The "Cancer Queen of Comedy" will make you laugh - and cry

A stand-up comedian in Chicago is laughing in the face of cancer.

Nikki Martinez first took to the stage five years ago, after she was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer and had a mastectomy. Most people wouldn't find much humor in the situation, but Martinez was inspired.

"That's when I decided I'd make cancer my career," she told CBS News. "That's my way of giving it the finger."

She took part in an annual breast cancer charity comedy show and got roars of laughter when she flung off her wig and joked about the absurdities of the disease that had turned her life upside down. "It's my first time doing comedy," she told the crowd, "and I'm trying not to die!"

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Stand-up comedian Nikki Martinez. CBS News

Martinez laughs about finding her niche in show business: "You're not gonna find too many healthy women that's gonna whip off a wig and a fake boob, so that is probably the only advantage ... you can't really steal my jokes."

In the course of her routine, she also encourages audience members to get regular screenings for breast cancer.

Comedy show producer Mike Oquendo gave Martinez her first shot on stage and hosts the annual charity show. He says members of the audience can relate to her cancer experience. "In the course of a year maybe 10 to 15 of our regular audience members at some point or another are dealing with it," he said.

Martinez has been through a lot since her diagnosis. After the mastectomy came 12 rounds of chemo and 33 radiation treatments. And still, the cancer returned.

"Unfortunately my cancer came back in 2012 and I currently have tumors from my scalp, down my neck, down my spine, down my hips," she said. Doctors say it is terminal.

But wanting to be there for her daughter gives her strength. "I cannot leave her. I'm not ready," she said, holding back tears.

Despite the prognosis, for as long as she can, Martinez plans to keep the laughter going.