“Chicago Med” star Marlyne Barrett has been diagnosed with uterine and ovarian cancer.
“I’m an extremely private person, but I felt a responsibility to tell my story,” the 44-year-old actor told People, explaining that her diagnosis came after doctors discovered a football-sized tumor on her uterus and left ovary in July.
The diagnosis comes a few years after her “Chicago Med” character, nurse Maggie Lockwood, was diagnosed with breast cancer on the show.
“When my character went through breast cancer, I had a sea of people reach out to me through social media. They brought me courage, and so I felt a sense of inevitability to meet their hearts where they met me,” said Barrett.
The former “Wire” star, who shares 11-month-old twins Joshuah-Jireh and Ahnne-N’Urya with her husband, pastor Gavin Barrett, said she hopes that sharing her story will help others facing cancer to be brave.
“We as human beings are so scared to face the mortality of life, or to even pronounce the word cancer,” she said. “But we have so much more strength inside of us than we think.”
Barrett told People that she first discovered changes in her body after undergoing a hernia repair in April.
“I had this accumulation of fluid (in my abdomen) that I couldn’t shake,” she said. “I looked like I was nine months pregnant. And I also had shortness of breath, but no pain, which was interesting.”
In July, doctors discovered the mass on her ovary and uterus.
“The initial experience was a shock, a shock to my womanhood,” said the actor. “I didn’t believe them, but when they showed me the CT scan, I went, ‘Oh my word.’
“The first questions were, ‘Am I going to live?’ I just fell into my husband’s arms. It still takes my breath away when I think about it,” she added.
Barrett’s physicians explained that she needed to fight the cancer with “aggressive” chemotherapy, and eventually undergo a hysterectomy.
“The best way I could experience was to meet it,” said the mom of two. “There’s no running from it because it’s my life. And eventually you just surrender because it’s so much bigger than anything you’ve ever faced. I found this courage and I just hunkered down and said, ‘I’m going to face this.’”
Rather than lose her hair to chemo, Barrett decided to shave her head herself. She shared a photo of her new look Sept. 27 on Instagram.
“My hair has always been an essence of beauty,” she said. “But I took my own razor and I shaved my head. I did it in front of my babies so they’d see it was still Mommy. I wept, I wept, I wept. But it was a beautiful experience to do it in front of them.”
Barrett credited her “incredible” husband, whom she married in 2009, with giving her the support she needs at home. She also expressed gratitude to the cast and crew of “Chicago Med” for going the extra mile for her.
“I’ve had people shave their heads on set to support me,” she said tearfully.
As she prepares to undergo a third round of chemo, Barrett has learned to take her situation day by day.
“I have a wave of emotion that comes,” she said. “But it’s okay not to have it all together. You can’t tangibly hold on to fear. But I’m holding on to faith.”
She added, “I find new strength to carry on every day because of (my children). I want to see them get married one day. And I will.”