My mom was diagnosed with Breast Cancer in 2003. I'll never forget that phone call. I was speechless. But, as I learned from my parents, you have to adjust to what life throws your way and whatever she needed I was there for her. Luckily, my mom's breast cancer was caught early and 13 years later, she's still here cancer-free! She is a true survivor! My mom took one of her most difficult life moments, turned it around, and now helps countless women adjust their lives when they find out they have breast cancer.
Because of my mom's Breast Cancer, I instantly felt connected to Amy Marcs' one-woman show Nice T!ts, chronicling her journey with breast cancer. Using humor and heart (like with the show's tag line: "Amy had a great rack. Then she got cancer"), Amy's show is returning to The PIT LOFT in NYC for an encore run throughout the month of October, in honor of it being National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Nice T!ts is a reconstructive comedy about hope, love, and the resiliency of the human spirit.
Nice T!ts plays at The PIT LOFT in NYC (154 West 29th Street, between 6th & 7th Avenue) on Thursday, 10/6 at 8pm, Sunday, 10/16 at 4pm, Monday, 10/24 at 8pm, Thursday, 10/27 at 8pm. Click here for tickets!
1. This October your show, Nice T!ts returning to The PIT in NYC for encore performance run through October 27, in honor of Breast Cancer awareness month. What excites you about the show's return? Everything about it excites me. I love doing my show, I love knowing that I can have a positive impact on someone’s life, that I can connect, and help people talk about a subject that is not comfortable to talk about. And if I can give people hope and also a few laughs along the way then that’s even better.
2. Your experience with breast cancer began in 2008 with when you were diagnosed with DCIS, a non-invasive breast cancer that doesn’t spread beyond the milk ducts. With your family history and your mom's passing when she was 51 from breast cancer, what went through your head at that moment of discovery? First I would have to say, shock. Even though I have a family history of cancer, I never thought it would happen to me. To quote a line from my play "I have exercised my whole life, for years I was a vegetarian, I ate tofurki turkey four years in a row on Thanksgiving. I have a daily meditation practice, I chant with the Yogis, and I get Cancer." I thought I did everything right! So yes, shock was the first thing that came to my mind. And then action, I knew I had to find the best doctors possible to help me though this because I was not going to let cancer win this time!
3. After your 2008 diagnosis, you began 3-month check-ins with a mammogram, sonogram, and an MRI. In 2009, a year later, something suspicious was found during one of your check-ins and you underwent a double mastectomy. Take us through your thought process at that point and what were you sure of and what were your fears? After my DCIS diagnosis I had two lumpectomies. They did not get clear margins the first time, so they had to go back in and remove more tissue. I knew that I had to remain vigilant. At this point I was under the care of Dr. Karen Hiotis of NYU Cancer Center and was in great hands. Not only was she completely thorough but she was always so kind. To this day, I still call her my angel. I had a mammogram and the results came back clear – to this day I still have that letter that says "all was fine, see you next year." But given my DCIS diagnosis I also had to have a sonogram and an MRI. It was on the MRI that something suspicious showed up, and the nightmare began. I now had cancer in my other breast. Even seven years later as I write this, I have tears in my eyes, because the day I was told I had cancer was one of the scariest days of my life. At that moment I knew what had to be done. Given my family history (I am not BRCA positive – which was a shock to everyone, since I was young when I was diagnosed and my mom was only 51 when she died) I knew that I had to have a double mastectomy. It was my choice. I was stage one – so it was still so early, but for me I knew this was what I needed to do. It is a very personal decision. You have to really listen to the voice inside you and make the choice that is best for you.
4. How old were you when your mom passed away? I remember Rosie O'Donnell talking about her mom's death from breast cancer saying she always hoped she'd make it to 40 because her mom passed away from breast cancer at age 39. She felt if she made it to 40 or past 40, she would be okay. Did you have similar thoughts about your life? Absolutely. My mom passed away a month after I turned 17. That was a defining moment in my life that has shaped me and made me the person I am. The loss of your mother at that age is one that can’t be explained, unless you have experienced it. So many major life events I wouldn’t get to experience with my mom, let alone the everyday events, just talking about the small things, boys, school, and later in life, men (notice that is always a recurring topic) work, etc. I miss my mom every day. But, as humans, we find a way to cope, to be resilient – which is a big part of my show. Keeping hope alive even in the dark times, staying resilient, because we all have a huge capacity to heal and to make it through. I try to live a life that my mom would be proud of. And yes, getting back to Rosie I never thought I would live past the age my mother did, but, here I am!
5. As you went through your breast cancer treatments, what did you miss most about your mom not being there? Everything, but I was blessed to have an incredible support system. I moved in with my older sister and her family for three months and they took such wonderful care of me. Being with my sister was extremely healing. And truthfully, during this whole ordeal I could feel my mom with me, guiding me every step of the way. My show is my love song to my mom, it makes me feel so close to her. And I am grateful for that.
