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Laugh When It Hurts

Gene Glave treats her cancer with comedy.

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Gene Glave is back to bald again, losing her blonde curls for the second time during treatment for breast cancer. Not one to be easily deterred, she rallies for a trip to Richmond this month with the recognition that her head helps tell the story. She's bringing her one-woman show, “Mammologues,” from Charleston, S.C., to a benefit performance here, hoping to declaw the monster, as she frames it, through her cancer-fighting journey.

Glave found out she had breast cancer five years ago. “Writing has always been therapeutic for me, so I kept a blog through my diagnosis and treatment,” she says. “One of the local producers at the Village Playhouse read it and she encouraged me to make a one-woman show.” With that prod, Glave, who is a nurse, dug into the project as a way to involve an audience in her experience with an illness rarely discussed in public. Appreciative reviews followed, and people often expressed surprise that a topic so grim could evoke laughs and overriding optimism. “Some things are uncomfortable [in the program] but it's a message of hope,” Glave says. “If I can educate and entertain at the same time, it's a win-win,” she says. “I take refuge in humor. I don't want anyone to think I'm making light of cancer, but I do make fun of it.”

She uses props to tell her story, and a rendition of “Bye Bye Boobie” shows a deft comedic touch amid the darker truths. “This is a tribute to those who love us and those who are going through it,” Glave says, and it's a performance as much for men as women. Breast cancer may be the enemy, but it's opened up a new creative realm as well, she says: “It threatened my life, but it's also probably saving it.”

“Mammologues: One Woman's Journey Through Breast Cancer,” is performed Oct. 5 at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden as part of a benefit at 5:30 p.m. Tickets are $35, by reservation at 287-7241 or www.bsvaf.org/mammologues.

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