‘SNL’ Alum Vanessa Bayer Opens Up About Battling Leukemia

Vanessa Bayer
Frederick M. Brown / Getty Images

Saturday Night Live alum Vanessa Bayer recently sat down with the Huffington Post and opened up about her battle with leukemia, and how she is now helping others affected by the disease. Bayer, who was diagnosed with blood cancer at 15-years old, had a form of the disease known as acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a childhood cancer that affects the bone marrow.

The funny lady revealed that her tell-tale symptom was swelling in the eyes, and she spent her high school years getting sick without ever getting better. After a marrow biopsy, it was revealed that Bayer was suffering from cancer. She underwent two years of chemotherapy and 10 months of intensive therapy, and has been cancer-free since. She shared a wild tale of her end-of-chemo party that, of course, involved some antics.

“I think I had a big sheet cake and I think it said, ‘Happy End-of-Chemo Vanessa’ or something and so many of my friends came and it was so fun. And then my brother was in a band and his band played in our backyard and then the police came ’cause they thought that it was like a ‘rager’ ― my parents and I were just talking about this over Thanksgiving. The police thought we were drinking and we were like, ‘No, we’re literally celebrating the end of me having chemo,'” the actress remembered.

Bayer went on to find success in the face of her childhood illness. The comedian spent her college years at the University of Pennsylvania interning at the Conan O’Brien Show and performing with her college’s all-women comedy gild, The Bloomers.” She switched her major from biology to communications and moved to Chicago after graduating to pursue her dream of becoming a comedian. After her final bow for SNL, Bayer has continued her success in television and film.

Recently, she has become a spokesperson for The Gift of Life bone marrow registry, an important cause close to the comedian’s heart. The charity raises funds for research involving bone marrow cancers, and also leads the way in the international registry aimed at helping those suffering from cancer find a match to save their life.

“I was very lucky because once I was treated for leukemia it never recurred, but I know that had it recurred there was a likelihood I would have had to get a bone marrow transplant. The Gift of Life registry was created out of someone needing a bone marrow transplant and that’s why it’s so close to my heart,” Bayer revealed.