Susan DiPronio and Stormy Lunry

Recorded November 18, 2007 Archived November 18, 2007 33:58 minutes
0:00 / 0:00
Id: MBX003303


Susan (57) tells her friend Stormy (51) about growing up in a steel mill community and dealing with breast cancer.

Subject Log / Time Code

First diagnosed with breast cancer 4 years ago
Baptized and received last rights at the same time, not expected to live
Inherited traditions
Came out in high school
Writes plays, film, production about women’s issues and personal narrative


  • Susan DiPronio
  • Stormy Lunry

Recording Location

MobileBooth East


StoryCorps uses Google Cloud Speech-to-Text and Natural Language API to provide machine-generated transcripts. Transcripts have not been checked for accuracy and may contain errors. Learn more about our FAQs through our Help Center or do not hesitate to get in touch with us if you have any questions.

00:06 My name is stormy Monday. My age is 51 today's date is November 18th. 2007 location is Philadelphia Pennsylvania and my relationship to Susan is we are very very good friends.

00:21 My name is Susan dipronio. My age is 57. It's on November 18th, 2007 or in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and stormy is my good friend.

00:32 Susan if you could whole one memory from your life for eternity, what would that be?

00:39 I think the memory would for me would be with my mother and I spent the day together and she wouldn't let me pick out a book and I got to pick out the poetry book and we spent the whole day together. That was a really rare occurrence. I never really had anybody's attention that much so it was really exciting for me.

00:59 Okay, when in your life have you felt most alone when I was diagnosed with breast cancer and that year was?

01:08 That was four years ago. So that was

01:13 2003

01:17 How is your life been different than what you imagined?

01:20 I didn't really imagine my life ahead of every single day. So for me, my imagination was always about something completely different like a total fantasy world, like maybe I'm a superstar or maybe I can really really scary really well, or maybe I'm the best dancer in the world, or maybe my exciting part would be like, I was really 5:45 and I could be a dancer.

01:46 Okay, how would you like to be remembered?

01:51 I'd like to be remembered as somebody live their life with passion and didn't leave any Stones unturned it and loved loved well.

02:01 Is there anything that you never told me what you want to tell me now?

02:06 Okay.

02:13 There's a lot of things I never tell people but I don't know. Which one are you looking for?

02:20 Be a good piece of Gossip terrible things. I don't.

02:35 I guess I still don't want to tell me.

02:39 Okay, when and where were you born?

02:42 In Lackawanna, New York

02:44 1950

02:47 In the steel mill area. What was it like

02:51 It. It could be a lot of fun. But it was when I went to look at other towns in other cities. I've been to I realize how completely a different it was different from everybody else's because we live in like an industrial place under steel mills where there's thousands of men going to work everyday and there's whistles blowing and stuff like that. It's like a whole different like a whole different world.

03:14 What were your parents like?

03:16 My parents were really in love and they like to laugh and I like to have fun.

03:25 Did you get into trouble?

03:27 Got into a lot of trouble on a regular basis.

03:31 What was the worst thing you did I did some pretty bad things. I know most kids like take

03:40 Pocket change out of their mother's purses and stuff like that, but I said take pocket change out of my mother's purses in my father's pants and then by the time I hit my early teens I was going to bars and dancing on tables $4, so

03:55 And two shots of whiskey, so it was pretty bad and sometimes I wouldn't come home for a day or so. And so that was pretty bad.

04:07 Do you have any siblings? I have two brothers and a sister? What are they like?

04:13 They're all much smarter than me.

04:16 And they're all much more successful in life, you know as far as monetary goes and things like that, but they're all very supportive of me, But I've always been the one is kind of like a trailing behind kind of as far as them, you know buying a house in Life or doing something like finishing College took me like 15 years, you know, they actually went to college like finished and had a Grand Duke grad degree and moved on. I just I just trickled around from college to college.

04:48 What were they like growing up my brothers?

