Daybreak actress Krysta Rodriguez talks to People CHICA about surviving breast cancer and celebrating her Spanish roots.

By Lena Hansen
October 30, 2019 12:09 PM

Krysta Rodriguez's world crumbled when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2014. "It changed everything about me. It was a shock. I was 30 years old and had no prior history in my family. I had been denied proper screenings because of my age and my lack of history, so it took five years to diagnose the problem and by that time it had become quite large. Fortunately, I still had a favorable diagnosis which is not the case of so many young women," the actress, now 35, tells People CHICA. "That gave me courage to talk about my story."

She became a strong advocate for breast cancer awareness, sharing how her treatment affected her and what her life is like after surviving the disease. "I did a fashion blog for women going through cancer and spoke very openly about the things I went through that were essentially ugly and how I was going to tackle them and make them beautiful in their own way," she says about her site Chemo Couture. She also shared what it was like to look at herself in the mirror again after a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery.

(Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images for the American Theatre Wing)

Rodriguez says that noticing a tiny drop of blood that came out of her nipple made her go get checked. After a diagnostic ultrasound and mammogram that were inconclusive, doctors did a biopsy that came back abnormal. "You think, ‘I'm going to be levitating at the end of this and I'm going to be loving life and be so peaceful,' but I don't really know that it happens that way," she says of life after surviving this disease.

Rather than having a cliché "more positive outlook" on life, the actress says the view is just clearer. "It's very subtle. It happens when all of a sudden you want to stand up for yourself in a way that you didn't before or when you start to notice that you're braver," she explains. "Something traumatic happens and you move through it a little bit easier. I became a different person and approach the world very differently."

(Photo by Walter McBride/Getty Images)

The actress is really enjoying her role in the Netflix sci-fi series Daybreak, where she plays Ms. Crumble, a science teacher who becomes "a witch" after having a traumatic brain injury from a bomb attack. "She has to fight her way back into normalcy. She links up with some of the kids who are trying to restore order in this post-apocalyptic world. I don't know how I found myself here. In my audition I went super crazy and decided, ‘Why not? Go nuts!' And then I got the job!" she recalls with a laugh. "I boiled it down to focusing on her brain injury and what happens when you have a trauma that fractures your sensibility. It's unlike anything I've ever played."

On her Smash role, the Broadway star, 35, adds, "It was really fun to be able to sing and dance. I met my best friends on that show and that became a really special experience for me." Another unforgettable experience was traveling to Spain and exploring her roots, visiting the town where her great-grandmother was raised.

(Photo by Jenny Anderson/Getty Images)

The actress - born in Southern California to a Spanish father and mother of English and Irish descent - says she started taking Spanish classes again and is trying to reconnect with that side of herself, aiming to "discover what it means to be a Hispanic that wasn't raised in that culture, and trying to reclaim that."

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