Tig Notaro, C.diff, and laughing about death

A few days ago we watched the documentary Tig, about the comedian Tig Notaro.

I first heard of Tig Natoro about a year and a half ago, when someone sent me her famous Largo comedy set and said “You might be interested in this.”

If Tig Notaro is known for her any of her illnesses – what a way to be known – it’s for breast cancer. That’s mostly what that set was about. She’d just been diagnosed. She walked out on stage and said: “Good evening. Hello. I have cancer. How are you?”

Before she found out about the cancer, she was in hospital with an infection called Clostridium Dificile, commonly called C.diff. That’s why she was recommended to me. I had the same thing.

I haven’t met anyone else who’s had C.diff, though I think a couple people on Twitter have mentioned it. And apparently it’s getting more prevalent. Which makes sense – it’s highly contagious.

What gets me about Tig is her incredible vulnerability. Her incredible honesty. I don’t quite understand how she can take things that are so extremely painful and make me laugh about them at the same time as feeling the pain, but she can. She does.

One of the things that’s hardest for me about being ill is the isolation of it. No matter how much I talk, I can never really communicate how it feels.

Tig’s story is really similar to mine. When I first heard her I felt like I’d found a kindred spirit, as much as I hate that term.

She had pneumonia. That was treated with antibiotics. The antibiotics caused the C.diff. Then she got cancer.

I had amoebitis caused by dientamoeba fragillis. It was treated with antibiotics. The antibiotics caused the C.diff. Then I got AS – though my AS is a direct result of everything else, plus having the gene for it.

This is one of bits in her set that gets me:

“After I got the biopsies, they did another mammogram. And I had to have my shirt off. And I was standing there at the machine. And the technician said, oh my gosh, you have such a flat stomach. What is your secret? And I was like, oh, I’m dying.


The condition I had in the hospital is called C diff. And so I just refer to it as the C diff diet. You just sit there and watch the pounds melt away. Don’t like exercising? Who does, girlfriend? This diet does all the work for you. Just clear all the bacteria from your intestines and let the C diff whittle way at your waistline.”

This is really similar to conversations I had with people both before and I after I was admitted to hospital. “You’ve lost weight! You look great.”

Sure – I was being eaten from the inside out, so that’s cool. I mean, they didn’t know that – neither did I. But sickness porn kinda seems to be a thing. Like the idea of “heroin chic.” Yep, get some C.diff – thigh gap guaranteed.

The documentary was really emotional for me because it also follows Tig’s experiences of trying to have a baby. Her cancer drastically reduced her chances, and she had to use a surrogate. Unfortunately, the one egg that made it through the whole process didn’t take.

This is something that could be in my future. I would like to have a child. My doctor has said my fertility is effected by my AS. So I’m not sure if I’ll be able to get pregnant, or be pregnant, or give birth – let alone everything that comes after that. I held my friend’s 4-month-old for a few minutes the other day and my arms began to ache terribly. That really makes me question whether this is something I will be able to do.

Anyway, it’s a great documentary, and she’s an incredible person. It’s very… validating, to have someone speak the language around C.diff in a way that recognises how dangerous it is. I mean, it wasn’t until I got out of the hospital and read about it that I really realised what had happened to me. What’s still happening to me. Recovery is a long, slow, frustrating road.

It’s also important to be able to approach this heavy stuff with humour, and Tig does that in such a unique way. It takes a special person to make people laugh about cancer.

Go watch it. She’s really something.