Romy Shiller

Archive for September, 2012|Monthly archive page


In News on September 30, 2012 at 10:24 am

A woman with a voice is by definition a strong woman. But the search to find that voice can be remarkably difficult.’ – Melinda Gates

All of my books are available online!

‘You Never Know: A Memoir’:

Romy Shiller, a medical mystery, not only tells the story of her brain surgery, lengthy coma and Akinetic Mutism, but she muses about reality, death, time, popular culture, psychic phenomena and dreams.

‘Who Knew?’ is a continuation of Romy Shiller’s book ‘You Never Know: A Memoir.’ Romy applies her previous interest and scholarly work on the body to her new physical reality.

‘Again’ – An exploration of reincarnation:

Again combines an academic exploration of reincarnation with real-life experiences. Using as a basis the altered reality of quantum physics, Romy Shiller extrapolates. It is for everyone. More than anything it is an insightful philosophy on life.

“Loving your book Romy. I’m reading it very slow as there is just so much to consume that is fierce. I love your analysis.”

Daniel Paquette writes fab magazine


Brain Angles:

Inspiring story of a courageous woman overcoming obstacles to get her life back.”

I also found this:

Transforming the way people living with disabilities communicate, share, and grow.

Um, more…Shiller’s “Disability Drag” Concept Changes Disability Stereotypes

You Never Know: A Memoir, is about Romy Shiller, a Canadian writer and critic, was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2003… In the past six years, she has done much to confound doctors’ expectations.

Disability Drag
Having studied and worked in performance art of various kinds before her disability, Shiller is inclined to see similarities between her experience and the sort of pop culture entertainment that she wrote about for her doctoral thesis in drama. Performers in drag shows project an image that subverts “societal norms,” says Shiller. A physical disability projects an image, too, and it’s often one that society interprets in a negative light.
“Disability drag” is Shiller’s phrase for the way courageous people with disabilities can make society rethink its ideas about body image, identity, and personal growth. “Cyborg drag” is her term for living with a permanent shunt to drain excess fluid from her brain. She is part human, part machine, she says, and this gives her another rare insight into conventional ideas about what it means to be human…

I’m referred to in:   A CLASS ACT: Ryan Landry and the Politics of Booger Drag by Karen C. Krahulik Copyright 2008 by Duke University Princeton

Alumnotes: McGill University

Great gifts idea:

Bibliography of Theatre History in Canada

Author: Shiller, Romy
Title: Drag King invasion: taking back the throne
CTR, Volume: 86
Pages: 24-28
Greater Toronto Drag King Society / / Performance Art

One of my favorite magazines is BUST Magazine

Another is DISCOVER Magazine

My favorite film is Lost in Translation

My favorite band is Gotye

Favorite nail polish colours are “We’ll Always Have Paris”  (dark red) and “Lincoln Park After Dark” (dark purple)  by OPI

Favorite TV show: True Blood

The Odd Life of Timothy Green

In Film, review on September 18, 2012 at 3:06 pm

The child must know that he is a miracle, that since the beginning of the world there hasn’t been, and until the end of the world there will not be, another child like him.

Pablo Casals

Storyline: A childless couple bury a box in their backyard, containing all of their wishes for an infant. Soon, a child is born, though Timothy Green is not all that he appears.

Director: Peter Hedges

Writers: Peter Hedges, Ahmet Zappa

Stars: Jennifer Garner, Joel Edgerton, CJ Adams

I’m going to recommend this film for children who are about 7yrs. to 11yrs. old. I believe that this is a good film for kids not born from their parents – adopted or foster-care for example. The film is about parents who desperately want a child and the young boy who comes to them.

I also think that this would be a good film for terminally ill children. Even though the subject-matter has nothing to do with death, there are very good examples of ‘letting go.’ This film is not innovative like Diary of a Wimpy Kid (Review), but the emphasis on ‘difference’ is great.

In Collider  writer/director Peter Hedges discusses how difficult it was to get a studio behind such a project. It is super-natural and magical. The thematic undercurrents of familial responsibility are in several of his films such as Pieces of April and Dan In Real Life.

So, this couple learns that they cannot have a ‘natural’ child. They are devastated and imagine all of the qualities and accomplishments their child would have. They write this down and put it in a box. They bury the box in their backyard. While they are sleeping, there is a freakish rainstorm. A young boy comes to them and in a very magical and supernatural way, we assume that he is from the box and garden.

In CinemaBlend Peter Hedges says, “Mary Poppins – she comes and she goes. The Little Prince comes and he goes. It’s an old idea that someone appears and changes people and then they move on. And that’s probably what any good life is. You come out of nowhere, you go away, you made a difference.”

CJ Adams – the young boy – is wonderful and tells The Hollywood Reporter  that he received valuable acting advice for his on-screen parents. “The advice they both gave me was become the character; Think as if CJ Adams is somewhere else like playing video games and Timothy is right there,” he said.

Jennifer Garner plays the mother and blogged : “How do I know if I’m getting it right? Isn’t it my job to parent, to encourage, to help my child define themselves?

