She's a model, a celebrated soap opera star, and one of Venezuela's most beloved television icons.
She also beat Stage 4 lymphoma, and has a remarkably miraculous story of survival and perseverance.
Today, Sheyene Gerardi is standing in the sunshine after the rain. With the help of a guardian angel and her undeniable will to live, the Caracas, Venezuela native — who lost both parents in a car accident — is leading a healthy, cancer-free life while sharing her strength and resilience with the world.
"I was in the middle of recording Chamaleon, a soap opera on RCTV [in Venezuela and broadcast in more than 30 countries in multiple languages]. I was exhausted and had just lost my parents, so my mind was weak and that allowed something negative to trigger in my body," she told A Plus.
Photo Courtesy of Tina Nibbana
"After a week of analysis, I was diagnosed with advanced Stage 4 lymphoma and they couldn't do anything for me," Gerardi continued. "I took a plane to the U.S. to get a second opinion and they gave me about three months to live."
She was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, which had only 60 cases reported and no survivors, according to the Mujer con Pantalones actress. But she proved the three-months-to-live medical theory false.
"I received chemotherapy for three years. I feel like I broke a Guinness record," Gerardi recalled, adding how the rigorous experience was a great learning experience that truly transformed her.
"When my parents died so unexpectedly, their unconditional love disappeared and suddenly my life felt empty. I simply had no wish to live," she revealed.
What she discovered was how strangers could also show unconditional love and it was never more evident than during the three years of chemotherapy.
"I needed a lot of help. There were days where all I could do was blink and I needed people to feed me because I wasn't able to do it myself," the pre-med student-turned-actress explained. "That was my biggest lesson. From feeling alone to feeling the love and care of people around me, that changed my life completely."
Among her support system came an unexpected guardian angel, a mother who had just lost her son to cancer. When she heard Gerardi couldn't pay for her treatment, the grieving mother anonymously paid for it on her behalf.
"Without that mother, my story would be quite different," Gerardi said, adding how her doctor said that had she stopped treatment she would have died.
"This incredible act of kindness changed my perspective. I realized I am not alone. I had just lost my parents, but still had so many wonderful people around me," she continued. "I feel a responsibility to honor this mom and say, 'Thank you' and try to use this phenomenal gift to its fullest. Not only to benefit my life, but the lives of others."
The beauty of Italian and Brazilian descent is giving back through philanthropic ventures such as the Sheyene Gerardi School, which was created in 2007 to provide comprehensive after-school education — with a focus on fostering cultural advances in attitudes, behavior and social values — for low-income children between the ages of 7 to 18 in Barlovento, Venezuela.
"Since we opened, we have helped more than 900 vulnerable children," she explained, adding how the real challenge is getting the children to believe in themselves and their future, despite their grim societal circumstances that make it "easier to become a drug dealer because they know they won't even make it to college."
Another one of her charitable contributions is Sheyene Gerardi e-health, an international cooperation of volunteers in the medical field, offering free consultations for low-income people with rare cases around the globe. Through successful research initiatives, studies, clinical trials, and other efforts, the organization has helped advances in the field.
"We had an 8-month old baby in South America who suffers from dystonia, comes from a low-income family, and no one speaks English," she explained. "On the other side, we have a doctor in North Carolina working hard to find the cure for this condition."
In understanding the economic restraints many of the families that Gerardi helps face, she's decided to move forward with technical advances.
"A lot of people around the world still don't have a bank account, but they have a smartphone," she said. "This is why we are now working on creating an app to connect doctors, scientists, and ... collect data for medical research."
Gerardi is more than a cancer survivor, she is an advocate for positive thinking and how it impacts our health. She credits her current, healthy, cancer-free life with her unyielding belief that she could win the battle.
"We all have a machine that is more powerful than any medicine. That is the mind," said Gerardi. "When we join these two components [mind and medicine], a synergy is created so that no cancer, no matter how bad it is, can achieve its mission."