- 15 Celebrities with Breast Cancer
- Breast cancer
- 1. Christina Applegate
- 2. Sheryl Crow
- 3. Cynthia Nixon
- 4. Kylie Minogue
- 5. Olivia Newton-John
- 6. Julia Louis-Dreyfus
- 7. Carly Simon
- 8. Dame Maggie Smith
- 9. Suzanne Somers
- 10. Gloria Steinem
- 11. Robin Roberts
- 12. Judy Blume
- 13. Kathy Bates
- 14. Wanda Sykes
- 15. Tig Notaro
- What celebrities have or have had breast cancer?
- Just Like Us: Celebrities Speak Up About Breast Cancer
- Angelina Jolie
- Joan Lunden
- Sheryl Crow
- Christina Applegate
- Robin Roberts
- Hoda Kotb
- Hoda Kotb shares her breast cancer journey for #PinkPowerTODAY
- Getting through: How 8 survivors battled breast cancer
- What 9 Celebrities Are Breast Cancer Survivors?
15 Celebrities with Breast Cancer
Despite race or ethnicity, breast cancer is the most common type of cancer found in women in the United States. Tumors can often go unnoticed, and because of the hereditary nature of this cancer, lifestyle can often have little effect over the development of the disease. Because of this, no amount of fame or money can guard against the development of breast cancer. Though, getting a regular mammogram can significantly increase your chance of finding early signs of breast cancer in time for successful treatment.
Read about 15 prominent women who have experienced and overcome the disease, and are active in promoting cancer research and education.
1. Christina Applegate
Diagnosed in 2008 at age 36, this acclaimed American comedy actress underwent a bilateral mastectomy after finding out that she carried the BRCA gene, aka the “breast cancer gene.”
Luckily for Applegate, her malignant tumor was found via an MRI after her doctor determined that the mammogram wasn’t sufficient due to the denseness of her breasts. The cancer was caught early enough so it did not spread to other parts of her body. Since her surgery, Applegate has voiced her dedication to fight for all women’s access to MRIs and genetic testing as guaranteed preventative measures. In an interview on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” she stated:
“I am a 36-year-old person with breast cancer, and not many people know that that happens to women my age or women in their 20s,” she said. “This is my opportunity now to go out and fight as hard as I can for early detection.”
2. Sheryl Crow
This Grammy Award-winning American musician was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006, and is now cancer free. Since her recovery, she’s embraced alternative methods of promoting health in her body and mind.
“This great friend told me one of the gateways to awakening is to allow yourself to experience your emotions,” Crow told Health Magazine in 2012. “As Westerners, we’ve gotten adept at suppressing them. It’s always ‘Try not to think about it’ or ‘Keep yourself busy.’ You push all that stuff down, and it manifests itself in other ways, whether it’s stress or disease. So my attitude was to grieve when I felt like grieving, be afraid when I felt like being afraid, and be angry when I felt like being angry. It also helped me to learn to say no to people. That’s been really liberating.”
Crow now practices eating a healthy diet that’s high in omega-3s and fiber, and lives a less stressful life on a farm outside of Nashville with her son Wyatt.
3. Cynthia Nixon
“Get your mammograms and don’t delay,” says “Sex and the City” star Cynthia Nixon.
Diagnosed in 2002, she privately treated her cancer with a lumpectomy and radiation before publicly announcing her diagnosis and becoming an ambassador for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation in 2008. Her mother is also a breast cancer survivor.
4. Kylie Minogue
Australian pop star Kylie Minogue was diagnosed with early stage breast cancer in 2005 at age 39, just months after being initially cleared — or misdiagnosed, she claims — by her doctor.
“So my message to all of you and everyone at home is, because someone is in a white coat and using big medical instruments doesn’t necessarily mean they are right,” she told Ellen DeGeneres in 2008, advising women to trust their intuition.
Four days after her diagnosis, Minogue had surgery and then began chemotherapy. She has been cancer free ever since.
5. Olivia Newton-John
First diagnosed in 1992, this Grammy Award-winning singer, actress, and activist underwent a partial mastectomy and chemotherapy before becoming cancer free for 25 years. During that time, she became an advocate of breast cancer awareness, culminating in the building of the Olivia Newton-John Cancer and Wellness Centre in Melbourne, Australia in 2008.
Unfortunately, in May 2017, Newton-John’s cancer returned, metastasizing in her sacrum, with symptoms of back pain. Her next step was to begin receiving photo radiation therapy shortly after.
“I decided on my direction of therapies after consultation with my doctors and natural therapists and the medical team at my Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness and Research Centre in Melbourne, Australia,” she stated in a press release published on her Facebook page.
6. Julia Louis-Dreyfus
In September 2017, American actress and multiple Emmy Awards winner, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, age 56, announced her diagnosis on Twitter:
“1 in 8 women get breast cancer. Today, I’m the one,” she wrote.
Though this is her first diagnosis, she has in the past advocated for cancer research with the Livestrong Foundation, as well as supported environmental causes and green living.
Though Louis-Dreyfus has an exceptional healthcare plan through her union, she realizes that not all women have access to healthcare. She acknowledges her desire for the United States to make universal healthcare available to all.
7. Carly Simon
After being told for years that the lumps in her breasts were nothing to worry about, this American musician finally had the lumps removed, and they turned out to be cancerous. Lucky for her, the cancer hadn’t yet spread to her lymph nodes. She then received chemotherapy, and later had reconstructive surgery.
