Amy Marcs’ humorous take on surviving cancer

By Brett M. Rhyne
Advocate staff

Amy Marcs 
PHOTO: JUAN FELIPE RANGEL Amy Marcs PHOTO: JUAN FELIPE RANGEL NEWTON – Breast cancer is no laughing matter, but in her upcoming one-woman show, “Nice T!ts,” at the JCC here Oct. 22, survivor Amy Marcs uses humor to encourage acceptance, serenity and healing.

Hadassah Boston is bringing Amy’s show here to commemorate October being Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The play, written and performed by the New York-based performer, is a comedy about surviving breast cancer.

“It’s really funny,” Amy says, “and touching. I put levity to a topic that’s very difficult to talk about. I do it so it makes people comfortable, so we can talk about it. I can address what it’s like as a woman who had a killer body and great breasts to lose her breasts.

“How does it affect you?” she asks. “How does it affect your feelings of femininity, of beauty, of society? How does it affect your sex life, your feelings of intimacy?”

PHOTO COMPOSITING: CRISTHIANO JAHARA; GRAPHIC: WENDI LUI PHOTO COMPOSITING: CRISTHIANO JAHARA; GRAPHIC: WENDI LUI The Long Island-born actress’ mother died of breast cancer at age 51, when Amy was 17. Nine years ago, when Amy was in her early 40s, a mammogram discovered calcification in her left breast; further testing indicated she had ductal carcinoma in situ, known as DCIS, a noninvasive form of cancer that hasn’t spread out of the milk duct to invade other parts of the breast.

Two lumpectomies followed. The DCIS diagnosis required Amy to undergo screenings every three months, which saved her life when, nine months later, an MRI found cancer in her right breast.

“Because I was really young, because of the history with my mother,” she says, “I didn’t even think about it. I knew I needed to get a double mastectomy.”

It was while recovering from the surgery that Amy starting thinking about “Nice T!ts.”

Amy Marcs in “Nice T!ts” 
PHOTO: COLLEEN STURTEVANT Amy Marcs in “Nice T!ts” PHOTO: COLLEEN STURTEVANT “I had to take off from work,” she says. “I certainly couldn’t audition or teach. After a double mastectomy, there’s a lot of physical stuff you can’t do. I couldn’t be by myself.”

For about three months, Amy lived with her sister’s family in Westchester. “It was beautiful, communal living,” she says. “It brought my sister and I closer together, and I have an incredible relationship with my niece.”

Amy’s creativity asserted itself. “What do I do? I started to write,” she says. “Before I got sick, I thought about writing a one-person show. What does everyone do who’s single? Write about their dating. But when this happened, the story wrote … something bigger than me wrote it. I really believe that.”

Amy journaled about her illness and recovery. “Finding the humor in things is what got me through,” she says. “So I started writing everything down.”

Eighteen months later, Amy met with a writing coach to convert her journal entries into theater. She started performing the show three years ago, only during Breast Cancer Awareness Month at first, more frequently now. She would like to see “Nice T!ts” follow the trajectory of “The Vagina Monologues,” with an extended tour and perhaps an off-Broadway run.

On Oct. 13, Amy was eight years cancer-free.

“I feel so strongly that my show is of service,” she says. “I want to give other people hope. I want them to feel like they’re not alone.”

A talkback session with a panel consisting of oncologist Dr. Heather A. Parsons of Dana Farber Cancer Institute and reconstructive surgeon Dr. Jessica Erdmann-Sager of Brigham and Women’s Hospital will follow the performance. Proceeds from the event will support cancer research at Hadassah Medical Organization in Jerusalem.


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