Timothy has leaves growing out of his legs. This establishes ‘difference’ and the garden as his birthplace. He is attracted to a very beautiful girl who happens to have a birthmark that she hides. She tells him that they both have secrets. I think that it is necessary to show that you don’t need to be supernatural to feel ‘other.’ It is also worthwhile to reveal that certain bodily ‘anomalies’ are not weird or gross but pretty typical. We all cannot walk around like air-brushed models.

Timothy asks some children he meets at a family gathering, what it was like to come from a mommy’s tummy? His own experience becomes the norm and being born from a mother, strange. The reversal here is fantastic and affirming.

There are valuable lessons about self-image here.

I don’t think most reviews that I’ve read get this film. One might need to wade through the Disney schmaltz to find the value here. Most kids get it. After seeing the film I overheard a boy say he really liked it. No, it is hardly a great film, but it certainly is not the worst.

Joel Edgerton, who plays the father, said this when asked  what drew him to the film: “I really, really remember some experiences, particularly E.T., of watching a movie where the stranger, whatever form that stranger takes, rides into town or lands into town or flies into town or drives a spaceship, and then alters everybody’s life and then inevitably has to leave. I remember being really affected by those stories. The kind of place that those stories kind of hold in our mythology… and it really is part of mine.”

There is a cinematic history here, a mythology that resonates with kids.

William Bibbiani from CraveOnline says, “A story for childless adults made and marketed for the children those adults don’t even have yet.” Absolutely.

‘AGAIN’ – an exploration of Reincarnation – Review

In book on September 10, 2012 at 1:41 pm


reviewed by Carolina Smart

Several months ago I reviewed Romy Shiller’s wonderfully inspirational book ‘You Never Know’.  ‘You Never Know’, is a biographical story about the traumatic events that changed Romy Shiller’s life.  It was beautifully written, sending a powerful message and leaving me to think about my own fate in this world.
When I received ‘Again’ I was just as eager to crack open the cover to see what journey I was about to take next with Romy. Once again I found myself hooked right from the beginning.  Using her own experiences and knowledge on the subject, we are taken into the world of Reincarnation.  Many books currently on the shelves relating to this subject are hard to understand and very tedious to read for the layperson.  Romy Shiller’s approach will have anyone with a curious mind on the subject matter fully engorged and craving for more.  
I myself am an avid reader on everything relating to the Occult.  This isn’t an Occult based book, rather one that uses Romy’s experiences with Reincarnation to help the reader fully understand not only what it really is, but the spiritual aspects to it.  As a reader you will become emotionally attached, as you take yet another wonderful journey with this amazing and intuitive writer.  
I strongly suggest for those of you interested in learning about Reincarnation, start with this book before you start reading the complicated texts that most will recommend. However, be prepared to be knocked off your feet with the emotional journey this book takes you on.  
Romy Shiller is a force to be reckoned with and I am once again looking forward to her next book.
Romy Shiller is a pop culture critic and holds a PhD in Drama from the University of Toronto. Her academic areas of concentration include film, gender performance, camp and critical thought. She lives in Montreal where she continues her writing. All books are available online.

A Heads Up

In General on September 8, 2012 at 10:36 am


This is a heads up… I’m upgrading my site by adding older articles and additional info. You will get emails for these posts – I can’t alter this. I am so sorry for any inconvenience! Your presence on my site means the world to me. Please bear with me.



Again – an exploration of reincarnation: Introduction

In book on September 8, 2012 at 9:30 am







United States




Introduction: Opposition – Romy has always been contrary so she feels ideas in this book are quite consistent with her personality.

Chapter 1: Timing is Everything – Romy recounts various past-lives she may have had. The conflicting responses to the idea of reincarnation are addressed. Avaiilable at:

Chapter 2: Perchance to Dream – The nature of certain dream’s ability to unlock the mystery of a past life is dealt with.

Chapter 3: Together – How we remain with the same groups of people.

Chapter 4: A Very Brief History of Reincarnation – A history of reincarnation is presented.   Now at:

Chapter 5: Chances – Opportunities to develop and explore various circumstances are written about.

Chapter 6: Curious Occupation – Various interests that Romy had are investigated.

Chapter 7: Readings – some psychic readings Romy gave are offered.

Chapter 8: Light – an exercise and meditation is made available. Available at:

Chapter 9: Distance – from death or ‘the other side’ to cell-phones, the concept of ‘distance’ is regarded.  Available at:

Chapter 10: Species-Jewelry – A brand new term, which is the title of this

Chapter, is coined. Resonating with our species is considered.

Chapter 11: Shifts and Fluctuations – How does one deal with change?

Chapter 12: A Matter of Bodies – Do we ‘choose’ the body we have?

Chapter 13: The Space Between – Where do we go between lives?

Chapter 14: Time – A complete re-visioning of the flow of time.

Chapter 15: Knowledge and Lessons – Lesson’s gained from Life and their import.

Chapter 16: What? –The nature of questioning and questions is examined.

Epilogue: About – A summary of the book and a summing up of many meanings.

Introduction: Opposition

I cannot think of permanent enmity between man and man, and believing as I do in the theory of reincarnation, I live in the hope that if not in this birth, in some other birth I shall be able to hug all of humanity in friendly embrace.

