“Anybody have breasts?” was the opening question author, playwright and comedic performer Tania Katan had for the audience in Johnson Theatre on Thursday afternoon. “Well, I had two breasts that decided to leave the party earlier than anticipated,” she said.
Katan, author of “My One-Night Stand with Cancer: A Memoir,” was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was 21 years old. Her cancer came back 10 years later. Breast cancer was talked about in “hushed tones” in the days of Katan’s diagnosis in 1992. Katan said that, “what began as a pea-sized lump on her breast grew into a lump the size of a golf ball.”
Upon her first examination, Katan was simply told to “stop drinking caffeine and start taking Vitamin E.” Katan read from her memoir the story of having to write an essay for school on the paper on top of the doctor’s table as she was awaiting her examination.
As a college student with breast cancer, Katan said that she quickly found herself in the midst of something serious, painful and scary. That didn’t keep her from telling her story.
When Katan’s cancer returned 10 years later, she found herself falling in love with a woman who was training for a 10K race. Katan wanted to train with the woman because she “just needed to be near her.” However, Katan was just beginning chemotherapy.
Katan ran the race, repeating the mantra, “If I can make it the whole way without stopping, I will never get cancer again.”
“Going through chemo, I felt so compromised,” Katan said, but she found a way to reclaim her body through running races. “Running without boobies is easier and less bouncy,” she joked.
Katan went on to run a subsequent race, benefiting cancer research, topless. “I wanted to give a visual representation of my experience with cancer,” she said.
Before Katan decided to put her unique stories into a memoir, she noticed that there were no books on breast cancer from the point-of-view of a “sassy Jewish girl.”
“She made me laugh so much,” freshman Jenn Fant said. “You could understand her so well, because she was so humorous and casual.”
Junior education major Nora Webb thought Katan’s performance and lecture was very empowering and personal.
“My voice has always been cultivated through journal-writing and playwriting,” Katan said.
Her memoir was considerably lauded and accoladed, winning the Judy Grahn Nonfiction Award, the Stonewall Book Award for LGBT literature and was a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award.