Using comedy to fight breast cancer

Priscilla (Nelson) Mitchell, a 1974 grad of Rush City High, shares her story of surviving breast cancer and talks about Ladies Night Out and Chuckles for Chi-Chi

Priscilla (Nelson) Mitchell lives in Rush City with husband Frank. She is pictured at the Grant House. Photo by Jon Tatting

Priscilla (Nelson) Mitchell lives in Rush City with husband Frank. She is pictured at the Grant House.
Photo by Jon Tatting

In her act, comedian and Rush City resident Priscilla Mitchell talks about getting married for the first time at 55 years old. “That’s a long time to be a virgin,” she jokes.

She also shares her sense of humor about a life experience on the more serious side. But at least for a day and the months that followed December 2010, the laughter stopped when something abnormal was discovered in her routine digital mammogram.

It was cancer.

“They found a little funny thing, and there was no lump,” described Mitchell of the microscopic abnormality found on her breast. “That’s why it’s important to have a mammogram once a year.”

Following the discovery, she had tissue taken in two surgeries and went through 20 radiation treatments at Fairview Lakes Medical Center in Wyoming. Having had stage 0 breast cancer, she admits she had it easy compared to others. Her last radiation session was April 6, 2011, and she has since been cancer free.

“I call it cancer lite,” said Mitchell, who still has to take a medication for the next 10 years along with seeing her oncologist once every six months. “I didn’t need a mastectomy or chemotherapy. I got by pretty easy, but I learned it’s not fun to be sick like that. I learned what a wonderful man my husband (Frank Mitchell) is. We were planning our wedding at the time.”

 

Ladies Night Out

Today, as a breast cancer survivor, Mitchell can laugh again and plans to return the favor in her comedy comeback at two upcoming events.

She will be one of three main featured speakers at the Ladies Night Out event set 5:30-8:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 29, at Fairview Lakes Medical Center in Wyoming, where women of all ages are invited to bring a friend and enjoy free health talks, free health screenings, activities, displays, refreshments, gifts and door prizes.

Walk-in mammograms and free skin cancer screening will begin an hour earlier at 4:30 p.m. Regular fees will apply for the mammograms; no appointment is necessary, however, and space is limited.

At 6 p.m., Julie Becker, MD, OB/Gyn specialist, and physical therapist Tia Pederson will give the first 30-minute talk on options for bladder control.

This will be followed by a 7 p.m. discussion on “Mindful Eating” by family medicine physician Paula Rehder.

Then at 8 p.m., Mitchell will take the floor with “Life and Laughter after Cancer.”

“I’m very excited,” she said about Fairview Lakes asking her to appear at the event. “I just want to help these women laugh and learn there is life after cancer.”

The free health screenings offered throughout the night will include skin cancer, sleep apnea, heart age, blood pressure, blood glucose, BMI, foot conditions (such as bunions and hammertoes), lung capacity, vision, hearing and leg circulation.

Guests are asked to wear comfortable shoes and clothing and join in Yoga, Pilates and cardio dance demonstrations by staff from the Lino Lakes YMCA in the new ortho center. They can try out the exercise circuit in the cardiac rehab gym, as well.

Otherwise, talk to the experts about acid reflux, bladder control and sleep problems, cosmetic surgery, breast health, colon cancer or home health and hearing care. Learn hands-only CPR from Lakes Region EMS, and then receive a free hand massage. Flu shots will be given, too, so bring your insurance card or pay $20 cash.

If you or someone you know has cancer, stop by the Lakes Cancer Clinic for a “Look Good, Feel Better” demonstration and free wig styling for women undergoing cancer treatment.

Ladies Night Out is free, and everyone is welcome. RSVPs are suggested. Call 612-672-7272 or go to www.fairview.org/lakesladiesnightout.

For complete details go to: http://fairview.org/Hospitals/Lakes/LadiesNightOut/index.htm

 

Chuckles for Chi-Chis

A few years ago, Mitchell thought it would be fun to host a stand-up comedy benefit for the oncology clinic at Fairview Lakes Medical Center, where she received her treatment.

So she and a group of friends brainstormed and came up with Chuckles for Chi-Chis, which has indeed turned into a community comedy fundraising event to raise money to directly support people and families going through the daily challenges and costs associated with breast cancer treatment.

In its second year, the event is 5-9 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 10, in the Spare Room at Chucker’s Bowl and Lounge in Rush City. Tickets are $25 individually or a VIP sponsorship table of six for $300. Reservations can be made early by calling 320-358-0879 or chucklesforchichis@gmail.com.

“Last year we were able to donate over $3,000 to the Fairview Lakes Oncology Center, and we decided to do gift cards for the patients there so they could have money for gas or groceries. It’s been very satisfying to do this comedy show,” Mitchell said.

She added, “Chuckles for Chi-Chis isn’t just about me; it is a group of amazing, wonderful women who put this thing together every year. Some of them donate items to sell, some of them donate candy and treats, and all of them donate an amazing amount of time and talent.”

 

Mitchell’s comedy career

Mitchell has led an extraordinary life, especially since graduating from Rush City High School in 1974.

As Priscilla Nelson (her maiden name), she enjoyed a 15-year comedy career that began in the early 1980s. She became good friends with Louie Anderson. “I don’t think he thought I was very funny,” she said. “He would always introduce me to others as a friend and not a comedian.”

Mitchell started on open stages and got her “stage legs” on “What’s So Funny About Being Female,” a standup comedy show featuring all women. Susan Vass was someone who inspired her.

She joined Scott Hansen on the road, where she learned how to handle hecklers and ornery club owners. It didn’t take long for her to realize that the bar crowd was not for her. Rather, she enjoyed the theater atmosphere, from the Fitzgerald to St. Catherine’s University, where she shined with audiences who wanted to listen, feel engaged and laugh together.

“A theater setting is a good venue for me, for people to get my jokes; they had to listen,” she said in contrast to a bar setting.

Mitchell went on to work in Las Vegas and appeared on VH1’s Standup Spotlight with Rosie O’Donnell. She also got to meet Lily Tomlin. “I looked up to her,” she said.

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