tutu. her cancer and her last cabaret

tutu having her head shaved before going in for chemo. (photo by ashley savage)

the image is from this article in the guardian. about the ‘pinkification’ of cancer, something tutu protested against with every fiber of her being.

“cancer sucks – fight it, love it, live it, survive it”

t shirt shows tutu after her mastectomy. you can buy one here.

i had to choose between going to the funeral or going to the wake, since it was all happening about an hour away – so that’s two hours travel plus the time there. already asking for trouble with fatigue, back pain and migraines, fibro is such fun. i originally offered to escort my friend hazel there, who is not good at mornings and is rather ill herself, but who had been tirelessly at her bed side until her death, so i wanted to make sure she got to the funeral, but it turned out that there were offers to drive her, so i decided to go to the wake instead, since there would be people there i hadn’t seen in a decade, and others who i see seldom, so i wanted to be able to spend some time with them and not just go to the funeral and have to leave straight afterwards.

i may not have gone at all if it wasn’t for ten, who worked out a good route, checked the pub was dog friendly, and escorted me and wrangled poppet on the two trains a bus and a walk that it took to get there.

she had asked that people release balloons instead of bringing flowers, so there was a bit of both and lots of people dressed up to the hilt, and hardly anyone wore black who wouldn’t be wearing it as a matter of course, and even some of them busted out the colours for the occasion.

as well as setting up a punkcancer facebook page, people who knew her shared stories about her on her regular page and by tagging her. somehow this seemed more gentle and under the radar than having everything on a memorial page. from what i have heard i think everything to do with her illness, her death, and the celebration of her life was done with a lot of kindness and love.

somehow i have not been to many funerals. i went to a couple with my dad, who tended to know his elderly relatives, and they were rather hideous affairs, like visiting a dole office. impersonal, dull, and cheap. i had the impression that this was what cremations were all about, but hazel told me that the celebrant at tutu’s funeral told a funny story about her which i had read on the fb page;

I remembered last night that Tutu was the person who introduced me to mashed potato with the skins still on. “I could give you a bunch of crap about vitamins…” she said “… but seriously – who the fuck has the time to peel potatoes?”

and had seen the photographs ashley savage had taken, and had talked about them from her own heart.

you can see them here. disclaimer be warned, they are explicit, and include some pictures of her on her deathbed. so if you feel at all triggery about any of the issues to do with cancer, operations, chemo, bereavement, don’t say i didn’t warn you, but seriously, click through, and watch them as a slide show THEY ARE AWE INSPIRING.

all i can say is that i guess most funeral celebrants don’t see that kind of evidence of the person they are talking about’s  extreme vivacity. even the photographs of her deathbed are alive with love and creativity.

i sat with old old friends. i managed an hour and a half. then ten whisked me away. poppet had done her glad handing – lainey, a long time dog owner, suggested i let her off the lead, and she had a great time, bringing doggy goodness to people.

by the time we reached the station i was utterly exhausted. i would never have managed without ten. today i am still in bed and it’s 7pm. i took the dog out for her first walk, and i will take her out again in a minute, and then i will go to bed properly.

the pictures of tutu on her deathbed are amazing. hazel kissing her, and her girlfriend erika laying her hands on her for the last time made me bawl.

i’ll leave the last words here to tutu – from her beautifully produced memorial card

“I just surf right out of my wardrobe, becoming whoever or whatever I want to be. I am a figment of my own imagination.”


12 thoughts on “tutu. her cancer and her last cabaret

  1. As you already know, I couldn’t face going to my Nan’s cremation because I was ill (and I do wish I could have gone). However, I attended D’s grandmother’s funeral some years ago and it was lovely – D’s Mum even added a beautiful touch of Pagan (so like her) by placing a Corn Dolly on the coffin, in amongst the flowers. I think it may even have belonged to her Mum, as she took it off again before the actual cremation.

    That wake looks exactly how a wake should look. It ought to be a celebration of life and not all droll and sad. One of my friends died when she was 19 and didn’t want anybody wearing black at her funeral unless they wore black usually, so I wore my bright red velvet dress and we all got a bit drunk and told funny stories about her afterwards.

    Tutu sounds like an amazing lady. I wish I could have known her.

          1. So, I know that it’s not entirely similar at all, but I love the way you’ve described the funeral and the wake.

            8 years ago, I lost a good friend that was only 19 when she was killed. Her car was being stolen when she went outside to leave, and the thieves ran her down. While she was on the phone with her mother.

            Anyway, I went to her funeral with some mutual friends, we all dressed in bright colours, because Pam would have wanted that. She would NOT have wanted the whorey makeup she had on, or the princess casket and headstone her parents picked out for her. We couldn’t do anything about that, but we were able to slip in a few things that we thought she’d appreciate. A credit card from the friend she always called high maintenance, a pretty pink lighter for her cigarettes in the afterlife…things that meant to us that WE’D known who she was, even if her family didn’t. How could they? She was too young.

            Anyway, this truly was a lovely post. Thank you for sharing, and sorry if I’ve shared too much.

            1. not at all.

              sharing is entirely the purpose of a post like this. i am sorry about your friend, but glad that you and your friends found a way to secretly commemorate her.

  2. Thanks Elaine, a lovely tribute, Tut’s would have loved it. BTW we do have a Facebook page for Tutu and PunkCancer. For anyone who wants to pay tribute to Tutut who perhaps wasn’t a personal friend. there’s also the Punkcancer website where people can support Tutu’s cause by buying a T-shirt. Thanks 🙂


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