“Twenty Two” aka “Room for one more, honey?” is an episode of The Twilight Zone with a burlesque performer who is in the hospital suffering from exhaustion. Every night she is visited by a sinister nurse in the morgue who says, “Room for one more, honey,” and everyone just thinks she’s dreaming or nuts. Turns out this is a warning from her subconscious, which saves her from boarding a plane which is going to crash.

Mia Preisser, AKA Mia The MVP, performs at Duane Park (center) (C) Sam C Long / Honeysuckle Media, Inc. @tissuekulture

From Burlesque To Body Signals

2022 started strong and ended on the rocks. I had entered my own version of The Twilight Zone.  By August I was growing tired of my burlesque career. I expected more for myself. I felt like I was becoming a costume or just a body. I had produced several successful high-profile events, making rent in one or two private gigs, was a highly paid feature performer at venues, which had become my home away from home. The historic Duane Park and Bathtub Gin were my regular spots and last but not least, The Burlesque Show at The Borgata.

At that point in my career, I was making great money performing burlesque full-time, I had freedom and I felt like I had made it. A very established production company in New York reached out to me and asked me to perform in a role that is historically one of the most important femme roles of our time. I had seen their shows before and I was flattered and honored to be asked to feature in one. Little did I know I would become burnt out with this newer, more physically demanding show that had a weak pay and intense hours. Everything in my body kept telling me to stay home. A man tried to attack me on the train one day on my way there and I kept going.

I felt silly. I felt like a dinosaur. I had come this far to be the only Black person in the show? We were putting together and serving incredibly expensive complex cocktails for the rich and making no more than 8 dollars in tips. A dressing room I could barely stand in, a rotten egg smell wafting through every now and again, wearing incredibly uncomfortable and sometimes painful costumes for extended periods of time. Not to mention not being able to dance at my full capacity but moving around like a prop.

I kept making allowances and pushing back my feelings towards microaggressions, made a sexy preshow playlist for my lovely cast that ended with Tina Turner’s “Private Dancer;” it got me going for a while. I needed a break; I was feeling like I was at my breaking point and my panic attacks were getting worse backstage at the show every day. More shows were going to be added. Something was very off. I decided to trust myself and I stopped everything before my body stopped me.

I sent an email to the producers of the show. I told them I was leaving because of my mental health and that I was suffering panic attacks. I wrote my cast family and almost everyone responded with care and compassion. A friend in the show made sure to bring me my things from the dressing room so I didn’t have to come back. As for my producers, I was immediately unfollowed on social media and never heard from them ever again.

(C) Sam C Long / Honeysuckle Media, Inc. @tissuekulture

Coping With Burnout

My thoughts were:

“You are lazy and ungrateful.”

“Is this my dream?”

“Am I well?”

“Why do I feel so bad everyday?”

“What is my fullest potential?”

“If I died today, what would be my legacy?”

I dropped out of all my gigs but kept my NYE gig; maybe it would be my last performance? I really needed that money, and I knew I was going to have a good time. Even though the little voice in my head kept saying:

“You blew it!”

“There are worse situations, suck it up!”

“You go away again, and people will forget you!”

I spent NYE dancing at The Standard with one of my favorite burlesque performers/ producers, Cassandra Rosebettle. I had the time of my life. I had big hopes for this year, it was going to get better. I was going to do my own thing; teach private lessons on act development and feather fans, I was going to sell prints of artwork, I was going to do, do and do more.

Mia Preisser @miavpart (C) Adrian Buckmaster @_adrianbuckmaster_

Health Matters And Breast Cancer Detection

One night I had a falling out with my siblings and had a seizure in my sleep. I woke up feeling sick and with memory loss. We began the course of going to doctors who found nothing. I knew that I made the right choice to make a lifestyle change. I needed a slower pace - but needed money.  I decided I would only work at Bathtub Gin, do smaller private gigs and teach my new Fantastic Fan Class.

Health was at the forefront. I am someone who takes her health seriously. My husband and I had been on a plan for the past few years. I was working out three days a week, dancing with feather fans almost every day, eating a balanced diet mostly vegetables, fruit and lean protein and meditation  every morning.

My eldest sister was diagnosed with breast cancer that year. I did my due diligence and got an early mammogram appointment. My paternal grandmother died from breast cancer. While I was in my junior year of college, my mother was diagnosed after being misdiagnosed the year before. My father and I looked after her and we became closer and more health conscious. We called ourselves “The Three Musketeers.” I was allowed to assist her in her classroom, as she was able and wanted to continue to teach while going through treatment. I learned so much about the needs of people with cancer and the emotional effects it has on their caregivers. 50 seemed to be the age when the cancer would show up and I was to be 40 in October 2023.

