Sometimes working as a television actor, someone who comes into the privacy of your home on a weekly basis, you're required to share a part of yourself with the public. This is a concept that I understand but am not entirely comfortable with. I am a very private person. My happy place is being tucked away in the Canadian woods, miles from civilization. But something happened a few years ago that made me think that revealing some of my personal life might actually make a difference in the lives of other women.
This fortuity happened when I was asked to appear topless (what the what?!) on the cover of Women's Health Magazine. I know. Not what you were expecting. Sometimes in this insane industry that I have chosen to be part of, you get these types of requests when you have a project coming out that needs to be promoted. This particular magazine issue was about bodies: how to love your body, how to have body confidence, and how to keep yourself healthy.
It was a very strange day. I was standing in front of a camera lens in my underwear and holding my breasts, all while trying to appear not sexy but confident, not flirtatious but gleamingly positive. Aside from the fact that I had just given birth six weeks prior and was not feeling my physical best, I was still recovering from the overwhelming flattery that someone other than my husband would want to see me topless.
It all made me start thinking about this body that I'm in. And what it has been through. And suddenly this bizarre invitation became an opportunity to share some insight from my experience of being diagnosed with, receiving treatment for, and eventually learning to cure my cancer.
Now, anyone who has been diagnosed with cancer or even known someone who has been diagnosed with cancer is aware of its total mental, physical, and emotional possession. Hell, even if you haven't been closely affected, I'm sure you can easily conceptualize the thundercloud of shit that rains down on you.
I found myself in the center of such a storm in the spring of 2008, when I was 25. Just when your ovaries should be brimming with youthful follicles, cancerous cells overtook mine, threatening to end my fertility and potentially my life. My fertility hadn't even crossed my mind at this point. Again: I was 25. Life was pretty simple. But suddenly it was all I could think about.
I've always wanted to have kids. I was a fantastic babysitter in my youth. I did the dishes, I was good at finding ways to get kids to eat healthy snacks, and I hid in the places where none of my charges could seek. All the neighborhood mothers wanted me, wanted me bad. Even among my group of friends, I was "the maternal one." I was the girlfriend who told you to pass on that last drink when you had already had too many and held the hair out of your face when you did not listen. So eventual mommyhood was something I very much thought was in my future. And now I was being told it was most likely not a possibility to create my own children. It felt grossly unfair.
Just before I was diagnosed, I had felt like something was off. My energy was low, I was just so tired all the time, and I felt a constant pressure on my abdomen that I could not explain. I listened to my body and immediately went to my gynecologist. She referred me to an oncologist at Cedars Sinai in Los Angeles who is an angel and helped me to put my fears aside and take action.