AS THE WORLD TURNS Alum dies at 37

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Marnie Schulenburg, who played Alison Stewart on AS THE WORLD TURNS from 2007 to 2010 and Jo Sullivan on the 2013 reboot of ONE LIFE TO LIVE, died days before her 38th birthday. The actress had been battling stage 4 metastatic breast cancer since 2020 and shared her inspiring story with Digest below. She is survived by her husband Zack Robidas and their daughter, Coda, 2 years old.

This interview originally appeared in the July 20, 2020 issue

With the arrival of her daughter, Coda, last December, Marnie Schulenburg felt that 2019 was ending on a high. “She was a week early and she came pretty quick,” the actress recalled of the special delivery, which also involved husband Zack Robidas. “I wanted to work out a lot from home so I was using this app to track my contractions and I lost track! By the time we got to the hospital I was already seven centimeters dilated by 9pm and she came at 12:36 a.m. It was only four hours of active labor, and really just an hour of pushing. I didn’t have time to get medicine. The last nine months of helping her grow and feeling her move inside me so I could hold her in my arms was the most beautiful thing I have ever experienced.

With acting jobs dwindling for new parents and plans to buy their first home, it looked like 2020 was on course for a banner year, but trouble was on the horizon. “I started noticing pain in my left breast,” Schulenburg shares. “It wasn’t until Coda was about 2 months old that I realized I couldn’t fully lie on one side. I was trying a lot of home remedies, but at the end of February I called my gynecologist and said, “I’m really worried.” It didn’t clear up. ”

In the first week of March, Schulenburg was examined by her doctor, who initially suspected a common breastfeeding inflammation called mastitis. “She wasn’t sure, so she scheduled an ultrasound two days later,” Schulenburg recalled. “I walked in on a Monday, which turned out to be the shelter’s mandate, and found out she’d also ordered a mammogram, but I didn’t know that. I showed up without a breast pump and was not allowed to have the mammogram because I needed to pump and empty my breasts completely before having the mammogram.

Without the mammogram, Schulenburg was diagnosed with mastitis and started on a course of antibiotics. When the symptoms did not improve, she was given a second and then a third round of medication over the next five weeks. “There are cases of mastitis where sometimes it takes a long time to kill it,” she points out. “Nobody rushes to inflammatory breast cancer because it’s so rare. It’s even rarer in a breastfeeding mother, postpartum. It’s just not the default. Another actress, I won’t share her name, who had worked on soaps, contacted me and said she needed to be hospitalized and her mastitis drained because she was so backed up. It is also normal not to have another ultrasound for two months to wait for the infection to resolve on its own.

A mammogram showed suspicious activity (“There were abnormal cells and tissue”), so a biopsy followed in early May, when cancer was confirmed. “I was immediately put in touch with a breast surgeon, whom I saw on a televisit because of the pandemic,” says Shulenburg. “That following Wednesday, I went for all my blood work and genetic testing. I also met with a fertility doctor, because at the time we thought we could harvest my eggs to have the possibility of having another baby after my chemo. I had been going there since 9 am and by the time I got to the oncologist it was 3:30 am. I was exhausted.”

Schulenburg received some difficult news during the visit: she was not in the initial stage of breast cancer, but already in stage 3. “I felt like it was a death sentence,” he sighs. -she. “I just cracked up in front of her. I said, ‘What do I tell my husband? How much time do I have?’ And she said, ‘Have hope. There are still a lot of things we don’t know. She was so encouraging and amazing.

As the disease had progressed, treatment was due to begin in two weeks, which was another blow to Schulenburg as there was no time to extract the eggs. “I’d love to say I had the perspective that I was grateful for the only child I have, but no, I cried – hardcore,” she admits. “I cried almost as much as I did about cancer. I gave my maternity clothes to a friend and just sobbed holding them. other moms in my life. I still keep a few favorite pieces in case there is a miracle.

Fortunately, Schulenburg has her husband to lean on. “Poor thing,” she laments. “He’s amazing. He’s a rock. For a few weeks we took turns crying openly and then you work on it. You have to refocus and put your game face on. There’s no room for us to suppress the emotions and not be completely honest with the fear of this situation. There is also no time, energy or space to try to be strong. I think it’s stronger that we share a good cry practically every day.

