Sunday, December 11, 2011

Cancer's Best Medicine

By Aysun Kuck

Comedian Marla Lukofsky knows something about living, losing and facing adversity. In her highly acclaimed show, "I’m Still Here…and so is my Hair!", this 30-year entertainment veteran (she started when she was a fetus) takes audiences on a very personal and achingly hilarious ride, covering her journey from comedy to cancer and back to comedy again.

The Toronto Star calls Lukofsky, “A captivating story teller with lightning-quick comic timing.”
The Globe and Mail calls her , “A suave stylish comedian.”
Gilda's Club says, "Marla's show will save lives."
Over the past 3 decades, Marla Lukofsky has performed stand-up comedy in every major city in Canada, the United States, and the UK. A veteran of television, Marla's credits include Evening at the Improv, The Alan Thicke Show, and CBC's national news show Midday with Valerie Pringle and Keith Morrison. As a guest columnist and writer, she has worked on such shows as CBC radio's Basic Black, The Vicki Gabereau Show, Fresh Air, and is a frequent guest on Newstalk 1010 with Ted Woloshyn and Larry Fedoruk. On Saturday mornings, you can hear her voice on The Care Bears cartoon series as Good Luck Bear. Marla was also a proud member of Second City for one WHOLE month until they realized she wasn't Andrea Martin and asked her to leave.

While living in Los Angeles, Marla was suddenly diagnosed with breast cancer which had spread to her lymph nodes. She had two operations, followed by aggressive chemotherapy (is there any other kind?) and radiation treatments. That life-altering event changed the course of Marla's career. “I don’t like to say that I’m cancer-free,” she admits. "The word ‘remission’ works best for me."

After returning home to Toronto, she had to deal with serious family issues. Her father suddenly died  and the following year her mother was diagnosed with acute myloid leukemia. “She fought a hard fight,” Lukofsky reveals, “but after being my biggest supporter while I underwent my cancer treatments, my brave mother lost her own battle with blood cancer eight months after it was discovered.”

Losing both parents so close to each other proved devastating. “They were the core of my foundation,” she says. “Life will never be the same without them. I’m moving forward by sharing my story of facing adversity with comedy and candor.”

Since her cancer,  Marla has written not only her one-person show, "I'm Still Here...and so is my Hair!", but her memoir that the show is based on. In addition, a collection of Marla's short stories and poems have been published in several international medical journals. Most recently Marla was invited to speak at the prestigious speakers series TEDx Talks, in India and Toronto where she shared some of her powerful messages. In them she talks about her journeys and challenges in a unique manner with honesty, frankness and humour. Currently, Lukofsky is booked for speaking engagements across North America and abroad all in the hopes of helping others. "If I can touch even one person, and have them feel that they are not alone, then I have succeeded."

Without losing any of the comic edge she’s become well-known for – remember, this is the gal who became famous for performing the entire Wizard of Oz in less than three minute – she has become a huge supporter for those who have gone through life-threatening challenges. Lukofsky jokes about  cancer, about intimacy challenges and about her body. “I was born with my father’s eyes, my mother’s mouth and both my parents’ noses!” After her appearances, it’s not uncommon for audience members to hug her, share their stories or cry. “It still surprises me when I receive these amazing and very personal e-mails from people who have seen my show. It’s incredibly moving and it inspires me to keep going,” Lukofsky says. “When I wrote this show, my hope was to help others and pay it forward but each time I perform, it helps me as well as I see my having cancer has not been in vain."

“I’m a writer and a comedian and my sense of humour is not a coping mechanism but rather an innate part of my's just how I see things,” explains Lukofsky. “One night while I lay in bed, feeling extremely sick after hours of chemotherapy, a mosquito flew into my bedroom, bit me and sucked up my poisonous blood. I watched it fall fast to the ground, and all of its little black hairs fell out of its little black legs. It was stilled forever. Good.” She smiles. “Now that’s what I call sweet revenge!”