(C) Sam C Long / Honeysuckle Media, Inc. @tissuekulture

My First Mammogram, Or What Not To Say To Someone Facing Breast Cancer

I didn’t realize how many people would respond or how taxing it would be.

I also felt a little bit like an attention whore and there was a part of me that was a little ashamed and embarrassed.

I kept going back and forth:

“It’s stage 0 bitch! There are people worse off than you!”

“This is not Gypsy Rose Blanchard style, this is really cancer!”

And I know now I did the right thing by going public.

Before going public, I had reached out to people in my life individually. One person who I thought was my close friend texted coldly, “You will be fine.”

Another: “What do you want me to do about it?”

The best were, “I love you, I’m here for you and let me know how I can help.” And actually did what they said.

Friends and some family completely disappeared after one check in. Some important people in my life stopped reaching out to ask what me and my husband might need or how I was feeling.

Complete strangers offered to come to my house, physically take care of me, wipe my butt and feed me. I appreciate the sentiment, but no thanks. Just because I have cancer doesn’t mean I have no boundaries.

Some winning comments were:

“Will you be selling your feather fans?”- No, bitch. I’m not dead yet!

“I had a friend with cancer and she (think of any horrific thing that you have heard about cancer).” – Please stop talking.

“You should try and take X,Y,Z…” – Are you a doctor? Are you my doctor? Did I ask? Byeeeeee.

“Breasts don’t make you a woman!”- Duh. It’s still valid to be upset when you might have to lose them.

“What’s your top size?”- Um, really think about coming to someone going through breast cancer on that one. Maybe don’t try to send me clothing. Sensitive subject.

“Be strong!” – What other choice do I have? Lay down and die?

“You are a warrior.” Maybe, even though I’m ugly crying and want to be carried around like a delicate princess. I want to be able to express my feelings and be treated with tenderness, compassion without being thought of as a punk when I express grief or fear.

Burlesque performers who survived breast cancer and others with similar life changing illnesses, reached out to me. They became my shining hope and glory. These people had gone through it and came out with compassion and understanding. No pity. They asked before offering  advice and sent me beautiful care packages.

I spoke to my fabulous mother, who survived cancer twice, almost every day.

The real MVPs were the one who called me, DONATED, reached out to me consistently, sent me hilarious memes and videos. I appreciated when friends shared details of their own lives without overwhelming me or using me to vent.

Whew, I was on an emotional rollercoaster. I became more outspoken and less afraid of people being upset with me for speaking my mind. I was setting boundaries for myself and speaking up for others who might not have strength to do it themselves.

One of Mia's post-surgery drawings (C) Mia Preisser @miavpart

Bye Bye Nipples! Hi Barbie Boobies!

After the MRI I met with my surgeon and her PA (physician assistant). I wanted to make sure I understood everything, so I recorded the conversation. It started in a very upbeat way. The PA said the calcifications were tiny and that there would only be a tiny scar, some milligrams.

I asked her to demonstrate with her fingers the size of the scar. I continued to let her know that my body was part of my work and that I wanted to continue to be able to do just that. She proceeded to show me a little over an inch.

“So I just have a cool little gash,” I said. Maybe I can put a tattoo over it, I thought.

Finally the surgeon came to talk to me, and I learned that it was no “little gash.”

She mentioned that the MRI picked up additional spots and they were above and behind my right nipple.

She said, “Because you are interested in nipple saving breast conservation, we would like to have these spots biopsied.”

I was livid! I was also over being pricked and poked.

I exclaimed, “Another biopsy?! I just want to get this out of my body. How much flesh removal are we talking about with the lumpectomy? I don’t want to be lopsided. I still want to dance.”

The surgeon demonstrated a considerable chunk with her hand.

I responded, “Okay, why don’t we just do a double mastectomy. I just want to do this once in my life.”

I thought, let’s go Angelina Jolie style. My mother’s cancer returned to her other breast years later and it was all I could think about.

My husband and I went home and talked about it. He continued to remind me that “I knew what was best.”

I called my mother anyway. She initially thought my choice was drastic. I didn’t fully agree but I listened to what she had to say.

At the end of the conversation I spent some time alone. I kept hearing, “Peace of Mind.”

I decided to get the second biopsy for “Nipple Saving Breast Conservation.”  If I could save my nips that would be great, but if not, then it’s time for Barbie Boobies!

I learned insurance would pay for reconstruction if you had breast cancer. So, I can think about this like I’m just getting a boob job, right?

I tried to think that way for a while, but the more I tried to deny what was happening to me, the more I felt, anxious, depressed and irritated. My surgeon also wanted to have my lymph nodes checked during surgery. If they were clear, I would not need any radiation or chemotherapy.

