Cancer survivors' 'monologues' tell scar stories
Organized by Clintonville thespian, show joins survivors, helpers onstage
As Pat Wynn Brown prepared for her operation Jan. 17 to remove "atypical cells" from the same place on her upper left arm where she had melanoma in 1997, she was not doing well.
"I cried before the surgery," the Clintonville resident said. "I was so afraid."
Her oncologist, Dr. Mark H. Cripe, asked if she wanted to pray, and she did. When they were finished, he told her she was going to be OK.
Brown replied: "This is exactly what I'm going to say to you before the show and our positions are reversed."
The show will go on, and Brown will tell Cripe all is well in the event he experiences a little stage fright.
The show is The Hairdo Monologues: When Monsieur Chemo Styles Her Hair, a presentation of Brown's Hair Theater with financial support from OhioHealth. Featuring a cast of breast cancer survivors, people who have lost loved ones to the disease, the husband of a survivor, healthcare providers, a wig supplier and a hair stylist, the performance will take place at 7 p.m. Feb. 28 at Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral, 555 N. High St.
There is no charge for admission, but those who wish to attend must register in advance by emailing Kathy Bradshaw at firstname.lastname@example.org or calling her at 614-566-5810.
Hair Theater is Brown's one-woman comedy show, out of which grew the Wig Fund at the Columbus Foundation, which helps provide wigs and hats to women and girls who lose their hair during chemotherapy. Brown has also created Hairdo Monologue performances for women cancer survivors and the show Dude, Where's My Hair? for children who have undergone cancer treatment.
"I wanted to do a show that included men and medical people and the hair people, and the breast cancer survivors in this case," Brown said last week.
She put together a proposal for When Monsieur Chemo Styles Her Hair for OhioHealth and about a year ago sat down to discuss it with five male surgeons and a female radiologist.
"They said, 'Well, we're protective of our patients and we don't want them to have to feel more pain to tell the story, and we wonder if they'll even want to talk about it,' and I said, 'I know they'll want to talk about,' " Brown recalled.
Reaching out to past Hairdo Monologues cast members, friends and others, Brown assembled a dozen people to be in the production.
They all gathered for a workshop in November, and those assigned to write their own stories, or "monologues," about how cancer crept into their lives got down to it.
Then cancer crept back into Brown's life.
"(It) threw me for a loop ... but I knew that somehow, the show would go on," she said.
The January surgery went well, and last week, Brown said her doctor gave her a clean bill of health.
"Everything looks really, really good," Brown said. "We'll watch it carefully to see why those bad cells reformed in that exact same spot."
Her recent Facebook post said the surgery should not affect her ability to play the ukulele, "as I was pretty bad before the surgery, anyway."
Before the operation, which left her with a large scar on her arm, Brown planned to wear a sleeveless dress for the Feb. 28 show.
She still does.
"I want all of us to be reassured you can be glamorous and have your scars," she said. "I'll wear this scar very proudly because it takes a lot of strength to get through something like that, but even more, it takes so many loving people to get through this. People have been so kind to me. It's been so strange because we had no idea this would happen when we started."
Brown has one sincere hope for the upcoming production:
"I always have one goal, no matter what the episode is of Hair Theater -- and I do various episodes across the country -- and that is, there is one person in the audience every single time who really doesn't want to be there because they're having a hard time. They wanted to stay home ... and they're there thinking, 'I could be at home on the couch watching Project Runway, and they're the ones who come up to me after the show and say, 'I needed that laugh more than you'll ever know.' That does it for me. Everything becomes easy, easy, easy. I forget all the hard parts about putting on the show."