The Chicago Med star, 44, told People on Tuesday, September 27, that she has quietly been battling cancer after doctors discovered a tumor on her uterus and left ovary in July. She called herself an “extremely private person” but noted that she “felt a responsibility to tell my story.”
Barrett’s diagnosis came three years after her NBC character, charge nurse Maggie Lockwood, battled breast cancer on Chicago Med. The actress explained on Tuesday that filming that 2019 story line helped her with her own fight.
“When my character went through breast cancer, I had a sea of people reach out to me through social media,” she recalled. “They brought me courage, and so I felt a sense of inevitability to meet their hearts where they met me.”
The New York native — who shares 11-month-old twins Joshuah-Jireh and Ahnne-N’Urya with her husband, pastor Gavin Barrett — revealed that she has been trying to tap into her strength since learning she has cancer.
“The initial experience was a shock, a shock to my womanhood,” Marlyne told the outlet, noting that she doesn’t have a family history of either of the cancers. “I didn’t believe them, but when they showed me the CT scan, I went, ‘Oh, my word.’ The first questions were, ‘Am I going to live?’ I just fell into my husband’s arms. It still takes my breath away when I think about it.”
The Wire alum was told she needed “aggressive” chemotherapy and an eventual hysterectomy, which Marlyne agreed to. “The best way I could experience was to meet it,” she said. “There’s no running from it because it’s my life. And eventually, you just surrender because it’s so much bigger than anything you’ve ever faced. I found this courage and I just hunkered down and said, ‘I’m going to face this.'”
The former Damages actress also decided to take back some power and shave her head before chemo ultimately led to hair loss. “I took my own razor and I shaved my head. I did it in front of my babies so they’d see it was still Mommy,” she revealed. “I wept, I wept, I wept. But it was a beautiful experience to do it in front of them.”
Through all the ups and downs, Marlyne has leaned on her husband of more than 10 years. “He’s dropped everything just to give me love,” she said of Gavin, whom she married in 2009.
Her Chicago Med family has also been there to support her every step of the way, as Marlyne has continued to film the drama while undergoing treatment. “I’ve had people shave their heads on set to support me,” the actress said of the cast and crew while fighting back tears.
She added that her job has brought her a “lot of joy right now” as she continues to deal with chemo. Marlyne, who said she’s entering her third round of treatment in Los Angeles, concluded that she is taking it “one day at a time.”
The Kings alum is an original Chicago Med cast member, having played the role of Maggie for eight seasons. In July, she signed a multi-year deal to remain on the series, Deadline reported at the time.
Chicago Med airs on NBC Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET.