - the first 9 months of the year I would have said sadder.

thinner or fatter? Fatter - medication causes weight gain so I’m still figuring out how to handle that.

richer or poorer? Richer! In money, health, and love.

What do you wish you’d done more of?

Grantwriting. We finally got our 501c3 for my theater company and I expected that I would immediately have started writing for grants but I haven’t done much of that.

What do you wish you’d done less of?

Being depressed. What a hard time that’s been...

How will you be spending Christmas?

I spent Christmas in Florida with my mom, my aunt, my sister, and my mom’s best friend. It was a house of 5 women, and it was fabulous!

Who did you miss?

I miss my dad, as always. I miss my dog Denver, which passed away in 2012.

Did you fall in love in 2017?

I feel like I fall in love with Brandon a little more each day. Also - I reignited my love for bing a paid singer this year. ;)

What was your favorite TV program?

SO MANY! I can’t even choose.

Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?

I don’t really hate anyone. There have been several people this year who have (directly or indirectly) hurt my feelings so I have had a hard time communicating with them.

What was the best book you read?

I just started reading again this year - I really liked “Never Let Me Go.”

What was your greatest musical discovery?

Hmmm... after watching the Lady Gaga documentary I have a newfound respect for her. I also found the TV show The Voice, which I love!

What did you want and get?

I wanted paying work as an actor and singer, and I got those. SO AMAZING.

What did you want and not get?

I wanted to finish creating my online coaching program but my focus was split with prepping for the shows (both for my theater company and the musicals I’m doing.)

What was your favorite film of this year?

“Get Out.” I’ve seen it twice now and I really loved it.

What kept you sane?

Punk-colored hair, Netflix, Hulu, the women’s and #MeToo movements, the Slow Carb diet, good snow boots, Duolingo for Italian practice, Brandon Walker, Candice Oden, Sarah Rice in church, Blair Brown with her diet tips, Zach Wobensmith with late night bourbon, my theater company and a few key people who really made a difference this year, and finally my mom.

What did you do on your birthday? How old were you?

This year I turned the 30-35 age range for actors. :)  I performed at church, and then did two performances of JACK GOES BOATING with The Seeing Place, and then I enjoyed bourbon and New Orlean's style food for a late night dinner.

What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

If my mom had been able to travel to NY. If my boyfriend had been able to travel to Italy with me.

How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2017?

My personal style has changed since I got short hair, so now I’m a little more romantic/bohemian with a little bit of hipster thrown in.

Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

I think we’re all about Prince Harry right about now.

What political issue stirred you the most?

My gawd. Women’s rights all the way. #MeToo

Who was the best new person you’ve met?

I met a ton of great people this year. David Levy in Italy, Traci Bair and Robert Levinstein in “This One’s For The Girls”, Cait Weisensee and Clinton Powell via my theater company, and every one of my students who I met this year. It’s really been a good year, all things considered.

What valuable life lesson did you learn in 2017?

That I’ve suffered a great deal emotionally/mentally from having cancer, and I deserve to have that treated. Anxiety and depression are no joke, and they have made it a very difficult year. But it is a year where I also triumphed in huge ways.

What song lyrics sum up your year?

“This Girl is on Fire” by Alicia Keys

She's just a girl, and she's on fire
Hotter than a fantasy, longer like a highway
She's living in a world, and it's on fire
Feeling the catastrophe, but she knows she can fly away

Oh, she got both feet on the ground
And she's burning it down
Oh, she got her head in the clouds
And she's not backing down

This girl is on fire
This girl is on fire
She's walking on fire
This girl is on fire

Looks like a girl, but she's a flame
So bright, she can burn your eyes
Better look the other way
You can try but you'll never forget her name
She's on top of the world
Hottest of the hottest girls say

Oh, we got our feet on the ground
And we're burning it down
Oh, got our head in the clouds
And we're not coming down

This girl is on fire
This girl is on fire
She's walking on fire
This girl is on fire

Everybody stands, as she goes by
Cause they can see the flame that's in her eyes
Watch her when she's lighting up the night
Nobody knows that she's a lonely girl
And it's a lonely world
But she gon' let it burn, baby, burn, baby

This girl is on fire
This girl is on fire
She's walking on fire
This girl is on fire
Oh, oh, oh,

She's just a girl and she's on fire

Happy New Year!

Erin  :)

Erin Cronican is a breast cancer survivor, whose career as a professional actor and career coach has spanned the last 25 years in New York City, Los Angeles and San Diego. She has appeared in major feature films and on television, and has toured nationally with plays and musicals. She has worked in the advertising & marketing departments of major corporations, film production companies, theater magazines, and non-profit acting organizations. For more information, please visit

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