“It really changes an awful lot of things,” she told an interviewer at Independent. “It allows you to grow a great deal because it makes you accept what’s new and different and maybe a little misshapen or not having testosterone and feeling hot flushes.”
Simon said she takes a pill to keep estrogen from joining any of her cells that would be dangerous, but that that deprives her of testosterone, which is what makes one feel sexy. But she doesn’t let that stop her.
8. Dame Maggie Smith
Diagnosed with breast cancer at age 74 during the filming of “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,” this knighted English actress insisted on persisting through the filming, even during chemotherapy.
“I was hairless,” Smith told an interviewer at The Telegraph. “I had no problem getting the wig on. I was like a boiled egg.”
Still, Smith continued on to act in the final film of the series, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.”
Although admitting that getting breast cancer at her age changed her outlook on her future, she noted at the end of the interview:
“The last couple of years have been a write-off, though I’m beginning to feel like a person now,” she said. “My energy is coming back. S*** happens. I ought to pull myself together a bit.”
9. Suzanne Somers
American actress Suzanne Somers took a holistic approach to her stage 2 breast cancer diagnosis in 2001, prompting her career switch from the entertainment world to motivational speaking and healthy living advocacy.
Getting cancer was the “beginning of a new life for me,” she told an interviewer at Dailymail.com.
Instead of following her surgery with chemotherapy, she famously declined treatment and instead used Iscador, a medicine made from mistletoe, which she injected daily for 10 years, and which she now attributes to her unwavering health.
Additionally, Somers adapted a healthy eating practice — she grows her own organic vegetables — and regular fitness routine composed of yoga, walking, and thigh and leg exercises. She has hopes of having her own talk show.
“My success was and is self-evident. I’m alive. I’ve lived. I’ve thrived and have grown as a person. I’m now healthier than ever. Who can argue with that?”
10. Gloria Steinem
This famous women’s rights activist was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1986, after which she had a lumpectomy.
Discussing the cancer’s affects with interviewer Dave Davies on NPR’s “Fresh Air” in 2016, Steinem noted:
“It made me realize several things. One was – this may sound strange if I try to say it short – but that, actually, I wasn’t – I was less afraid of dying than of aging – or not of aging, exactly. I didn’t know how to enter the last third of life because there were so few role models because when I first heard this diagnosis, first, I thought, ironically, oh, so that’s how it’s going to end, you know? And then I thought to myself, as if it was welling up from the deepest part of me, I’ve had a wonderful life. And I treasure that moment. You know, it meant a lot to me.”
After a successful lumpectomy, Steinem continues to write, lecture, and speak out against women’s injustices all over the world. Her memoir, “My Life on the Road,” was published by Random House in 2016.
11. Robin Roberts
After successfully recovering from breast cancer with a partial mastectomy and chemotherapy in 2007, this news anchor developed myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), a rare blood disease brought on by the cancer treatment. Treatment for MDS requires, ironically, more chemotherapy, and a bone marrow transplant.
Still, Roberts has worked through her fears and has come out on the other side a changed, stronger person. She is now fully dedicated to her health, faith, and her loved ones.
“I’m not one of those people who say, ‘Cancer is one of the best doggone things that ever happened to me,’” Robin told an interviewer at Good Housekeeping in 2012. “I was appreciating life. But has made me far more patient than I’ve ever been in my life. And I’m more in the moment with people.”
12. Judy Blume
Revealing her diagnosis in a blog post, renowned children’s author Judy Blume wrote of the received news of her biopsy from her routine ultrasound:
“Wait – me?” she wrote. “There’s no breast cancer in my family (recent extensive genetic testing shows no genetic connection). I haven’t eaten red meat in more than 30 years. I’ve never smoked, I exercise every day, forget alcohol — It’s bad for my reflux — I’ve been the same weight my whole adult life. How is this possible? Well, guess what — it’s possible.”
At age 74, 6 weeks after her diagnosis, she received a mastectomy, and noted that it was quick and caused very little pain.
“My friends who’ve had breast cancer have been so helpful and supportive I can never thank them enough,” she also wrote. “They got me through this. They were my inspiration. If we can do it, you can do it! They were right. And I got off easy. I don’t need chemo which is a whole other ballgame.”
13. Kathy Bates
Already an ovarian cancer survivor from 2003, award-winning actress Kathy Bates was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer in 2012. She underwent a double mastectomy, from which she also developed lymphedema, a swelling in the body’s extremities. Although there’s no cure for lymphedema, physical therapy and weight loss have helped her drastically with the side effects.
“I’ve joined the ranks of women who are going flat, as they say. I don’t have breasts — so why do I have to pretend like I do? That stuff isn’t important. I’m just grateful to have been born at a time when the research made it possible for me to survive. I feel so incredibly lucky to be alive.”
Bates is now the national spokeswoman for the Lymphatic Education and Research Network (LE&RN), and even meets with members of congress about publicizing the condition.
14. Wanda Sykes
Diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer in her left breast in 2011, actress and comedian Wanda Sykes opted for a double mastectomy in order to ensure a healthy life in the future.
“I had both breasts removed, because now I have zero chance of having breast cancer,” she told Ellen DeGeneres in 2011.
