vivalasvegasThe Daily Beast has a moving interview with Viva Las Vegas – stripper, Eph, breast cancer survivor, and author of the upcoming memoir Magic Gardens.

[H]er career was derailed last year, when her boyfriend found a small lump in her breast. They broke up in the early stages of her cancer treatment, an event Viva says was worse than the cancer—she had a plan for healing and doctors who would help, but no plan for getting over her heartbreak. She stopped stripping and struggled with how she’d make a living during and after the three-month treatment—a mastectomy and chemotherapy.

“I felt like a failure for being sick,” she said, deflating for a moment over her Irish coffee. “I come from a family of health nuts and athletes. Having my body attack itself from within definitely felt like a major failure, and I tended to blame myself for causing the illness.”

During her treatment, she disconnected from herself. “For much of that time I didn’t inhabit my body as my own, as it was changing, healing and in between surgeries. I kind of separated myself from it, I think, and let it do its thing.”

After her unilateral mastectomy, the doctors stretched her skin for the reconstruction, and added extra skin from a cadaver, making her breast cold to the touch, though she didn’t notice her breast was icy until the first time she danced. During her first shifts back at Mary’s, she said, “The word ‘necrotic’ would pop into my head as I danced.”

Her skin became incurably itchy. “Doctors couldn’t help me so I went to a medical psychic,” she said with the slightest eye roll. The psychic told her she was longing for touch. She took a lover and the itching stopped immediately.

After dancing for a few weeks her breast warmed up. Still, she struggled with her new shape. She felt any sort of augmentation was insincere. “I thought that putting bags of silicone into my body to alter my chest from the way fate had designed it was monkeying with reality.”

For Viva, stripping is now business as usual, which is how she likes it. She’s been approached by nurses wanting their cancer patients to visit her at work. “I don’t shy away from talking about it, and I have been able to grope more gals in the dressing room, now that I’m the resident expert on breast lumps,” she said.

“Do I feel beautiful?” she said. “I do on stage, when I’m expected to feel beautiful. That’s stage magic for you.”

Read the whole thing.

Links:

Viva Las Vegas’ homepage

Magic Gardens on Amazon

(hat tip JeffZ)

UPDATE: Thanks to Dick for linking us to this article written by Ms. Las Vegas.

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