6. How long after your diagnosis/treatment did you say to yourself, "I want to turn this experience into a show?" How did you find the funny in breast cancer? Pretty soon after. I am an actress and I knew that having a creative outlet would be so beneficial to my healing. I began to journal about how I was feeling and all that I was experiencing. Now this is just my nature but I can find the funny in almost anything. It's what gets me through. It's my coping mechanism. My humor has saved my life. I then took all my journal writings and met with Peter Michael Marino who helped me develop my journal writing and put it into play form. He helped me bring my story to life.
7. Nice T!ts also discusses what it means to lose your breasts to cancer and how that impacts you, your partner, your sexuality, your identity, and even your family. Without covering what's in the show, what were your initial thoughts about each of these and how did the reality compare to your thoughts? When I first made the decision to have a double mastectomy – I went into action mode. I knew I had to find the best plastic surgeon in NYC to help me reconstruct a beautiful pair of new breasts. And I did. Dr. Nolan Karp, who to this day, I refer to as my Michael Angelo. I didn’t really think about the sexual part until after – as first I needed to survive cancer – and have all of my surgeries.
The question of sexuality and how having a double mastectomy affects you, your femininity and identity, is a question that I could write a book on – and I am planning on doing that. This is a huge part of my show. When I made the decision to have a double mastectomy I was in a very serious relationship, if I was single I might have made a different decision. I am single now, and have been for the past four years, and this is something I have had to come to terms with in my dating life. But let me say this; Your breasts do not equal your sexuality, having cancer and a double mastectomy does not take that away from you. Come see my show so we can talk more about it, as these are very important conversations for us to have.
8. Nice T!ts is a reconstructive comedy about hope, love and the resiliency of the human spirit. How do you feel having breast cancer helped you reconstruct your life in a way you might not have if you were never diagnosed with breast cancer? What did you learn about hope, love, and resilience of the human spirit after going through breast cancer? Are you considered cancer-free now? I am considered to be cancer free. So to say that I am grateful would be an understatement. To quote another line from my show "Every new day is a celebration, a bonus, and whenever I lose sight of that, get mired down in the daily grind of life, well then I just take my top off and look down at my breasts, and they remind me to stay brave, they remind me not to sweat the small stuff, and they remind me that time is a precious commodity not to be wasted."
Losing a mom at 17 made me very strong, and prepared me for the hard stuff in life, which there is plenty of, but I always find the hope and I always tap into being grateful for all I do have. To quote another line from my play "Every morning the first words out of my mouth are Thank You. I’m glad I’m here. I am glad I am here."
9. As a breast cancer survivor, what advice do you have for those who have just been diagnosed, going through treatment, and have survived it? I want to start by saying that we are all different, and what works for some may not work for others. So if it’s okay I would like to turn this question around – and if you know someone who has been diagnosed here are a few things that you can do. Cook them a meal, drive someone to a treatment, take action, because just saying let me know if there is anything I can do is not enough. Listen without giving advice, and please don’t share your nightmare stories of someone you know who died from cancer, that is the last thing someone needs to hear!
10. You have already gone through hurdles with breast cancer. But let's look at other aspects of your life. On "Call Me Adam" I have a section called One Percent Better, where through my own fitness commitment, I try to encourage people to improve their own life by one percent every day. What is something in your life that you want to improve by one percent better every day? I would like to continue to take things less personally. I am extremely sensitive, and that is a great thing, especially for my art, but sometimes it would serve me to not worry so much about what others think.
Amy Marcs is an actress and voice over artist signed with The Don Buchwald Agency. Amy wrote and stars in her autobiographical one woman show Nice T!ts, which she has performed to sold out crowds at The PIT Loft in NYC and Project Y’s Women in Theatre Festival on Theatre Row. Amy was a guest on Fresh 102.7 and Sirius XM Doctor Radio to discuss her show and offer her perspective as a breast cancer patient and survivor. Amy has worked in regional theaters across the country. Some of her favorite roles include "Gorgeous" in The Sisters Rosensweig, "Myrtle" in Kingdom of Earth and "Lucille" in Gemini. She was a member of a Harold team at The Upright Citizens Brigade Theater and also performed in an original piece called The Adler, directed by Matt Walsh. You can see her in the independent film The Waiting Game, starring Will Arnett, and hear her as the voice of "Peg the Pig" in the animated feature film Impy’s Island, which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival. Her voice has been heard on numerous national network television promo and political campaigns. She is an acting professor at The New York Conservatory for Dramatic Arts, is on the faculty of ACTeen and also has a very successful private coaching practice. Amy is grateful to have an opportunity to share her story and to use the transformative power of art to heal.