04:53 The big teasers and they picked on me a lot my brother when one brother was always fond of like trying to give you a like a charley horse by hitting your leg really hard to see if it could be buckle you over and it did it was a little odd though growing up. He like to hear this big big huge Boulder that was at the end of our property and he used to take bugs and tire them to the to The Rock when he were alive. It's kind of weird and my sister was just always like the really nice table one. She was she was the youngest of us, but she was always the one who like pretty much held everybody together. We were all kind of running loose kind of crazy and because my mother was not around a lot and my father wasn't around a lot. So my sister who was the youngest was really the one who, you know made sure that we did everything right and you know, I did the dishes and stuff.

05:46 So, how would you describe yourself as a child were you happy?

05:52 Think I was ever really happy.

05:56 I had moments of happiness, but I don't think I was like his exuberant child.

06:05 Okay, what was your best memory of childhood?

06:09 I think you have the best memory of my childhood. We have to be any memory which wasn't sad or somebody wasn't sick or somebody wasn't there. So those memories were kind of.

06:21 Barn in between so maybe the best thing that could happen would be that be playing with my friends down the creek catching polliwogs and then I will come home and my mother would be there and then my father would be there and that would be probably those things happened want once in awhile.

06:36 Did you have a nickname? I had a bunch of nicknames.

06:41 I like to share my best friend's name is Dilley cuz she likes dill pickles and so because my name is d i p they called me dippy.

06:54 Which obviously had a whole other kind of station and then as we grow a little bit older and got past 10 or 11 or 12 my name became refugee.

07:03 And because everybody all the kids thought that I was a Korean Refugee that was adopted like I was I was amerasian, you know, I was that they adopted me because I look so completely different than everyone else in my family.

07:17 Automatically start in in in grade school and Junior High and stuff that I was I was not Italian that I was.

07:28 Who are your best friends Deli her sister Rosemary and I are friends who Ryan but mostly it was me and my friend Dale and rosemary we hung out like pretty much every day of our lives and my my cousin was really a best friend of mine also shall live and we all live next to each other and across the street from each other. What were they like

07:57 I want my friend Dell whose real name is Dolores was always there always tall and thin and blond because they're Norwegian. So it was really a it was different. So I guess it's where I get the I always wanted to be like five foot five because they were all five for ten 5 or 12 and actually Dolores it went I became a model so, you know, they were great skiers. Are there a lot of fun never really bright and I'm we did lots of fun stuff together and they're a lot looser and you know, their mother was home a lot all the time and stuff. Sounds nice. How would you describe a perfect day when you were young?

08:36 I think a day when I would actually then I'll be outside playing and just you know hanging out in with my friends and then going home and have my mom be there would be like a perfect day for me.

08:49 What did you think your life would be like when you were older?

08:52 I am I really never thought I would get older so I didn't really think like that.

08:57 I was in a whole different thing, you know when I was born I was

09:03 I was supposed to die. So they sent me home right after I was born and I was baptized and and receive the last rites at the same time and I thought I would live maybe a couple of days and I'm so and then Within by the time I was seven, I'd already had a couple of more surgeries and things like that. So I never really thought that there was going to be any extension to my life passed right past whatever was happening right now. So I don't think like that ever and I still don't

09:34 What was your did you have an illness be born with an illness or I was born with it. I was born in the kidney kidney failure and it was 1950 and my mother had a kidney infection when I was born and she had it to him was very sexy and ended up having a kidney removed. My grandmother decided that the doctors were crazy and she didn't speak English. And so she had this horrible thing apparently went into the bedroom and wouldn't let any doctors or any people leave my mother in the room and she stay with me for three days and fed me this mysterious thing which we have never found that what it is and and I lived

10:13 I moved, you know.

10:16 And since then I have these crosses on my hands.

10:21 Okay.

10:25 Do you have a favorite stories from childhood?