Although a double mastectomy isn’t a 100 percent safeguard against a recurrence of breast cancer, it does significantly reduce the odds by about 90 percent.
15. Tig Notaro
Comedian Tig Notaro became famous for performing a transgressive comedy set in 2012 in which she revealed her breast cancer to the audience right after she found out earlier that day.
“Is everybody having a good time?” she said right after she got up on stage. “I have cancer.”
Free from cancer after a double mastectomy and her career now exploding from the success of her comedy, Notaro is now working on a book, writing, directing, and starring in a TV show about her life, and of course, still taking the stage.
What celebrities have or have had breast cancer?
One in eight women will develop breast cancer at some point in her life. This statistic affects all women equally. You may have a one in eight chance of developing breast cancer, but so does your doctor…and your hairdresser…and the big-name actress in your favorite movie. Rich or poor, famous or unknown, the disease treats everyone the same.
Just Like Us: Celebrities Speak Up About Breast Cancer
Of course, when celebrities are diagnosed with breast cancer, their cases receive more attention than most. However, even that publicity helps remind us that we’re really not all that different. Famous or not, upon receiving a breast cancer diagnosis, we all face the same struggles, the same emotions, and the same need for support.
Fame does give celebrities with breast cancer a bigger platform to speak up about the disease. Here are a few examples of famous people who have joined the effort and are helping spread awareness about breast cancer risks and the importance of early detection.
“I do not feel any less of a woman. I feel empowered that I made a strong choice that in no way diminishes my femininity.” – Angelina Jolie
Like Christina Applegate, Angelina Jolie knew she had a significant family history of breast cancer, and chose to undergo genetic testing. Like Christina, she tested positive for a BRCA1 mutation, and had a double mastectomy while in her thirties.
However, unlike Christina, Angelina chose the double mastectomy even though she didn’t have breast cancer in either breast.
The actress, producer, and director of films such as Unbroken decided to have the surgery in 2013 as a preventative measure. It reduced her risk of developing breast cancer from an estimated 87% down to approximately 5%.
Though some may consider preventative surgery extreme, it is an option for women who test positive for BRCA gene mutations and therefore have a much higher risk of developing breast cancer.
“It is not easy to make these decisions. But it is possible to take control and tackle head-on any health issue. You can seek advice, learn about the options and make choices that are right for you. Knowledge is power.” – Angelina Jolie
“Early detection is so crucial, I consider myself fortunate that I found this in the early stages and the prognosis is so promising.” – Joan Lunden
Joan Lunden is an accomplished author, journalist, television host, and a mother of seven.
Since 2014, she is also a breast cancer survivor.
Joan announced her diagnosis on ABC’s Good Morning America, a show she co-hosted for almost two decades. She’s spoken at length about her diagnosis and treatment in the media, on her blog, and through a book titled Had I Known. She’s also started ALIVE, a streaming video channel all about surviving breast cancer.
“I found this breast cancer community to be such an amazing, powerful, compassionate alliance.” – Joan Lunden
“Someone like me shouldn’t be diagnosed with breast cancer, that’s what was going through my mind. I wasn’t thinking about a diagnosis. I was just doing what I was supposed to do, which was staying on top of my mammograms. It was a shock.” – Sheryl Crow
Rock star and nine-time Grammy Award-winner Sheryl Crow was diagnosed at age 44 with ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), a non-invasive form of breast cancer. It was discovered at an early stage through an annual mammogram, and after a lumpectomy and seven weeks of radiation therapy, she was declared cancer-free.
Sheryl did not have a family history of the disease or any significant risk factors, which is not unusual. 60-70% of people with breast cancer have no known pre-existing risk factors. This is why it is important it is for everyone to have an early detection plan, regardless of family history.
“I am a walking advertisement for early detection.” – Sheryl Crow
“I am a 36-year-old person with breast cancer, and not many people know that that happens to women my age or women in their 20s. This is my opportunity now to go out and fight as hard as I can for early detection.” – Christina Applegate
Christina Applegate found fame at an early age, starring as a teenager on the sitcom Married… with Children, and going on to act in everything from Broadway musicals to Anchorman movies.
She also became a breast cancer survivor in 2008 at the young age of 36.
Christina always knew she was at risk for developing breast cancer. Her mother, Nancy Priddy, was also diagnosed with breast cancer while in her thirties, and then again in her fifties. Because of that family history, Christina made the wise choice to follow an early detection plan that included more frequent screenings starting at age 30. The cancer was therefore detected in an early stage, when it is easier to treat.
However, her mother’s history and her own early-onset breast cancer led her to also undergo genetic testing for BRCA mutations. She tested positive for a BRCA1 gene mutation, meaning that, like her mother, she had a high probability of developing breast cancer again.
So, despite the cancer only being in one breast, Christina opted for a double mastectomy. Her knowledge of the BRCA gene mutation and the risks involved allowed her to make an educated decision, choosing a proactive treatment that significantly reduces the possibility of the breast cancer spreading or coming back.
According to Christina, an important part of her treatment and recovery was being able to receive support and advice from other breast cancer survivors—people she didn’t even know before her diagnosis.
“When you get diagnosed with cancer, there’s such a sense of loneliness, but we need to know as people going through this is that you’re not alone”. – Christina Applegate
“I can’t stress enough how important it is to get screened and checked for all cancers — and to do self breast-exams.” – Robin Roberts
Robin Roberts, another co-anchor of Good Morning America, discovered a lump during a breast self-exam in 2007. An ultrasound and biopsy confirmed that it was breast cancer—the more aggressive triple-negative kind. Treatment included a lumpectomy, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy.
