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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Guided by a higher power

In his autobiographical play it is no desert, Dan Stroeh shuffles across the stage from a desk to a bed to a wheelchair, aided by his leg braces and a cane. He tells the poignant story of his struggle to live with neurofibromatosis, a disease that causes tumors to grow around the nerves.

Toward the end of the first act, Stroeh faces the audience and says: "I'm often asked what that moment was like for me, the moment when all I knew was that there were growths. Was I scared? Was I angry? Did I cry? And the answer is 'no.' You see, fear and anger are not part of my life. My life is guided by a higher power than doctors and nurses and growths. I know God will never give me more than I can handle."

Stroeh, a member of Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, Loveland, Ohio, was a freshman at Wittenberg University, Springfield, Ohio, when he was diagnosed with this rare neurological disease, which is considered untreatable and incurable.

A lifelong actor, Stroeh became frustrated when the disease affected his ability to perform. He turned to writing as a creative outlet and subsequently started composing plays. Stroeh says his most recent work "fuses my love of performing with my passion for writing, and allows me to share what God has taught me about life."

it is no desert is about learning to live with disease, but ultimately it's about learning how to live, Stroeh says.

The play is being considered for several honors, including the Jean Kennedy Smith Playwriting Award, given by the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, for the best play written on the theme of disability.

Stroeh, 23, will receive a bachelor of arts in theater and in creative writing from Wittenberg in May. Although another round of chemotherapy looms in his future, he plans to continue working in theater after graduation and hopes to find new venues to perform his play.


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