Treatment #5: Art Imitates Life
I swear, this may be the most surreal my life will ever get.
The photo on the left was taken on Wednesday, on set at my new guest stint on television.
The photo on the right was taken the next day at my real chemo session.
For those of you who don’t know, I recently started work on the ABC Family show “Chasing Life” which follows the topsy turvy world of a young woman diagnosed with cancer. I’m playing the role of Vanessa, a tough, straight-talking cancer patient who drops some truth bombs in the transfusion room. It’s been such a fun and emotionally invigorating experience to incorporate my real life into my character and a total joy to work the with cast and crew.
It’s also been incredibly eerie.
This particular day I showed up at my call time and had a wardrobe fitting for some comfy pj’s that would be realistic to what someone would wear to a treatment center. Of course, the designers found some with a little style and edge, just how I like to do it at my own sessions, and it’s always a treat when you can show up to work and put on sweats. I then headed over to hair/makeup where I finally got to don my second-times-a-charm-no-thanks-to-fed-ex wig! Isn’t she pretty?? She’s going to get her own post dedicated to her for all she’s been through so stay tuned on that. For the show, an incredible hairstylist Garry Allyn treated my little beauty to a spa day, washing and blow drying her with care. Here’s the kicker: Garry is also a cancer survivor! We gabbed forever about our experiences, swapped stories about the devastation and the unexpected joys we had, even talked about potential tattoo ideas. There is truly nothing like being able to converse with someone who knows the terrain of this odd little patch of life, especially one who is thriving on the other side.
Getting my makeup done on this show is such a funny experience to me. While the other stunning actresses are in the chair, they are gradually getting shed of their glamour to portray cancer patients accurately. Hair is covered, lips are paled, and everything is dialed down. Since my character is new to treatments and I am decidedly not, my process included putting hair ON, adding fake eyelashes and rouging my cheeks to give the appearance of someone at the start of her journey. So if you’re keeping track, I have gotten to put on pajamas and get pampered with beauty products while yucking it up with new friends. Best job ever? I’m thinking so.
Once it was time to shoot my scene, I cozied up in my big leather arm charm with the fluffy white pillow that goes on your lap and allowed someone to tape a fake IV tube to my arm. Oh how I wish this was the real way those things got attached! I loathe, ABHOR even, getting the IV put in my arm at chemo. Still, after everything I’ve been through with treatments, the worst part about cancer is the needles. The veins stop cooperating and I’m left dizzy and bruised while each nurse searches for a spot. “Just a little prick,” they always say, right before the deep pain jumps through my sensitive arm crook. Prick is definitely the word I would use to describe that grubby needle. A stupid, nasty prick.
But I digress. I had a wonderful time shooting the scenes and “acting” like I had cancer for a change. In the script, my character sheds some perspective to April (the lovely Italia Ricci) which makes her change the way she looks at some aspects of her life. It felt great to work again and have a nice distraction from what I knew was coming just a day later: Treatment #5
I rolled out of bed with no stylist picking out my sporty chemo clothes. It was all up to me now. I wanted to feel bright and springy since we have officially crossed over the threshold of this egregious winter and I wanted to celebrate that. A pair of light stretchy jeans, a bold red fringed top and a floral scarf made me feel like I was bringing a little sun inside. I had fun twisting the end of the scarf into a floret of sorts, adding a simple flair that made me smile.
I opted out of makeup for my real life scene as chemo receiver. After having put so much on my face the day before, I wanted to give my weary face a rest, especially my little champions: my eyebrows. These little nuggets have been holding down the fort this whole time and they deserve a parade. I spread some Brian Joseph’s lash and brow conditioning on them and headed out.
To seal the deal, my Chemo-rella fantasy officially turned back into a pumpkin when that damn needle came out. I laughed and joked my way through it, even showing the nurse my pictures from the day before and suggesting the fake tape idea in the future. Can’t hurt to ask right? But as soon as I felt that familiar sting it was official. I was no longer acting.
