While Cobie Smulders Was Shooting How I Met Your Mother, She Endured Multiple Life-saving Surgeries

Cobie Smulders rose to fame playing Robin on How I Met Your Mother. But what its fans didn’t know is that she endured multiple life-saving surgeries during her nine-year stint on the CBS sitcom. Here’s a look at the health battle the popular actress kept a secret until the show came to an end.

Born in Vancouver, British Columbia, in 1982 to an English mom and a dad from the Netherlands, Cobie Smulders began her career as a model. The Canadian initially had ambitions of becoming a marine biologist and even registered to study at the University of Victoria. But after a summer of acting classes, she decided to switch her attention again.

Smulders made her screen debut in an episode of sci-fi drama Jeremiah and went on to land regular roles on adventure series Veritas: The Quest and LGBT drama The L Word. Her big break came in 2005 when she bagged the part of Robin Scherbatsky on How I Met Your Mother. Smulders played the TV reporter for nine seasons of the hit CBS comedy.

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In 2010 Smulders took to the stage in New York with Love, Loss and What I Wore. Two years later, having first taken lessons from a Los Angeles SWAT team trainer, she took on the role of Maria Hill in superhero flick The Avengers. She reprised this character in several other Marvel Universe releases, including the TV show Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and movies Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Avengers: Age of Ultron.

On the big screen Smulders also enjoyed supporting roles in Nicholas Sparks adaptation Safe Haven, Vince Vaughn comedy Delivery Man and rom-com spoof They Came Together. In 2014 she voiced Wonder Woman in the animated hit The Lego Movie and a year later was forced to pull out of TV movie Confirmation after breaking her leg. She returned to screens in 2016 in the dramedy The Intervention.

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Smulders then starred alongside Tom Cruise in the sequel Jack Reacher: Never Go Back. In 2017 she landed recurring roles in two new Netflix releases. First she played Mother in the fantasy drama A Series of Unfortunate Events and then she starred as Lisa Turner in relationship comedy Friends from College.

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In 2009 Smulders agreed to marry Taran Killam, the comedian and actor who’d also enjoyed a six-episode stint on How I Met Your Mother. That same year the pair welcomed their first child, Shaelyn, into the world. In 2012 the pair walked down the aisle together and three years later they added to their family with the birth of their second daughter, Joelle.

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That same year Smulders opened up about a health battle she’d kept secret during her lengthy stint on How I Met Your Mother. In an interview with Women’s Health magazine, the star revealed that she had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer during the sitcom’s third season. As a result she underwent several surgeries.

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“I had tumors on both ovaries, and the cancer had spread into my lymph nodes and surrounding tissues,” Smulders told the magazine. The star also admitted that she doesn’t think she will ever feel like she’s entirely free of the disease. But she also revealed she wants to help others benefit from her experience.

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“Now that I’m five years out, I’m trying to think of it as a positive thing and what can I learn from it,” Smulders added. “And if I can create more awareness, I’ll do it.” According to statistics, about 14,000 women had died from ovarian cancer during 2014.

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Smulders also graced the cover of the magazine in a topless pose for the issue in which the interview appeared. The star claimed she did so in a display of body confidence and not sexiness. She said, “Because it’s a women’s magazine, I feel like being topless is more about being confident and about being happy with your body rather than trying to excite somebody else.”

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Three years later Smulders discussed her ovarian cancer battle in more detail in an interview with People magazine. The star admitted that at the time her major concern was the fact the illness might rob her of the chance to be a mom. “I’ve always been very maternal, I’ve always loved children and I’ve always wanted one of my own,” she told the publication.

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Smulders continued, “And so having that not being option, especially at such a young age — kids were very much not on my mind at 25, but I still wanted them one day. It was really hard and it was a really depressing thing to go through.” The star further revealed that she also struggled with the lack of resources available to her at the time.

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Indeed, although Smulders had the expertise of a cancer specialist she described as “great,” she still didn’t feel she had enough information at her disposal. She told People, “I remember doing mad, crazy Google searches on my disease and trying to understand it better,” adding, “It was very bleak.”

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Smulders went on to reveal the various approaches she took to ensure the disease didn’t return. She removed carbohydrates and cheese from her diet. She also tried everything from acupuncture and yoga to crystal healers in her efforts to fight the disease.

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Smulders told People why she’d kept her ovarian cancer battle a secret from the public. She revealed, “For me at the time, I just wanted to deal with it on my own and with my family. I wasn’t interested in sharing it with anybody.”

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However, having beat the disease Smulders now feels more comfortable sharing her experiences. She said, “It doesn’t really benefit the world until now, when I can say, ‘This is what I went through, and I survived it. These are the things I did and these are the things I learned and these are the things I can show you.’”

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Smulders has since joined forces with pharmaceutical company Tesaro in a campaign named Not on My Watch. The initiative aims to inspire women who have previously been diagnosed with advanced ovarian cancer to seek maintenance treatment. Approximately 85 percent of sufferers get the cancer more than once, according to research.

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Smulders told People she thinks there have been huge advances since her diagnosis. She said, “I think for those women, it’s a great opportunity to have treatment options that weren’t available to me… It’s kind of a new day of more options and more awareness, and a place and a time where you can get more answers.”

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Smulders will return to screens for the second series of Friends from College. She will then reprise her role of Maria Hill once more in Spider-Man: Far From Home. And soon she will also appear as Sophie in Cicada, a drama about an interracial gay couple set before the Defense of Marriage Act was overturned.

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