If you need just one reason more to attend Healthy Children Project’s upcoming International Breastfeeding Conference, here she is: Christine Rathbun Ernst. The poet, playwright, performer, mother, wife, breast cancer survivor is sure to shake you to your inner core (or make you laugh at the very least) with readings from her latest book, Wild Fortune: Moving Pianos in Paradise, a collection of stories and monologues about family, motherhood, feeling fat, drinking wine, and dumb luck.
With unfettered confidence, she shares her intimate life moments making sense of the world and how she fits into it.
Rathbun Ernst performs “My Neighbor and Her Large Dog”- scene one of Fat Ass Cancer B!#&h.
“I need to find the humor in it. This is crucial,” Rathbun Ernst says. “…I need to share it with other folks to make sure it’s not just me; that this happens to everybody, right?”
Family loss, a failed marriage, and cancer provoke the rawest of emotions; she confronts and shares those deep struggles in an “extremely engaging, entertaining and, by turns, hilarious, riveting and deeply affecting” manner. [http://www.capecodonline.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20130707/LIFE/307070324/-1/rss21]
In a 2009 MAMM article Rathbun Ernst is quoted: “Being on stage and performing some of the painful scenes … I’m catapulted back…and that fear and terror is quite visceral.”
Since then, Rathbun Ernst has performed some of her work dozens of times, reliving the hardship of being diagnosed with cancer over and over. Still, the act of sharing heals.
“It is simple: we suffer because we don’t share the story,” Rathbun Ernst explains. “We require connectedness. The reassurance of the universal experience.”
“I was helped so often when I was sick by the gift of someone else’s story,” she goes on. “It gave me perspective and context and somehow made the ordeal safer, less terrifying. And I have this sneaking suspicion that if I stop sharing my own story, I’ll get sick again. Some trick! I am sort of charged by my own health and good luck to pay it forward in this way.”
She hopes her storytelling inspires others to share theirs.
“…Maybe [the audience will] hear a version of their own story and share back.”
While Rathbun Ernst’s stories are told from the perspective of a “mid-menopausal not-skinny regular old middle-aged woman,” her commentary really translates to the human experience in general.
This “bad-ass, fat-ass, amazon, warrior, revolutionary and, loath as she may be to use the term, breast cancer survivor,” as writer Carol Panasci calls her, breastfed both of her daughters: daughter Marney before her single mastectomy and daughter Julia after.
Life with one breast is surprisingly like life with two breasts, Rathbun Ernst says.
“It turned out to be a matter of supply and demand,” she says of feeding Julia from one breast. “Turns out I possess the Little–seriously, little– Breast That Could.”
Julia just turned five-years-old, still nursing occasionally, and weighs 60 pounds.
“Imagine how big she’d be if I’d had two breasts,” Rathbun Ernst says.
Not only surviving but triumphing over the tragic illness, Rathbun Ernst reflects on the reality of health care in our nation and the importance of breast cancer prevention as opposed to treatment.
The general public should know that breast cancer is an epidemic and every teenager needs to know how to do a breast self exam, she says.
“…The ounce of prevention — exercise, diet, breast self exams, affordable genetic testing, meaningful research into chemical causes — is worth pounds and pounds and pounds of ‘cure’ – the effects of chemo and radiation, the Big Pharma wars, the cosmetic surgery industry (google TRAM flap and check out potential side effects), the wigs, the prosthetics, the Pink Ribbon industry,” she explains. “The ribbon generates lots of cash for research, but it generates exponentially more in corporate profit.”
Choose to Pink wisely, she advises.
Although her breast cancer coverage is essential, Rathbun Ernst’s upcoming performance will focus mainly on her mother monologues.
“I’m looking forward to hanging with a bunch of smart women who are doing good work in the world,” she says.
Rathbun Ernst performs her work regularly on stage and at open mics and has been featured in MAMM Magazine, The Cape Cod View, Cape Cod Magazine, and in the literary journal Ars Medica. Two of her plays have been named Massachusetts Cultural Council Grant Finalists.
Rathbun Ernst spends her summers performing as the Fat Ass Cancer B!#&h at Cotuit Center for the Arts, where she also teaches writing classes. She lives in Sandwich, Mass. with her husband sculptor Michael Ernst and their daughters. [Retrieved from: http://www.healthychildren.cc/conferences3.htm]
Join us for this unique and unforgettable performance Thursday, January 16 from 8 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Admission by donation to your choice of two breastfeeding charities. Drop your donation into the jug of your choice and help us fill the jugs.
Cash bar will be open!
To register, please click here.
To view more of Rathbun Ernst’s work, visit her YouTube channel at: http://www.youtube.com/user/fatasscancerbitch