Even though there is nothing inherently funny or joyful about cancer, Jenny Saldaña has made it her personal mission to find the bliss in life despite the challenge of such an illness. Jenny is passionate about using her experience as a catalyst of inspiration to encourage women just like her who are faced with this terrifying disease. Her journey has made her an influential national speaker and become the inspiration for a successful play called PINK: The Chronicles of BC Jenny. She’s also created a hilarious video about the awkwardness of dealing with someone who has breast cancer in Sh*T Girls Say to Girls with Breast Cancer.
Her latest effort is a comedic web series titled Happy Cancer Chick, which premieres in March and tries to answer the question: “Is it possible to live a happy, normal life after cancer?” Happy Cancer Chick is the original brainchild of producer Linda Nieves-Powell, who has a background in theatre and fiction writing. “I love what folks have created on the web using a simple Canon DSLR, a skeleton crew, and some serious ingenuity and I wanted to put my skills to the test,” Linda explains. “Although I had some ideas brewing, Happy Cancer Chick seemed to fit every item on my checklist of what makes a great web series.”
As Jenny explains, “My sistah from another mistah [Nieves-Powell] came up with the idea after she read a blog post of mine where I was ranting about not getting a commercial gig that called for real cancer survivors. I felt that I didn’t get the part because I was too happy, peppy and didn’t look ‘cancer-y’ enough.”
“Jenny’s blog was called Happy Does Not Sell Copy and right away I saw the potential for a series that explores the cancer survivor’s journey,” adds Nieves-Powell.
Happy Cancer Chick chronicles the trials and tribulations of one Lola Manola, a breast cancer patient who, despite being faced with many of the disease’s challenges—such as cancer scars and survivor guilt—simply refuses to be a victim. “Lola is inspired by me but she isn’t me,” says Saldaña. “We wanted her to be a mixture of Carrie Bradshaw, Lucy Ricardo, George Costanza, Larry David and Oprah. Linda came up with the name, and ultimately I think there’s a little bit of all of the above in both of us!”
As Saldaña and Nieves-Powell see it, women (stricken with cancer or not), can learn a lot from Lola. Saldaña explains: “Everyone has a mountain to climb—and Lola’s was cancer. And even though she’s she reached the top, put her flag on it and wears her battle scars with pride (most of the time), she realizes that there is always the possibility to slip off. And every time she sees this, she KNOWS that she MUST climb back up. Sometimes she doesn’t want to, sometimes it really sucks, but she knows she HAS to do it. That’s what I’d like women to take away from Lola. Lola calls herself a warrior princess but she’s really a goddess!”
According to the American Cancer Society, Cancer is a group of diseases that causes cells in the body to change and grow out of control. Most types of cancer cells eventually form a lump or mass called a tumor and are named after the part of the body where the tumor originates. About 70 percent of the women diagnosed with breast cancer have NO family history or any of the other risk factors associated with breast cancer, according to a Health.com post in the Huffington Post. And finally, according to the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation, Latinas are less likely to get regular screening mammograms or to follow up on abnormal mammograms, which may explain why they are diagnosed with later stages of breast cancer. With all these daunting statistics in mind, Nieves-Powell and Saldaña are intent on making sure the hardships of this disease are faced with smiles, courage, and a whole lot of positive mojo.
“I’m a firm believer in that every story needs to be told,” says Linda. “The cancer survivor’s story is one that should be shared. We recently received an email from a Canadian woman who said that she feels very alone in her journey after battling breast cancer. We don’t want anyone to feel alone. And even if everyone doesn’t get Happy Cancer Chick, at least they know that they are not alone.”
The Happy Cancer Chick will kick off with a launch party at the Chelsea Clearview Theatre in New York, and following is a link to help support the cause with donations: http://www.indiegogo.com/Happy-Cancer-Chick-Premiere You can also get updates and news on the series on the project Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/HappyCancerChick.
And for a hilarious sneak peek that proves the idiom of laughter is always the best medicine, check out the video below.