Article from Daily News: Woman who had double mastectomy hits stage in play 44 days after operation

Reprinted from: Daily News
SUNDAY, JUNE 23, 2013, 3:49 AM


Angelina Jolie: Meet Tatyana Kot.

Just 10 days after a double mastectomy at Lenox Hill Hospital and hazy from painkillers, the 37-old Manhattan actress was valiantly memorizing her lines for “Mata Hari,” a play that opened this week at the Robert Moss Theater.

Kot, who immigrated here from Kazakhstan 11 years ago — and has no Brad Pitt in her life or millions in the bank — told her doctors, “Even if you have to wheel me onto that stage, I have to do this role.”

Her surgeons — Drs. Stephanie Bernik and Oren Lerman were in the audience Tuesday night cheering on the brave green-eyed beauty as she portrayed the sensual dancer and accused spy Mata Hari, wearing a special beaded bra for what was supposed to be a nude scene.

“I was a little timid at first in my agreeing to let her go ahead with the performance because everyone needs to take it easy for six weeks after surgery,” said reconstruction surgeon Lerman. “But we watched her closely. Most of this speaks to her bravery and courage. We were amazed.”

Kot was diagnosed with breast cancer in February after three years of scares and lumpectomies that came back benign.

Bernik said she had a rare and unpredictable tumor in the right breast known as a “malignant phyllodes tumor,” and it was growing quickly. During the operation, Bernik felt another mass on the right that was not even there two months before. And there was also a suspicious new mass on the left side.

“The first day she came in she told us she had this play she had to do, she was the main character and it was a physically demanding part,” said Bernik, who is the chief of surgical oncology at Lenox Hill’s Institute for Comprehensive Breast Care.

“We said we would try to help her. Most people would not contemplate doing what she did.”

At one point, the actor playing her soldier husband, Curtis James Nielsen, throws her to the ground.

“I kept thinking when we saw her on stage we would be yelling, ‘No! No! Stop reaching and stretching!’ ” said Lerman, who worried Kot would rip her inner sutures.

Some women report not being able to lift a cup of coffee, let alone do ballet, bend, twist and memorize 90 emotion-packed minutes of dialogue.

But for the fiercely committed Kot, the show must go on. She said she was devastated when she first got the cancer diagnosis and decided to have the double mastectomy for peace of mind.

Her positive outlook is helping her carry through.

“I was used to them. I had them all my life,” she said, laughing after a dress rehearsal with the Nylon Fusion Theatre Company. “Now I am going to have breasts that never age.

“I worked for 10 years with developmentally disabled people and I learned from them. Going out for a walk by yourself is great. Or being able to use the bathroom by yourself is fantastic. It’s humbling.”

“I am not a hero,” she added. “People have things that are so much worse. This is not the end.”

Kot posted a note to Jolie, after the Hollywood actress rocked the world with news of her prophylactic double mastectomy in a May 14 New York Times op-ed piece.

“Thank you for a brave and informative article. I am typing this while the mentioned (drainage) tubes are sticking out of my breasts. It has been 12 days … I am in a production of a play about another icon of all things sensual Mata Hari that will benefit Breast Cancer Awareness … It would be an honor to have you and Brad as guests.”

“Her coming out helped me immensely,” said Kot, who lives in a studio apartment in Harlem. “I didn’t know if I should tell people. I worried if directors and fellow actors would work with me because I have cancer. Everyone was so patient as I learned my lines and recovered.”

She said she never once considered pulling out from the play.

“We don’t know how much time we have in life,” said Kot. “Performing is something I love to do. I have to do. If I didn’t do this, I would die.”







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About the Author | Kelly McNelis, LLC

Women’s advocate and bestselling author of Your Messy Brilliance.

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