Mahatma Gandhi

I have been contrary all of my life. I rarely did or said what was expected. Honestly, among most of my peers I am the mildest. I am not extreme in appearance or attitude but how I think is out of the ordinary. As usual, I am not about changing minds; I am about integrity in the face of opposition. If I try to be honest and truthful and if what I say belies one’s belief-system, I feel I am like a mirror – one can see who they are or who they are or are not in me. I do not need anyone to agree with me or believe what I believe. I am not trying to convince anyone of anything. I am simply writing my truth. I love writing and I adore this subject-matter, reincarnation, but I am very aware that it is considered controversial. The thing is – controversy never stopped me. I am so willing to “push the envelope,” I am willing to go the distance.

Once I had an affair with a gay man. No, he was not bi-sexual, he was gay. Confused? Since then, he has been in a relationship with another man for more than ten years. I got flack from gay and straight people. Did that stop me? People have a very difficult time with blurred definitions. I understand that people need to believe in categories. At times these categories resonate with one’s behaviour and at times they do not. I believe these categories are often constructed, a fiction: Possibilities and options are limited – ways of being are limited. Obviously, many people do resonate with their definitions. To stretch our minds is good. At times certain definitions just do not fit.

If my actions made my life harder or if they would prevent me from carrying on, I am not sure what I would do but I have been blessed with a constitution and life-force full of fortitude. I am very resistant to opposition, I am very strong. Not thinking or believing what other people do is habit. I tend to resist what most consider the norm. That is why I can write this book. In many ways, I am preaching to the converted and in many ways, I am in complete opposition to fundamental beliefs.

I am more about layering codes than dichotomies. What that means is, I prefer blending realities rather than separating them. To me, nothing is cut and dried. There are no absolutes. No givens. If someone is hoping for a black and white definition of reincarnation, I highly doubt they will get it. To me, partiality reigns. All I know is that there are glimpses and fragments of knowledge. We are not privy to the whole picture. We are accordingly limited by our senses. To find evidence of this, look at various animals and their realities. The world of the fish in the fishbowl is the fishbowl. All it knows is some “hand” feeding it. This could be magical or omniscient to a fish. The fish is severely limited by its environment, senses, etc. So moving on from this, I understand that I can only know so much. I am a fish in a fishbowl. I am limited and any quest of mine is circumspect. I can explore the unknown, the mysterious, other notions. I can observe the hand that feeds me, my fishbowl. I can know a warped reality, a skewed perspective. I do not believe in concepts that invoke ideas of the real, the solid or the secure. Things that are shaky or wobbly feel more appropriate.

I enjoy stability in my life but I am unfazed by change or difference. I find the qualities that involve the so-called strange appealing. I know that some people find my attitude kooky or weird. Being set-apart or anomalous is great to me. I prefer the fringe or edge. Tremendous power resides in deciding to be oneself – whatever that entails. It might be very contrary to others and it takes strength and courage to own one’s truth. Bravery exists in many different areas. It can be small – a child in the playground standing up to a bully, – or large, like Martin Luther King, Jr.

Personally, I truly believe that standing up for oneself has great value. Putting oneself in harms way because of a decision to manifest integrity can, and often is, a real possibility. I believe the alternative is worse. Challenging dominant ideas is fraught with danger. It might just be easier to surrender, to be defeated, but where is the fun in that? The decision to own power is, well, powerful. I keep thinking of Rosa Parks: “…an unknown seamstress in Montgomery, Alabama refused to give up her bus seat to a white passenger. This brave woman, Rosa Parks, was arrested and fined for violating a city ordinance, but her lonely act of defiance began a movement that ended legal segregation in America, and made her an inspiration to freedom-loving people everywhere.” Power, inspiration and possibility: Incredible.

We can all make a difference. Just because one’s life may feel ordinary, it is important to know that we are capable of the wondrous. A decision not to give up a seat can change thoughts, attitudes and ways of being; ways of understanding. A small gesture can lead to a revolution. We are all capable of impacting others and we are meaningful beyond our current or obvious circumstances.

It might be impossible to see the big picture; so we need to follow our guts and hearts. Recently, I was seated to eat near the kitchen in a restaurant. I am currently disabled and in a wheelchair. My mother said it reminded her of segregation. I will never let this happen again. I will insist on being seated elsewhere. An out of sight, out of mind mentality will not apply to me. That this mentality by others continues to pervade is astonishing.

Are you aware in the early-to-mid 1900’s it was illegal to be “found ugly” on the streets of some mainstream American cities like Chicago, Illinois (Chicago Municipal Code, sec. 36034) and Omaha, Nebraska (Unsightly Beggar Ordinance Nebraska Municipal Code of 1941, sec. 25) and Columbus, Ohio (General Offense Code, sec. 2387.04)?

Your punishment for being caught (in) public ranged from incarceration to fines of up to $50.00 USD for each ugly offense.

Here’s how the Chicago Municipal Code described and enforced The Ugly Law:

No person who is diseased, maimed, mutilated or in any way deformed so as to be an unsightly or disgusting object or improper person to be allowed in or on the public ways or other public places in this city, or shall therein or thereon expose himself to public view, under a penalty of not less than one dollar nor more than fifty dollars for each offense.

The goal of Ugly Laws was allegedly to preserve the pretty facade of the community. The disabled, the indigent and the poor were a part of society, but nobody wanted to deal with them and fewer still wanted to actually look at them. So laws were passed to keep the deformed — especially those with Cerebral Palsy and other disfiguring diseases — inside and out-of-sight.

