“The AFC helps keep our community safe and provides a security that our industry doesn’t”
– Sharon Bajer
Playwright, Director, Actor
I have been a professional actor since 1989 and over the years I have given speeches about The AFC, collected money at AFC benefit performances, organized fundraisers and cabarets to support The AFC and tried to spread the word as much as possible in my Winnipeg community.
Being a self-employed artist with three children, I have always been perceived by my family and people outside of my industry as “living on the edge”. I have been asked countless times how I manage the uncertainty of my profession and how I don’t stay up nights worrying about what each year will bring. Well, I’ve never been a worrying sort of person and I have always had faith that The AFC would be there for me if something terrible were to happen and I was unable to pay the bills. That faith was tested this year.
In December 2015, I was diagnosed with stage 3 invasive breast cancer that had already spread into my lymph nodes. My husband and I are both self-employed theatre artists with two kids in university and a 7-year-old at home. In order to take care of our smallest child, we often take turns working and it was coming up to my time to work through the first half of 2016. When I received my course of treatment for my cancer, I was told that it was going to have to begin immediately with chemotherapy, surgery and radiation and I would be unable to work for the rest of the year. I cancelled all of my contracts for 2016, leaving us with no employment for the coming months.
With the help of The AFC, my husband and I were able to focus on my treatment without the added stress of worrying about how we were going to pay our bills. My husband became the primary caregiver of myself and our young son. Without him at home to look after our child, take me to appointments and be there for emotional support, I’m not sure how we could have gotten through it. The AFC’s financial support meant more to us than just covering our expenses, it made us feel supported by our performing community across the country. It allowed us to keep our dignity at a time when we could have fallen into despair. It provided me with the comfort of knowing that my husband and children would be all right when I couldn’t work and needed their help to look after me.
The AFC is such an important organization and I can’t imagine the devastating impact being without it would have on our community. I often tell people that even if they never have to use it, knowing that it’s there when you need it is extremely valuable psychologically. As performers, we have so much uncertainty in our lives and that instability is often what makes people leave our industry. The physical and psychological health of our community in Winnipeg is very important, especially because we live in a cold and isolated city. I believe that The AFC helps keep our community safe and provides a security that our industry doesn’t.
I tell my fellow performers to donate to The AFC in lieu of opening night gifts, I explain to people outside my industry to give generously to The AFC when they can and I will always give a speech at any event in Winnipeg that is donating to The AFC.