10:31 I thinks some of my favorite stories would be when my when my mom used to like her favorite thing was to stand the kitchen window and look out and she tells stories and she be cooking and that's when you get to be with her. And her favorite thing to do was when she heard people coming down the street they used to like drive down the street if they got married with no head two cans on their on their cars clinking and screaming and hitting the horns. My mother would make us all grab pots and pans and run outside and Chase the car screaming sucker. You're wasting your life.

11:04 And so the neighbors kind of wondered about us. Okay, but you said your parents were much very much in love with a whole nother thing.

11:18 Didn't really it wasn't I don't think she really thought that marriage was a necessary part of being in love.

11:25 Do you believe in love at first sight I totally do.

11:29 What lessons have you learned from relationships? I have learned that I know very little about people or myself and I learned that I don't really think you ever can.

11:40 Can know what people are thinking or what they're going to do. And so I just think you just have to move on.

11:46 If you could do anything now, what would you do and why?

11:52 I think

11:55 I think I would die if I quit my job definitely and then I would just travel around and see all my relatives again and just travel.

12:06 Have you experienced any Miracles? Yes, I'm here.

12:12 What's the most profound spiritual moment of your life?

12:16 Thank

12:23 I think for a spiritual moment for me and probably has to be like

12:29 Then the times when I I realized I was really going to live again this time in my life. I've I've had them.

12:36 I guess I've had the last rites a number of times and I've almost died a bunch of times, you know different illnesses different horrible events, like being shot at stabbed raped Left 4 Dead choked unconscious news hit by cars and so for me the but for some reason that I kept going but then when I got cancer, I really thought that this was the end and then there was a certain moment when I think I was at my very sickest when I really thought

13:03 I'm going to make it and I wasn't sure why but I really felt like my mom was there a mother had passed away a number of years before from breast cancer and my cousin had passed away at 2024 from breast cancer, and she was like my best friend. So

13:19 When I was the worst that I could possibly think I could possibly feel and aloneness. I thought I could feel I really felt like they were there and they were I really felt that one moment. Like I could see my mom and she was saying you're going to be fine. You going to move on?

13:34 Do you look at your life differently now that you've been diagnosed? Yep. I look at it very fast much faster. And I just I just do everything really fast and I think they have everything very quickly. I just move on mentally and emotionally and like in I'm kind of in hyperspeed.

13:56 How do you want to be remembered?

13:59 I want to be remembered somebody live their life. Well, I remembered like somebody who like when they love that they love very well without any Holds Barred in in in in in in in in total.

14:12 Total involvement with the person they loved

14:16 What traditions have been passed down in your family?

14:20 My family traditions are things like meatless meatballs.

14:24 And what you're made out of challah bread. I don't understand that since we're at alien butt and the garlic Bowl which I have my possession now, which is a bowl that my grandmother gave my mother that I have. We're all the garlic was stored. And so that was the beginning of a Miele. So that's pretty much that my mother used to make a sing Christmas carols Magus. Let me know how all we were every Christmas Eve and so are we still can we still do that? And we don't know why you know, it's kind of embarrassing thing to say, but yeah, we still will sing Christmas carols on Christmas Eve.

15:05 Who your favorite relatives?

15:09 They were all kind of my favorite because they were all so crazy. But my aunt Fanny was pretty pretty pretty wild wild and my incoming are they were during World War II they were their welders on airplanes and then after the war of course all the women lost their jobs as a man came home and they became well my day they became like Factory workers my 1:00 amp became a meat cutter and butcher so they were room

15:37 Put my money after I come in at like that was very fond of doing stuff like everything. She cooked had to be in a pressure cooker cuz she thought it was well for you, but yet so pressure cooker that was always peeling out things and everything was like totally tasteless and look at it would be like if we have to eat her food. She send over like these cakes that was supposed to be healthy and they be like you have to eat it in front of her she would watch you.