The last thing that brought my two days into sync is the conversations I had with the people around me in treatment. A marked shift has occurred in my attitude since I’ve been going in for chemo. In my first entry about treatments, I described feeling like the rookie in the room while the more experienced patients were rolling their eyes at my naivete. I am definitely not a novice anymore. As it turns out, I’m grateful for the experience I’m amassing. Despite the fact that I typically feel uncomfortable talking to strangers, I find myself striking up conversations with other people around me. I started a lovely exchange with an older woman who was starting her first treatment that day. I wanted to give her as much information as possible, as much encouragement as she needed and any anecdotes that might ease some of her anxiety. Just like my T.V. alter ego, I felt like I had some knowledge to share that could set someone on the right path. To be clear, I’m not under any assumptions that my opinion is worth anything or needs to be followed (especially since I don’t have the skilled writers to formulate my well crafted speeches like I did on set). But I’m trying to open up as much as I can. If I can share what I know here, or on T.V., I feel like I would have done my job.
30 thoughts on “Chemo Style! Part 4”
OHHH your picture on the left is got THE RED DEVIL going through that IV tubing…makes me gag just seeing that. I still cant drink red cool aid 10 years latter. But you go girl you are doing so awesome! So proud of you
I just wondered if they had mentioned getting a port for your IV’s .
Both my dad and youngest sister had the same agonizing ordeal with that “prick”. Eventually they got the port and it made such a difference. It’s been years since my sister had chemo but she still has that talisman in her chest .
Dad had his removed once remission but it sure made chemo day a bit less grueling
Be well , stay strong
Darling Krysta, You are a wonder!! Cant wait to see your tv show. Please be sure to let us know When the show will air. Always wishing the best for you, Susan Long (JJ’s Nana)
Always thinking of you. You are a true inspiration and example of tenacity. We are looking forward to seeing you in the new show.
Congrats on the gig with Chasing Life! I found watching that show to be strangely therapeutic as I went through chemo. I look forward to seeing you in the new season.
I also had to deal with being stuck with a needle each time I had a treatment, and with 8 treatments, it got pretty rough toward the end. All of my needle sticks were in my hands, so they got pretty beat up over the course of treatment.
Hey Krysta just a hello from Australia hope you are doing well and it is an inspiration to read your posts. Thank you for sharing your journey.
I so admire your courage and generous sharing of your real experiences with such a candid approach. I have no doubt that your life role will add a completely honest and real dimension to your TV character. You have and will continue to touch the lives of so many of us who are living through this horrific invasion in our lives.
Krysta, you don’t need skilled TV writers to craft your words because YOU are a PHENOMINAL writer. I love your acting and singing on SMASH and FIRST DATE (and told that to Alan and Michael), but thrilled to find what a great writer you are: conversational and poignant; witty and sincere ; authentic and insightful! I’m loving your telling of the journey your on and honored your sharing it with us
Miss Lady, You are as beautiful as every. Keep your head up and stay strong. God is good all the time.
Just read this out loud to my husband while stuck in typical Sunday traffic through Padadena. All we could say out loud, was “we love this girl.” oxoxox
Krysta, your words reveal not only the fighter that you are but the deep empathy that you have now with other cancer people. And you still have your wry, wicked sense of humor. You are in my thoughts everyday. VERY cute scarf style, by the way! Congrats on the TV show, too–you are simply amazing!
Working with you was such a pleasure for me . Having loved you on smash , I was so excited to meet you . 11 mos out of treatment , you reinvigorated my strength and positive attitude toward my own cancer . You are an amazing , strong beautiful person . Be who you are and you will beat this !!!! . I too remember feeling like a novice shyer person when chemo first began . As time progressed I wanted to pass on as much info as I could to help others going through the same process . Cancer is awful at best but if you open yourself up , life changing bringing a new self awareness and calm strength you never knew you had . Stay strong , much love , Garry
How awesome that you are part of this amazing show!!!
