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Valley actress learns of cancer diagnosis with show still in production

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Posted at 4:00 PM, May 31, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-01 16:49:04-04

PHOENIX — A Valley actress discovered she had cancer while the musical she was in was still in production.

If you happened to catch her performance as part of the ensemble in ‘The Color Purple,’ you’d never know, that Savannah Alfred was about to face a challenge bigger than entertaining a full house on opening night.

”When we started doing the show, and really got into the run of it, I had a cough that would not go away,” she said.

What she first thought was ongoing sciatica followed by night sweats, the reoccurring cough and even at times, shortness of breath during the show led to a turning point.

One particular show after she struggled to get her cough under control, her girlfriend suggested they go to the emergency room.

”For theatre people, like, we don’t call out. When you do a show, the show must go on,” she said.

So, with an understudy in her place, Savannah would start a round of X-Rays and CT scans which showed she had stage four Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. A cancer that spread throughout her body and can severely weaken the immune system.

”I was in tears honestly because I was like ‘man, I don’t want to leave the show,'” she said. “It was really difficult for me to say, ‘I can’t do the show, I have to call out.’”

For Savannah, once treatment began, an audience full of people was now a high-risk atmosphere.

Before she turned in her costume for a hospital gown, she got in a few more performances after she negotiated with her doctor to delay the start of treatment.

Savannah laughed when asked if she “begged her doctor to allow her to fulfill her role in the show.”

“I did!” she smiled. “Just because the show to me is such an important show. It’s such a strong message. The overall message of ‘The Color Purple’ is hope. One line that I talk to myself and use it as encouragement is ‘the good lord works in mysterious ways.’”

Her last performance before she started what she calls a “healing journey” was an added show organized by The Phoenix Theatre Company.

On a Sunday evening, an audience paid what they could to benefit Savannah.

The evening’s tickets, concession, and merchandise were able to raise over $9,500 for her medical expenses.

A video from that night shows her longtime friend and cast member hold the audience’s attention after the show to share a few words.

“I want to thank all of you for bringing the energy to our show tonight, which mirrors the energy that we all know Savannah has and will continue to have,” said Savannah’s friend and cast member.

After that night, Savannah was able to jot down what she experienced saying goodbye to the theatre. The note was shared with Phoenix Theatre Company followers.

"Grateful does not even begin to describe how I feel. The amount of positive energy, support, and most importantly love shown from that one night has filled my heart and soul. Just saying thank you feels wrong. So I’ll say this instead. It’s times like these where you truly get a glimpse of who you are as a person. How you’ve affected people in your life and what your decisions throughout your journey have led people to think of you. A mirror was held to me and all I can say is I did not know I was this loved. To my village, my chosen family, my supporters, I love you all and although it could never be enough… Thank you for all you’ve given to me in every way. As my stage manager always says, I’ll see you on the other side."

Now weeks after starting her treatment, Savannah says doctors have told her, her blood work is “really great” and her body has been responding well to the prescribed treatment.

With ‘Dream Girls’ on the calendar – she’s hoping for a chance to get back on the stage.

A GoFundMe has been set up for Savannah to help with medical treatments.