All Hail Yo-Yo, 4-Year-Old Mayor of the Cancer Ward Clowns
My mission as a hospital clown was bringing laughter to life’s darkest moments. One little kid in chemo taught me what the job was really all about.
Illustrations by Molly Fairhurst | Edited by Lilly Dancyger
The day I met Cameron, one of my first patients at Seattle Children’s Hospital, I was making rounds with my colleagues Dr. Pozzo and Dr. Bonky. Cameron was 4 years old, from out of state, and had been in the hospital for two months when the Big Apple Circus Clown Care program began in the Hematology/Oncology unit. Cameron had a painful and aggressive cancer that had ravaged her emotionally as well as physically, but the presence of the “clown doctor” sparked something vital in her, and within days of our arrival, her mother said she “saw her little girl come back.”
I was a seasoned physical comedian, new to medical clowning. I’d performed polished stage shows for 15 years, most notably as soloist for an audience of 1,000 at the Lucille Ball Comedy Festival in New York. Now, in the hospital, as part of a team of five clowns, my job was to perform bedside for audiences of one. The work was highly improvisational, driven by the n…
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