Anita Wright, a New West-based TikTok influencer, has earned quite a fan following for her baking and acrylic art videos. The 75-year-old resident of Queensborough was interviewed by The Record in September for her acrylic piping work — an uncommon art form that had people following her from world over.
Since then, though, Wright's TikTok page has included more than just her art and baking videos.
In October, Wright was diagnosed with stage four ovarian cancer — news that she felt compelled to share with her followers. The TikTok video, which had Wright decorating a unicorn cake while narrating the grim news, got 1.5 million views.
Wright's claim to fame was a 15-second cake cutting video that she had posted on the platform around Christmas 2020. Little did she know that just a couple of years later, she would be using the same platform to talk about ovarian cancer.
Ever since she posted the video on Sept. 30, the response, Wright said, has been "overwhelming."
“I've had people reach out to me that I have no idea who they are," she said. "People have sent me wigs, all sorts of little prayer items, oven mitts, jewellery, earrings, protein powder…”
She added, “Yesterday, I had a woman reach out to me. She was previously a cake/pastry decorator, and she's now a paraplegic — apparently she was hit by a tree branch. And she reached out to me asking what she could do for me. Wow, I'm like, are you kidding me? It's unbelievable, the goodness out there."
Wright has since posted several videos updating her fans about her condition. In one, she said, “I hope this post doesn’t alarm anybody unnecessarily. But rather bring light to a subject that might just give you enough time to save your life,” before going on to explain the symptoms that led her to get a test done for ovarian cancer.
“My first symptom was that, frankly, I was constipated. And this is a very, very common first symptom. I guess it's something that people don't really want to talk about because it's so personal. But, it wasn't like for three days, it was like, for weeks,” she said over a call.
The doctor advised her to take a “really” strong dose of laxatives. That didn't help much; meanwhile, Wright also felt bloated, nauseous and tired — symptoms the doctor said might be related to the constipation. “You can see how all those things could be nothing. But put them all together, and they are prime symptoms of ovarian cancer.”
Using social media fame to spread awareness about ovarian cancer
“I don't want to frighten women to think, ‘Oh, I'm constipated. I've got ovarian cancer,’ but maybe if you've got a group of them [symptoms], you might want to take a look at it and not put your head in the sand,” said Wright.
By the time Wright was diagnosed, the cancer had already metastasized. Calling it a “silent killer,” Wright said there was no way to know she had it until she took a CT (computed tomography) scan.
“I don't want to go out on a limb and say that that's the only way [to know] but that's what the doctor told me.”
There are no screening tests for ovarian cancer like there is pap smear for uterine cancer and mammogram for breast cancer (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends asking your "doctor if you should have a diagnostic test, like a rectovaginal pelvic exam, a transvaginal ultrasound, or a CA-125 blood test if you have any unexplained signs or symptoms of ovarian cancer."), she added.
Wright didn't know that; neither was she prepared for the expenses associated with the ailment — like the anti-nausea pills (each $225) that she has to take before each chemo session, gloves and slippers filled with ice packs to help with nerve pain, mouthwash to prevent dry mouth post chemo, and so on. “There's a gazillion things I never thought I'd have to buy.”
Wright knows she can't do it all by herself. Two of her friends flew in from Toronto to take care of her; her two daughters are doing all the read-ups about the disease; and yet another friend launched a GoFundMe page to raise $10,000 for her treatment (at the time this article was published, the fundraiser had brought in a little over $4,200).
Though Wright has lost 18 pounds in less than a month, and is battling exhaustion and pain frequently, she plans to continue creating 'art and baking' content for her followers while also keeping them updated about her journey with cancer.
Wright is careful about how much she posts about cancer vs. cakes though.
“They [followers] follow me for my content. I don't want them to have to think that they're going to see me sick everyday. But I do want them to see the high points and the low points so that they see a little bit of each," she said. "And let’s see if we can help somebody else.”
“I just did one video where I'm pulling out my hair in handfuls,” said Wright, who got her first chemo treatment a couple of weeks ago. In the TikTok video that has Queen's I want to break free playing in the background, Wright asked her followers to tune in and watch her getting her head shaved on Saturday, Nov. 12, at 11.30 a.m.
With the live event, Wright wants to convey that shaving off hair — which, she said, women often give a tad too much importance to — shouldn't be a big deal.
“I'll see whether I can rock a bald head or whether I have to wear the wigs or whether I can do both,” she said.
You can contribute to Anita Wright's GoFundMe page, and follow her on TikTok to understand what it is like to battle ovarian cancer (the seventh most common cancer among women, as per a study on National Library of Medicine), what are its symptoms, and how to be more aware of it.