Her mother encouraged her to “Make your mess your message.” Robin has been public about her cancer struggles, even winning awards for her courage in raising awareness. She’s a vocal proponent for regular breast self-exams, which is how 40% of all breast cancer cases are detected.
“I found my lump in a self-exam! Because I was familiar with my body and the lumps, I knew this one felt different. It was in a different place on my breast, and it was hard. If I hadn’t been doing self-exams, I wouldn’t have known that.” – Robin Roberts
“Cancer survivors are blessed with two lives. There is your life before cancer, and your life after. I am here to tell you your second life is going to be so much better than the first.” – Hoda Kotb
Dateline NBC correspondent and Today show co-host Hoda Kotb was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007, at age 43.
For women like Hoda, who have no family history of cancer, doctors recommend getting annual or biennial mammograms starting at age 40. However, at 43, Hoda admitted that she’d still never had a mammogram. The only reason her cancer was discovered is because her gynecologist noticed lumps in her breast during a routine checkup. Annual clinical exams are an important part of an early detection plan.
After a mastectomy and five years of hormone therapy, Hoda is cancer-free. She has said the experience made her stronger and more courageous. In fact, she attributes her job as a Today anchor to her cancer experience; surviving cancer gave her the confidence to fight for her dream job.
“I think after overcoming breast cancer, you sort of become fearless and somehow going up to your boss to talk about a possible promotion doesn’t seem like such a daunting task anymore.” – Hoda Kotb
When it comes to breast cancer, these celebrities are just like us. We can learn from their stories and take action in our own lives. Here are things you can do:
- Learn more about breast cancer, including its causes and treatments.
- Find out whether you have any risk factors such as inherited gene mutations. Women at higher risk should generally start breast cancer screenings at a younger age, and be checked more often.
- Start young. Monthly breast self-exams are encouraged for women of all ages. Even if you think you’re too young to develop breast cancer, learning what is normal for your body will help you quickly detect any future changes or lumps.
- Volunteer to help spread the message of early detection.
- If you have been diagnosed with breast cancer, you can ask questions and connect with other survivors at Beyond the Shock.
Wherever you are in the journey, know that you’re not alone. We’re here to help you now.
There are currently more than 2.8 million breast cancer survivors in the United States, according to the American Cancer Society, which also estimates that 1 in 8 women in this country will develop invasive breast cancer during their lifetime and about 40,000 will die this year from the disease.
Here’s a closer look at seven women — and one man — who bravely battled breast cancer while being in the public eye. Read on for details on how they were diagnosed, which treatment they chose and how they’re doing now.
TORONTO, ON – SEPTEMBER 17: Actress Cynthia Nixon attends the “James White” photo call during the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival at Ryerson Theatre on September 17, 2015 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by George Pimentel/Getty Images)Getty Images
“Sex And The City” star Cynthia Nixon kept her condition under wraps after being diagnosed in 2002 and treating her cancer with a lumpectomy and radiation. Nixon, whose mother also survived breast cancer, went public with her story when she realized she might inspire other women at risk. She became an ambassador for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation in 2008. “The main thing I have to tell women is to get your mammograms and don’t delay,” Nixon told WebMD.
WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA – SEPTEMBER 19: Actress Edie Falco attends the Showtime 2015 Emmy Eve party at Sunset Tower Hotel on September 19, 2015 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Matthew Simmons/Getty Images)Getty Images
After a 2003 diagnosis, actress Edie Falco was hesitant to share her condition with her “Sopranos” castmates because she didn’t want any fuss or pity from well-meaning family and friends. Falco quietly went into treatment and emerged cancer-free with a short, sassy haircut in 2004. “I had really been taking care of myself for 15 years before I got sick, not smoking, not drinking and eating well,” Falco told Parade magazine in 2009. “So I fared very well.”
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LOS ANGELES, CA – FEBRUARY 08: Recording artist Sheryl Crow attends the Warner Music Group annual Grammy celebration at Chateau Marmont on February 8, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Mike Windle/Getty Images for Warner Music Group)Getty Images
When a routine 2006 mammogram revealed suspicious calcifications on both of her breasts, Sheryl Crow postponed a world tour and opted for seven weeks of radiation, combined with acupuncture and herbal teas. The rocker was able to bypass chemotherapy because the cancer was caught early. Crow, whose engagement to cyclist Lance Armstong ended during this time, surrounded herself with positive influences. “I am inspired by the brave women who have faced this battle before me and grateful for the support of family and friends,” Crow wrote on her website after undergoing surgery in 2006.
BEVERLY HILLS, CA – JUNE 25: Actress Jaclyn Smith attends the Farrah Fawcett 5th Anniversary Reception at the Farrah Fawcett Foundation on June 25, 2014 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images) / Getty Images
When a lump was detected in one of her breasts during a routine checkup in 2002, the “Charlie’s Angels” icon didn’t fight the battle alone. Smith turned to girlfriends who had battled breast cancer, and a supportive family, before undergoing a lumpectomy and radiation. “Attitude is important,” Smith told Women’s Day in 2008. “You need to say life is to be enjoyed. It’s to be embraced. It’s a gift.”
