Peter Brown Photography of Canadian Artist Chelsea Alice
The heart of Chelsea shares her experience of surgery and her rare heart disease, now she is happy and healthy! She is an inspirational woman who hasn't let anything stop her dreams. She is loving living in Vancouver and is working on film projects currently.
Q and A With Chelsea Alice by Blaine Schlechter
So you’ve had a pretty busy year; there’s been some good things, some not so good things and some exciting changes coming up. Let’s start with the good stuff…you’ve recently finished some schooling, what did you take and how did that go for you?
I got my Costume Cutting and Construction diploma from Olds College Fashion Institute. It’s an amazing program…a tough program…you really have to dedicate your life and you can’t work as I was (doing) about 17 hour days, 7 days a week for 2 years. But when you do what you love; I had injuries with all the work I was putting in; but it was so worth it and none of the courses that I took were useless. It’s not like University where you have to learn math to prove that you’re smart when you’re really studying the arts. Because it’s a diploma, every single course I took was exactly and directly involved with what I’m studying, so it was super concentrated. It was hard for me to get bored, which is exactly how I thrive and I’m so happy but I’m kind of sad it’s over. You build a lot of really close relationships with fellow students because you work so hard together and conquer such mountains together that you kind of miss each other. It’s really interesting to see all of us find our own niches in the industry after doing the program. It was an amazing experience; it was the hardest thing I ever did and because it was the hardest thing I ever did I kind of have the confidence to really overcome whatever is next, whatever big project is next. I don’t have as much fear as I would having gone in not really having much of that challenge before.
Because it’s such a focused program you really get to know the people you’re taking it with; you’re in the trenches with them and now you’ve got some lifelong friends I’m sure.
Oh absolutely…100%. I know for a fact that we’ll be crossing paths a lot in the future and I’m super excited about it.
Chad Wiseman Photography of Canadian Artist Chelsea Alice
Now some of the not so good stuff…you recently went through some surgery. What are you able to share about that and how’s the recovery going?
It was big surprise. I only, about a year and a half ago, found out that I had the gene for…it’s generally in the cardiac family…it’s called the Newfoundland Curse. It’s called highly penetrate and that means that the gene that is passed down; the odds of someone not developing the disorder having the gene is extremely low. I found out I had the gene last year and I thought, ok I don’t have symptoms so I can live my life and I don’t have to worry about too much and I’ll just have to be careful and not injure myself and get checkups and know my limits with exercise and all that stuff. I’m constantly getting tested and monitored and there was just some minor changes in the testing and the disease is so severe, the number one symptom is sudden death. We couldn’t risk if there was some changes in my tests, even though they weren’t big, we had to put in the preventative measure of surgery because if, for whatever reason I had that number one symptom, I won’t die. Which sounds horrible, but I guess I’m really desensitized to the facts of the disease because my dad has it and he was one of the first people they implanted a defibrillator into 30 years ago. He’s going to outlive all of us so I’m not concerned, there’s just going to be some hiccups on the way, that’s all.
It sounds like you’re keeping a very positive mindset with it all considering everything. The recovery is going good after the surgery?
Yah, there was no complications which is very exciting. It was pretty funny in the hospital; all of the nurses couldn’t believe how young I was in the cardiac ward. I was surrounded by people in their 50’s to 70’s (laughs). Because I was so young and because I was so proactive with it and I don’t have heart damage; I didn’t wait too long to get the procedure, it means I’m going to heal much faster and much better, which I did. It was actually not as difficult as I thought it would be; I felt my recovery would be way more debilitating. It just kind of felt like your recovering from any injury that you would get for whatever reason. I had a lot of time off and I think the most difficult thing out of the whole thing was just being bored for 6 weeks (laughs). It was mostly just being forced to lay still and to just kind of ‘be’ for 6 weeks, that was actually really difficult. No complications, everything was great, I healed very nicely and all my doctors and nurses are very happy and because I have the defibrillator implanted, I don’t have to worry now wherever I travel, wherever I want to go, whatever I want to do because the defibrillator is going to pick up anything that isn’t normal and if something goes very wrong, I’ll be alive. It doesn’t matter where I am in the world for that to happen, so I can live my life more freely now than before after I found out I have the gene. It was scary before I got the surgery but after it was done; when the fear of the actual procedure was over with, I realized that it was the best decision that me and my doctors made for me and now I’m ready to take on the next chapter.
Gossen Photography of of Canadian Artist Chelsea Alice
Good for you for staying so positive and strong.
There’s good days and bad days of course, but I have a really good support system and I always try and reach out whenever I can and I’m surrounded by a lot of amazing people; my family and friends, and they really helped so much in that recovery period, and even before, just the anticipation of the procedure. That was the scariest part, just the anticipation, that was the worst. Once it was over I was like, ‘oh well…there it is.’ (laughs).
Sometimes the anticipation and the buildup is harder than the actual thing.
It definitely is, I was like a shaking leaf when they were just putting my IV in and they were like ‘we’re just putting the IV in you.’ I kept telling them ‘I know this is like regular stuff for you and this is fine’, but I’ve never even broken a bone and now I’m having heart surgery.
Devon Reed Photography of Canadian Artist Chelsea Alice
Speaking of changing of lifestyles; school’s done, health issues are put behind you now, you’ve got some big changes coming up, what do you have coming up for yourself in the next couple of years?
Well, I’m moving to Vancouver in January and I’m basically going to start a life there. The opportunities there are so abundant, especially for with what I do. I’ve been networking, even on Facebook and stuff, and the demand, even just the Indy stuff for film for a costume designer is quite high, so I’m very excited to go in and meet new people and create new connections and just start a network and hopefully make something amazing. That’s something that I’m really itching for, especially being in school for 3 years and having that hyper focus just to graduate, and now all that creative expansion that’s possible for projects in the future and collaborating with others people’s visions is so inspiring. I just can’t wait to lift my wings and let them go and see what happens. It’s also a great opportunity to expand in my acting skills because it’s just such a highly active region for the film industry, both Indy and union, it’s unbelievable.
I’ve seen some of your projects and I’m sure there are big things ahead for you. Ideal world…5 years from now…what are you doing?
5 years from now? Oh…that’s a tough one. 5 years from now I would like to own my own place, wherever it might be. That would be a really fancy thing and it’s kind of like a big milestone in my family to own your own home and wherever that may be, that’s fine. I have a feeling it’s probably not going to be in Canada, I think I’m going to end up somewhere else in 5 years. I would love to end up in Europe in about 5 years, that would be amazing. Then I would just really be in a place where I’m creatively stretching in both departments where it’s the costume department as a designer and also as a performer like an actress and singer. I really want to be able to have enough financial stability to just live life normally through the avenues of both costume and acting and in 5 years, that is exactly what I want for myself. Just that stability of making a name for myself in both avenues so that I’m never lost in between. Outside of that, I think the biggest wish of all, that’s all like surface value stuff, it would be really, really great if I was just in perfect health as I am in now. That’s the most important thing and I overlook it sometimes myself, but at the end of the day I know what I have and it’s something that I’ll be living with for the rest of my life. I would be so, so grateful if in the next 5 years I just get to live my life as I see fit and my body is perfectly ok with the way that I want to live my life, which is just hard working and being passionate.
With your drive and determination, you’ll probably reach those goals in about 3 or 4 years, not 5.
That would be great, thank you!