Keep rocking it doll face! My daughter and I love you and think you’re amazing. She wants to be you when she grows up, well she wants to play Wednesday so bad! LOL
“I was no longer acting.” Powerful. Hit me to my core. Your spirit in this world reminds me of the power we have in all of us. Thank you for being all of you on this specific journey. In prayer and Hope~
I’m a fan from Spain who started admiring you and your work sometime around last summer when our theater group decided to go with Addams for this year’s crazy adventure. Almost a year has gone by and we’re (finally) two weeks away from our opening. However I just read about what happened and felt a bit like crap, but then it was just a few seconds before I also read about this blog and felt (if only slightly) better. Seeing you perform I’ve always gotten like an extra dose of life from your eyes and smile and now I can see it in every sentence here, so truly kudos for the work and especially the attitude and I wish to see you through this sometime soon. Best wishes from across the Atlantic!
I hope you are feeling ok. I know this is a rough road to travel but you will make it through.
Thinking of you~niki
Hey Krysta, ever since I got the role of Wednesday in my high school’s production of the Addams Family, I looked up to you as a vocalist and actress. But I just found your blog and I look up to you and respect you as a strong woman and fighter. I will pray for continued strength and recovery. You are awesome.
Haven’t heard from you in a while so I just wanted to say that I hope you’re doing well and that you had an amazing time on your cross-country road trip! Definitely looking forward to hearing about that at some point.
Sending you lots of love and best wishes <3
You have reminded me of some powerful truth in that last paragraph. “We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known”. One thing I have learned about having my chronic illness is what value would it be if I did not share my compassion and what I had learned with someone who was about to travel the same road I have been on.
Hang in there, Krysta. Keep up the good fight. Praying for you. xox
Hi Krysta (Sorry but my english is terrorific). I am Josema, the behind the scenes maker of My Bakery in Brooklyn (This guy so rare…). I pray for you, I wish you much encouragement and strength. You’ll see as you’ll soon be picking Oscars, and showing the world all your shine and talent. Greetings to our fantastic driver!
i wish you all the best for your treatment. i am in the same boat. starting on chemo no. 4 next week. also writing on my blog. if youre interested. wordpress.renatehunfeld.com
go girl! x
sorry got my blog wrong its renatehunfeld.wordpress.com,
keep up Krysta, i will too
You are so inspirational. Both my mum and one of my friends have gone through cancer, so I know it’s hard to stay positive
I was recently re-watching smash and I re-fell in love with it and everyone in it and while (fine I’ll say it) stalking you all again I came across this blogg of yours. First let me say, you inspire me. I was going through a hard time (I lost both, my grandmother and grandfather to this a while ago, in the most difficult and yet beautiful way (if thats even the right word?)) and reading about how you keep your head up above it all, it moves me. It reminded me that the silver linnins do exist, and I needed that reminder, so, thank you. Second, I love how strong you are, and the fact that, through it all, you keep your sense of humor and sass and humility. You are a beautiful person. I will forever be in you corner. Much love and gratitude <3
We miss your blog-posts this month, but luckily can come back here and re-read! You’ve done a great thing with this writing, and I just wish we could be there for you as well, so Im writing at you back. Keep your gloves strapped on and take care of yourself. Looking forward to your humor and style when you’re ready.
Dear Krysta, I have followed your story, and while I cannot draw parallels to my own life, there is a young woman I know who is a stage 4 breast cancer survivor. She is now on a journey to becoming a mother, and she is documenting every step of the way. Her story may be one that interests you, so I thought I would share.
I am a choreographer and have spent the better part of the last three months adjudicating dance competitions across Canada. I hear your voice all the time (“Pulled” is a very popular choice) and it always makes me think of you and hope that you’re doing well. Sending you strength and love.
My niece sent me a link to your blog on Cosmo. Omgosh! I just read through all the posts. I was diagnosed with the same thing in March at 36 and I’m loving your narrative and guides. Everything you did is something I did too, like not telling most people until I got the chemo news. I’m going to start looking for the show!
Good Morning Krysta
I just watched your episode of Chasing Life – loved your character! You looked amazing. It must have been very strange to parallel your life on chemo. Will you be reprising your role – I sure hope so !
Chemo is surreal enough IRL…. I’ve been on chemo for 8 of my almost 10 years of survivorship. Who would have thought that you can just live on chemo…. emphasis on live!
Hope to see more of you on TV or movies!