The way I think and the way I look now will just have to be dealt with.

Again – an exploration of reincarnation

In book on September 8, 2012 at 9:21 am

  Book is available to order online.

The mysteries of reincarnation are explored…

Again (ISBN: 978-1-4251-8481-0 ) combines an academic exploration of reincarnation with real-life experiences. Using as a basis the altered reality of quantum physics, Shiller extrapolates. It is for everyone. More than anything it is an insightful philosophy on life.
Reincarnation is an interesting concept. To Romy Shiller reincarnation is both entertaining and scholarly. Shiller brings together various sources on reincarnation. Psychic abilities are the so-called “icing on the cake.” Shiller often uses her own examples as a part of the exploration: In this case we are talking about subjectivity. Any distance or objectivity is absolutely questionable.

Shiller is at once researcher and subject of focus. Shiller philosophizes what she has come to know. Her take on Life is unique and interesting. Shiller’s perspective adds something valuable rather than detracts or takes away from reincarnation. Beyond her area of concentration, Shiller often extrapolates and comments on the experience. Not only that but Shiller has invented her own rules for reincarnation. Shiller has coined certain terms like species-jewelry and her take on distinct aspects of reincarnation absolutely goes against popular suggestion.

Shiller aligns quantum mechanical ideas with reincarnation. Her perspective on Time should make a few people uncomfortable. Ideas of the body are challenging to the reader and go against what most people take for granted. The nature of History is put into question. How Shiller personally negotiates shifts and fluctuations in her own life is remarkable to some.
In the midst of an eclectic career as a Toronto writer, academic, actress and Communications Director for an animation school, Romy Shiller was diagnosed with a brain tumour and lapsed into a post-surgery coma that lasted five months. She finally emerged from the darkness stricken with Akinetic Mutism-a partial paralysis that made it very difficult to move or talk-but still possessed her enthusiastic intellect and zest for life. One of her team of doctors and physiotherapists called her survival a “medical mystery,” one she sought to explore during her painstaking rehabilitation. Typing with “one bent finger,” Shiller created her previous book You Never Know: A Memoir (Trafford Publishing), her musings on illness, rehab, pop culture, dreams and psychic phenomena. Applying her unique philosophy to her new physical reality, Shiller is a witty, fascinating and inspirational guide through life’s most severe twists.
Like a mirror, Shiller hopes to reflect back to each person reading Again what is possible. We can overcome what seems like odds stacked against us. When one feels like they have no choice, find out what you do have available.
Before her brain tumour diagnosis, Shiller enjoyed an offbeat career. A pop culture critic, she wrote articles for magazines as diverse as FAB and Canadian Theatre Review. Having studied drag for her PhD in Drama, Shiller enjoyed performance and had acted in a television series on YTV called System Crash.
More about Romy Shiller: In addition to having a PhD from the University of Toronto, she has an MA from there as well. Her BA is from McGill. One of her articles has been translated into Italian and is used to teach a University course on Communications. A separate article is taught at the University of Lethbridge in Alberta. It has been chosen to be included in a book. She has been on the same course syllabus as Simone de Beauvoir. In the fabulous book Third Wave Feminism and Television by the head of women’s studies at South-Carolina University, Romy Shiller is heavily quoted as a third wave feminist.


In General on September 8, 2012 at 9:11 am

According to the book Third Wave Feminism and Television: Jane Puts it in a Box by the head of women’s studies at South-Carolina U., Merri Lisa Johnson, I’m a third wave feminist. I can imagine that you are getting many letters regarding your provocative cover featuring a superman Barack Obama. Obviously, he holds many views that feminists hold dear and indeed he considers himself a feminist. I do believe that men can be feminists. Does he belong on your esteemed cover? No. Your magazine defines feminism in female terms. It is important to realize that not all women are feminists by virtue of their biology. In your case it is absolutely necessary to keep women as a focus: Like black men, there is a major history for women and a continuing struggle. So yes there are parallels here but is that reason enough? You have the honourable and incredible opportunity to locate women who surpass their confines, who themselves represent change. In my own work as a gender specialist I validate the spectrum of femininity and masculinity for females and males. It would be entirely seamless for me to endorse your cover. I cannot. Look, if I were American (I am Canadian) I gladly would have voted for him. In my estimation he is remarkable, inspiring and transformative. I am thrilled he is your president. However, he would not be on the cover of my (hypothetical) feminist magazine.

Romy Shiller

3rd Wave Feminist

Romy Shiller is a pop culture critic and holds a PhD in Drama from the University of Toronto. Her academic areas of concentration include film, gender performance, camp and critical thought. She lives in Montreal where she continues her writing. All books are available online.

The Canadian Jewish News

In book on September 8, 2012 at 9:08 am


Disabled author asks that we look beyond the physical


By JANICE ARNOLD, Staff Reporter   
Thursday, 29 May 2008
MONTREAL Romy Shiller was a fit, health-conscious woman, held a PhD and a creative job she loved, and valued her independence.
In 2003, she was diagnosed with a non-malignant, but life-threatening brain tumour. Surgery was naturally risky, but she was told she would likely be back at work in 15 weeks.

