Eat Your Art Out Cancer! A Message From Angel City Roller Derby Girl Malice Munro
My brother was diagnosed with a rare form of skin cancer when he was a college freshman and I was a senior in high school. A few years later, when I was in college, my mother underwent a hysterectomy after her doctors discovered endometrial cancer. Then, a few days after I graduated, Mom told my brother and me about my father’s cancer on a trip to the mall. All three of these family members obtained successful surgeries, and I’m thankful that they are alive and cancer-free today, but many other relatives and dear family friends have been less fortunate. As for me, the only person in my immediate family who hasn’t yet been diagnosed, I know I have a finite amount of time before my own cells go rogue, and my family history—especially that of female reproductive cancers—suggests that my window may be significantly shorter than most others’. At times, I struggle with extreme health anxiety, and any time a new bump, spot or ache appears on my body, I need to catch my breath. I waste a lot of money on doctor visits.
But after my mom’s diagnosis and surgery, my relationship to my body changed in another way. When it came time for me to fulfill my college’s P.E. requirement, I didn’t just take the easiest classes they offered, like I would have in high school. I learned how to run a mile without getting totally winded. Then, I learned to sprint. I started lifting heavy barbells in the weight room. And, after seeing the movie Whip It!, I taught myself to skate and started playing roller derby. I had never played sports growing up, and I was continuing to pursue music and writing in my studies. But suddenly, I wanted to feel and live in my body. I wanted to hear the wheels spinning under my feet, defy the gravity that grounds a heavy object, and feel the racing of my heart. It wasn’t about fitness or getting bikini-ready. It was about fully inhabiting and using my body before anything else could.
When I graduated and moved to Los Angeles, I began skating with the Angel City Derby Girls. They were ultra-competitive and some of the strongest women I’d ever met. ACDG’s L.A. home also allows for some wonderful community events, like the league’s primary fundraiser. Eat Your Art Out is an annual art auction where top artists hock their work to benefit Angel City. As a philanthropic bonus, the league partners with the Keep A Breast Foundation to auction off artist-decorated plaster casts of skaters’ breasts to benefit the foundation's education and support programs.
When I was asked to have my breasts cast for this year’s Eat Your Art Out, I first felt flattered and excited. Then, I imagined a stranger paying to take home my breast cast, and I felt a little weirded out. Most importantly, I considered whether I wanted to personally support Keep A Breast. Cancer is personal, and I had to make sure I was supporting a transparent, helpful organization that allows affected people to speak for themselves.
Keep A Breast fit the bill, but it was memories of the previous year’s exquisite casts (that you can see in the video above) that ultimately convinced me. As a musician, writer and educator, I’ve always known about the healing power of art, and how making or just absorbing a piece of artwork can soothe and transform those in pain. After KAB founder, Shaney Jo completed the breast cast, I admired it, sitting with its teammates along the warehouse wall. Though it was a perfect impression of me, it already seemed to be something new. I was happy to be separate from my body for just an instant, ready to transform.
For more info on 2014's Eat Your Art Out 7 click on the poster below!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Sarah Chamberlain is a freelance writer and special education professional living in Los Angeles. She has been involved in roller derby since 2010, and currently skates and coaches with the Angel City Derby Girls as Malice Munro. In her spare time, she lifts, cooks, and takes pictures of her cat.