LOS ANGELES, CA – AUGUST 01: Actress Christina Applegate attends the 5th Annual Celebration of Dance Gala presented By The Dizzy Feet Foundation at Club Nokia on August 1, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Angela Weiss/Getty Images for Dizzy Feet Foundation)Getty Images
When a lump was discovered in Christina Applegate’s breast in the summer of 2008, the actress decided to take a proactive approach. Applegate opted to undergo a double mastectomy to reduce the chance that the cancer could spread or come back. “I have taken a very progressive stance,” Applegate told Oprah Winfrey in 2008. “For that I am really grateful.” After the life-changing experience, Applegate founded Right Action For Women, a nonprofit that provides financial support for women at high risk for breast cancer.
NAPA, CA – MARCH 27: Singer Melissa Etheridge poses at Sutter Home Winery during Day 2 of the 2015 Live in the Vineyard Music, Food and Wine Festival on March 27, 2015 in St. Helena, California. (Photo by C Flanigan/Getty Images)Getty Images
After a 2004 diagnosis, rocker Melissa Etheridge showed the world what she was made of. Not long after completing a rigorous regimen of chemotherapy and radiation, the singer, proudly sporting a bald head, performed a Janis Joplin tribute at the 2005 Grammy Awards. She deservedly received a standing ovation. “The diagnosis really helped put me on a path of understanding life and happiness and what my purpose is,” she told More magazine.
LOS ANGELES, CA – SEPTEMBER 20: Giuliana Rancic arrives at the 67th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards at Microsoft Theater on September 20, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic)FilmMagic
In 2011, TV personality Giuliana Rancic was shocked to discover she was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 36 while undergoing in-vitro fertilization, but thankful that it was detected early. “A lot of us think we’re invincible, but we have to start putting ourselves on the to-do list,” she told TODAY in 2011. “I had a friend call me yesterday, and she said, ‘I’m so sorry, can I do anything for you?’ And I said, ‘Just call your doctor tomorrow and make an appointment. That’s what you could do for me.’ … I will be okay because I found it early.”
NEW YORK, NY – SEPTEMBER 30: Musician Peter Criss of the band KISS attends the 2014 Pinktober Concert at Hard Rock Cafe – Times Square on September 30, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images)Getty Images
After decades of rock ‘n’ roll debauchery, drummer Peter Criss of the legendary band Kiss thought he had seen it all. Then he was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008. The Hall of Fame rocker was shocked. He was unaware that men are at risk. “I’m a spokesperson in raising awareness of male breast cancer,” Criss revealed in his 2012 memoir, “Makeup to Breakup: My Life in and out of Kiss.” “Every October I hit the streets with thousands of people and march to raise money for breast cancer research,” he added.
RELATED: Hoda Kotb, Joan Lunden share breast cancer journeys for #PinkPowerTODAY
Oct. 1, 201507:12
Diahann Carroll, the Oscar-nominated actress and singer who won critical acclaim as the first black woman to star in a non-servant role in a TV series as “Julia,” has died. She was 84.
Carroll’s daughter, Suzanne Kay, told CBS News her mother died Friday morning in Los Angeles after battling cancer. Carroll’s publicist, Jeffrey Lane, said she had breast cancer.
During her long career, Carroll earned a Tony Award for the musical “No Strings” and an Academy Award nomination for best actress for “Claudine.” But she was perhaps best known for her pioneering work on “Julia.”
Carroll played Julia Baker, a nurse whose husband had been killed in Vietnam, in the groundbreaking situation comedy that aired from 1968 to 1971. “Diahann Carroll walked this earth for 84 years and broke ground with every footstep. An icon. One of the all-time greats,” director Ava DuVernay wrote on Twitter. “She blazed trails through dense forests and elegantly left diamonds along the path for the rest of us to follow. Extraordinary life. Thank you, Ms. Carroll.”
Diahann Carroll walked this earth for 84 years and broke ground with every footstep. An icon. One of the all-time greats. She blazed trails through dense forests and elegantly left diamonds along the path for the rest of us to follow. Extraordinary life. Thank you, Ms. Carroll. pic.twitter.com/YXjh7d3LWU
— Ava DuVernay (@ava) October 4, 2019
Although she was not the first black woman to star in her own TV show (Ethel Waters played a maid in the 1950s series “Beulah”), she was the first to star as someone other than a servant. NBC executives were wary about putting “Julia” on the network during the racial unrest of the 1960s, but it was an immediate hit.
Actress Diahann Carroll attends the Associates for Breast & Prostate Cancer Studies 12th Annual Gala of the John Wayne Cancer Institute November 9, 2001, in Beverly Hills, California. Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images
It had its critics, though, including some who said Carroll’s character, who is the mother of a young son, was not a realistic portrayal of a black American woman in the 1960s. “They said it was a fantasy,” Carroll recalled in 1998. “All of this was untrue. Much about the character of Julia I took from my own life, my family.”
Not shy when it came to confronting racial barriers, Carroll won her Tony portraying a high-fashion American model in Paris who has a love affair with a white American author in the 1959 Richard Rodgers musical “No Strings.” Critic Walter Kerr described her as “a girl with a sweet smile, brilliant dark eyes and a profile regal enough to belong on a coin.”
