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Laugh When It Hurts

Gene Glave treats her cancer with comedy.



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


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