Breast cancer survivors to share their story at SU through TitBits

Breast cancer survivors to share their TitBits story at SU

Eight participants will take the stage at the Joyce Hergenhan Auditorium this weekend to talk about facing and surviving breast cancer.
Published: November 9, 2019
TitBits Breast Cancer Survivors
Courtesy of Cindy Bell

One in eight women in the U.S. are affected by breast cancer, according to the National Breast Cancer Foundation. Look Now is an originial project by Professor Tula Goenka, who herself is a breast cancer survivor. The second installment of the project will be open for an audience at 7 p.m.  Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at the Joyce Hergenhan Auditorium, Newhouse.

The first part of the project captured portraits of survivors and their bare chests, accompanied by descriptions of the treatment that they went through in the fall of 2018. There were 25 people who participated publicly and 19 that chose to participate anonymously. Increasingly, younger women are being diagnosed with fatal breast cancer, according to BreastCancer.Org. Goenka therefore envisions the project as a way for women to share their stories.

Christie Hefner, then-chairwoman and CEO of Playboy magazine, came to the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications for an event in 2009. This got Goenka thinking about whether Playboy would ever put somebody who is a breast cancer survivor and has silicone implants on the centerfold.

“It also got me thinking about how femininity is so connected to breasts,” Goenka added.

For the Look Now project, Goenka coordinated portraits of breast cancer survivors with their bare chests showing the treatments that each one has gone through.

The event will be in the form of a cold read, a documentary-style theater where people read out their own stories. There will be eight people on stage sitting in a semicircle, interacting through their stories written as a script.

Barbara Genton, who will be participating, is a three-time breast cancer survivor who was first diagnosed in 1997. She considers herself very fortunate, unlike many survivors.

“I was a runner back then and cancer was not in my family,” Genton said about the time she was first diagnosed. “It still happened and then it returned and when it happens for a second time, you are a cancer veteran.”

Nancy Keefe Rhodes, a Newhouse alum who lost one of her younger sisters to breast cancer, wrote about the project and also wrote the script for the cold read for “TitBits: Breast Cancer Stories.” With such personal stories like this, the stakes for the event are very high, Rhodes said.

“I think everyone in the rehearsal cried at some point,” said Rhodes. “What they’re and what they have done is very profound. [They’re willing] to work with a group of people and they’re going to be willing to share it with whoever comes.”

Cindy Bell, who took all the portraits for the Look Now project, is also a breast cancer survivor.

“Because I had breast cancer, I have a deep connection with the project and the subjects,” Bell told Rhodes in an interview. “Before I photograph people, I talk to them, I listen to their stories. And each bare chest tells a different story.”

Anju Vershaney, a particpiant in the TitBits event for breast cancer survivors

Anju Varshney

AnnMarie Giannino-Otis

AnnMarie Giannino-Otis

Colleen Anderson

Colleen Anderson

Deirdre Bordies

Deirdre Bordies

Tula Goenka

Tula Goenka

Editor's Note:

This post has been updated to correct a reference to an audiobook version of the Look Now project created by Nancy Keefe Rhodes that has not been produced as of November 2019.