She appeared often in plays previously considered exclusive territory for white actresses: “Same Time, Next Year,” ”Agnes of God” and “Sunset Boulevard” (as faded star Norma Desmond, the role played by Gloria Swanson in the 1950 film). “I like to think that I opened doors for other women, although that wasn’t my original intention,” she said in 2002.
Her film career was sporadic. She began with a secondary role in “Carmen Jones” in 1954 and five years later appeared in “Porgy and Bess,” although her singing voice was dubbed because it wasn’t considered strong enough for the Gershwin opera.
She played a hard-bitten single mother of six who finds romance in Harlem with a garbage man played by James Earl Jones. Carroll said she got the role after the intended lead actress, Diana Sands, became sick and insisted her friend take the role (Sands died in 1973).
But Carroll said the powers that be did not see her in the role because of her work in “Julia” and made her audition without makeup. “Give me a chance. Just give me the opportunity to show you that I understand,” she recalled telling them in an interview with the National Visionary Leadership Project. “I’m an actress, singer, from New York City, from the streets of New York, and I pride myself on my work … I would like to be given the opportunity to stretch my wings.”
Singer and actress Diahann Carroll is seen in an undated photo. AP Photo/Jean-Jacques Levy
She would end up being nominated for her Oscar, and she called the filming a magical experience. “I had such a good time, I almost told them you don’t need to pay me,” she added.
In the 1980s, she joined in the long-running prime-time soap opera “Dynasty” as Dominique Deveraux, the glamorous half-sister of Blake Carrington; her physical battles with Alexis Carrington, played by Joan Collins, were among fan highlights. Another memorable role was Marion Gilbert, as the haughty mother of Whitley Gilbert (played by Jasmine Guy) on the TV series “A Different World.”
“Diahann Carroll you taught us so much. We are stronger, more beautiful and risk takers because of you. We will forever sing your praises and speak your name. Love Love Love, Debbie,” wrote actress, dancer and director Debbie Allen, who was a producer on “A Different World.”
Diahann Carroll you taught us so much. We are stronger, more beautiful and risk takers because of you. We will forever sing your praises and speak your name. Love Love Love, Debbie💕 pic.twitter.com/1LBUUa2Ql3
— Debbie Allen (@msdebbieallen) October 4, 2019
More recently, she had a number of guest shots and small roles in TV series, including playing the mother of Isaiah Washington’s character, Dr. Preston Burke, on “Grey’s Anatomy” and a stretch on the TV show “White Collar” as the widow June. She also returned to her roots in nightclubs.
In 2006, she made her first club appearance in New York in four decades, singing at Feinstein’s at the Regency. Reviewing a return engagement in 2007, a New York Times critic wrote that she sang “Both Sides Now” with “the reflective tone of a woman who has survived many severe storms and remembers every lightning flash and thunderclap.”
Actress Diahann Carroll is seen at the Emmy Awards in Los Angeles September 20, 1987. AP Photo/Douglas Pizac
Carol Diann Johnson was born in New York City and attended the High School for the Performing Arts. Her father was a subway conductor and her mother a homemaker.
She recalled when she was around 3 or 4 her parents took her to an aunt in North Carolina and left her there, without notice, for a year. She said it took a long time to forgive her parents, though she eventually did, and was there for them in their later years.
“It happened, it’s over, it’s done. A mature person finds a way to let go of that,” she told OWN’s “Master Class” in an interview a few years ago. “They did a lot of wonderful things. They lived, gave me everything they possibly could, and they passed on.”
She began her career as a model in a segregated industry; she got much of her work due to publications like the black magazine Ebony. A prize from “Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts” TV show led to nightclub engagements.
Singer and actress Diahann Carroll is seen in an undated photo. AP Photo/Jean-Jacques Levy
In her 1998 memoir “Diahann,” Carroll traced her turbulent romantic life, which included liaisons with Harry Belafonte, Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, Sammy Davis Jr., Sidney Poitier and David Frost. She even became engaged to Frost, but the engagement was canceled.
An early marriage to nightclub owner Monte Kay resulted in Carroll’s only child, Suzanne, as well as a divorce. She also divorced her second husband, retail executive Freddie Glusman, later marrying magazine editor Robert DeLeon, who died.
Her most celebrated marriage was in 1987, to singer Vic Damone, and the two appeared together in nightclubs. But they separated in 1991 and divorced several years later.
After she was treated for breast cancer in 1998, she spoke out for more money for research and for free screening for women who couldn’t afford mammograms. “We all look forward to the day that mastectomies, chemotherapy and radiation are considered barbaric,” Carroll told a gathering in 2000.
Besides her daughter, she is survived by grandchildren August and Sydney.
Notable deaths in 2019 150 photos
Every October, the public turns its attention to a critical health issue: breast cancer awareness. And, of course, stars are included in this. With celebrities like Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Cynthia Nixon and Sheryl Crow speaking out about their own battles with the disease by telling stories of survival, and other stars like Serena Williams, January Jones and Elizabeth Hurley helping to celebrate Breast Cancer Awareness Month by doing everything from singing and posting topless selfies on social media to fronting breast cancer awareness campaigns, Hollywood has the whole world thinking pink in an effort to end breast cancer.
This is no surprise — approximately 266,120 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed in U.S. women in 2018, according to Breastcancer.org, as well as 63,960 new cases of non-invasive breast cancer. In good news, the death rate has been dropping every year since 2000. That means more and more women are fighting back to beat the disease and become survivors. Below, Us shares the inspiring stories of stars who beat breast cancer.
