Seven months ago, Hamilton's Mandy Gonzalez was diagnosed with breast cancer. But even with the additional stress of a global public health crisis, Gonzalez found herself buoyed in her healing process by a supportive network of family, friends, and colleagues.
"Community has played a big role. It's everything," says Gonzalez. "My family and friends and the Broadway community really rallied behind me and that filled me with so much hope." Inspired to help others in their journeys, Gonzalez has teamed up with the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan to launch Broadway’s Best for Breast Cancer!, a virtual discussion series offering guidance—and the support of Broadway alums—to those facing their own health challenges during the pandemic.
Launched June 1 and continuing every Monday through June 29 at 6 PM ET, the series has so far featured Spring Awakening's Krysta Rodriguez and Aladdin's James Monroe Iglehart, with upcoming episodes set to include Telly Leung and Javier Muñoz, among others.
The series is co-hosted by Gonzalez and Caroline Kohles, senior director of health and wellness programming at the JCC, with appearances by Dr. Alison Estabrook, breast surgeon and co-founder of Breastlink New York. Each episode is followed by a live Q&A on Facebook Live.
You can register for upcoming episodes here. We chat to Gonzalez about what inspired the series, her own journey, and what to expect from Broadway’s Best for Breast Cancer!
Playbill: What was the impulse for launching Broadway’s Best for Breast Cancer?
MG: The collaboration with Caroline Kohles and the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan came to me at an important point in my healing process. Part of my healing has been through conversations and helping others going through similar journeys. I have learned so much from doing this show.
Why launch it now?
MG: When I was diagnosed with breast cancer seven months ago, I felt like my world stopped and everything around me kept going. With COVID-19 it feels like the world has stopped, and yet cancer patients have to keep going. And now we are filled with new questions, often having to postpone certain treatments or wait a little longer to speak with someone. My goal is to let others know we see you and you matter, and we are here with you.
Why did you specifically choose to partner with Caroline and JCC for this?
MG: Caroline and the JCC reached out to me, and we had such a meaningful conversation. It was then I knew I wanted to continue this dialogue and that the information given was important for others to hear.
When it comes to discussing the “latest in health and wellness,” could you give us a sneak peek of what to expect?
MG: On our first episode, we spoke with Maria Sirois, and her expertise is in learning how to create your story to share with others. So often, after you tell someone about your diagnosis, you are inundated with a lot of questions, naturally. Sometimes these are questions that you are not ready or don't know how to answer. It can make you feel powerless. It's important that when you are ready to tell others about your journey that it is your story. That can help you feel more powerful in a tough situation. Learning that was something that I really needed, and I know it has helped others.
Why was it important for you that viewers be able to engage with you and Caroline directly?
MG: I think it's important for people watching the show to know they are part of the conversation. Having Breastlink NY's Dr. Alison Estabrook on the show and after for a Q&A is invaluable. Her support and encouragement towards her patients is inspiring.