Katy Franco announcing her book “Chemorella” (Photo/Javier Vázquez-Rosado)

[VIDEOS] Comedienne uses laughter to raise awareness about cancer

“How many minutes of your life can you say you’re just going to have fun?” asks Katy Franco, who feels not enough of us remember to take the time to laugh.

Ever since the vivacious actress and stand-up comic survived breast cancer, she has been on a mission to spread joy as well as educate about the life-threatening disease, which according to the latest study by BreastCancer.org, affects about 1 in 8 women in the U.S. — and can even show up in men.

Franco co-wrote a bilingual illustrated book, a version of the Cinderella story (but with cancer), with her husband, titled “Chemorella.” She will also be performing a one-woman comedy show, “The Breast Years of My Life,” at the Laugh Factory in Hollywood on October 22.

“When I do my presentations, there’s a part of the book that is acted out — using rap,” says Franco who says she likes to cheer people up even if they are not going through cancer — just facing any type of adversity. “There was a woman who had a son who was a burn victim and lost all his hair. It’s amazing how laughter and ‘Chemorella’ has affected so many people in a positive way.”

Her book, which was first published in Puerto Rico, was released in the U.S. mainland this year.

“I definitely wanted it bilingual when we decided it would go public,” says Franco. “I was thinking worldwide — we didn’t want to exclude anybody.”

She says it was her husband who nicknamed her Chemorella when she was battling cancer in 2005, and the story has a lot of similarities to her own life.

“It’s for the whole family,” says Franco. “If they are under 8 years old, they are mesmerized by the illustrations. It shows the lighter side…We wanted to take some of that fear away.”

Franco says she still remembers the weakening effects of radiation and chemotherapy, calling it “the worst period of my life.” She says she really had to push herself when she did her first show in Spanish in Puerto Rico in 2006.

“I had ‘chemo brain’ — memory loss — so it was hard, but I did it,” says Franco who has now dedicated her 100 percent of her career to speaking out about cancer. “I started educating women and giving public appearances to give back to the community. It was just a natural thing to do. I never planned to do it.”

She says when she starts improvising on stage, it’s the audience that feeds her.

“I’m back to being a standup comedienne and now I combine it with awareness,” says Franco. “‘Chemorella’ is a baby that is really starting to walk.”

Loving the feeling she gets making people laugh, she also did some research on laugh therapy.

“I trained in laughter therapy — exercises that provoke laughter, and it works 100 percent,” says Franco. “It can be for children, medical personnel, anyone who needs to diminish stress. When you laugh you are focusing on something different, it brings oxygen to your brain, it strengthens your immune system. It has a lot of benefits…laughter.”

During a recent trip to Puerto Rico, she says she tried some laughing exercises with students grades 7 through 12.

“They loved it,” says Franco. “None of them have cancer, but they have a grandmother, or a mother, or a father with cancer, and they don’t know how to deal with it. When they hear me, they think, ‘Oh my god, you fought it, and you did it!’ It really has changed people…Give yourself permission to laugh, and you can be that child again, and just have fun.”

Comments

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