Cancer Is Fun!

By Shauna Lane 05/17/18

I surrender to my powerlessness over drugs and alcohol every day. Now I also surrender to cancer, chemotherapy and hairlessness (not in a sexy way).

Cancer Patient and Doctor
I have cancer, and it’s saving my life.

On June 24th, 2017 I went in for a biopsy of my left breast where a few weeks before, a small spot detected on a mammogram was instantly diagnosed by my doctor as cancer. After the biopsy he asked me again if I wanted to know what he thought it was. I said yes. He placed his hand gently on his own chest (with his eyes fluttering open and shut in a very comical way) and said, “I think it’s cancer – but you’re going to be fine.” I actually grinned because it seemed so ridiculous. How could I have cancer? You couldn’t feel the lump, and no one in my family has ever had any kind of cancer. Well, there’s a first for everything, and I’m it. I had cancer and it wasn’t so fine.

Four terrifying biopsies and two MRIs later it turned out there were at least two tumors in my left breast and something called a radial scar in my right. I was going to need a partial mastectomy in my left breast and a big ‘ole lumpectomy in my right. September 25th was a beautiful autumn day and that’s when the surgery finally happened. Five days later my surgeon called to tell me there were actually 4 tumors, and she said one of them was a type called HER2+ which had already invaded my lymph nodes. Now I needed a year of chemotherapy and something called Herceptin. Stage II breast cancer, not so fine!

Meanwhile, the two months before the operation, for some awful reason, I was filled with shame. I couldn’t believe I had cancer! I was finally getting my career on track - going on tons of auditions, getting lots of call-backs and I had just shot a really cute commercial. I was doing lots of comedy, performing a weekly podcast (The Gone Girls available for free on iTunes) and producing a monthly comedy show. Now I had cancer and they kept pushing back my surgery dates because they weren’t even totally sure what was in there, so they wouldn’t operate until they knew more. I was so scared and upset and nothing seemed funny. I was terrified to tell anyone and I couldn’t even talk about it in meetings. I just kept saying “I have to have surgery – I have this medical thing going on.” I was texting my family because I just couldn’t say the words “I have breast cancer” out loud. I didn’t tell my mother right away because I didn’t even fully understand what was happening, so I just waited…and waited. But I’m glad I did, and I’m glad my medical team took their time trying to figure out exactly what to do for the surgery.

The big day finally came; they did the surgery and got it all out. Now I’m in chemo every week and the poison is saving my life.

Three weeks after my surgery we did a Gone Girls podcast and I ‘came out’ with my cancer and then I started talking about it onstage and joking about it and everything shifted. The shame was gone. I owned it. I was so fucking grateful. Grateful to be alive, grateful to have health insurance, and grateful to have such an incredible medical team and the support of my family and friends. Grateful my boyfriend was supporting me in every way – emotionally and financially.

I decided to produce a fundraiser called Comedy For Cancer at Carolines on Broadway. Amazing comedians came out and did the show for free. They all killed it and together we raised a boatload of money for Gilda’s Club Westchester. Guess who came to the show? My breast surgeon! She sat in the front row and it blew my mind when I walked on that stage and saw her snuggled right up to that stage. This is the woman who saved my life! My chemo nurse came too. On my first day of chemo I asked her if she was giving me Benadryl and she asked me if I liked it. I said “Yes I like Benadryl a lot – I get high off it, and that’s a problem.” Then she told me something that she said she never tells patients but that she, too, is a friend of Bill. Can you believe that shit? I’m crying right now remembering that day because I felt so taken care of. I never felt taken care of when I was drinking. I just felt like a victim and/or like the queen nobody did enough for. A drunk, bloated queen. I am so so grateful I was already well into my sobriety when this cancer happened. I would have never gone to the doctor if I was drinking and I certainly wouldn’t have had health insurance.

I finally started talking about my cancer in meetings and joined a cancer support group at Gilda’s Club. I found myself surrounded by so much love and support, truly lifted up by other people. My mind has been blown by how kind and loving so many people have been. I thought the cancer was going to break up my boyfriend and me but it has only brought us closer. When I told my mother she was so sweet, strong and stoic. She and my sister came to N.Y. and stayed with me after my surgery, took care of me, and we laughed about cancer (we also cried but it’s better to laugh). My mom keeps saying that if anyone can make cancer funny, I can.

I don’t know if I have made cancer funny (it’s certainly not fun), but I have made it positive, at least for me. I’m not letting cancer kill me or my spirit. When I learned I was going to lose my hair I decided to beat cancer to the punch. I went to my dear friend Donna Vaisels who owns a salon called Salon Gossip and she cut all my hair off and carved FUCK CANCER in the back of my hair and I meant it! I went from being filled with shame about the cancer to feeling empowered over it. I’ve turned into one of those people! I have cancer, and it’s saving my life. For the second time in my life, I have surrendered to something to conquer it. I surrender to my powerlessness over drugs and alcohol every day. Now I also surrender to cancer, chemotherapy and hairlessness (not in a sexy way). I have cancer, and it’s gonna be fine.

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Shauna Lane is a comedian and actor based in New York City. You can follow her @laneshauna on instagram and see some of her work at