They say write what you know (except when they say not to), so if a performer is diagnosed with a serious illness, they will inevitably consider using it as the basis of a show. For Karen Hobbs, her experience of cervical cancer became her “usp” (unique selling point) and she has created Tumour Has It to tell the full story.
Cancer comes with a ready-made narrative structure. There's the back-story (life before cancer), an inciting incident (diagnosis), challenges and solutions (testing and treatment), a clear hero (the performer), an even clearer antagonist (the cancer, which Hobbs named Svetlana), an inner struggle - literally - where the stakes couldn't be higher, and some degree of resolution at the end. So the question is not what story to tell but how to tell it: which metaphors to invest in, and which to reject. At one point, Hobbs appears as a boxer, complete with audio of sports channel-style commentators - but the fight against cancer never starts because there is nothing there for her to punch.
Through the show, Hobbs regularly says “Thank you for coming” to the audience. It seems to reflect the changes she went through, as if each step generated a slightly different Karen Hobbs who must introduce herself anew. There are obvious physical changes by the end of the story, due to the surgery to remove the tumour, but her attitude and mindset have changed as well. Telling this story isn't just about raising awareness or encouraging people to go for a smear test when invited, although this is clearly an important part of her motivation for doing it; telling this story also helps Hobbs reassert control after both body and mind have been hijacked by cancer. (MR)
Tumour Has It is on at 14.50 at Underbelly Med Quad until August 29th (not 17th). Wheelchair Access, Wheelchair Accessible Toilets - https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/karen-hobbs-tumour-has-it
Karen Hobbs’s blog: https://quarterlifecancer.com/
A Cancer Research UK blogpost on how metaphors for cancer that involve fighting or war can be motivational but also harmful: http://scienceblog.cancerresearchuk.org/2015/09/28/may-i-take-your-metaphor-how-we-talk-about-cancer/
The Eve Appeal supports awareness of and research into gynaecological cancers: https://eveappeal.org.uk/