When Aridhana Tiwari's mother was diagnosed with breast cancer in December, Tiwari wanted to do something, anything, to help.
The Orlando-based writer-director quickly turned to her craft.
"I feel like art is very healing," Tiwari said. "As an artist, your life becomes your inspiration."
She began contacting fellow writers and performers and devised a program called "The Pink Ribbon Project," an evening of theater, dance, poetry and visual art, all in some way concerning breast cancer.
The show will be presented by nonprofit artists collective Play the Moment three times this weekend in anticipation of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which is marked each October.
"The people who will attend our show don't know what a difference they will make to our patients," said Jaclyn Lindsey, a development officer at the Florida Hospital Foundation who is participating in the show.
Although the death rate has been declining since 1990, the odds that breast cancer will be responsible for a woman's death are still about one in 35, according to the American Cancer Society.
Florida Hospital's fund was started in December by Florida Hospital's chief of women's imaging services, Dr. Jennie Yoon, who with her husband donated $100,000. Like many of the performers in "The Pink Ribbon Project," Yoon had a personal connection to breast cancer: Her sister had battled the disease.
So far, the Florida Hospital fund has served more than 80 women, Lindsey said — and discovered cancer in seven of them.
"These were women who otherwise would not have gotten a mammogram," Lindsey said.
The American Cancer Society estimates that about 230,480 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women this year, and about 39,520 women will die from the disease. There are more than 2.5 million breast-cancer survivors in the United States.
With such sobering statistics, it wasn't difficult for Tiwari to find local writers, artists and others who had been affected by breast cancer. Nearly 40 people have worked on the show, she said.
"It's really a testament to what people together can do," she said.
Local actress Marty Stonerock, who was 7 when her mother died of breast cancer, was quick to volunteer. "It was a no-brainer, of course," she said.
Stonerock wrote a monologue — her first time writing a theatrical piece — that talks about growing up without her mom.
"All my life I was, 'the girl whose mother died,'" she said. "I used to look at pictures because that was all I had."
Stonerock's six-minute work touches on the anger she felt that her mother didn't leave her some sort of farewell such as Randy Pausch's "The Last Lecture," a lesson-filled work written in 2007 by a Carnegie Mellon computer-science professor before he died of pancreatic cancer. The life lessons he imparted struck a chord with Americans, and a book version of the lecture became a New York Times best-seller. Stonerock didn't even receive a last letter from her mom.
"People didn't do that back then," she said. "They didn't have videos or things like that."
But her reminiscence isn't maudlin, she stressed: "It's irreverent and funny."