Shiller came through the eight-hour operation at a Toronto hospital, but a few days later, following a procedure to ease drainage, she lapsed into a six-month coma. Doctors told her parents to prepare for the worst.
After gradually regaining consciousness, she could not speak for weeks more and survived on a feeding tube for 11 months.

Five years later, she still has major physical disabilities (a word she does not shrink from). She uses a wheelchair, the left side of her body is weak, movement on the other side is difficult to control, speech does not come easily, vision in her one sighted eye can be wonky, and care must be taken in chewing and swallowing.

Shiller has just published a memoir You Never Know, a frank and good-humoured account of her long road back to some semblance of normalcy. She reveals a fatalism that has granted her the serenity to accept – more or less – what has happened, while determinedly working to regain as much as she can.
Her resilience and positivism have surprised her. She hopes her example will help others coping with disabilities and illness, as well as change the attitudes of the well and able about what makes a life worth living.
“I know my current situation is quite dire to many people, and I have left quite a bit behind, but the alternative is harsher. I am here, and no matter how yucky it gets, this is so much better to me than nothing,” she writes.
Writing the book was a labourious task, not because she found it hard to find the words, but because she could type with only one finger, and a bent one, at that. She had been a writer on pop culture before getting sick.
After years of hospitalization and rehabilitation and then living with her parents back in her hometown of Montreal, she recently moved into her own apartment, managing with the aid of full-time attendants. She continues to work daily with a team of therapists.
Her sharp intellect, memory and lively personality are intact.
Shiller insists she is not angry or depressed about her situation. In fact, she calls herself blessed and finds that she laughs now more than she ever did. And she is not on any mood-enhancing medications, she notes.
“I am not always happy, but I do manage,” she writes.
Shiller knows she is lucky to have parents, Lillian and Bryant, who are able to provide for her emotionally and materially (the memoir is dedicated to her mother who was at her bedside daily while she was comatose), two supportive brothers and a circle of good friends.
Although not religious in the strict sense, her Jewish identity and knowledge of her maternal grandparents’ Holocaust survival give her strength. She is a believer in prayer and psychic phenomenon.
Shiller, a single woman, was always unconventional; her dissertation was on theatrical drag. She had an open mind about the off-beat.
She muses that this understanding of what it means to be marginalized may have helped her to adjust to her condition today. She impishly refers to herself as being in  “disability drag”, but pain underlies the self-deprecation.
Her message is serious: don’t judge people by their physicality.
She is frustrated by how she is often misperceived, even by those who mean well. Too many think her mind must be as impaired as her body. She senses the condescension and discomfort.
Romy decided to launch You Never Know in a public venue and, though it was a trial, to speak there.
She wrote: “What I think I have is insight, which I am more than happy to share. I do not want anyone to feel sorry for me now. I do not want pity. I do want respect, compassion, empathy.”
She wants people to know that her life may not be a bed of roses, but she is coping. “Maybe I am just more aware of the possibilities for happiness than I used to be. That is not to say everything is dandy. It is not, but I do, to use an old cliché, see light at the end of the tunnel. Not only that, but I find ‘the light’ in the here and now.”
A percentage of the sale of You Never Know will be donated to the Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada.


In book on September 8, 2012 at 9:05 am

A Memoir of Courage

Romy Shiller strains to speak, throwing her whole head into every word. Once an able-bodied actress and academic, the fallout from a brain tumour and subsequent coma has left her confined to a wheelchair and struggling with basic movement. But Shiller, has found a new voice through her passion for writing. She recently published her memoir, You Never Know, which she typed with “one bent finger.”

Intense headaches sent Shiller to a Toronto hospital in 2003, where she was told that she had a brain tumour. Doctors soon performed surgery to remove it. After an additional operation to drain fluids collecting in her brain, Shiller descended into a five-month coma. When she awoke, she was afflicted with Akinetic Mutism, a partial paralysis that made it difficult to speak or move. Shiller progressed slowly, first squeezing her mother’s hand and then blinking. Her first post-coma word was “no.” Before the coma, Shiller had earned both a master’s degree and doctorate in drama from U of T, studied voice at the Royal Conservatory of Music and performed “female to female drag” with The Greater Toronto Drag King Society.

You Never Know includes Shiller’s contemplations on pop culture and psychic phenomena, and traces her ongoing recovery, which includes daily physiotherapy and speech therapy. Shiller, who lives in Montreal – close to her family and aided by full-time caregivers – accepts where she is now. As she recently observed, “On the whole, I feel incredibly fortunate. My life could be very ordinary, which would be fine, but in fact it is extraordinary.”

