Welcome to our first Pity Face Party! Think about these parties as a celebration of the women who live out loud with this crappy disease. These will be posts that focus on artists who have continued to create during and after a breast cancer diagnosis. Sometimes it will be a performance, or an exhibit, and sometimes an interview like this one that features Lana Schwarcz, a stand up comic, theatre maker and puppeteer from Australia who will be performing her one woman show Lovely Lady Lump at The Staircase Cafe Theatre this weekend!
In 2014, Lana was diagnosed with breast cancer. So she went and wrote some jokes.
"Let me start by telling you I'm ok. I'm just in a small situation involving a pesky cancer tumour in my left nork, but I'm not dying and I'm the luckiest person in the entire world. Cos f*ck cancer, man. F*ck cancer."
Jokes, truths, and one of two poignant bits from a Melbourne comic who survived breast cancer.
Tell us about your work as an artist.
I am a stand up comic, theatre maker and puppeteer.
Did you create during your cancer treatment? Did this show begin during that time or after treatment was done?
Creatively, I wrote jokes to do on comedy stages and performed during treatment - they were well received - in terms of punching up, well, everyone wants to make cancer the butt of the joke so there's no problem there. I was also writing a blog to keep folk informed and I inserted jokes wherever I could to make it fun and interesting to read. I also did radiation in the morning, came home and napped in the afternoon, and then performed in someone else's show in the evening so I didn't have the stress of producing my own show at that time, but still felt like I was working.
What was the most challenging part of creating this show?
The most challenging part of making the show was ensuring that women who had been through chemo and/or had mastectomies felt comfortable seeing my experience of a lucky early diagnosis and didn't feel jealous or bad that I had kept my breasts and they hadn't. That was SO important to me - the show is about the thoughts you go through with diagnosis and addressing the fears of not knowing and the industry that surrounds it - it's also about my own story that hopefully will get everyone to an early screening. So making sure that women with more advanced cancer diagnoses were OK and not triggered by what I was doing was SUPER important. I love having survivors in the audience. I see them nodding their heads along and I know I am saying what needs to be said for all of us.
Advice for any of us artists who have recently been diagnosed with cancer and how we can continue being creative?
Advice to artists creating during this time - the creative process can be really stressful - producing your own work? Yeah. So I say stay in the game for your own mental health - it's really important. For me it was about being involved in someone else's show so I didn't have that stress of production.
Keep doing what you need to do. But take a break if you need to. Everyone is different.
Noting your experiences is really important. I wrote the show based on the blog much later - and going over the blog when I wrote the show I had forgotten so much. So diarise things and you can draw on them later.