Getting through: How 8 survivors battled breast cancer
After a breast cancer diagnosis comes the challenge of treatment. Chemotherapy, surgery, radiation and other procedures can be exhausting and overwhelming. Yet somehow, women find the strength to endure and overcome.
But how do they do it? How do they get through? Eight inspiring women share how they survived their breast cancer journeys with the help of unique encouragements and small comforts.
A New Page
Finding a new mission helped Brooklyn, N.Y., psychologist Paulette Kouffman Sherman get through a lumpectomy, eight chemotherapy treatments and 33 radiation treatments to treat Stage 2 triple negative breast cancer three years ago at the age of 41.
While walking along the beach one day, she says she prayed: “I have breast cancer. Did I do everything I was here to do?” She had accomplished some things, she knew, but was it enough?
MORE: 6 ways to give a breast cancer patient the help she really needs
That’s when she received an odd — and weirdly specific — message from beyond: “You have a legacy of 22 books to publish.” It sounds totally bizarre, she acknowledges, but that message became her new mission.
“I started writing during my treatment,” Sherman says. “I knew my experience would help other women get through this.”
“My mission is stronger than my cancer” became her mantra, and it worked. “I found that writing was really therapeutic to me,” she says. Pouring her feelings out on paper helped her gain perspective and make some meaning of the experience. And this “narrative therapy” helped her feel empowered, like the heroine of her journey.
Now, three years after her diagnosis, her 21st book is slated to be published in May 2016 by Llewellyn Worldwide.
“Shopping was therapeutic,” she says. “I ended up buying a lot of new household items and redecorating my place.” She also bought lots of “comfy and warm clothing to make my fall-to-winter treatments more bearable.”
Adding to her success was her supportive network of friends, family and colleagues. “The company I work for stood behind me every day and provided whatever I needed to be comfortable,” she says, adding that people “came out of the woodwork” — and their comfort zones — to help her through treatment.
When Susan Reif, author of 39 Things to Make A Cancer Patient Smile, underwent a lumpectomy, chemotherapy and radiation treatment in 2006 and 2007, she was “bowled over” by the support she received from the people in her life.
The writer and educational trainer from Tuxedo Park, N.Y., still has a basket full of cards sent by people in her support network. “While you’re using every ounce of energy you can to get through that fight, it’s nice to know there’s an outside world going on around you,” she says.
One set of cards came from a creative friend who took Reif on a “virtual voyage” to notable travel destinations around the world. Reif’s friend picked postcards from famous places and wrote messages on the back describing the imaginary adventures she and Reif were having there.
Reif never knew where the next card would take her, but anticipating its arrival and enjoying the game helped her cope with the rigors of treatment. “It was fabulous,” Reif says.
Michelle Ward was 33 when she was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer (later changed to Stage 1) in November 2011. The Brooklyn, N.Y., career coach broke the news to friends, clients and readers of her popular blog (whenigrowupcoach.com) in a really unique way: playing a pink ukulele.
The funny song, “I Got Boob Cancer,” became a viral hit that was picked up and shared by Vulture and other websites.
New to the ukulele and by no means a professional songwriter, Ward says, “It was a relief to deliver the bad news with a light touch. … I was surprised to have such comfort in the writing and singing of these songs.”
Through her treatment, which included two lumpectomies, four rounds of chemotherapy, bilateral mastectomy — or as Ward calls it, “boobal removal” — followed by surgery to swap her expanders for implants, Ward continued to write songs and play her pink ukulele.
“By keeping my sense of humor and going back to my roots in musical theater, I was able to emotionally heal,” she says.
There When You Need It
Being supported by family and friends “was probably 90 percent of what got me through my treatments,” says Angela Fuentes, president of The Step Sisters, a Virginia-based organization that raises money to improve quality of life for those battling breast cancer.
Fuentes’ two sons were 2 and 5 when she was diagnosed in 2008 at age 34. She went through a double mastectomy and four rounds of chemotherapy, she says, but the young mom had a support network that helped her and her husband navigate the challenging time.
People pitched in to provide everything from “little pick-me-ups left on my porch and in my mailbox” to full meals — so many that she had to buy another refrigerator. Now she strives to “pay forward” the generosity and kindness that was shown to her family.
Brighten Your Day
After a diagnosis of estrogen-positive breast cancer in situ (BCIS), Gari Julius Weilbacher underwent seven weeks of radiation treatments — “35 visits of four zaps each” — followed by five years of the prescription drug tamoxifen.
The communications consultant, who lives near Philadelphia with her husband and two daughters, says that during treatment, she didn’t wear makeup or dress up much at first. She was taking a mental break and “honoring the fact that I had cancer and how very serious cancer is.”
But one day, on a whim, she picked up a purple sweater and periwinkle corduroy pants. The first time she wore her new outfit out to lunch she discovered that her bright clothes affected the whole atmosphere. “The quality of our interaction was so normal,” she says. “(Just) two people having lunch together.”
She began to notice that when she wore her regular clothes, people’s expressions revealed their concern for her, a cancer patient. But when she dressed in bright, colorful clothing, the attitudes changed.
“When I wore this outfit or similar ones, people worried less about me. If they worried less about me, I worried less about me,” Weilbacher says. “People treated me with more optimism, and when they were more energetic, so was I. It became a great feedback loop.”
