Chandra Wilson isn’t a doctor; she just plays one on TV. From Tony-nominated Broadway plays to the silver and small screens, the actress forges ahead without missing a cardiovascular beat. Her supporting role on ABC’s hit drama Grey’s Anatomy garnered her nominations for both an NAACP Image Award and an Emmy this year. Now the Houston native is pursuing the role of a lifetime: the fight against breast cancer. Wilson helped create free e-cards for a campaign in which Bounty brand paper products will donate $500,000 to the American Cancer Society, the Make-A-Wish Foundation, and the National Breast Cancer Foundation Inc. When BLACK ENTERPRISE spoke with the 37-year-old, she discussed why she’s at the forefront of health awareness.
What motivated you to join Bounty and help raise money
through Cards That Count?
The reason it was so attractive to me is that cancer has been just such a big ol’ monster in my family. I feel like the more research we can do, the more information we can have. Prevention, that’s going to be its own thing. But it’s also about how we live with this so we get through it. We have more people that are surviving it. Unfortunately, of the six women in my family who were affected by it, we’ve only had two survivors so far.
With cancer having such a presence in your family,
how has it affected how you approach your health?
It certainly wakes up my consciousness for the things that we have to do to keep our bodies together. Especially for an actor, this is the only instrument that I have — my body. I am so aware now of what goes in my mouth. It changes your thinking about food; everything that goes in there should have a purpose and be something that can be broken down by the body, otherwise there’s really no point in putting it in your mouth. There has to be a correlation between what we eat, how we live, how we exercise.
We’re realizing now that a lot of individuals, especially within the
black community, ignore their body’s warning signs because of fear.
And just not wanting to go to the doctor at all because you feel like eight times out of 10 they are going to tell you that something is wrong. Then you’re going to have to deal with it. If you’re functioning fine today with a little ache, you think it’s OK. It’s not OK.
Can this way of thinking be reversed?
We can take away the denial factor. If we are able to look at it like, “OK, this can be treated, there’s something I can do,” then we become more proactive. And that doesn’t just benefit us; it benefits everybody behind us who’s paying attention. So that is the first step, the awareness and getting the word out. It doesn’t have to be the big, frightening “C” word. The diagnosis of any form of cancer doesn’t have to be a death sentence. It could be like any other thing out there that we