Reviving Willy Russell's 80's hit, Shirley Valentine, for Breast Cancer Awareness
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE...SOUTH SHORE, MA Last October I was trying to wrap my brain around the possibility that I might need to have a mastectomy. An irregular mammogram had turned into a carousel of imaging and biopsies. They hadn't found cancer, but had identified a veritable cornucopia of atypical cells, covering three quadrants of my right breast. It was during an MRI guided biopsy when Shirley Valentine came to me.
If you've never had the pleasure of an MRI guided biopsy, let me just say, it is an endurance test for both body and mind. There I lay, prone on the MRI table, my breasts hanging down through a hole, my right breast squeezed into a little cage (to keep it from running away, of course). They sent me into the tube, feet first, and as the clanging and banging began, I thought, “Holy crap – I can't do this!” I feverishly searched the corners of my mind for something to calm me down, knowing full well that I was mere moments away from a spectacularly embarrassing freak out. And who emerged from the dark recesses of my panicked mind, who came to my rescue? None other than that plucky Liverpudlian housewife herself, Shirley Valentine.
Some of you will remember her. Willy Russell's heroine of the 80's. She played on Broadway and was celebrated in film. Her name was Shirley Valentine, before she became Shirley Bradshaw, a middle aged woman, lost in her role as mother to two grown children, and wife to a husband who's grown distant. When a friend offers her a trip to Greece, a long forgotten exuberance begins to bubble up in her. Shirley's journey illuminates the need to celebrate the individual, not wife and mother, but woman. Shirley is the OG of self care and self love – a beacon of empowerment. Long before we had hashtags, we had Shirley.
I performed the role of Shirley eight years ago. That she came to my rescue during this darkest hour, came as no surprise. The lessons that Shirley learns during her adventures are the very lessons that I have learned from my breast cancer education. I decided, while lying on that MRI table, that once I got through the issue with my breast, I would perform Shirley again, as a way to share what I have learned, in the hopes that it will help another.
Ultimately, I opted for a triple excisional biopsy on three quadrants of my right breast, to make certain there was no cancer lurking (there wasn't), and I began taking Tamoxifen six months ago. I started my journey at Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital-Plymouth Breast Center, and I cannot speak highly enough about the care that I received there. They were compassionate, patient, and supportive. They educated me as to the risks I am facing and empowered me make an informed decision about treatment. October is breast cancer awareness month, and November 2nd marks the anniversary of my surgery. I will be spending it as Shirley, remembering that life isn't just worth living, it's worth loving.
Performances of Shirley Valentine, featuring Victoria Bond, and designed and directed by John Beausoleil, will be Nov. 2nd at 7PM & Nov. 3rd at 6PM, at the Reed Community House, 33A Summer St. in Kingston. Doors will open one half hour prior to curtain. All tickets are $25. The proceeds from these performances will go to the Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital-Plymouth Breast Center (60%) and the Monarch Projects (40%).
The Monarch Projects is a MA Ch. 180 committed to celebrating the contribution and empowerment of women, one project at a time. Shirley Valentine is the first of the Monarch Projects, and is presented in collaboration with Rogue Theatre Company.