Guest Blogger: Zazel-Chavah O’Garra on “turning setbacks into a comeback” after a brain tumor

Listen to this post read by Cheryl: 

“I’m writing to share my personal journey of crafting a vibrant, creative life after becoming disabled. Given my extensive background in the creative arts, patient advocacy and social work, I believe I can spread the words ‘turning setbacks into a comeback.’

I became a disabled artist 10 years ago when I was diagnosed with a brain tumor and the aftermath of the surgery left me partially paralyzed with a slight speech impediment. In order to transform my life, I had to accept my disability and transform my life. Proving the system wrong, I became a disabled performer/teacher despite my disability. I knew I could show other disabled individuals that they could live joyful, creative, expressive meaningful lives despite their disabilities.

I share my resurrection as a disabled artist by giving motivational speeches spreading the words “without faith nothing is possible, with it nothing is impossible” and teaching creative movement classes demonstrating that physical challenges need not limit your passion for living. I convey an upbeat energy and provide everyone with moments of pure joy.

In 2011, I was chosen as a National VSA(Very Special Arts) teaching artist. Through this award, which is given to disabled artists to develop as educators and teach disabled children and adults the benefits of exploring their chosen art form, I refined my capacity to design and deliver highly engaging, effective expressive-movement programs for disabled individuals of all ages and backgrounds. This culminated in the soon to be released “Dancing Beyond Disability,” a fun, jazzy, funky creative- movement DVD produced for disabled and able-bodied individuals. The sequences presented are designed to increase participants’ self-confidence and self-awareness, improve muscle coordination, and enhance motor skills and balance.

I ignore the change in my body, the fact I have a “damaged” brain and I am disabled, I value each and every day of my life. Dance has given me the power of living life through hope. In particular, dance gives hope that keeps me going. It is not too much to say dance helped me when I was in rehabilitation faced with complete change in my being. The end result of the change in my body is a deeper understanding of the path that has shaped my creativity and me.

Please view www.zazelchavah.net and forward donations to artist development at www.newyorklivearts.org/artist/zazelchavah.” –Zazel

I create films that explore first-person perspectives of brain injury and disability. My work focuses on performing arts, media, and technology that are accessible to artists and audience members. The arts are used to spark dialogue, shatter stereotypes, and encourage interdependence and cooperative community change.

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2 comments on “Guest Blogger: Zazel-Chavah O’Garra on “turning setbacks into a comeback” after a brain tumor
  1. Joy Corcoran says:

    Beautiful transformation. I love the idea of dancing your way into your transformed life.

    • brainreel says:

      Isn’t it, though!
      You hear a lot of “Oh, you became disabled? Well, you won’t be able to do ______ anymore.” And she says, “Oh, yes I will. Like this!” This is where the arts are such wonderful tools for disability communities. So much acceptance of who you are and the art you make.

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