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Talking with... GH's Natalia Livingston

Soap Opera Digest: What was it like to tape scenes with these survivors?

Natalia Livingston: "It was kind of the first time — there's a scene where Emily walks into the room for the support group — that it was so real. When I saw their faces, it really hit me, as far as the storyline. The reality of it set in, just seeing them there."Digest: How much did you know about breast cancer before you started this role?

Livingston: "I actually knew that it was something that affected younger women. A lot of people think that it's just for women over 40. But I knew that it was something that younger women should also be aware of. I was watching THE OPRAH WINFREY SHOW before I even got the job [on GH], and they were talking about how important it is for younger women to perform monthly breast self exams to check for lumps. So, I ended up doing that and I found a lump in my breast. I went to a local hospital and they checked it out for me. I had what's called a needle aspiration to see if it was benign or cancerous, and thank God it came back benign. So, I went through a little bit of what these women were going through. Just waiting for the answer and not knowing what was going on...."Digest: Do you use that experience in your performances?

Livingston: "I do. There are a few lines that I've said so far where Emily talks about waiting — that there's a lot of waiting around; waiting for this test to come back and that test. It was really interesting because that's something that a lot of women were talking about. It's a lot of waiting around just to see what's happening with the cancer; how it's progressing, what stage it's at. It is amazing to see how much of what they said to me is so similar to what Emily is going through. I was happy to hear that because I think the writers have done such an incredible job of making it true to what a lot of women are experiencing."Digest: How did you further educate yourself on the subject?

Livingston: "Just basically through the Komen Foundation. They have an Internet site that is just ... I mean, you would not believe the amount of information on that site. I really looked over that and I was trying to get familiar with the medical terms and the different stages of cancer, learning a little bit more about chemo and the side effects; what happens to you. Things like that."Digest: Are you getting a lot of viewer letters about your storyline?

Livingston: "Mostly, I've just had people come up to me in person and say things to me, especially when we went to Disneyland [for this year's West Coast Super Soap Weekend]. A lot of people came up to me to tell me their own stories. They keep saying that they think it's so wonderful that the writers and the show decided to do this, and they can see how much time is being put into this. Just to get the word out there about early detection; that really is the key."Digest: Did you get similar feedback from the survivors who appear in the support-group episode?

Livingston: "Oh, absolutely. They were saying over and over how wonderful they think this is to have it on TV because it reaches out to so many people. If we can just get that one message out there to younger women — and I'm sure it's a message that older women will also [pay attention to] — and that's the idea of early detection and the monthly breast self exam. One of the cancer survivors, Mary, kept saying, 'The main thing we can get out there is the monthly breast self exam because that's something that each woman can do. If she finds something, then she can follow up with a doctor's visit and take it from there. But if you don't take that first step....' " For more information on the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, check out www.komen.org.

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