16:01 And then my aunt Fanny becoming would like the really good greens with the hot peppers and stuff and say here are some good stuff here some good stuff that we all live next door to each other. Literally the houses next door to each other in across the street from each other. So they were like maybe 40 of relatives while lived like a kind of its kind of like, they took the took the villages they lived in Italy and just kind of breed located in America now and didn't change nothing. Where was your family from Italy? My mother was from your Naples. My father is outside of Rome.

16:35 Do you still have any family living there? We do. We do still have family living there, but I'm not in contact with the mother and other relatives are still in contact with them. She like to visit someday. Yeah, I would I would I would I guess one of the funniest stories I had when I was a little kid was that my grandfather used to be used to like snails and he spoke no English and he's like to make spaghetti sauce out of chicken heads and he would be sitting in the back of the garage and cleaning these Chicken Heads, but then when every time he could get some snails he would have this big pot and he had the snail Stephanie had a song that he sang and so into the boiling water he would dump the snails.

17:16 And then he would not act as a try to crawl out of the pot. He would be singing the song and doing this little dance and knock on the snails back into the pot. So as a kid growing up, that's how I remember his spaghetti sauce, like something you'd kind of, you know, it had always parts and add things like that. I really want to eat his food.

17:43 Well

17:45 What was your earliest memory is earliest memory and nobody believes this but it was when I was learning how to walk. I remember my father was sitting in a chair and he was holding me and he was supposed to be for some reason. I feel that he was supposed to be watching me because no one was around but he fell asleep and I remember kind of getting out of the chair. Remember I was always fascinated with the steps.

18:07 The steps going up to the second floor and I vividly remember hobbling over to the steps. I remember the dress I had on and ironically after I got some of my my old childhood photos from my mother like no like 15 years ago there. I was an address that I remember as a little kid doesn't want to remember I made to the steps and I made it up to like two or three steps.

18:36 Remember what happened after that? I remember I just stayed on the steps and I was terrified because I couldn't get down and I can hear my father little snoring and choking and breathing and I know he was in the chair and I was like who's going to rescue me? And then I think I think my mother came in and grabbed me off the steps. How old are you? I don't even think I have my must have been like a I know it's crazy. But I am must have been like under 2 years old cuz I was just learning how to walk.

19:04 Did any of your other siblings walk early?

19:10 You should ask him someday.

19:13 Who is been the kindest to you and your life? I think my sister.

19:19 It's kind of like a numerator. I need the things I did and when I ran away and stuff she was always supportive of me and she always know pretty much always stuck up for me and always took care of me you no matter if I was stuck somewhere like living on the streets like usual or something and you know, she would always help me out. How often did you live on the streets pretty off?

19:45 Where State San Francisco and all up and down California and la and

19:52 And it'll be on like New Mexico and yeah.

19:57 Pretty much and where you able to change jobs or school or after Woodstock? I just kind of took off the Woodstock. So I just kind of like took off after that. Was that your influence to travel? What's that? Oh, oh, no. I was always I ran away for the first time when I was 15.

20:20 And how many times after that I had to stay because I was until I was 18 after that because I was arrested with a felon who was there we had a warrant out for so they when they arrest him I was with him.

20:35 So so I had to stay home. I had to stay home or was I guess kind of like juvenile probation. Otherwise, I would go to juvie hall for until I was 18. So I stayed for the next couple of years and then left again.

20:48 Who's been the biggest influence in your life?

20:59 Probably a few a few musicians with John Coltrane.

21:04 Mr. Boda my English teacher.

21:11 Tell me about mr. Boda Boda. I was an English teacher, but he also taught I think it's odd speech also, cuz I had a speech class with him. And I when I was in high school, he was a little nervous all the time and Twitchy, but he was really a nice guy. And when I was in high school I came out I came out at I came out as lesbian n done and I had to I was sent home and my relatives my mother and my cousin came and pick me up because they called him so they had to take me home and I had to go to a psychiatrist and get q word. Otherwise, I couldn't get back into school and I had to get back into school. Otherwise, I would end up.

