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Jessica St. Clair Found Humor in Cancer's Difficult Moments — Which Inspired the New Season of Playing House

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Jessica St. Clair says she was an emotional wreck when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in September 2015 at age 38.

“I was sobbing,” the actress says in the current issue of PEOPLE.

Learning she had stage 2B estrogen positive cancer was tough — especially because her husband, playwright Dan O’Brien, was out of town at the time — but St. Clair was able to lean on her friend and Playing House costar Lennon Parham.

Brian Bowen Smith/NBC

“She held me as I was crying, Everyone at the doctor’s office thought we were a couple! When my husband showed up everyone was very confused,” St. Clair says jokingly.

After intense chemotherapy and a double mastectomy, St. Clair is now cancer free and glad she can look back and laugh about some moments during those difficult days.

  • For more from St. Clair — including how her costar Lennon Parham supported her through her cancer battle (including picking out her breast implants!) — pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday

In fact, the comedian used her cancer story for inspiration while she and Parham were writing season 3 of Playing House, which premieres Friday at 11 p.m. on USA.

“I knew we were going to have to tell the story, because Lennon and I always write about what we’re going through in real life,” she says. “But we were terrified we wouldn’t be able to do it in a funny way.”

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Somehow they managed to find the humor in it.

“Lennon chose my new boobs,” says St. Clair. “The plastic surgeon came out with a suitcase of boobs lined in velvet, like it was Tiffany’s. I didn’t question her judgment. Whatever my best friend said to put in my body, I did. So many things you’ll see in our show are exactly what happened.”

JB Lacroix/WireImage

But it wasn’t always easy to make light of her diagnosis, which she didn’t make public until she wrote an essay for Stand Up to Cancer in May.

“There was a lot of crying in the writers’ room,” says St. Clair. “But also a lot of laughter — just like there was in real life.”