To say that Orange Is the New Black actress Uzo Aduba has been impacted by cancer is, unfortunately, a serious understatement. She's lost an aunt to leukemia and a cousin to breast cancer, and she has another aunt currently fighting breast cancer. Just this past October, she also lost the woman she calls her "second mom" to the disease.
But Uzo is big on making something good come out of all of this suckiness. "What I also want to carry with me is all of these people were such lights — bright, bright lights that were dimmed far too early," she says. "I want to remember that joy, that passion for life, that strength, that positivity that they all had — which is crazy because they all have it, every single one of them — and just turn it into [something good]."
So Uzo is teaming up with the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute to run her second-ever marathon (she ran the TCS New York City in 2013). On April 20, she'll run the Boston Marathon in honor of her friends and family affected by cancer and to fund research to, in her own words, "kick cancer's ass."
Uzo shared the video below with WomensHealthMag.com to help explain why she's lacing up for Boston later this month. It is an absolute must-see. Have a look, then learn more about Uzo's journey.
Why Uzo Is Running Boston
"I'm doing it for someone who really, truly, when I was growing up, helped me to realize my dreams and who isn't with us anymore. And she was an amazing woman. . . . When [she passed] this past October, I needed to do something. I didn't want to stay in my apartment and cry; I didn't want to stay in my apartment and ask 'Why?' and wonder. I don't think I have the biggest voice in the world, but I, Uzo, if I can make a small difference, I would like to try and do that."
The Woman Behind Every Step
"Her name is Andrea Trasher. I'm so sorry. I'm really sorry, I don't mean to cry. . . . She had breast cancer. . . . [She was] like a second mom. Andrea Trasher supported my whole life. When I was little — she has a family, mind you — . . . [she] would come to my house with her family. Both of my parents worked around the clock, and I'm one of five, and she would pick me up, take me to skating, drive an hour, sit there with me for like three hours, come back, drive another hour. And this was years of doing this. [She would] make all my skating costumes for me, I mean for free, because she believes in me.
"And it continued my entire life, through college, supporting me through my concerts, my recitals, when I moved to New York coming to support me in my theater, plays, my musicals. . . . When she passed this past October and her family asked me to come and sing at her funeral, I was like, 'Absolutely.' This was someone who has been here for me since I was a little kid. And if you look at the beginning of the video when I'm walking out the door and there's a program sitting on the counter and it's kind of out of focus, that's her. That's actually the program from her funeral. I wanted to put that in there because I just wanted to give a slight nod, like, 'This is who this is for.'"
Why Running a Marathon Is NBD
"Twenty-six point two miles to me feels like a hill compared to the mountain that not only my friends and family have fought and are fighting every day. . . . I have seen these women who are intelligent, smart, fighting, strong, convicted, focused women who gave the fight of their life for their life every single day to live and to be with their families, to be with their kids, to be with us, to be with me. And so that's a mountain compared to what I'm being asked to do right now. Twenty-six point two miles is a hill; it sounds like a baby hill compared to that."
The Song Uzo Will Be Listening to When She Crosses the Finish Line on Boylston Street
"When I think of Andrea — talk about a fighter — when she passed away, the song that was most played on her iPod was 'Brave' by Sara Bareilles. I love that song so much. I run to that every single day, and I'm going to run to it — I already told myself — when I'm coming through the finish line. . . . I'm going to listen to that song because that's the song she was fighting [for] her life with, that was her motivator getting through every single day of treatment, every single round of chemo, that was what she was listening to constantly. And I listen to that when I'm training now, and I can hear her telling me, 'Keep going.'"
How Running Has Been Cathartic
"When I'm training, I run with music, but actually running [the New York City Marathon], I didn't run with it; I wanted to really take in the experience. And that's the same thing that I want to do with Boston — take it in — except for that very end. There was, I would say, a solid month after [Andrea] passed away, when I first started, where I could only listen to 'Brave' on a loop. As soon as it would stop, I would just rewind it again. And I could feel her with me, and I could feel my grief leaving, the heaviness of it. And I think it was when I started to change the music on my iPod during my run, that was when I started to feel like acceptance had set in. I was at peace with it, and I was able to let her go."
How Supportive Her Orange Is the New Black Family Has Been
"Taylor [Schilling], who is one of my dearest friends, she has just been so supportive. Thursday, she texted me, 'How's it going? How are you feeling? Getting excited?' Because we're Boston girls, she and I. . . . Danielle [Brooks], when I ran New York, she was so lovely, came to the finish line and surprised me there. And even today, my Netflix corporate family has been so supportive in sending emails and cards and donating, as well."
What She Thinks Her Emotional State Will Be Like on Marathon Monday
"I really just want to focus at the start because the beginning of the race is a strong downhill. And it's a tough course — we all know Heartbreak Hill, which is a steady incline uphill at a late point in the race when your body is already near quitting. I really want to focus. And then, for me, I would say the last five miles, I really just want to say thank you to those who are here and those who are gone and really just honor those people who have done so much for me in my life. And that last mile, like I already said, I want to put my earbuds in and just listen to 'Brave' the entire way through. And I don't know what that's going to be like, and I can't spend too much time thinking about it because it feels overwhelming even to think about and I'm not even running. I don't know. I don't know what that's going to be. I just hope I'm strong enough to take it. I think I am."