Aniela McGuinness: Conquered Cancer with Laughter & Love

Posted on 16 October 2015 by JLusk

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Aniela McGuinness shows strength as Rosie the Riveter for promo photos for one woman show.

By Rachel Galvin

Watching Aniela McGuiness’ “Doctor’s Office Dance Party” videos is enough to make anyone chuckle. It is hard to believe that she is in the office because she is getting Chemo for Cancer. When she started treatments, she invited her friends to come with her to engage in the fun. Can “fun” and “Cancer” be in the same sentence? They can if you are Aniela. This fearless female has redefined what it means to be a warrior, using laughter and love to conquer Cancer.

Aniela already knew what Cancer could do long before she was diagnosed. Her mother was diagnosed with Breast Cancer at 46 and went through a lumpectomy and radiation. But, it wasn’t over. Ten years later, Cancer came back … this time Ovarian Cancer, and she died at 63.

Her mother had the BRCA1 gene mutation. Aniela thinks it actually originated with her French Canadian grandmother’s side, but her grandmother never got Breast or Ovarian Cancer. Aniela speculates that maybe it is because she had a hysterectomy in her 30s.

It is only natural that Aniela would get tested for the gene. She did, through a mouth swab. She found out at 25 she had the gene mutation. With that knowledge, she got checked every six months with a Mammogram and then a breast MRI with the plan of getting her breasts and ovaries removed by 35 (much like Angelina Jolie).

Being a model and actress, and always wanting to educate people, she decided to document her journey as she planned to have her operations performed. While filming one of her episodes of “My Breast Choice,” she discovered “live” on camera that she actually had Breast Cancer (Stage 1). That was a year ago on September 30. She was (and still is) 31 years old. The raw video is heartbreaking to watch.

After finding out the news, she ran to the neighbors and they called her husband, Jordan. The story of her diagnosis, the procedures that followed and her rollercoaster of emotions was written down and transformed (with the help of co-director/ director Tony Rivera) into a one woman show called “I Don’t Have Cancer,” which she has performed in several locations, including Boca Raton, and filmed for a possible documentary later.

“[The show] helped push me forward and gave me an extraordinary amount of energy while letting me purge all of the fears, guilt, anger and plain emotional baggage that can come with a serious illness,” said Aniela.

She took a series of photos to accompany the ongoing videos documenting her process, including shaving off her hair before Cancer could take it, and showing off her topless body on the beach before her breasts were removed. Her friends gave her crazy creative hats, which she loved to wear to her chemo sessions, perfect for selfies. She shared every step of the process through her videos, including waking up after surgery, discovering fashions that are more comfortable after surgery and how to make her own drain bag holder. She talks straight about the process, the ups and downs and what worked and didn’t work for her.
“I let people in, opened my heart fully and allowed myself to be completely vulnerable and held in the love of those around me,” she said.

Aniela had a skin-sparing double mastectomy and 12 sessions of chemotherapy (four sessions of Adriamycin/Cytoxan and nine session of Taxol). She didn’t have to do radiation because she chose to give up her nipples.

Afterward, she decided to get a complete hysterectomy as well, just in case.

“My doctors and I chose a very extreme course of action. Most people would do much less, but with my age and family history I didn’t want to risk it,” she said.

Aniela suggests those who have Cancer use their “Cancer Card” as much as possible.

“I found that during this experience normal social rules didn’t apply to me, so I enjoyed the freedom to be fully myself,” she said.

Aniela, who currently lives in Hollywood, FL, has become a bit of an advocate for the cause (she recently talked to college kids about Cancer and uploaded her story in video-form to the Young Survival Coalition), but she is also returning to life as an actress and model, as well as working with the Sick Puppies Comedy Troupe.

You can watch Aniela’s journey at www.youtube.com/MyBreastChoice.

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Aniela added “fun” to her Chemo sessions by wearing crazy hats and engaging in “Doctor’s office dance parties.”

“What is left when you strip away the flimsy things you once put so much value in?” — Aniela McGuiness.

 

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