She’s a survivor. Ashley Park reflected on her former leukemia battle during her teenage years and how she never let it define her.
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In a profile for Cosmopolitan, the Emily in Paris actress shared her thoughts on being asked about her battle years later. “Many times, people bring up my cancer experience,” the 29-year-old actress told the publication in an interview published on Friday, October 23. “I totally don’t mind talking about it.”
Park continued, “I think it’s very important to talk about, but I also appreciate when I’m not asked to talk about the experience or about how it’s informed how I’ve lived my life.”
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The two-time Tony nominee was diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia, a form of blood and bone marrow cancer that’s caused by an increased number of white blood cells, when she was a 15-year-old high school sophomore. According to Cancer.net, the five-year relative survival rate for Park’s particular form of leukemia is 67 percent for patients under 20 and 25 percent for individuals above 20. Healthline reports that methods for treating the disease can include chemotherapy and stem cell transplantation.
Park said that she “never wanted to be just the Asian girl, just the ‘whatever’ girl,” but then she “got to 16 and was the bald girl and the sick girl.” The Mean Girls actress didn’t want her cancer journey to define her, and she stuck to that mantra while ignoring the potential side-effects of her chemotherapy treatment.
“I didn’t want to know that I might be infertile or that my heart might stop working or any of that stuff because once you say it, you’re thinking about it,” she explained. “Even though my body beat the disease, if I let it change anything, it’s won.”
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Park has since come to understand that her fight against leukemia is her “most defining quality as an artist and a person.”
In 2016, the University of Michigan graduate opened how everything changed for her upon learning of her diagnosis. “At that time as a teenager, I [thought], ‘I’m invincible!’ Boys were starting to like me, and I was doing all the things, and my life was great,” she told Playbill at the time. “I was starting to think about college, and then all of that just … just nothing, to the point where you don’t have hair on your body. Everything is taken away, and that is the most human thing that you can ever go through.”
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