One of Mia's post-surgery drawings (C) Mia Preisser @miavpart

Second Biopsy: The Road To Double Mastectomy

Second biopsy was a nightmare. My husband could not be in the room and my phone was locked up with my belongings. This place was the complete opposite of the first clinic where I’d had my biopsy. Cold and brusque technicians and a doctor who mumbled his name through his mask. No one had explained any part of the procedure to me. Learned that the biopsy would be taking place in the mammogram apparatus, sitting up straight with no back support, my head leaning back because, “Your ear is in the shot again!” while a big screwdriver-looking needle impaled my right breast.

“What about breast conservation? This is a big needle,” I said.

“You’re gonna feel some pressure.” The doctor mumbled.

It felt the way it looked. Like I was being staked in the tit with a screwdriver. I screamed and told them to stop.

“We still have one more area on top of the nipple,” the technician said.

“Get me out of this fucking thing before I throw up,” I replied.

Finally, everyone gave me their rehearsed compassion. I was given a cup of water, they took me out of the apparatus and gave me a gauze to stop the bleeding.

The doctor, still trying to convince me to finish the biopsy, showed me my MRI. The calcifications were identical to the malignant ones that were spread out around and behind my nipple.

“I’m ready to get a double mastectomy. All the calcifications look the same to me. I want to go home.”

When I got home, I called the surgeon's office and told them my experience and that I wanted a double mastectomy. The surgery date was May 15. I crafted a new post on social media with my surgery date and spoke again to my employers at the Borgata.

(C) Sam C Long / Honeysuckle Media, Inc. @tissuekulture

Why Aren't There Enough Pictures Of Black Women After Breast Cancer?

I prepared myself for the next steps. Did research on double mastectomies, had a hard time finding images of Black women my age and body type reconstruction post op. I just wanted to see what my scars might look like.

We do not scar the same! I would google every day “Black Women Double Mastectomy With Reconstruction.”

There were only two very clear pictures of Black women post op double mastectomy who were not covering their breasts. They were Ericka Hart and Michelle Audoin. I had looked on the site, Real Self and the majority of the pictures were of white people. Majority of the pics of Black women were ones who had gone flat and not much variety in skin tones or body types.

Do Black women not get breast cancer? WTF? Was I being shallow? Just thinking about what my tits were going to look like and not considering I had calcifications in my lymph nodes? I went back and forth often.

My first appointment with my plastic surgeon made me feel like everything was going to be okay. She was so upbeat and had several images of Black women post op and they looked beautiful. I was motivated and ready.

One of Mia's post-surgery drawings (C) Mia Preisser @miavpart

The Double Mastectomy: Before And After

A double mastectomy with reconstruction is two surgeries, one to remove the breast tissue, another to put in tissue expanders which would be filled with saline gradually, allowing my skin to heal and swelling to go down. They will continue to fill me until I am the size I wish to be. Then weeks later I get my silicone implants.

The next two weeks before my surgery was the dark night of my soul. I stopped smoking weed because I had read that THC can affect the anesthesia, especially if you are an everyday smoker, which I am. We cleaned the apartment and moved things around so I could reach them after surgery.

The Thursday afternoon before surgery, I had a friend over. During her visit I received a call in a monotone voice.

“Is this Mia Preisser? Sorry, we have to move your surgery date because of overcrowding, May 30th okay?”

“Are you fucking kidding me? How dare you call me like this. No, it's not okay! How and why did this happen?” I cried.

My husband took the phone out of the room and tore them a new one. We were initially upset, then I moved to a place of acceptance. I no longer had the energy or strength to fight.

I packed my bong while my husband yelled at the receptionist. “I guess I got a few more days with my weed,” I said.  My friend and I got high and I was less sad. “I guess I have more time to prepare.”

My surgeon called me that evening to apologize for the date change and the way the office had alerted me. She had only just found out. The surgeries were overbooked by a malfunction in the operating room scheduling app because of a solar storm. Sounded like some science fiction bullshit, but it was true.

I had a strange calm and said, “Maybe it's all for the best.” And it was.

On May 15th my best friend lost her brother suddenly and because I was not in surgery, I was able to be there for her and my other close friends at the time. It felt good to comfort someone else. I know it’s not the same as cancer, but I suddenly felt less alone for once. We crafted a new response.

May 30th was my surgery date. We had received a call from two different surgical coordinators with opposing information the Thursday before surgery about where to be for my lymph node injection. (The lymph nodes need to be injected with a fluid that allows the surgeon to see if there are traces of cancer.) We checked in and spoke to the nurses about what we were told. The information I was given meant that I would have to go to an entirely different building to get the injection, then come back and then get ready for surgery.

Luckily, our check in nurse got in touch with my surgeon, who said she would give me the injection while I was under anesthesia so I wouldn’t have to be, as she remembered my request not to be, “Picked and prodded.”

Surgery was successful. I woke up with nausea. A great med technician made sure to give me Benadryl to stop the nausea, potato chips, water, and cranberry juice. Then I made sure I had a private room so my husband could spend the night.

I am grateful for my internal guidance system which helped me to make wise decisions for myself in the beginning when I noticed the symptoms. Fatigue, anxiety, then unfortunately a seizure. Listen to your body and keep up with appointments.


I’ll be posting my post op recovery story with tips.

Barbie Boobies has a long way to go!

It’s important that everyone researches the many sources that discuss what to say to friends and family who have been diagnosed with cancer.

And for my cancer people:

Here’s how to ask for help while keeping your boundaries and autonomy intact.

Give examples.

Be as specific as possible.

Donate money “here” (I created a Linktree with my PayPal, Venmo and a link to buy my prints).

I created an Amazon Wishlist for all my post op needs so friends could send me what I needed.

Make sure you let people know you are NOT LOOKING FOR ADVICE. Internet messages and comments from random people who don’t know what you’re going through can make you very angry and frustrated, especially if you don’t have someone to vet your messages. You need rest and relaxation, not internet fights. Trust your own judgment and intuition.

Seeing A Therapist / Social Worker

Make sure to tell your breast coordinator that you are interested in speaking with someone. I had a social worker assigned to me before I could afford a therapist on Talkspace. You need a person who is not in your family or a friend to speak to. I had lots of anger, anxiety and suicidal thoughts before my surgery.

One of Mia's post-surgery drawings (C) Mia Preisser @miavpart

Weed Strains For Pain Management and Depression

YOU MUST STOP SMOKING WEED WEEKS BEFORE SURGERY. ESPECIALLY EDIBLES. But pre and post op, here are the strains and products that I found most helpful.

Red Congo

Pre Op: When I needed to make calls, go for a walk and do some simple normal human things, Red Congo was amazing. It helped curb my depression.

Post Op: One month after surgery I smoked this strain while listening to music. I did the two step and over a matter of weeks I could dance.

Punch Bars

Post Op: These yummy edibles played a pivotal role in my pain management. Eat one square or a half of a square and wait.


Post OP: I had lots of pain in my arms, chest and back. I was given oxycontin as a painkiller and during the first three weeks it was not enough. It also made me feel incoherent and unable to express myself at times, which was very difficult when trying to express my everyday needs to my husband, who was my caretaker. Drawing was very painful and all I could do was sit on the couch. Skunk-Lato was the strongest strain I smoked and it was good to smoke close to bedtime. I found it difficult to find a comfortable position to sleep in with drainage bags and after they were removed. I’m also a stomach sleeper and that was out of the question. When I smoked this strain I was able to create some awesome work in my little sketch diary before bed.

Truffles & Cream

Post Op:  I found this strain to be much milder than Skunk-Lato. Three weeks post op I was able to straighten up things around my house. Nothing crazy and no lifting, but I washed my dinner plates while listening to music and played with the cat a little. I was able to get off Oxy with this strain.

TALK TO YOUR DOCTORS BEFORE TRYING ANY OF THIS. If you are already a habitual smoker, some of these strains might resonate with you. I preferred marijuana for pain management once my pain was no longer debilitating. It might be different for you. Now, there are reputable dispensaries everywhere where you can go in and talk to the people who work there. There are many spots all over now.



For more about Mia The MVP, visit catcult.com or follow @miavpart on Instagram. To donate to Mia, visit her LinkTree.


Mia Preisser, AKA Mia The MVP, is a professional dancer and actor with over 10 years of experience in burlesque. Her journey has encompassed performing, choreography, conceiving original material and private act development/coaching. A South Bronx native, Mia has been a featured dancer and choreographer for the immersive theater company Speakeasy Dollhouse; critically acclaimed for her performance as Josephine Baker in the Off-Broadway show Midnight Frolic at the historic Times Square Liberty Theater; a choreographer for immersive sensation The Illuminati Ball; a regular performer with Prohibition Productions, Bathtub Gin, Birdland Burelesk, Duane Park, Shanghai Mermaid, Company XIV, The Burlesque Show at The Borgata, Bathtub Gin, and more. Her brand La Chatte's Meow fuses visual art, fashion, and performance, offering a way to spread love through apparel, accessories, prints, and beyond. To learn more, visit catcult.com.


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Featured image: Mia Preisser, AKA Mia The MVP, performs at Duane Park (center) (C) Sam C Long / Honeysuckle Media, Inc. @tissuekulture. Mia's drawings after her double mastectomy (left and right) (C) Mia Preisser @miavpart