“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!” — Broadway star Valisia LeKae
Broadway star Valisia LeKae is a 2013 Tony Award nominee for “Best Actress in a Musical” for her performance as Diana Ross in “Motown: The Musical.”In addition to “Motown: The Musical,” LeKae has appeared on Broadway in “The Book of Mormon,” “Ragtime,” “110 in the Shade.” and “The Threepenny Opera.”
In possibly the most important role of her life, Valisia is a passionate ovarian cancer survivor, who wants to educate women of all ages about the importance of diagnosing and treating the disease in its early stages.
LeKae’s Ovarian Cancer Journey
Valisia’s ovarian cancer journey began in September 2013 when she was diagnosed with a supposedly benign cyst on her right ovary that was associated with endometriosis (called an “endometrioma“). Over a short period of time, LeKae’s cyst grew rapidly, and ultimately, it required surgical removal. Based upon a pathologist’s examination of the cyst that was removed from LeKae during surgery, she was diagnosed with ovarian clear cell carcinoma (OCCC) in December 2013.
In its purest form, OCCC is an aggressive form of epithelial ovarian cancer that is often chemoresistant. I learned this fact firsthand after my 26-year cousin, Elizabeth “Libby” Remick, lost her battle to OCCC in July 2008. This website is dedicated to Libby’s memory.
Valisia LeKae shared her ovarian cancer diagnosis publicly through her Facebook page with the stated intent to educate women of all ages about the disease, including those who have no family history of ovarian cancer:
“On, Nov 22, 2013, I had laparoscopic surgery to remove an endometrioma from my right ovary. A sample was taken from that endometrioma and on December 2, 2013, my pathology results reveled that I was positive for Ovarian Clear Cell Carcinoma, Ovarian Cancer. After receiving a second opinion it was confirmed by my Gynecologic Oncologist on Dec 9, 2013, that the diagnosis had been correct.
Per the advice of my doctor, I will need to have another surgery (unilateral salpingo-oophorectomy) as well as chemotherapy. I am scheduled for Thursday (December 19, 2013 ) and chemotherapy soon thereafter.
‘Ovarian Cancer mainly develops in older women. About half of the women who are diagnosed with ovarian cancer are 63 years or older. It is more common in white women that African-American women (Cancer.org).’
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.
2013 has been full of blessings, from being nominated for a prestigious Tony Award for my portrayal of “Diana Ross” in Motown The Musical as well as many other accolades. 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!”
On April 29, 2014, Valisia announced publicly on Twitter that her ovarian cancer was in complete remission (technically known as “no evidence of disease” or “N.E.D.”) by using the celebratory hashtag “#CANCERFREE.”
“Know Your Body, Know Your Risk” Ovarian Cancer Awareness Campaign and Public Service Announcement
Today, Ms. LeKae joined her gynecological oncologist David Fishman, M.D., Professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Science at The Mount Sinai Hospital, and Director and Founder of the Mount Sinai Ovarian Cancer Risk Assessment Program, and executives from Toshiba, for the debut of a 30-second Public Service Announcement (PSA) promoting Ovarian Cancer Awareness. The ovarian cancer PSA premiere was broadcasted this afternoon on the Toshiba Vision Screens located at 46th Street and 7th Avenue in New York City. The iconic Toshiba screens are located in Times Square.
Rising 400 feet above street level in the visually dynamic surroundings of colorful Times Square billboards, striking black and white portraits of the stunning Broadway performer (photographed by Peter Hapak) will be broadcast on the Toshiba Vision screens as part of a two-week Ovarian Cancer Awareness public service campaign, entitled “Know Your Body, Know Your Risk.” The ovarian cancer PSA was produced by Spotco with assistance from the Mount Sinai Health System.
The Mount Sinai Ovarian Cancer Risk Assessment Program PSA will continue to broadcast every six minutes, 24-hours per day through May 15th.
“Dr. Fishman and the Mount Sinai team helped to save my life, so I want to give back by helping to educate and encourage others about this disease and the fight against it,” said Valisia LeKae.
While only the 11th most common cancer among U.S. women, ovarian cancer is the fifth leading cause of cancer-related death among women. Ovarian cancer is the deadliest form of gynecologic cancer. In 2014, approximately 22,000 U.S. women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and 14,000 will die from the disease. To learn more about ovarian cancer, click here.
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We would like to take this opportunity to thank Valisia LeKae for using her celebrity to raise public awareness about the most lethal gynecologic cancer. Valisia’s ovarian cancer advocacy will certainly not garner her a Tony Award, but in the eyes of all ovarian cancer survivors and their family members, it represents not only a job well done, but a life well spent.
- “Broadway Star Valisia LeKae To Debut Ovarian Cancer PSA,” LooktotheStars.org, May 1, 2014.
- “Valisia LeKae Reveals Ovarian Cancer Diagnosis, Withdraws from Broadway’s MOTOWN THE MUSICAL,” Broadwayworld.com, December 17, 2013.