Actress Cobie Smulders, whom you may recognize from How I Met Your Mother and The Avengers, is opening up about something very personal in the hope of inspiring others. Smulders was diagnosed with ovarian cancer at age 25, and she shares details of the experience and how it affected her in an essay published last week on Lena Dunham's website Lenny Letter.
"I am a very private person," Smulders, now 34, admits. "My happy place is being tucked away in the Canadian woods, miles from civilization. But something happened a few years ago that made me think that revealing some of my personal life might actually make a difference in the lives of other women."
That something was being asked to pose topless for an issue of Women's Health magazine focused on loving your body. "It all made me start thinking about this body that I'm in," she writes. "And what it has been through. And suddenly this bizarre invitation became an opportunity to share some insight from my experience of being diagnosed with, receiving treatment for, and eventually learning to cure my cancer."
Smulders describes the symptoms she experienced before her diagnosis — low energy, fatigue, abdominal pressure — and the sometimes unconventional steps she took to fight the disease. That included everything from eating healthy to attending a cleansing retreat, in addition to multiple surgeries.
"I wish everyone had access to all these treatments," she writes. "I am aware of my situation, that I was incredibly fortunate to have had the means to explore any and all options. The good news is that these options are out there. You can do the research and find many different ways to help your body heal itself."
Despite being told that cancer might leave her infertile, Smulders now has two daughters with her husband, former SNL star Taran Killam. "Thankfully, gratefully, cancer did not get the best of me," she writes. "The best of me now lives on in my two little women, baby girls I was lucky enough to be able to make with my own body."
Smulders calls it her "duty, even if it means posing topless, to spread awareness." She leaves readers with the following call to action:
I wish that we as women spent as much time on the well-being of our insides as we do with our looks on the outside. If you are going through something like this, I urge you to look at all your options. To ask questions. To learn as much as you can about your diagnosis. To breathe. To ask for help. To cry and to fight.
Smulders joins several other celebrities who have recently gotten candid about their physical and mental health. Ben Stiller, for example, penned an essay revealing how getting tested early for prostate cancer saved his life. Shannen Doherty has been sharing her fight against breast cancer with the public. Amanda Seyfried, meanwhile, opened up about living with obsessive-compulsive disorder and ending the stigma of mental illness treatment. Their honesty will hopefully raise awareness and let others going through similar struggles know they're not alone.