21:55 Juvenile hall Sheppard missett what they did after that as they took me out of all my college entrance classes and put me in the secretarial class all except for mr. Botas English class so, mr. But it was always just like a really nice guy and he just he read a lot and he always some who would also just he didn't like smirk. You know what I mean? I always felt like they were kind of like smirking behind my back or something and it can hear teachers talking, you know, like, you know, her, you know, she's so you know what cuz after that it was bad. It was bad and I were talking we're talkin early 60, so it was a bad time to be that out. And so

22:40 He was just treated me regular and he always had a lot of suggestions of books to read so he opened up but he opened up a lot of stuff for me in my life. Did you ever tell mr. Go to how much he meant to you now and I've heard recently and it's been so many years. I've heard recently that he's actually in a mental institution. He had a few breakdowns and apparently he's like in now and not eating at all anymore. So

23:09 I guess I think we have a little that that I was something to do with our connection. You know, I think we're on the same wavelength at one point. And so we're kind of like Kindred Spirits are always felt like we understood each other.

23:22 Describe a perfect day for you now perfect day for me will be getting up. Probably call me walking my dog, and maybe she lets me sleep in a little bit later and

23:36 And just kind of feeling happy and feeling well and not hit hurting and up feeling nauseous enough feeling sick or anything. So that's a perfect day for me and I can do anything with that perfect day.

23:48 Describe a perfect relationship.

23:51 Perfect face

23:56 I guess one without any without any constraints.

24:00 I guess any anyone I'm around to kind of like lets me be myself and I don't feel as if I'm I'm I'm indebted to say something or do something. That's really not me.

24:13 Through all your successes lately with all of the Productions you've put on and all the work you've done what's been your proudest?

24:22 I guess I'm proud of them all because I finished them and I always had a track record of never finishing anything's there for a while for many years. So I mean it like finish and he has a I need a place I did was that was big huge thing for me. I'm proud that the that the one short film was taken out of life of its own and continues on and but I'm really proud of of the place especially the last one so and I did the sound in the video and and and everything so

24:58 So what do you see in the future for yourself? As far as your deductions in your plays in your fill? I think I think I'm morphing into a different kind of tired right now and morphing into a more of an installation combination media Extravaganza kind of play that I'm working on right now. I think it's different from anything I've ever seen and I think it's going to be really for me. It's going to be really am pretty amazing if I can pull this off.

25:28 Okay, when should that be finished by hopefully he'll be finished in the spring.

25:34 Do you have others helping you with this? No?

25:38 So this is your little secret is my stool yet kind of a little secret but you know, I have told like a couple of video people what I'm doing and because it's combination of film and live performances. And so it's and that's why I'm taking the class on video editing cuz I need to learn more about editing myself.

25:59 I'm in signing learn more about video editing and sound editing. So so how large is stage do you need for this or is this going to be just official? Oh, no, it's it's going to be like it's going to be a stage combined with a room and I'm looking specifically for a large room. That's probably going to be it's going to have to be about a hundred feet on each side.

26:23 Square

26:25 With her and it's going to be the the

26:30 The performance will actually be in the middle.

26:33 And it would be ideal to have a circular room like a Rotunda.

26:40 Is this going to be for one of the Arts festival's or?

26:47 I'm not sure yet depends when I can get the space. A lot of it is not of this a lot of it is depending on his face.

26:56 And when when it's money will be available and where I can find one. What do you say please think of your work and my sisters really proud as my brothers are proud. They don't I don't think my brother's understand it but her like why I do it but

27:13 I think they're they're happy that I did it.

27:16 How would you describe it are there certain themes or subjects that you focus on I focused on women's issues primarily most my most my work is his personal narrative stuff and for me when I write it has to do with writing for the heart, but I also don't have to do it as a sense of releasing myself in a way from some of the things that I've been through my life and in without it without doing these things that I think I've ever was really kind of held back and in this very dark will also for me.

27:55 From either the writing is the writing is more poetic and it is but it is always true.

