After a grueling battle with ovarian cancer, Cobie Smulders is on top of her game, starring in the new show “Stumptown” on ABC. The star’s resilience and determination on her cancer journey, culminating in professional triumph and acclaim, should be an inspiration to any woman living with ovarian cancer.
Smulders, 37, beloved for her central role in the iconic CBS comedy “How I Met Your Mother,” is front and center of the forthcoming ABC drama which is perhaps the most important new show on the beleaguered network’s schedule. In it, the ovarian cancer survivor plays Dex Parios, whom ABC describes as “a strong, assertive and sharp-witted army veteran with a complicated love life, gambling debt and a brother to take care of in Portland, Oregon. Her military intelligence skills make her a great PI, but her unapologetic style puts her in the firing line of hardcore criminals and not quite in alliance with the police.”READ MORE
“So excited!” the “Avengers” actress tweeted about the show hitting ABC’s fall schedule.
— Cobie Smulders (@CobieSmulders) May 14, 2019
Her high action role is a far cry from what one would expect, considering the Smulders received the difficult diagnosis of ovarian cancer in 2007, when she was only 25 years old. At the time, doctors said her cancer was “borderline” meaning it wasn’t quite malignant but it wasn’t quite benign either.
Smulders was very young to have the disease. Most women with ovarian cancer are diagnosed after menopause, and roughly half are over the age of 60. And after multiple removal surgeries, 11 years later, Smulders is cancer free and charging ahead in her acting career.
“How I Met Your Mother” actress Cobie Smulders, who will star in ABC’s “Stumptown” television series
Ovarian cancer is curable in over 90 percent of cases when diagnosed early enough, so for high risk patients, genetic testing can be a valuable option.
Mutations of the BRCA gene, like BRCA1 or BRCA2, can place people at a heightened risk for breast cancer or ovarian cancer. But in the U.S., 90 percent of people who carry a BRCA gene mutation aren’t aware of it until someone in their family gets cancer.
These gene mutations are commonly passed down among family members. In fact, if one of your blood relatives is found to carry a BRCA gene mutation, there’s a 50-50 chance you could be carrying it, too. And because BRCA mutations aren’t found on the X or Y sex chromosome, you’re just as likely to inherit the risks of cancers associated with BRCA from your father as you are from your mother.
Unfortunately, other options for screening aren’t as good as they are for some cancers. If you don’t have any symptoms, and you don’t have a high risk hereditary cancer syndrome, then the current recommendations are that you shouldn’t get screened for ovarian cancer – the screenings aren’t reliable enough, and might do more harm than good.
Image from the “Stumptown” Comic book, on which ABC’s new show by the same name is based
The best thing to do if you aren’t high risk is to stay alert to your body, and feeling comfortable asking your doctor questions if you feel anything abnormal.
After an initial period of privately enduring the revelation that she had, Smulders has been open about her pain and her fears during her disease. Some of her biggest fears had to do with with the possibility of infertility– a fear many young women have when making important choices about their cancer treatment. “I think it was messy mostly because I had a great fear of not being able to have kids. I’ve always been very maternal,” Smulders told People. “I’ve always loved children and I’ve always wanted one of my own, and so having that not being option, especially at such a young age — kids were very much not on my mind at 25, but I still wanted them one day — it was really hard and it was a really depressing thing to go through.”
Fortunately, Smulders made it through ovarian cancer without experiencing infertility, and is now the proud mother of two girls, Shaelyn, 10, and, Janita, 4, both with her husband, “Robot Chicken” star Taran Killam, 37. But a lot of people going through cancer, ovarian or otherwise, deal with the possibility of infertility.
Dr. Jaime Knopman on options for people who have cancer-related infertility
Unfortunately, in the case that the ovaries are damaged before or during cancer treatment, which can come from certain kind of chemotherapy, or in the case that surgery is needed to remove the ovaries completely, women aren’t able to produce eggs, but they may not have to miss out on the experience of carrying a child. “We can still help women become parents and carry pregnancies, but it would be with an egg donor,” according to Dr. Jaime Knopman, Director of Fertility Preservation at CCRM Fertility Clinic in New York City. “We would help you select someone who you feel– the characteristics that you would want to represent in your child.”
As for Smulders and her cancer treatment, “Luckily, I had a huge support system. I had my husband, who was my then-boyfriend, and friends and family who were very supportive and extremely helpful,” she continued while talking to Parade.
“I just tried to be very kind to my body. It was going through a horrible time, and I think that it’s super important to be patient with yourself and treat yourself and your body with kindness. In terms of day-to-day, I would meditate and do anything that would help take the stress out of my life.”
When asked about why she decided to talk openly about her cancer after initially keeping it quiet, she explained why it was important to use her platform. “I think it was thinking about the opportunity to help other women who are in this position. I think there’s something to being part of a community, being part of a conversation about something that benefits everybody.”
And in terms of keeping up her health, both physical and mental, in the aftermath, Smulders said she has a couple of practices that keep her grounded and feeling good. “Well—I don’t love exercising, I actually hate doing it, but I know how good it makes me feel, so I do it. I meditate, I eat really healthy,” she said in the interview. “I’m kind to myself, and I take the time and I put my health as a priority, which I probably didn’t do for a very long time. Really, for me, it comes down to meditation and trying to be positive. I find that whenever I’m in a place where I can help others is where I’m always the happiest. It brings me calmness and joy.”
Smulders’ new show will air during ABC’s 2019-2020 season.