Starting Wednesday, actress and singer Lorna Luft will return to New York City with a new show – titled, “Triumph” – at Feinstein’s/54 Below. The “Grease 2″ star, well known as an ambassador for the music made famous by her mother, Judy Garland, said, “this is a little bit of a different show, because it’s going to reflect what I’ve gone through,” the 62-year old actress shared. Through this lens, “Triumph” will represent her recent and return bout with breast cancer, and her once again taking the stage – now following a grueling surgical procedure. True though to her defiant and tenacious personality, Luft entered the procedure making the surgeon promise to relay a message to the cancer while she was under the knife: “screw you, she won.”
“The surgery involved taking [out] part of seven of my ribs, and taking out a bit of my chest wall, and of my sternum,” Luft shared of this recent ordeal. This followed chemotherapy, which she also endured when first diagnosed in 2013, paired then with radiation and a lumpectomy. “[This time,] they took out two tumors that were the size of golf balls. Then to put me back together again they had to take my lateral muscle from my back and stretch it all the way around to my front.” True to her feisty and driven attitude though, she continued, “That was 18 weeks ago, and now I’m coming to 54 Below.”
(Video: Lorna performs “Winter Wonderland” at 54 Below in December, 2014)
Crediting her team of doctors and physical therapists, Luft says that she told them, “‘I have a goal, and my goal is to go back to work the end of November through January,’ which she accomplished, having already performed elsewhere prior to this latest engagement at Feinstein’s/54 Below. “It’s the hardest work I’ve ever done in my life… One of my doctors said, ‘You’re a miracle. You’re nuts, but you’re a miracle.'”
The last time she faced cancer, Luft chose first to dive in with a positive attitude, telling Center On The Aisle in 2014, “I never had a pity party, because I was too scared… I thought if I did that, it would get me. I thought if I laid down, it would get me… so, I just kept going.” At the time of the interview, she was preparing for a new show titled, “Accentuate the Positive,” celebrating the work of Johnny Mercer and her own personal outlook. She had also hosted “Lorna’s Pink Party” with her sister, Liza Minnelli at the famed jazz club, Birdland to raise funds for the fight against breast cancer.
But, being hit again with the disease, Luft admits it was a harder blow. “The second time I went through it I was angry. I was really angry,” she shared. But, Luft credits her doctor, Dr. David Agus with helping set her straight. “He said, ‘it’s okay to be angry’… He taught me how to turn it into positive anger because I was angry it came back,” Luft said candidly.
“I was angry that I felt that the whole thing didn’t work the first time,” she said, but feels Dr. Agus helped her keep perspective. He told her, “Well, wait a minute. It came back in the same breast. It came back in the same type of cancer, and it hasn’t gone anywhere else. I think it did work, and again, that’s positive.”
Agus proved to be a major part of her support system, in addition to being her doctor, and Luft said that “Every time when I got to a negative, He would turn it around and say, ‘Okay, think of it this way.’ So, I did.”
Now, having found her way back emotionally, Luft maintains that view, and in turn serves as a face for hope and survival for others, and is often approached by other women who are inspired by her and want to share their own stories. “I’m not going to shy away from what happened to me,” Luft said. “But, I also make a lot of jokes about it, because you’ve got to laugh at it. You have to find humor, as Joan Rivers said, ‘You’ve got to find the funny in everything’… When you think you can’t do something, when you really think, ‘Okay, I can’t do this’… you can turn that into, ‘Yes I can. I can do this, and if I don’t succeed, I gave it the best shot I had… but I’ve gotta try.'”
Yet, breast cancer seems to have also offered Luft a new reverence for life and patient view, saying “I feel that what this has taught me, is that I live every day one day at a time. I live every moment as I enjoy everything and every day,” she shared. “I don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow. I don’t know what’s going to happen next week. I don’t know. That’s what [cancer has] taught me because that’s what having any kind life altering experience does for people. ”
Lorna Luft will perform at Feinstein’s/54 Below on Wednesday, January 6 and Friday, January 8. For information and tickets, visit www.54Below.com.