28:04 And hopefully by looking at my stories or hearing my stories or other women can gain strength and power.

28:13 So it's sort of like therapy for you. It's. It isn't his therapy for me and I realized that you know, and that's one thing. I always say like through performance. I think people can find power.

28:25 So do you think that's why actors act? Yes.

28:29 Totally, I've talked to some of the actors in my am I at in my performances and then they they totally feel that way but that's that's why they act and any also act and you also perform and I I I I just did a story slam a couple weeks ago. So I also do like stand-up monologues myself, but but you also do it to escape

28:53 The reality that you can't face because a certain sense about being in a in a specific situation where mortality is always clearing in your face on a daily basis. It just have to put yourself in some sort of denial and it's much more pleasant if that the Nile it has something to do with them a fantasy world and I think that's why growing up. I always was in a fantasy world.

29:21 And it's kind of like remember the movies Pan's Labyrinth a little girl her Fantasyland. Well, pretty much they are like most of the time and I totally understand where she's coming from a nap and I spoke with Melissa. My friend Melissa was the actor. She she thought the same thing that's pretty much why she act

29:40 Okay, so

29:43 Through this you're able to let it all out through your film through your theater through your public speaking to your place for your volunteerism. You're able to release all the things that involves you down the path that does all of this is a different Susan the Jesus and I met six years. Yes. Yes, but this isn't it does this is the real one?

30:12 So, where do you want to go from here?

30:15 I want to continue on but I want to do more with a helping other women to do this.

30:21 You want to stay in Philadelphia?

30:23 I'm not too sure, you know, it'll be nice to have this as a base, but it sure would be nice to have time and time and money to go other places and and then come back Philadelphia is very easy for it's not easy, but it's a smaller pond. So it's a little little bit more.

30:46 For an artist or performer it it's there's a lot more opportunities for you to actually actually put on your place or you know films and I'm so to go to another space and start all over with and not have the contacts. I already have the contacts here. So

31:04 So are you happy?

31:06 I think I'm I I think I can see happiness. I don't know if I'm actually happy yet. But I think I asked I could actually for the first time I said I can see that window.

31:18 Is this true you just doing this on your own?

31:22 And not necessarily needing someone to help you do this as far as a partner. Yeah, I think I think they I think this act that's exactly yet.

31:31 For me to actually feel strong enough emotionally and physically to actually get up and do this on my own is has made me realize that I can pretty much face anything move on.

31:46 What would you miss if you couldn't do?

31:51 Do it everyday like a favor thing a thing that you do every single day. I write every single day and I write poems everyday everyday everyday. So if I couldn't do that, yes, I couldn't see my brother is going is legally blind. So I don't know how how he can do that. But that's I guess why I have a digital voice recorders cuz I'm terrified that what happened to me.

32:16 Anybody else in your family blind? My father was blind and I've had to eye surgery. So I was considered dumb. You know, I had partial side thing. I was when I was a child.

32:29 When I was in grade school, I was sent home because they said that that I couldn't be in a school with normal kids. I had to go to a school for and they had my mother had to come pick me up a said they couldn't deal with my vision problems. So I need to go to a school for for kids who don't have partial Vision or you no problem vision problems to my mother would have to take three buses with me and take me there right now. That's all fine. Yeah, that's all fine. So but you know, you always have to get kind of scared when you see my brother's problem was I get pretty terrified. So why don't we some this all up for you?

33:04 This whole session with what is this been for you? What is the PIN like fear for me is is is it is another way of putting things in the boxer or putting things in a well for me will be like a big Joe her something, you know with colors on it and putting everything in that big chair and setting it on the shelf and and hopefully that somebody I can access it and realize that they can they can survive anything if I can to other survivors out there. That's my words of wisdom that that that that that that you could you can move on and you can be stronger and them life is great life is not a rehearsal. This is it we have one shot at a rehearsal move on.

33:48 Hey, Chris.

33:51 Okay.