In an interview with CURE®, the “Felicity” and “Scandal” actor spoke about his experience as a caregiver to his mother, and why women should not just watch and wait for their ovarian cancer to recur.
In a time when the medical community and its patients are waiting to see how the COVID-19 pandemic continues to play out, one area in the ovarian cancer space that is pivotal to keep in mind: Do not watch and wait for a recurrence to occur.
As part of the Not on My Watch campaign, Scott Foley – best known for his roles on “Felicity,” “Scandal” and now “Whiskey Cavalier” – is sharing this message to help raise awareness and offer women and their families hope.
In an interview with CURE®, Foley discussed his role as a caregiver to his mother at the age of 11, and how he hopes to raise awareness around the maintenance therapies now available for women with ovarian cancer.
CURE: Scott, could give us background on how you served as a caregiver for your mom during her journey with ovarian cancer?
Foley: My mom was diagnosed when I was 11 years old with ovarian cancer. And as the oldest of three boys, a lot of the day-to-day pressures fell on my father, but he was at work to support a family. So it sort of landed on my shoulders, and I was the one who would help mom with her medications and make sure she got enough rest and help her, you know, just around the house and doing things and taking care of my younger brothers. Unfortunately, we lost my mom to this disease when I was 15 years old. And that was the story behind the impetus for me getting involved with Not On my Watch, talking to the group and hearing about these maintenance therapies and things that they could do. It really struck a chord in me. One of the things that stuck out to me, and still does to this day, about my mom's illness and what we went through was the feeling of helplessness, you know, you rely so much on your doctors, and they do what they can, but in a certain point, but we had the watching and wait. (My mom) had a round of chemotherapy, and then (we sat) back and waited to see if it worked, and hoped that it did, but you just never knew. It’s tough sometimes to think about: Maybe if she hadn't gotten sick back then and if she got sick now, we wouldn't have lost her, because of all these maintenance therapies that are now available. So, I feel a certain responsibility, because of what I went through, to help others who may be going through the same thing, who may be thinking “Wow, okay, we just went through a round of radiation, we just went through a round of chemotherapy, and now we have to watch a wait, observe to see what's going to happen.” There are other options that we just didn't have.
Oh, man, not just with COVID, but when you're dealing with something as big as ovarian cancer as a deadly disease, anything you can do to mitigate the disease, to stop it from spreading, to delay the time between recurrences is important. I think that when you're talking about cancer, you have to prioritize. And it's hard to say that you have to prioritize your health and your wellness and the possibility of not being sick for a long time. You have to get to the hospital, and you get your treatments. These maintenance therapies are there and they're something that you have to take into your own hands. You have to talk to your doctor about it. And you can talk on the phone, you don't have to go into the hospital to have these conversations and to educate yourself about what you can do to hopefully get better.
I'm continuing my work with GSK (GlaxoSmithKline) and Not On My Watch. The reason I'm doing so is because, not just since my mom passed 30-some years ago, but since there have been advancements with these therapies, there have been people who are eligible and who will benefit from them. I certainly see it as a responsibility of mine to get the word out.
The only hope there is when it comes to cancer is life. I hope that (these advancements) will save their life, and if not save their life, improve the life that they're now living. It will delay the time between recurrence. When you're talking about someone who is very ill with this disease, you're talking about their life, and you can delay the time between recurrence. If you can give someone an extra month, six months, a year, 10 years, or saving a life. There's a whole world of people that are affected by (ovarian cancer), whether it's family members and caregivers, friends, communities, we are not alone on this Earth. We are constantly in contact and in touch. It's important. Lives are important. And that's hopefully what we're trying to do here.
With the campaign, is there a key takeaway that you could offer to patients and also how they could get involved?
First, you can share the information about Not On My Watch on social media. The key takeaway is that we just want people to know that it's available. Up to 70% of women who are dealing with ovarian cancer right now don't even know that it's available. They don't know that these maintenance therapies can delay recurrence. And I'm not sure why. But that's all I hope to do here is spread the awareness. Ask your doctor. Do some research. I'd be willing to bet that if you're going through this and you're watching and waiting, that these maintenance therapies are available and you can benefit, you can help your life, can help those in your life. It's all about raising awareness, in my opinion.
I think there's a certain level of frustration and a feeling of helplessness, that not only the cancer patients deal with, but also their loved ones and their caregivers. I think opening their eyes and showing them that this is available, raising that awareness again, can give people hope. And when you're dealing with something as serious as life threatening as ovarian cancer giving any amount of hope is important. Any amount of hope can sound so strange. But it can help you. It can make you feel better. Maintenance therapies are there. But so is hope and that's so important.
The most important advice I could give to any caregiver is confidence, is knowing that what you're doing makes a difference, is believing that what you're doing is going to help a person. Just your presence, just being there, just taking the time and showing that you care, and showing that you believe in their recovery, in their treatment is so important. You know, my mom used to do these visualization exercises at a certain point. She changed her diet. She looked into alternative medications.
She did these breathing exercises where she would visualize herself getting better, she would visualize a breath going into her body surrounding the cancer cells exhaling them out. Anything to give that person hope is important. And it makes a huge difference in treatment. And I think as a caregiver, just being there, know that you are giving someone hope.
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