'Playing House' Star Reveals Breast Cancer Battle in Moving Essay

Jessica St. Clair's diagnosis will also be written into the upcoming third season of the USA comedy.
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Jessica St. Clair

Playing House co-creator and star Jessica St. Clair is opening up about her battle with breast cancer for the first time.

In an essay posted Tuesday on the Stand Up 2 Cancer website, the actress-writer-producer revealed that she was diagnosed with stage 2b estrogen positive breast cancer in September 2015 after finding a marble-sized lump in her breast.

"I used to joke that since breastfeeding my boobs looked like an old athletic sock with some loose change at the bottom, so when I felt a lump the size of a marble I knew something was terribly wrong," St. Clair writes in the heartfelt post. (Read the full essay here.)

St. Clair subsequently underwent a mastectomy — "I am so proud of my new boobs that I take them out whenever I can," she jokes in the post — before then undergoing 16 rounds of chemotherapy which wrapped in April 2016. St. Clair goes onto detail the various "chemo hacks" she used to reduce the side effects, and to help hide the illness from her 2-year-old daughter, with help from her husband, playwright and poet Dan O'Brien, and her Playing House co-creator, co-star and "comedy wife" Lennon Parham.

In the midst of her 12 weeks of radiation, St. Clair and Parham returned to work on the upcoming third season of USA Network's Playing House, in which St. Clair's character Emma will also battle breast cancer and the exact treatment St. Clair underwent.

"We knew that we had to tell the story of what we’d just been through," St. Clair writes about the decision to write her diagnosis into the show. "Our real story is that with the help of her best friend, and the people who love her, my character is able to get through the treatment and actually emerge somehow happier and more fulfilled than she was before she was diagnosed. We hope that by sharing my experience — our experience, Lennon and I — that somebody who is going through this process or helping their loved one through it might feel less alone, and might even have some better information for their cancer care."

Playing House returns June 23 nearly two years after the premiere of season two. The eight-episode second season finished airing in September 2015 -- the same month St. Clair was diagnosed.

USA Network waited several months to officially greenlight a third season, but when the renewal was announced at the Television Critics Association's winter press tour, both St. Clair and Parham were there to mark the occasion. 

The two executive produce the Universal Cable Productions comedy, which centers on two best friends raising a baby together, with Scot Armstrong, Judah Miller and Ravi Nandan. 

In addition to Playing House, St. Clair has continued to appear on the small screen. Over the last year, she has guest-starred on American Housewife, Review, Angie Tribeca and Teachers.

The new season of Playing House premieres Friday, June 23, at 11 p.m. ET/PT on USA Network, with the entire season launching the next day on VOD.