In the past week, I have heard about Tig Notaro and her life after breast cancer no less than three times, most recently via an interview on Refinery 29. I’m of the belief that when a story or person keeps entering your universe that I ought to pay attention. So I am. And thought that you might like to learn about the inspiring Tig Notaro as well.
Tig Notaro was 41 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer, which followed (you’re never going to believe this!) a four-month period during which her mother passed away, she battled pneumonia as well as a bacterial infection in her digestive tract, and she went through a breakup. The standup routine she did several days after receiving her breast cancer diagnosis, which famously begins with Notaro saying, “Good evening! Hello. I have cancer! How are you?” went viral.
Here is her interview, which I found to be particularly inspiring. I hope that you do as well.
You spoke very publicly about your diagnosis soon after receiving it. How you were able to access the humor of the situation so quickly?
“I think it was a part of my coping process. Before I was diagnosed with cancer, I had a series of horrible things happen, and during that time I was so cold — just physically and emotionally beaten down. It wasn’t until I was diagnosed with cancer that I found a sense of humor about everything. The cancer was just the straw that broke the camel’s back.”
When you found the lump, did you know what it was?
“No, I didn’t. I didn’t have breast cancer on either side of the family. I didn’t smoke, I was a healthy eater, I was young. I had several friends who had had lumps that were nothing. I just really didn’t think I had anything to be concerned about. It was a shock to find out it was cancer.”
Who was your support system at that time?
“My friends, my stepfather, my brother, my aunt. Family and friends. Certainly my story went viral, so I had tremendous support from strangers and friends as well. The support from strangers made me so excited about humanity. People seemed to really want to latch onto something good or positive. It was nice to see and be a part of.”
Did you ever feel defeated?
“I wanted to survive the whole time — though it sometimes felt like once I would get up again, I was going to be knocked down. But, I always wanted to survive. There was never a part of me that wanted to really give up. I certainly felt defeated at times, though.”
How did your mother’s passing affect your thoughts about your own mortality?
“Oddly, the brushes with death that I was coming upon, repeatedly, made me feel close to my mother — I was comforted by the thought that if I were to go, she had just passed away, too. I kept thinking that she wouldn’t have ever believed that not only did she die, but that right after, I would be going as well. But, I never wanted to die.”
What would you say to someone else who was just diagnosed with breast cancer?
“Whether it’s breast cancer or anything else, I think just the smallest thing is the biggest thing, which is to take a step. Whether it’s to get out of bed, or go to the doctor, or to inform yourself, just take one step and another step. And, just breathe in and out. I know it sounds so basic, but that’s all I could do, and even then, I didn’t want to take small steps very often. I just didn’t want to do anything. But, if you just take one step, it’s gigantic.”
What do you want women in general to know about breast cancer?
“I was so, so naive. I was the least likely candidate, but I still could have had cancer and did have cancer. So, I want women to know that they should research and not fall prey to thinking that there’s no chance you could have it. Because that’s just denial and it’s so much better to live in reality.”
How are you doing now?
“I’m personally doing very well. I feel like a very lucky person. The most important thing is to keep taking small steps, one after the other. Those tiny but small gigantic steps forward. It’s so important. It’s so crucial.”