OAKLAND -- When Jean Gregory was diagnosed with breast cancer in March 2012, she said her emotions ran the gamut from shock and confusion to anger and dismay.
"Cancer strikes out of the blue," Gregory said. "All of a sudden, plans are on the back burner and everything becomes subordinate to the battle. Decisions must be made between awful and terrible alternatives."
The 69-year-old Oakland resident wrote about her subsequent surgery, chemotherapy and radiation treatments in a journal, which she has turned into a one-woman play called "Safe Journey: One Woman's Battle with Breast Cancer."
Gregory has already performed scenes from the play at Stage Werx Theatre in San Francisco and The Marsh Theatre in Berkeley. She will perform the entire play at Montclair Presbyterian Church this month.
Gregory, who describes "Safe Journey" as an intensely personal play, says "journaling" her experience with breast cancer was therapeutic for her.
"I'm a writer, that's how I express myself best," said Gregory, who moved to Oakland from Chicago in 1981. "It's a very spiritual journey."
She said the play touches on the array of emotions and thoughts she experienced after her diagnosis and during her treatment.
"There are encounters with the devil, the poet Rumi, doctors, family and friends, nightmares and meditation," said Gregory, who finished her course of treatments last October.
She said she's feeling fine nowadays and has stepped off the emotional rollercoaster of dealing with cancer.
"I'm done," she said. "I'm in acceptance. I've done what I could. It will be what it is."
This isn't Gregory's first foray into playwriting. She has also written two plays -- "Apple of Nobody's Eye," parts 1 and 2, about her experience teaching elementary school children in Chicago and Oakland.
"I had a calling to work in the inner city and teach difficult children," said Gregory, who taught at Lockwood Elementary School on International Boulevard for many years. "It's so sad to see the lives of some of these children."
She also performed "Apple of Nobody's Eye, Part 2," at Montclair Presbyterian Church, where she is a congregant and sings in the church choir.
"The church is wonderful about supporting artists and creativity; I'm so grateful to them," said Gregory, who got her start in storytelling after taking a class at Stagebridge, which teaches performing arts to seniors at First Congregational Church of Oakland.
The mother of two grown sons, Gregory also enjoys hiking, camping and travel with her husband Joewoen. She has visited Bolivia many times in partnership with the Bolivian Association Joining Hands for Life, a Presbyterian outreach ministry.
"We work on addressing the root causes of poverty and stopping environmental destruction," said Gregory, who's also active locally working to reduce violence in Oakland.
Gregory said cancer is the only disease she knows of in which the patient chooses his or her treatment.
"Which one do you choose? I don't know," Gregory said. "You always have the choice of doing nothing, turning to alternative treatments like Steve Jobs -- and everyone has an opinion about it."
She quotes a blurb that she wrote about her new play:
" 'Safe Journey' is about a cancer patient's valiant fight against The Terminator of life. At the end you will laugh, cry and dance among the stars."
What: "Safe Journey: One Woman's Battle with Breast Cancer" by Jean Gregory
When: 7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 28, 7 p.m. and 1:30 p.m., Sunday, Sept. 29
Where: Montclair Presbyterian Church, 5701 Thornhill Drive, Oakland
Tickets: $10, call the church office at 510-339-1131 to purchase