Katie Ka Vang beats cancer, returns to stage in ‘Hmong Bollywood’

A little more than a year ago, the prognosis for Katie Ka Vang was not good.

Vang was diagnosed with stage four anaplastic T-cell large lymphoma, and had tumors in 60 – 70% of her body. She couldn’t even walk.

Now she’s not only walking, she’s back to performing on stage with her one woman show Hmong Bollywood

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Katie Ka Vang

Vang says it’s great to be performing again, but it’s also scary:

“Something about being in my body really makes me feel alive, again. Up until January, since being in remission, I felt I was on auto-pilot, and I didn’t realize it – I mean there has to be a little bit of that in life, but it should never be the “go to”. While being on chemo, I was so intentional and it was easier to be present in everything I was doing but the moment I was in remission, it’s like I put some kind of expectation on myself and thrust myself back into what I was calling “normal” life; then I finally realized this is my normal now. I’m a part of a new “super hero group!”

Hmong Bollywood is about love, displacement and identity; it’s also about Vang’s obsession with Bolllywood films. Vang has worked on the piece for years with Pangea director Meena Natarajan; now cancer has a role to play in the show, too.

Katie-Ka-Vang1.jpg“Just like life, when you live one more day, you have a little more information about it, if you’re paying attention that is,” reflects Vang. “So in the midst of life, Hmong Bollywood happened, and when I got cancer it gave me a little more information about my life, it basically gave us an ending to the piece.”

But the process hasn’t been easy. Vang says she often found herself not wanting to work anymore because it was just too much.

“It became too hard to hold in my body and my mind and I wasn’t really sure if I’d be ready for this; but then little things manifest and re-affirm my belief that art and theater should mirror life. Earlier this week I heard a 14 year-old boy say the most profound thing: ‘Out of all the art forms, theater and dance are the rawest forms of being with God.’ It was exactly what I needed to hear.”

Hmong Bollywood opens tonight at Intermedia Arts and runs through March 24.

All photos by Marc Norberg