– Sarah Treleaven

You Never Know: A Memoir – Introduction

In book on September 8, 2012 at 8:58 am

The chapters are as follows:

  • No Choice: Introduction: an overview of what happened to Romy and how she felt.
  • Why Not?: relates her philosophy on issues surrounding the surgery and the aftermath. It sets up a dream motif, and discusses that she is experiencing “Disability and Cyborg Drag;”
  • Sure: specifically deals with her symptoms and the type of brain tumour she had;
  • Hurry Up and Wait: deals with body issues and what Romy has learned from this ordeal;
  • Oy: is her ‘reality’ chapter, it also deals with her current vision problems and her avid interest in popular culture;
  • James-Paul:or Jamie was a close friend of Romy’s who died six months before her surgery. He was an MD and he asked her to be his spiritual adviser-a non-religious endeavor.
  • Mush: deals with the feeding tube, the food she was initially allowed to eat and what Romy does not eat now;
  • What A Concept deals with her friends, family and that it was not surprising that new people were a part of her life;
  • The Wormhole: Deals with the death of Romy’s grandfather, that her grandparents survived the Holocaust, her Jewishness, the corridor she used to take in the hospital to where she said her first word.
  • Blank: Deals with the coma.
  • Something Funny This Way Comes: After the coma she listened to and watched lots of Comedy tapes including Seinfeld and Ellen Degenneres;
  • Wind Me Up and Let Me Go: deals with Romy’s love of coffee, her rehab and therapists in Toronto;
  • Before: Before she went into the hospital Romy did many things, visited lots of places, and lived in Paris, France; Montreal, Quebec and Toronto, Ontario.
  • C’est La Vie deals with the birth of her nephew and how she was brought back to an infantile state in the hospital;
  • Queasy: Her take on ‘resistance’ and how she moved to Montreal to live with her parents.
  • Aha: Deals with the various challenges of Romy’s situation;
  • Like Watching Grass Grow: Romy’s physical recovery and that she has been called a “witch”;
  • Que Sera Sera: What the future holds for Romy Shiller.


 No Choice: Introduction

What you are about to read happened to me. I try to make no excuses. I am a big believer in personal responsibility. Did I choose to get a brain tumour? No, I did not. But I did react to it. I am pretty sure it is an unconscious kind of thing.
They say I am a medical mystery or, some say, “miracle”; I was in a coma for five months. I did not speak from August 2003 until March 2004 – even when I came out of the coma. The term is “akinetic mutism.”
I really did not think of myself as a particularly happy person before the surgery. I am quite pleased with my response. On the whole, I was quite positive. I still am. I might get depressed in the future. If I do, I do. For now, I do not sit in dark corners, feel sorry for myself or take drugs. I laugh constantly. Maybe this is my disposition or constitution. Who knows? All I know is that I survived an ordeal of huge proportions, I am still surviving and, for many reasons, I am truly grateful. This is not to say that physically I do not wish that I were back to the way I was. It would be so much easier on many levels.
It is very difficult for me to look in a mirror. In my mind’s eye, I look (and sound) as I did before and, to be perfectly honest, I prefer that to what is in the mirror these days. It may be superficial, but that’s how I feel. Of course, I can choose to see beauty on the inside, but it would seem I don’t. That would be rational and even logical, especially at this point. So, you see, I know how difficult “choice” is.
So many people say I am an inspiration to them. I am conflicted about this because I never set out to be an inspiration. I did not cut off my own limb to save myself like that guy Aron Ralston did. I am no Lance Armstrong, who continues to inspire everyone who knows about him. They obviously did not set out to be inspirational, but they are. And in my opinion, they are mega fantastic.
I watched Oprah and saw two disabled guys who inspired me. As a result, I had a good dinner with my sister-in-law’s dad, Bert, and his wife, Karen. They had not seen me since before the surgery. For me, watching this show was synchronistic. I made it personal, and it worked for me. I think awareness is key.
Anyhow, I have food in my belly and shelter over my head. For these reasons and more, I consider myself truly lucky. It is by no means easy, but at least I don’t have to worry about the basics. If this had to happen, I am in pretty fortunate circumstances. I always feel encouraged; there seem to be many possibilities for me. This is a definite bonus.
I was never scared or frightened. I am still more interested in my condition than anything else. The interesting part was that I had very little or no control with regard to what happened. I had to give up the idea of control. This can be very liberating. It seems like I am a “glass is half full” – type of person. In any case, I really believe most of this stuff is intuitive. Like I said, maybe it is just my nature, but I simply felt this in my gut. I made the phone calls I had to make and I let nature take its course. This is not to say I was ever fatalistic – I asked many questions about my surgery – but I could do nothing about the tumour inside my brain. I had two lawyers help me with a living will and a will. You never know.
Weirdly enough, I also made plans in case I went into a coma. I assumed some part of me would “hear” stuff and I made my mom promise to read to me from my favourite book at the time and to play my music. She did. I remember nothing of this.
I am told I laughed or rasped appropriately at the punch lines of certain jokes at a time when I was still in the coma. I wish I could remember the jokes and the laughter, but I do not. Then again, I have a picture of myself at four years old at a birthday party I do not remember, at a house I do not remember. Even in late January, when I was out of the coma, there was an event that I absolutely have no memory of. Someone whom I know quite well came to visit me. Apparently I was quite vivacious at the time and I recognized her. So, for me, memory has little to do with consciousness. I was certainly perceptive at all these times, but the jury is still out on the specific meaning.
It is difficult for me to use a pencil or pen, so, in a sense, this book is my journal. It really never felt cathartic though; it was not a release, maybe because I am still dealing with my new physical repercussions. My handwriting is incredibly problematic now and my letters look very childish. In the very beginning of rehab, I could barely write by hand at all, so even this is an improvement. I really enjoy the process of writing, so the book was more of a compulsion – something I had to do and wanted to do. Maybe this book justifies what I went through and what I am still going through. In many respects, it hardly matters to me as long as it is beneficial and not detrimental to me.
I typed out my entire book using one bent finger. This was much slower than I am used to, and while it was a challenge, it did not feel daunting to me. I could really think about what I wanted to say because I had more time. I would get physically tired during this process, so I would stop and take breaks. I would do it again. Believe it or not, I simply would not let my present physical difficulties get in the way. I know it would have been very understandable just to stop; however, that is so unlike me. Also, outside of all the therapy I am doing, writing was a distraction. While my subject matter was about what I have to deal with now, there was a certain “project” aspect to it. I like projects.
Although what I went through was quite unique, my story was never a subject for a book – although, of course, it has become one. I continue to live the story and I could guess the ending, but I would rather leave it unfinished. To be quite honest, I prefer stories that are open-ended. I know this bugs many people who would prefer closure, things neatly wrapped up, but what can I say? That part of my story is not written yet. In my case, it would be very satisfying to know the end. But I do not. I know what I would like to happen. Whether it does or does not, only time will tell. These are the cards I have been dealt – like them or not.
I am glad that I can write this book, but I am a writer (amongst other things) so writing about what happened is second nature to me. I guess what I want you to know is that writing continues to be pleasurable to me. Even if I am not tickled about my physicality at present, at the very least there is that.
I do not have a loving and knowledgeable partner in life to mediate on my behalf medically, but I do have parents and brothers with a vested interest in my health and welfare. I feel so lucky to have them. They were, and are, a great resource to me. When I was in the hospital, they were all quite extraordinary. Faced with an imminent challenge, they really stepped up to the plate.

