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The Mindy Project Takes Off

Actor, writer, producer Mindy Kaling steps out of The Office and into the spotlight.

The Mindy Project continued...

Pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. Most patients are diagnosed at a late stage with a five-year survival rate of 2%. "No one is lucky to get cancer, but I remember feeling jealous of people who got a cancer where there were stages and you could do chemo to [treat] it," says Kaling, whose mother lived with the diagnosis for eight months.

A week before her mother's death last January, Kaling pulled out a notebook and pen and asked her mother for advice. "We had accepted by then that she was not going to survive, and so suddenly we had to have really accelerated conversations," she remembers. "I always thought she would be around when I had a child, but when I realized she wouldn't be, we talked about possible names for my kids. She told me things she wanted me to tell my children."

The day her mother died, Kaling checked her overflowing voicemail and learned that Fox had given her and The Mindy Project the go-ahead. "I was lucky to have that to think about instead," she says quietly.

Mindy Kaling on Diet and Exercise

Working 16-hour days might be good for distraction, but Kaling admits that being the boss of all she surveys is exhausting. "I have that kind of super-invincibility that people who have never had an illness do, but now I'm starting to do weird things like say, 'Should I do B12 shots? Should I be on an IV drip?' It would be so cool to be that one person who never mentioned how stressful work is, but to say having my own show is a lot of work is the understatement of the year."

The writing and producing take energy, but playing the kinetic, driven doctor who races from bad dates to patients' bedsides and office gossip sessions with nonstop acerbic commentary is also demanding. (Her character, on the subject of marriage: "Maybe I won't get married. Maybe I'll just do one of those Eat Pray Love things. Ugh, no, I don't want to pray. Forget it. I'll just die alone.")

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