Marlyne Barrett, best known for her role as nurse Maggie Lockwood on the hit series Chicago Med is opening up about her battle with cancer.
The actress, 44, recently revealed that she has been battling uterine and ovarian cancer ever since doctors discovered a large tumor in her left ovary in July.
“I’m an extremely private person, but I felt a responsibility to tell my story,” says Barrett, 44, who has 11-month-old twins Joshuah-Jireh and Ahnne-N’Urya with her husband, pastor Gavin Barrett. “When my character went through breast cancer, I had a sea of people reach out to me through social media. They brought me courage, and so I felt a sense of inevitability to meet their hearts where they met me.”
Barrett, who is also known for her role on The Wire, says she also hopes to inspire others to share their own painful or uncomfortable truths. “We as human beings are so scared to face the mortality of life, or to even pronounce the word cancer,” she says. “But we have so much more strength inside of us than we think.”
The actress went on to detail that after a surgery to repair a hernia in April, she started feeling unwell. “I had this accumulation of fluid [in my abdomen] that I couldn’t shake,” she recalled. “I looked like I was nine months pregnant. And I also had shortness of breath, but no pain, which was interesting.”
It wasn’t until mid-July that the actress would find out about the mass. “The initial experience was a shock, a shock to my womanhood,” says Barrett, who has no family history of either uterine or ovarian cancers. “I didn’t believe them, but when they showed me the CT scan, I went, ‘Oh my word.’ The first questions were, ‘Am I going to live?’ I just fell into my husband’s arms. It still takes my breath away when I think about it.”
Despite her fears, Barrett jumped into defense mode as doctors informed her she’d need “aggressive” chemotherapy before an eventual hysterectomy. “The best way I could experience was to meet it,” she says. “There’s no running from it because it’s my life. And eventually you just surrender because it’s so much bigger than anything you’ve ever faced. I found this courage and I just hunkered down and said, ‘I’m going to face this.’ ”
Even while going through her battle, Barrett has continued working on the series and has had endless support from the cast and crew.
In order to keep working, “I start an hour earlier to get my bearings before I start my day,” says the actress, who also takes naps and occasional days off to keep up her energy.
In addition, “because of the mass, my mid-range is a different size, so the costume department does an incredible job,” says Barrett. “Interestingly enough, my character on the show already wears a wig!” And ultimately, “work brings me a lot of joy right now,” she says. “It brings me a lot of reprieve to think about something other than, ‘When is my next chemo shift?’ and ‘How am I going to hug my children?'”
Chicago Med airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.