At times, I get ticked off. I am only human, after all. I do not want to be anyone’s mission, yet I find I am often people’s lesson. On an esoteric level, this is amazing; but on a physical level, I really do not appreciate it. I am not a so-called guinea pig. Lessons are interesting notions. I feel we can learn things vis-à-vis other people or situations. If I get hurt, however, that’s a different story. I have little tolerance for these kinds of mistakes. It becomes my lesson and I may not choose to participate any longer. For me, the idea of “choice” is a liberty I have here. Options are very good. The thing about esoteric lessons is how we choose to react to them. Personally, I love to see how this plays out in others. Sometimes I get quite disappointed, but this is about expectation, which I try to avoid. Expectations are so difficult to deal with: They are a major challenge.
I was pretty ambivalent about getting my PhD Now I am glad I have it. I like being called Doctor, even though I am not a Doctor of Medicine. I learned a lot and I know it speaks to my dedication, stamina and skills in addition to my intelligence. Maybe I need this degree because of the preconceptions that go along with disability. It seems to stun people when they find out. I am more than willing to see rationalization in this now. I am so glad that I have this in my pocket, whatever the reasons I might use now. The degree is not only an identity, it is part of my personal evolution.
I know that I have incentive enough to try to recover. Reminders, though well intentioned, feel insulting. And I do try, but I am also painfully aware of my physical limits at present. I believe I will overcome most of these in the future. Whatever disability remains, I will deal with. For me, there is no alternative; there is no choice. In addition to the earlier incidences, what you are about to read is where I am now.



FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                     

Romy Shiller, PhD and “medical mystery,” turns her shattered life into an inspiring adventure


MONTREAL, PQ ( CANADA) – MARCH 18, 2008 – In the midst of an eclectic career as a Toronto writer, academic, actress and communications director for an animation school, Romy Shiller was diagnosed with a brain tumour and lapsed into a post-surgery coma that lasted five months. She finally emerged from the darkness stricken with Akinetic Mutism—a partial paralysis that made it very difficult to move or talk—but still possessed her enthusiastic intellect and zest for life. One of her team of doctors and physiotherapists called her survival a “medical mystery,” one she sought to explore during her painstaking rehabilitation. Typing with “one bent finger,” Shiller created her new book You Never Know: A Memoir (Trafford Publishing), her musings on illness, rehab, pop culture, quantum physics, dreams and psychic phenomena. Applying her unique philosophy to her new physical reality, Shiller is a witty, fascinating and inspirational guide through life’s most severe twists.

Before her brain tumour diagnosis, Shiller enjoyed an offbeat career. A pop culture critic, she wrote articles for magazines as diverse as fab and Canadian Theatre Review and some of her articles were chosen to be included in university textbooks and courses. Having studied drag for her Ph.D. in Drama, Shiller enjoyed performance and had acted in a television series on YTV called System Crash. For doctoral research, she became a member of the very popular and acclaimed 90s performance art group called The Drag Kings where she did female to female drag. They were widely profiled in media such as Maclean’s Magazine, W Network, Xtra! to the Toronto Sun who ran a controversial photo spread – twice – of the troupe shot in the men’s dressing room of the Toronto Maple Leafs. She received a call-back for a lead role in Mamma Mia but was told she did not look old enough. Shiller had studied voice at the Royal Conservatory and with a private coach before that because she loved to sing.

