Jonna's Body, please hold

A Cancerous Dark Comedy

titleDoes guided imagery have a dark side and if so can it be comedic? See for yourself

I just finished reviewing this movie with my daughter who has undergone ten surgeries in the last three years in her cancer journey and I can report that this film was the highlight of our day. Why because it struck home in ways which are at the core of one’s humanity. Jung has said in order to see the light one has to befriend darkness. Here darkness is playfully seen for what it is. Cancer is the intruder and the body victorious.So what’s this have to do with guided Imagery you might ask and why is it so innovative. Simply this material offers a profound inner visual landscape which memory stores as images which can be called upon to see the light. When my daughter needed to have yet another procedure and was in the emergency ward she was reminded of some of the scenes from this film which gave her inner strength, Why innovative simple - it’s brilliant in dealing with aspects of something that is deeply embodied and that can bring healing, Just ask Norman Cousins.

We are fortunate enough to find a number of reviews for Jonna’s body by our community of cancer dancers and if you are interested please read on.

Reviewed By: Alysa Cummings
The Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania

Last Thursday night, me and four of my breast cancer support group buddies entered the surreal world of Jonna's Body - a place where an operator named Pearl works an old fashioned switchboard to juggle phone calls from various complaining body parts: Sgt. Coif valiantly disciplines his unruly, frizzy troops, uptight Upper Back could really use a yoga class to unwind, Bowel is backed up and has product to move and the talkative pair of boobs Uta and Ula have been stuck in Jonna's brassiere too long. Such is life in Jonna's Body.

Within just a few short minutes of the film's opening lines (“Jonna's Body, where we put the art in artery”), the five of us were all engaged, buying into the entire comic premise. Before long, when Cancer arrived in the guise of hostile foreigners speaking with exotic accents, we were totally hooked, enjoying the melodrama and special effects in the show.

I am fond of saying that, yes, believe it or not, there are jokes in CancerLand, but it's cancer survivors who are the only ones qualified to tell them. Actress Jonna Tomases has earned that right, (and then some), as a three time cancer survivor.

I first heard about Jonna's work when I read the Fall 2008 issue of Women & Cancer. An article described Jonna's recovery from Stage II Hodgkins's Lymphoma followed by a relapse one year later. It would be a decade before cancer appeared in her life again, this time as ductal carcinoma in situ. At this point, Jonna decided to treat her breast cancer by undergoing a bilateral mastectomy. (Years later, Jonna transformed her cancer experience into art by writing and performing Jonna's Body as a one woman show).

The film version follows Jonna as she undergoes endless testing followed by radiation and multiple rounds of chemotherapy. The seriousness of cancer treatment is lightened by physical comedy and double entendres. Only in Jonna's Body could a cancer survivor undergoing treatment wrestle with toxic side effects and appearance demons, (“I can't look at myself in the mirror anymore,”) followed by Sgt. Coif loudly admonishing his troops to “fall out!” In the Behind the Scenes feature of the DVD, Tomases defends tackling such a heavy subject as cancer with humor. “In the face of tragedy, what else can we do but laugh?” Spoiler alert: the radiation and chemotherapy work to kill Jonna's cancer. We see radiation make the foreigners sweat up a storm. And we all cheered in the audience like little kids because the bad guys really had it coming to them.

Now cancer free, Jonna thanks her body (right now we're okay), and decides to join the circus where she meets and marries the man (a fellow clown) of her dreams. It's a feel good, live-happily-ever-after ending. And before the credits roll, Jonna, dressed in clown makeup, celebrates her good fortune with a delightful dance. It's such a marvelous catharsis after so much medical trauma that clearly underscores her message to cancer survivors everywhere: Life! We get to be! How great is that? Great indeed. I polled my fellow cancer survivors at the end of the movie and we all agreed wholeheartedly, with big smiles on our faces: we love Jonna Tomases, and her body too.

Jonna's Body, Please Hold. A Cancerous Dark Comedy - A Film by Jonna Tamases

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