Earlier this year, Valisia LeKae made a splash on The Great White Way in what many thought was to be the role of her lifetime as Diana Ross in Motown The Musical. A little over six months after the Berry Gordy-produced show became one of Broadway’s biggest box-office hits of 2013, the Tony Award-nominated performer discovered she has ovarian cancer.
Last week, LeKae, who’s been on leave from the Charles Randolph-Wright-helmed tuner since August, shocked the theatre community when she made her official withdrawal from the show and revealed her diagnosis via Facebook.
“As a 34 year old, African-American woman, I feel that it is important that I share my story in order to educate and encourage others about this disease and the fight against it,” she wrote. “God has given me another role to play and like all my previous roles, I plan to go all in, only this time I plan to win!”
“I don’t think it’s nothing that anybody else in my position wouldn’t have done,” LeKae told Playbill.com about making the brave and very public announcement. “It’s just another way for me to use my voice and be an advocate for this disease that I have now. I wanted to talk about it. I just wanted people to be aware.”
The day before the declaration, LeKae — whose Broadway credits include The Book of Mormon and Ragtime — had surgery (unilateral salpingo-oophorectomy) for clear cell carcinoma of the ovary, performed by the highly sought-after Dr. David Fishman at New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital.
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“Her cancer is associated with genetic inherited cancers, yet she has no family history,” Fishman said, adding that the cancer can be very aggressive and survival can range from 40 to 90 percent. “She required an operation and will need six rounds of chemotherapy.”
According to LeKae, there weren’t any symptoms or anything alarming to make her think she had the disease — outside of what she chalked up to being related to women’s wellness: “Being a woman, we face menstrual issues every month, and I’ve had reflux and all that other stuff for a while, but nothing that would make me think that I had ovarian cancer. So long story short, no, I wasn’t feeling anything. I went to have my checkup and I had a cyst, and that was the only thing we saw in the sonogram.”
Read the full story at playbill.com