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Research Is the Reason My Mom Is Still Here

By BCRF | May 4, 2021

Actor Emma Myles on supporting breast cancer research and her mom, Eileen

Emma Myles was only two years old when her mom, Eileen, was first diagnosed with breast cancer after finding a lump in her breast.

“I don’t have many memories of that time, but when I see pictures from then, they’re deeply heartbreaking,” said the Brooklyn-based actor, best known for starring in Netflix’s Orange Is the New Black.

Eileen recalled that at that time, hardly anyone talked about breast cancer, and her unilateral mastectomy was brutal.

Unfortunately, this would not be Eileen’s only bout with breast cancer. Six years later, a routine mammogram revealed some calcification in her remaining breast. Her care team recommended she undergo surgery and chemotherapy after they discovered she had cancer in two lymph nodes.

“I remember when my mom lost her hair during chemo,” Emma said of the time. “I remember seeing her on the ground throwing up in the toilet.”

Fortunately, what sticks with Emma most from her childhood was her mom’s endless support and love—even when Eileen was juggling working and raising two girls. Eileen made financial sacrifices so Emma could compete in gymnastics meets. And she volunteered as room mom at her daughters’ school.

“She always tried to make everything special and went out of her way to make my sister and I feel listened to,” Emma said. “She was very involved in my childhood, and I think that has certainly shaped who I am today.”

RELATED: Research Is the Reason I Survived Breast Cancer Twice

When Emma learned about BCRF, she was immediately drawn to its lifesaving mission because of Eileen’s experience. She first attended a BCRF fundraising event with fellow OITNB actor Lea DeLaria. Then, in 2019, she got to escort her mom down the pink carpet at BCRF’s Hot Pink Party, an experience she recalls as one of her favorite mother-daughter moments.

Emma Myles and her mom at the BCRF Hot Pink Party

Today, Emma is grateful she has cherished memories like these—and that research has come such a long way.

“We can’t cure this disease without research,” Emma said. “We have to fund the scientists and researchers who are dedicating their lives to this so they can do what they need to do to end breast cancer.”

Read more stories from BCRF’s Research Is the Reason storytelling initiative here.