At the age of 34 and with no family history, Valisia LeKae was diagnosed with stage 1A cancer following the removal of a cyst.

A SURVIVOR’S TALE: One of Broadway’s brightest stars tells the story of how a cancer diagnosis transformed her life. Photo: Peter Hapak

“It came as a shock. I was healthy, very active, doing eight shows a week on Broadway, showing no signs of anything abnormal,” recalls the Tony and Grammy-nominated performer.

Not easily detected

Ovarian cancer in particular shows few warning signs or those such as bloating, weight gain or loss, back soreness and fatigue that are part of women’s monthly cycles. And, as LeKae discovered, ovarian cancer strikes at any age.

“It came as a shock. I was healthy, very active, doing eight shows a week on Broadway, showing no signs of anything abnormal.”

“It isn’t just your grandmother’s disease,” she says. Without a regular gynecological checkup, LeKae’s cancer would not have been detected at an early stage.

She uses her powerful voice to educate and encourage women to put their needs first. “We say we’ll make a doctor’s appointment next month and then that becomes six months and then two years,” she says. “Put fears aside because if we don’t take care of ourselves, we won’t be in shape to help anyone else.”

Finding strength

Her advice to those facing treatment is “you are stronger than you know.” LeKae is a prime example of that after enduring two operations and six rounds of chemotherapy. "Don't go it alone, take advantage of friends who want to help."

For caregivers, she prescribes patience and an open ear for how to help ranging from shopping, cooking or just listening – and to know when the patient needs a moment of peace.

“I’ve evolved going through this journey, gaining a perspective to see what really is important in life,” says LeKae who received the news she was cancer free in April. “I’ve learned how much strength I have and that’s why I want to share my story.”