Wigan woman takes to the stage to discuss cancer
A Wigan woman who received a devastating cancer diagnosis at the age of 30, has turned her life-changing experience in a popular comedy show.
Mandy Tootill, 40, was diagnosed with breast cancer back in 2009, after finding a well-hidden lump the day before her birthday.
After undergoing 18 months of gruelling treatment including chemotherapy and two rounds of surgery, she is ready to talk to people about the lighter side of the life-threatening disease.
“I was really lucky,” she said. “I have always been quite vigilant and checked myself but even the doctors said I was really lucky to detect that lump.”
Mandy found comedy after a friend convinced her to take part in a charity event for people with no previous experience of stand-up.
Just a few months later in 2014, she performed her first cancer-related stand-up show “Twin Peaks” which has now been adapted into a touring set.
“I had never done comedy before,” said Mandy, who was born and bred in Ince. “I didn’t even like speaking in front of people.
“My friend told me to give it a go so I took part in this charity event where 10 people who hadn’t done comedy before were given a two-hour training session before doing a stand-up set.
“After the diagnosis I got a new mental attitude and started saying yes to things.
“I absolutely loved it. I have always had humour around me. My mum and dad were funny, but I never expected taking to it like I did.”
Mandy soon formed a partnership with fellow comedian, Kerry Leigh, and the two launched their duo comedy act Toots and Leigh.
The pair began hosting their own burlesque and comedy night called “titters and tassels” in Manchester’s vibrant Northern Quarter.
“When I first got up on stage and did a 20-minute set about cancer, people were absolutely gob-smacked,” Mandy added. “I was coming up to the five-year all-clear and many of my new friends didn’t even know I had cancer.
“I thought, ‘I’m going to write a set about it.’
“It’s not something you tend to bring up in conversation and before this I wasn’t very vocal about it.
“People have been really engaged with it. One of my friends came up to me after the first show and said that after hearing what I had said she had go to the doctor to get a lump checked out. I was never prepared for that kind of reaction.”
Mandy’s sketches outline an uplifting tale about her journey through breast cancer and how she copes when faced with her own mortality.
“Cancer is serious,” she added. “People are frightened of the very word itself but by using humour, I can break down barriers, raise awareness and make people laugh.”
After taking part in the “women in comedy” festival and the Liverpool Comedy Festival, Mandy is now preparing for a north west tour, which includes appearances at Manchester Fringe, Buxton Fringe and the Care in Mynd seminar at the Imperial War Museum, run by Wigan Invictus legend Michelle Partington.
She will also be performing at a “homecoming” gig at The Snug in Atherton on August 4.
For the full list of Mandy’s tour dates visit www.mandytootillcomedy.com