Backstage on Broadway: Krysta Rodriguez shares breast cancer journey, talks ‘Spring Awakening’

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“Even at 21, I said I can’t wait to be 30”

It was supposed to be the best year of her life, Krysta Rodriguez thought she’d have it all figured out.

“But then as 30 was approaching, I started to feel very uneasy,” she remembered. “Maybe it was a harbinger of things to come, maybe I knew what was on the way.”

One day, doing a self-exam, she felt a lump in her left breast.

Web extra: Krysta Rodriguez remembers the hurdles she went through to finally get examined

“When I had my annual appointment with my gynecologist she said, it feels fine,” Rodriguez said. “If you want to just check in just for piece of mind and get an ultrasound, that’s be okay. And before I made the appointment, I had the discharge coming from the left side.”

Rodriguez got the ultrasound and a biopsy. It was cancer.

“The tumor was like 8 cm, it was very big,” she described. “I said how did this happen, that’s when I got angry.”

She turned that anger into action…from MRIs to genetic testing to freezing her eyes.

Web extra: Why she chose to freeze her eggs

“You donate your body to science, nothing is yours for a long time,” Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez kept the diagnosis a secret for a few months.

“You’re sort of taught as an actor, whether consciously or subconsciously to never be a liability that there are 100 people lining up ready to take your spot,” she remembered. “I soon realized that was so short sided.”

Web extra: Krysta Rodriguez shaves her head during battle with breast cancer

She then decided to chronicle her journey on a witty blog, ChemoCouture.

“I had a great time with the wigs,” she smiled. “I thought I could make this fun and it took off in a way I didn’t expect especially with women my age.”

“In January, we started chemo and that’s every three weeks for six cycles,” she explained. “And that’s when Spring Awakening showed up in Los Angeles.”

Spring Awakening tells the story of how teens navigate their emerging sexuality. Rodriguez was actually in the ensemble and an understudy in the original Broadway production nine years ago.

Web extra: Krysta Rodriguez tells us about her favorite wigs

“This was very important to reclaiming my life, my livelihood, what I stand for, I love to do,” she said.

That six-week long show gave her the extra push she needed for the next step in the battle with cancer; a double mastectomy and breast reconstruction.

“It came down to longevity, I had a 24% chance of getting cancer in the right side,” she said. “The mastectomy was horrifically painful, the recovery from that and the expanders are very uncomfortable, they’re hard and I don’t have full range of motion fully in my body.”

Web extra: Krysta Rodriguez explains her breast reconstruction

Soon after, she got the call. Spring Awakening was coming to Broadway. This version stars several deaf performers.

“These people are not the first people you think of when doing a musical also Ali Stroker, the first person in a wheelchair on Broadway,” she gushed about her co-stars. “That I find inspiring and heroic.”

Related: ‘Spring Awakening’ revival opens new doors for deaf actors

Krysta Rodriguez says things are good right now. She’s moving in with her boyfriend, is currently cancer free and taking life one day at a time.

“People who I interact with are very quick to want to label me survivor or I’ve been cured of cancer, but I’m not comfortable yet in that,” Rodriguez said. “I don’t know when I’ll ever feel like I’m done, but I’ll just keep myself busy until then.”

Spring Awakening is currently playing at the Brooks Atkinson theatre.

Produced by: Kim Pestalozzi

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