Although Schulenburg would eventually learn that her cancer was stage 4 and had invaded her bones, she was determined to maintain an optimistic attitude. “It’s not something that has to take my life,” she says. “It’s something that will become a chronic disease and I have to continue to treat it. There are women who have been living with this for five to 30 years, and they didn’t even have half the drugs and the technology that we have now. My agent, who talks a lot about his cancer, has been in stage 4 for five years. She just had another clear CT and it’s NED, no evidence of illness. And that’s the goal: NED.

Although she is currently undergoing a combination of chemotherapy drugs and immunotherapy, Schulenburg remains proactive about her condition. “I get a second and even maybe a third opinion, not because I don’t trust my doctor, but because he recommended me to do it,” she explains. “It’s my life. If I didn’t take every step to make sure I got the best possible care and was on the right path, I would regret it forever. I have a televisit with Memorial Sloan Kettering and I am contacting the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. I am also on two different medications; one is still in clinical trials and the other, I think, is only a year old. Many women in my group Facebook don’t even take this set of drugs.

Since his diagnosis, “we have completely tweaked my diet. I don’t eat bagels and cream cheese every morning. I eat healthy pizzas, have foods that boost the immune system, green vegetables, fruits, healthy grains like quinoa, oats. I practice yoga and Tigon. I mean, I’ll take whatever helps me. I do all. I already feel 10 times better, which is a weird dichotomy because I’m on chemotherapy. It’s in some ways the best health I’ve felt in the last four months.

Giving up is not an option. “I have a 6 month old and I have to be there for her,” Schulenburg concludes. “Nothing good comes from being negative. I really think cancer feeds on that negative energy, so I stay positive. I’m not necessarily an incredibly religious person. It’s not something that’s been part of in my life so far, but I’m a lot more spiritual. I have faith. I’m a lot more confident in myself than I thought I was.

Top Tips If you’re battling cancer or have a loved one who is, Schulenburg has some tips.

Accept help: “If people want to give you food or blankets or coloring books or whatever, let them. People want to help when something that stupid happens to you.

Do some careful research: “People say to stay away from the Internet because there are certain sites that contain information that is not always completely up to date. The first thing I did was go online and read the stats. It made me think I was going to die and it was just a time lapse. Find the right sources, like pubmed.gov, which is the National Library of Medicine, and find the articles that contain legitimate information that you can learn about and empower yourself with.

Take care: “Listen to your body. If it’s someone else, make sure you stand up for them and take care of themselves. You only get one body and it’s really easy to take it for granted. My diagnosis reminded me that I need to treat my body with respect.

Create a community: “Find a group. You are so much more than a statistic. You can find a Facebook group for any cancer you have. I’m in two. I am part of the Young Survivors Coalition for Stage 4 Metastatic Cancer and also the Inflammatory Breast Cancer groups. Every day I speak with survivors who are fighting and living with it. So to have a concrete example, someone who didn’t die of this disease, that’s what gives me hope on a daily basis. It only serves you to know that you are not alone.

Do not lose hope : “There are things happening right now in the medical community and the scientific community that are going to be the next new treatment for you. The two drugs I take didn’t even exist two years ago. Who knows where we will be years from now? »

just the facts

Anniversary: May 21

Place of birth: Cape Cod, Massachusetts

World without rest: Although Schulenburg reprized the role of Alison in AS THE WORLD TURNS in 2007, she actually debuted the character for an online mini soap opera for Y&R called DIGITAL DAYTIME: THE DIARIES, which starred Adrienne Frantz. (formerly Amber, B&B/Y&R).

We are a family: Married actor Zack Robidas on September 15, 2013; their daughter, Coda, was born on December 12, 2019.

Name Recognition: “We had a list of baby names, but then I saw Koda, which is mostly an Indigenous name. I felt a bit inappropriate adopting an Indigenous name, but then I thought of Coda because I grew up singing in different choirs and my dad was a concert trombonist so music is an integral part of my life Coda means bringing something to an end, to completion so we liked that because Coda complements Zack and me.

All together now: Schulenburg recently participated in an online ATWT reunion with former co-stars Alexandra Chando (ex-Maddie), Van Hansis (ex-Luke), Agim Kaba (ex-Aaron), and Jake Silbermann (ex-Noah). “It was really fun. I missed everyone.


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