Brittany Daniel of BET's "The Game," who also starred with her twin sister on the show "Sweet Valley High," has revealed that she battled stage IV non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, a form of blood cancer, and is now cured.
This appears to solve the mystery of the actress' departure from the former series, which spurred much speculation online. Brittany, 38, recently returned to "The Game" after her three-year absence.
She told People magazine in a video interview posted on Wednesday, March 19, that she was diagnosed with stage IV non-Hodgkin's lymphoma after experiencing symptoms such as " excruciating back pain, night sweats and flu-like symptoms" in the summer of 2011. She immediately began chemotherapy and moved, along with her mother, into her twin sister Cynthia's guest house.
"I feel like there is is no way I would have ever gotten through this without my family," Brittany said. "When I found out I had cancer, my mom was the hugest support for me -- she flew out and she was my rock and my sister, well, she's amazing; she took me into her home and I ended up staying at my sister's house."
"My family is everything to me," the actress added. "I feel like they saw me through this and going through this experience just made me realize that family is everything. I mean, I've always been very close with my family, but it made me realize that I absolutely want to have my own family and you just can't go through something like this without your friends and family."
Brittany Daniels' mysterious departure from "The Game" -- and her return
Brittany and Cynthia rose to fame playing popular twin high school students Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield on the 1990s series "Sweet Valley High." Cynthia quit acting in 2002 and works as a photographer.
Brittany continued her acting career. Her most recent role was Kelly Pitts on "The Game." She appeared in episodes that aired between 2006 and 2011 - the year she was diagnosed and just before the show moved from the CW Network to cable channel BET.
In a November 2010 interview with Vibe magazine, she talked about how her role was reduced from a series regular to a recurring character, saying: "I wasn't happy about it. I wanted to do all the episodes but I think it was a financial thing."
Also in November 2010, Brittany debuted a new half-shaved hairstyle (as seen in the photo above -- she is pictured with twin sister Cynthia at the premiere of the movie "Skyline" in Los Angeles.)
In 2012, "The Game" stars Tia Mowry-Hardrict -- who has since left the show herself -- and Wendy Raquel Robinson talked about Brittany's departure from the show in an interview on "The Wendy Williams Show." (watch video)
"You know, to be totally authentic, she took some time out for herself," Robinson said.
"Did she have a nervous breakdown?" host Wendy Williams asked.
"She took some time out for herself," Robinson and Mowry said in unison.
"Did Keenen Ivory Wayans, her boyfriend, ask her to leave the show?" Williams asked.
"She took some time out for herself," Robinson and Mowry repeated in unison.
On Oct. 15, 2013, "The Game" actress Brandy tweeted an Instagram photo of herself with Brittany and Coby Bell, who plays Pitts' ex-husband Jason, saying: "Look who's BACK! @thegameBET #season7."
Brittany returned to "The Game" in a season 7 episode this week (see photo, above). She told People that the series creator offered her her old job back himself.
"And then just the fans being so excited that I'm coming back this season has just been amazing," she said. "It's been a blessing."
About non-Hodgkin's lymphoma
Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma is the seventh leading cause of cancer death in the United States. Stage IV is the most advanced stage of the disease and means that cancerous cells were found in several parts of the patient's organs, tissues, blood or bone marrow. Risk factors include a weakened immune system, certain infections and a person's age, gender and race.
It is more commonly diagnosed among people over 65. The average five-year survival rate for people with stage IV non-Hodgkin's lymphoma is about 60.9 percent, according to the National Cancer Institute.