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CBS2 Los Angeles: Helping Women Heal With Laughter

CBS 2 Los Angeles recently interviewed Arash Asher, MD, director of Cancer Rehabilitation and Survivorship at Cedars-Sinai Cancer, about a new course aimed at helping breast cancer survivors heal using the power of improvisation.

Improvisation—or improv for short—is the art of acting out a skit without preparation or a script. During each class, breast cancer survivors serve as actors and are given brief descriptions of the story they should improvise, and each actor makes it up as they go along.

Asher describes the course as “learning to speak without a script, learning to react without a script and learning to feel without a script.”

The class is led by comedian Shelly Gossman, a seasoned improv vet who was a leading member of Second City in Chicago, one of the nation's premier improv comedy troupes. She also has writing credits at Saturday Night Live and A.P. Bio, among others. Grossman suggested starting the class to Asher after she faced cancer herself—twice.

For participants, the ideal timing to participate in the class is once their initial treatment course has ended and their disease is stable or in remission.

“We’ve learned that when someone goes through breast cancer, including chemotherapy, radiation and surgery, for many people, the distress actually starts when you are done,” Asher told CBS 2 Los Angeles.

As Asher explains, the distress comes post-treatment because patients are suddenly without a schedule of appointments and no longer seeing the doctors, nurses and care teams upon which they have come to rely. 

“It may seem counterintuitive, but that’s when a lot of the distress begins,” said Asher. “And that’s the space where we really wanted to think outside of the box and find a way to support patients.”

Watch the complete story here.

Read more on the Cedars-Sinai blog: Dressing Up for Chemo