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Cancer survivor turns heartache into humour for new hilarious comedy show

When reaching retirement age, women tend to start a new hobby, such as gardening and joining a choir, but not Helen Prior.

A cancer survivor, Helen is on a mission to show through the power of laughter, that there is life and hope after a grim diagnosis. Her goal is to inspire people to make the best of their lives and beat the odds, by turning yourself from victim to survivor. 

In 2015, Helen Prior was shocked to discover that she had two types of skin cancers. By the time it was diagnosed, half of her nose had gone and she was left with a hole in her face and had to undergo extensive and painful reconstructive facial surgery.

During the first lot of surgery, the surgeon did a skin graft using the skin taken from behind Helen’s ear. 

She also had the same skin cancer in the middle of her left cheek. Two surgeons operated - one made a hole in the middle of her cheek; the plastic surgeon removed all skin from her face and scalp and moved it all down to cover the hole.

Helen said “It was absolutely horrendous! I felt like I looked like something out of a horror movie. I did not want to live. I booked a hotel room and went and sat out on the window sill, I was ready to jump, but then I thought...I have a son, so I did not jump after all. I bought huge sunglasses to try and cover my face and tried to live a “normal life”. The physiological impact was horrendous. I felt I like I was the ugliest woman in the world” 

Shortly after this, came another shocking cancer diagnosis; endometrial cancer. Everything that defined Helen as a woman had to go.

Helen said “I had to go under the knife once again, my womb had to be removed. I felt like I was being punished for my sins. I kept it from everyone, I didn’t want anyone to know. I thought, if people find out I will be shelved, I will be cancelled. I was failed by one surgeon who promised to operate and had to wait longer than I should - it felt like a death sentence.”

Eventually Helen had the operation, however, she refused to have chemotherapy treatment. 

Helen said “It was my choice. I didn’t want to lose my hair and energy. I fought for my life, the only way I could. It wasn’t just the physical pain but also the emotional recovery that took a long time. I was living in a bubble, estranged from normal life, in a different dimension. To be honest, life was never the same again”.

Following a long recovery, Helen eventually returned to work as an art historian. She never told anyone at work that she had cancer. ‚Äč

In 2021, the author and comedian decided to take a surprising career move – from an art historian to making audiences laugh - after her battle with cancer left her inspired to help others through comedy. 

Helen uses the power of art that reflects on her own life and brings her own curated gallery of art masterpieces into the show. Helen will take audiences across the UK on a journey of life with the help of her curated gallery of art masterpieces.

Audiences have been inspired by her comedy shows, particularly women, who have not only enjoyed many laughs from a comedian they can relate to but have been left moved by the stories of her battle with cancer.

She has since performed regularly in numerous London Comedy Clubs – Camden Comedy Club, Soho Zebrano, Up the Greek, All About Eve, Bogaloo, Jokers, We are Funny Project, Greyhound, Sydenham, Soho Theatre and more. She has been on stage many times around the UK and has also performed across the pond in the US. 

Helen was a support act for the award-winning comedians Mad Ron, Dave Thompson, Phil Henderson, Natalie C’est La Vie, and Matt Price. She was a finalist of several gong shows and received a Cup as the Best Comedian of the Show at Comedy Virgins and Rising Star.

Helen Prior said: “Comedy has become a great substitute for everything women my age is missing from life – attention, love and a new career”.

Helen has plenty of inspiration for her shows from the exciting and colourful life she has led, and the bucket list of adventures she has completed since surviving cancer. Helen was always afraid of heights  but after her recovery she learned to fly a plane. The fearless comedian also reached the North Pole on an atomic ice breaker, and then became a World Champion in International Ballroom Dancing, even though she was the only one on the dance floor in her age group. When the first victories came, she felt like she’d won her life back.

And so here she is, on her next adventure as a comedian, proving life is for living and receiving rave reviews whilst doing so!

Helen, who is also releasing her debut book “The Thrill of Life After Cancer” this November, launched her career in comedy in September 2021.

Come and hear Helen’s hilarious tales at one of her upcoming shows. She's at Matthews Yard, West Croydon on Saturday 1st October.

For more details of the tour visit: www.hilariousbird.co.uk