Now in a wheelchair, Shiller can no longer sing or swim or dance. Because of her rehabilitation, she now has much more control over vocal chords and has more movement in her limbs. She even avoids certain foods for fear of choking. “The limitations of my body are substantial,” she says yet her optimism remains boundless, surprising everyone—even herself. Though her book describes her long rehabilitation in detailed, unsparing terms, “I really view this entire experience as adding to my life,” she writes. “I was prepared to deal with my own circumstance in pragmatic and spiritual ways.” Shiller has received warm wishes from singer Liza Minnelli while Raemali King, widow of King World CEO Roger King, includes Shiller on her personal prayer list, which she distributes around the globe.Whatever one’s beliefs, Shiller writes, “prayer is good energy” and, as she did before her surgery and coma, she continues to use the energy she has. “I now have an opportunity to help others by example. I strongly believe in doing what you can.”

About Romy Shiller

Romy Shiller is a pop culture critic and holds a PhD in Drama from the Graduate Centre for Study of Drama at the University of Toronto as well has a BA from McGill University. Her academic areas of concentration include gender performance, film, camp and critical thought. She was born and raised in Montreal, then lived in Paris then Toronto before moving back to Montreal where she currently resides. She speaks fluent French and English.

About her new book You Never Know: A Memoir

Shiller’s inventive and uplifting book uses her illness, brain surgery and coma as merely the starting points for a sprawling discussion of time, reincarnation, quantum physics, pop culture and the nature of life itself. By sharing her story with candid insight, good humour and gritty realism, Shiller hopes to infuse people with hope.

Book is currently available at and and to order at all bookstores or order online at  141 pages; quality trade paperback (softcover); catalogue #07-2081; ISBN 1-4251-3691-5; US$15.00, C$15.00, EUR10.25, £7.74


“The very title, “You Never Know”, suggests open-mindedness, which is the prerequisite for the unexpected to occur. This aptly describes the author in her journey through the adventure which is her rehabilitation process. A sense of humor, reflected anticipation and patient determination, all within the context of a worldly, educated and insightful individual, come together to culminate into a stimulating perspective of the adventure of re-integrating into life. The process has been as enriching to me as the book will be to all those that will read it.”

– Francisco Gregorio, physiotherapist, director of ERD Inc.




reader reviews

Amazing story from a talented woman, July 20 2010

This review is from:

Romy Shiller began 2003 as an intelligent, vivacious and successful woman with a PhD in drama. Five years later she is the same talented academic with interests in pop culture, but has survived a sudden brain tumour and coma. She now has a speech impediment and is confined to a wheelchair, requiring a lot of assistance in daily life. She painstakingly typed this book with one finger, and that alone impresses me.

In You Never Know, Romy segues between the story of her coma and recovery, her current life, and reflections on the nature of humanity, being a “cyborg” and more. She ia a trained singer, but now her voice won’t co-operate. She is not enamoured of her new appearance. Nevertheless, she remains a “glass half full” person. I think this is what struck me most, her incredible optimism and drive to continue making the most of life in spite of circumstances that would probably overwhelm me.

The descriptions of her coma are fascinating – she remembers little of this time, but remembers dreaming and was apparently responsive at points. I imagine it would be helpful to anyone with a loved one in this circumstance, but she doesn’t dwell on the experience and the book moves back and forth through different parts of her life. She muses over death, Madonna, self-image, sexuality, her Jewish ancestry, romance, laughter and drag queens. This is no dry account of recovery, it’s these vignettes and meanderings which make the book particularly enjoyable.

Since this was published, she’s published two more books. I look forward to getting into “part two” of her biography. 

An Inspiration, February 18, 2010

This review is from: Amazon,com

A book that will truly inspire you and make you think. Romy talks openly about her life, difficult experiences with her health and her fight to survive. She’s a very strong woman and makes you feel like anything is possible. She reminds you to enjoy your life because you never know. Highly recommended book from someone that typed her story with an open mind and one finger.  J. Pelliccia

This review is from:

Very interesting look inside the mind and how Romy thinks. I mean that in a much more profound way than her general thinking; more about the workings of the mind. This is a book about someone who really does “get it”, living the reality not just talking about it. She lives what she preaches. I found one paragraph particularly deja vu…that the secret is in quantum physics. Not sure if that was meant to be so revealing or not – but it was. Not a book for everyone but for those who enjoy a deep exploration along the edge of life and existence and think outside the box. I am glad it was written and I had the privlege to venture into Romy’s mind. Fascinating place and fascinating book.

This review is from:  

The ultimate in individual and family courage!!! May 24, 2008

If I ever again start to feel that I or my loved ones are going through a difficult time I’ll just go back to this amazing story of Romy Shiller and recognize that it could be a lot more serious and scary.

This young lady’s fight and survival against all medical odds is inspirational. The fact that she’s obviously a maverick and subscribes to Frank Sinatra’s philosophy of “My Way” has no doubt been and will continue to be instrumental as she keeps making progress.

If you want to marvel at one young woman’s strength and the never say die attitude of her incredibly supportive parents I heartily recommend this easy to read but most meaningful book! Martin Baker

This review is from:

A truly inspiring story. No household should be without a copy! May 15 2008

Romy Shiller is a competent, intelligent, sincere individual, who has not only survived from a serious brain tumor removal and long term coma, but has also demonstrated unbelievable strength and perseverance that has undeniably been her driving force during her recovery. Living each day to the fullest, with an open mind, she is truly an inspiration to myself, both personally and professionally.
T. Frishling