Breast cancer survivor bad*ss is not the kind of thing usually found on a resume, but for filmmaker and writer Allison Gryphon it makes the top of the list. A diagnosis of stage 3a breast cancer in April 2011 brought Allison’s burgeoning film career up short. As a writer and digital storyteller, Allison first sought out a film that would help her deal with her diagnosis. When none existed, she decided to step in the ring and make on. The result was the powerful documentary What the F*&^% is Cancer and Why Does Everybody Have It? The overwhelming response to the film inspired Allison to launch The Why? Foundation, an organization aimed at giving people information and resources to help take some of the fear out of a cancer diagnosis. “I was so scared when I got my diagnosis,” says Allison. “I thought ‘what can we do?’ I want people to stop running from cancer, but maybe running toward it…with a big, big sword.” As Allison continues to grow The Why? Foundation and step back into her film work, (she is currently working on a documentary about the Hong Kong Café, home to LA’s punk scene in the 1970s and 80s) she remains mindful of what her journey with cancer continues to teach her: “Cancer cleared the slate very quickly. I’m better able to let go of negativity and appreciate the preciousness of life.”
If you could describe yourself in one hashtag, what would it be?
Tell us about a girl in your life who rocks.
I have so many girls in my life who rock. The top of the list is my mom. Smart, kind, calm, incredibly strong and always in the moment while also seeing the bigger picture. Growing up she always told me that I could be anything I wanted to be and she never let me off the hook for anything. That’s where my strength and drive started and now it’s so much of who I am.
What are your dreams/goals/ambitions?
Continuing to grow as who I am, allowing change, working for the things I want and being able to let go of what I don’t need, and most of all being able to savor every moment.
What are you most proud of?
Knowing who I am and what I want out of life.
What piece of advice changed your life?
On love, life and my career an amazing woman once said to me, “You don’t have time to be in a hurry.”
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Traveling the world, and basking in love, good food and amazing friends, writing novels and screenplays, directing movies.
What is the number one item on your bucket list?
Live every moment to the fullest and love it for what it is.
Who has been the biggest female influence in your life and why?
My mom. She’s strong, smart, encouraging, self aware, honest with herself and others about who she is and full of genuine love and kindness.
What is the biggest risk you’ve ever taken and what did you learn from it?
The biggest risk I’ve ever taken, I’ve repeated and I’m actually not sure if it would be considered a risk or a growing pain. I’ve learned how to let things be, accept life and people as they are, and the risk element in that is that I’ve learned how to move on from a relationship that isn’t good for me or that has simply run it’s course and be at peace with it. In work, romance and friendships it’s the knowing that I’ve come to understand. The risk there is that it’s not always understood by everyone involved and the impact of change can be fierce.
Why are you THAT GIRL?
We’re all THAT GIRL in our own way. I’m THAT GIRL whose parents went through a brutal divorce. I’m THAT GIRL who has made mistake after mistake and learned from all of them. I’m THAT GIRL who takes things to heart, gives myself fully and enjoys the benefits of putting myself out there, and also is sometimes taken advantage of and hurt because of that openness. I’m THAT GIRL who was diagnosed with stage 3a breast cancer and let that change clear my life of everything I didn’t need or want so rather than bring negativity and sadness into my world, it brought a steady stream of love and inspiration. I’m THAT GIRL that we all are on some level and there is no other girl I ever want to be.
*Interview conducted and compiled by Sheila Moeschen, IATG Senior Editor
Featured image courtesy Allison Gryphon