This blog contains some spoilers for the sixth episode of The Bold Type Season One, entitled The Breast Issue.
One in two men, and one in three women, will face cancer in their lifetimes. Whether you know someone who has dealt with cancer, or you have to face it yourself, it will likely affect your life in some way. Cancer has affected me personally in many ways. So, when I first learned that my character Jane, on The Bold Type, lost her mother to breast cancer and tested positive for the potentially harmful BRCA gene mutation, I wanted to do everything I could to represent her experience in a very real way.
One of the things I love most about my job as an actress — and working on a show like The Bold Type — is that it gives me the unique opportunity to raise awareness about important issues, like women’s health, breast cancer and BRCA gene testing. In playing a character like Jane, I also got the chance to show the fears and emotions that someone who has lost a loved one to cancer may have when it comes to their personal health risks. It is a story line that I am proud to be part of and hope that it will help people who are going through a similar experience.
When I first read the script for “The Breast Issue,” I had heard of BRCA gene testing but didn’t know too much about it or what it means when these gene mutations are inherited. According to the American Cancer Society, women who have a mother, sister, or daughter with a history of breast cancer are about twice as likely to develop breast cancer as women who do not have this family history. An estimated 55 to 66 percent of women who inherit a harmful BRCA1 mutation, and 45 percent of women who inherit a harmful BRCA2 mutation, will develop breast cancer by age 70, compared to the 7 percent chance of breast cancer in the general population. Additionally, 39 percent of women who inherit the BRCA1 mutation and 11 to 17 percent of women who inherit a harmful BRCA2 mutation will develop ovarian cancer by age 70. These gene mutations may also be associated with an increased risk of several other types of cancer.
My boyfriend, Paul, and his late mother, Jill, were a huge source of inspiration for me in this episode, and I dedicated my performance to them. Paul lost his mother to breast cancer at a young age and has a deeply personal understanding of what it’s like to lose a parent to this horrible disease. He was incredibly supportive and answered any questions I had about his mom, their relationship and her battle against breast cancer. In talking to Paul and his family, I also learned that men can inherit BRCA mutations and it puts them at an increased risk for breast, prostate and other cancers.
While working on this episode, I realized the importance of a strong support system. I loved how much comfort and help Jane received from the people in her life. When someone loses a loved one or faces a health crisis, I believe that having empathy for that person and their unique situation is key. Being able to say, I’m here for you, and I can’t imagine what you’re going through, can mean the world to someone. Everyone handles things like cancer differently, and it’s enough to just be there for someone.
Cancer does not discriminate. It has taken the lives of so many people I love, including my best friend, Gavi, my grandmother, my grandfather, and the love of my life’s mother, who I will never get the opportunity to meet. To say that I hope cancer ends one day is an understatement. Cancer needs to end as soon as possible so lives continue to be saved. I am so proud to be on a network like Freeform that continues to work with organizations, like Stand Up To Cancer, to promote cancer awareness, research, and prevention. Seeing comments from the fans and hearing how they connect to each episode and the characters on our show means the world to me. If just one person is comforted by Jane’s story, learns more about their family history, or talks to their doctor about whether or not they could be a candidate for BRCA gene testing, then we’ve done our job.
To learn more about BRCA mutations and the cancer risks associated with them click here. To learn what cancer screenings might be right for you, visit SU2C’s campaign with its collaborator Rally Healthcare at www.getscreenednow.org.
To continue following Jane’s journey on The Bold Type, click here.
Jackie Foy was 22 years old when her mother, Theresa, sat her down at the kitchen table to talk about cancer. Jackie reminded herself to keep a straight face while her mother spoke. She wanted to be strong for her. Theresa’s routine Pap smear had led to the detection and diagnosis of cervical cancer. Jackie immediately had questions. She wanted to know everything she could about her mother’s diagnosis. What stage was her mother’s cancer? What kind of treatments would she have to endure? After they had finished talking, Jackie went up to her room and cried. When she finished, she began to think of ways she could help her mother survive the disease.
Theresa underwent a radical hysterectomy and her doctors were successfully able to remove all of her cancer cells. She was fortunate not to have to undergo chemotherapy and radiation, but recovery from her surgery was long. “She was out of work for about three months,” Jackie remembers. “I just made sure I did everything I could do to help during that time, so she didn’t have to worry about anything but her recovery.” From making dinners to going to doctor’s appointments and picking up extra shifts at work to help with bills, Jackie was happy to be there for her mom.
Friends and family also wanted to help out and asked if they could put together a fundraiser to help with medical expenses. Knowing that her mom would rather help others fighting cancer as well, Jackie decided to organize a fundraiser that would benefit cancer research. “My mom has always donated to Stand Up To Cancer, in honor of my grandmother who passed away from colon cancer 15 years ago,” Jackie says. “So creating a fundraiser in her honor that supported SU2C research made perfect sense.”
Jackie decided to host the fundraiser at the bowling alley where she and her mother both worked. Friends and family could come out to participate in a fun mini bowling tournament, support her mother and donate to research that would ultimately help other patients as well. “My family is a big bowling family, I grew up going to our local bowling alley, and now I work there,” Jackie laughs. “It was the perfect place for our fundraiser, and I’m happy they have let us continue to host it there for over four years now.”
Today, Jackie’s fundraiser has grown to become something that people in her community look forward to and something Jackie hopes to continue doing for years to come. “It means the world to me that the research this fundraiser supports is making an impact on patient lives,” Jackie says. “Knowing that 100% of the money we raise goes towards helping more patients become survivors like my mom makes it all worth it.”
At her most recent fundraiser, Jackie printed out SU2C’s iconic #IStandUpFor placards and put them out for participants. She was amazed to see how many people filled them out and shared stories of how cancer had also touched their lives. “I stand up for my grandmother and most importantly for my mom,” Jackie says proudly. “But, I will continue to do this fundraiser in the hopes of helping anyone that’s facing this horrible disease.”
Jackie continues to be thankful that her mother’s cancer is still in remission, but she knows that not everyone is so fortunate when it comes this disease. She hopes that with research more lives will continue to be saved. “I think anything we can do to help save more lives from cancer is important,” Jackie exclaims. “If the money we donate helps even one more patient survive, that makes it all worth it.”
Shop the merch Jackie is wearing above (and more) at the SU2C shop.