30 Days of PH: Nothing Will Stop Me From Pursuing My Dreams

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by BNS Staff |

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Photo courtesy of Aya Hashiguchi Clark

Day 3 of 30

This is Aya Hashiguchi Clark’s (@dukesbay_productions) story:

Voice of the stage manager: “Places!”

Lights dim on the audience. Lights up on the stage. The play begins.

This was a big part of my life before I became a person with pulmonary hypertension (PH). I began my life in the theater when I was strong, energetic, and ambitious. I was going to be a star on the stage, I told myself.

I auditioned everywhere and found roles with several theater companies. As a person of color, it was challenging to find many opportunities to be cast in plays, unless a role was written specifically for an Asian woman. At the time, much of what was produced on stage were shows written by white men, starring white people. We actors of color were excluded from many plays as a result.

But 10 years ago, my husband — who also is an actor — and I decided to start our own small theater company, and cast actors of all ethnic backgrounds. Problem solved! Or so I thought…

Then, PH reared its ugly head. Suddenly, the third-floor walkup where our venue is located (in an old building with no elevator) became as inaccessible as Mount Everest. I was wearing oxygen — what director wants to cast a sick-looking woman? — and my energy level didn’t help.

Once, my ethnicity kept me from being cast in shows. Now, oxygen? Could I have become even more “un-castable” than I was before?

But I persevered. My PH specialist prescribed a combination of meds that are working well. I don’t need oxygen during the day, so I’m now told how healthy I look. My energy level has improved greatly, and that huge climb up the stairs to my theater barely results in breathlessness now.

Since my diagnosis, I have produced 10 shows, acted in 10 shows with seven different companies, wrote three plays — one that even explains to the audience about PH — and got to share the stage with my son twice!

Life with PH is a challenge, but pursuing our dreams is still possible. PHers, we can do it! Believe in yourself.

Pulmonary Hypertension News’ 30 Days of PH campaign is publishing one story per day from someone who has been affected by the disease for PH Awareness Month in November. Read the full series for more stories like this, and follow us on Facebook and Instagram, using the hashtag #30DaysofPH.