The 'How I Met Your Mother' shares details about her fight—and how baring it all helped her pull through
You might know Canadian actress Cobie Smulders for her dynamic character, Robin, on How I Met Your Mother (HIMYM) or her fierce roles in Jack Reacher, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, or The Avengers. Regardless, you probably think of her as a strong-as-hell woman because of all the badass female characters she plays.
Well, it turns out that Smulders is pretty damn strong in real life, too. She recently penned a Lenny Letter opening up about her struggle with ovarian cancer, which she was diagnosed with in 2008 at the age of 25 while filming the third season of HIMYM. And she's far from alone; more than 22,000 women in the U.S. are diagnosed with ovarian cancer each year, and more than 14,000 die because of it, according to the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition.
Smulders said she felt tired all the time, had a constant pressure on her abdomen, and just knew something was off—so she went to see her gynecologist. Her instincts were right—her exam revealed tumors on both her ovaries. (Make sure you're familiar with these five ovarian cancer symptoms that are often overlooked.)
"Just when your ovaries should be brimming with youthful follicles, cancerous cells overtook mine, threatening to end my fertility and potentially my life," she wrote in the letter. "My fertility hadn't even crossed my mind at this point. Again: I was 25. Life was pretty simple. But suddenly it was all I could think about."
Smulders explains how she had always known motherhood was in her future, but suddenly that opportunity wasn't guaranteed. Instead of sitting back and letting cancer get the best of her, Smulders took action to help her body heal in whatever way she could. (Good news: Birth control pills might help decrease your risk of ovarian cancer.)
"I went RAW. I forced myself into a devastating breakup with cheese and carbohydrates (fortunately, we are now giving our relationship another chance, but we will never be what we once were)," she continues. "I started meditating. I was constantly in a yoga studio. I went to energy healers who evaporated black smoke from my lower body. I went to a cleansing retreat in the desert where I didn't eat for eight days and experienced hunger-driven hallucinations... I went to crystal healers. Kinesiologists. Acupuncturists. Naturopaths. Therapists. Hormone therapists. Chiropractors. Dietitians. Ayurvedic practitioners..." she wrote.
All this, plus multiple surgeries, somehow cleared her body of the cancer, and she was able to give birth to two healthy baby girls with her husband, Saturday Night Live star Taran Killam. In the letter, Smulders admits that she's a very private person, and doesn't often like to share her personal life with the public—but that posing topless for a Women's Health cover in 2015 made her realize that her experience with cancer might actually be able to help other women. That's why she urges women struggling with cancer to listen to their bodies, ignore fear, and take action. (And it's about time; not enough people are talking about ovarian cancer.)
"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," she wrote. "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."