Just Keep Swimming
Lesa Behrens received a breast cancer diagnosis seven years ago as a 40th birthday present.
The swim instructor from Huntington Beach, Calif., had been swimming competitively since age 5 and taught the skill to people of all ages, from 4 months to 72 years. Not even chemotherapy could take this passion away.
She continued teaching after she lost her hair and didn’t hide the effects of treatment from her students. “It was a way for me to show others that what I was going through was not a death sentence. I knew that I could help change the way people looked at (cancer treatment),” she says.
Behrens was proven right when a student learned that her mother had breast cancer. The young girl told her mom, “If Mrs. Lesa can do it, you can do it, too. It’s a piece of cake.” That golden moment made “everything I went through totally worth it,” says Behrens.
There’s an App for That
At the age of 32, Lisa Oxidine, a mother of two from Cornelius, N.C., found a lump in her breast. She was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer and underwent a mastectomy and chemotherapy.
In 2012, when she was 46, doctors found that Oxidine’s cancer had spread to her lungs, liver, hip bones and the tissue surrounding her heart. She was diagnosed with a particularly aggressive form of breast cancer, HER2-positive metastatic breast cancer (MBC). Women with MBC typically receive treatment for the rest of their lives.
Oxidine has scans every three months to make sure her cancer hasn’t grown. The scans are stressful, but relaxation tools provided by a free iPhone app, 4HER, help her get through it. The app also provides information on HER2-positive breast cancer and connects patients.
“Speaking with someone who has been successful in their journey helps you approach everything in a whole new way,” she says.
Describing the moment she was diagnosed, Louis-Dreyfus said this to The New Yorker: “Don’t misunderstand: I was to-my-bones terrified. But I didn’t let myself—except for a couple of moments—go to a really dark place. I didn’t allow it.” She described excruciating side effects of the chemotherapy: the inability to eat, the vomiting and diarrhea, the sores.
The Seinfeld legend wasn’t sure she wanted to be open about such a private experience, but the fact that Veep shut down filming to accommodate her treatment meant that rumors would get out one way or another. “I thought, ‘Well, I’m just going to embrace this and attack it and try to do it with a sense of humor,’” she told Self. “I was really pleased with the reaction.”
In 2011, actress and comedian Wanda Sykes shared her breast cancer diagnosis on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. After going in for a breast reduction, Sykes says the necessary lab work revealed something unexpected: “They found that I had DCIS in my left breast. I was very, very lucky because DCIS is basically stage-zero cancer. So I was very lucky.”
Sykes was given a choice: she could take a “wait and see” approach, or she could take action to remove the cancer. “I had the choice of, you can go back every three months and get it checked. Have a mammogram, MRI every three months just to see what it’s doing,” she told DeGeneres. “But, I’m not good at keeping on top of stuff. I’m sure I’m overdue for an oil change and a teeth cleaning already.”
Partly also due to her family history of breast cancer, she decided to have a bilateral mastectomy, describing her decision like this: “I had both breasts removed … because now I have zero chance of having breast cancer … It sounds scary upfront, but what do you want? Do you want to wait and not be as fortunate when it comes back and it’s too late?”
In 2006, musician Sheryl Crow was diagnosed with “estrogen-positive stage 1 invasive breast cancer,” per an interview with Samantha Brodsky in October 2019. The lump was discovered during a mammogram, after which Crow underwent a biopsy, lumpectomy, and seven weeks of radiation.
It was a time of serious reflection for Crow: “Part of my challenge with being diagnosed was to put myself first, to learn how to say no, and to learn how to listen to my body when it came to exhaustion, and to not take care of everyone. To actually put my oxygen mask on before I put anybody else’s on in order to save my own life.”
Crow wants women to know more about risk factors: While she doesn’t have a family history of breast cancer, she does have dense breasts, which put her at an increased risk for developing breast cancer. Now, Crow is more than 10 years cancer free, and reflecting on what her journey meant to her: “My joy has never been more intact than now. The last 10 years, not only has my life been enhanced, but just my ability to be in my life and to enjoy my life and to not sweat the small stuff, I think, is directly correlated to having survived breast cancer.”
In 2015, Food Network star Sandra Lee found out she had early stage breast cancer (specifically, DCIS). After weighing her options, she decided to undergo a double mastectomy, despite the cancer only being in one breast at the time. “I didn’t want to take any chances,” she says in her 2019 HBO documentary, Rx Early Detection: A Cancer Journey with Sandra Lee. “My cancer was in three separate places, and there was the possibility it could come back in the other breast.”
While the surgery was successful and Lee required no further treatment for the cancer, she struggled emotionally and physically in the weeks that followed, later developing a life-threatening infection in one breast that left her bedridden. she developed an infection in one breast months later that left her bedridden. “I couldn’t leave the house — I couldn’t even move, I was in so much pain,” she shares.
Now, Lee has dedicated herself to sharing resources and raising awareness about early detection. Along with her illuminating documentary, Lee worked hard to pass New York State’s No Excuses law, an advanced cancer-screening program. “The earlier you catch it, the longer you get to live,” Lee says. “Period. End of story.”
Beverly Hills, 90210 star Shannen Doherty was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015. In August 2016, she discovered the cancer had spread to her lymph nodes and beyond, necessitating chemotherapy and radiation, along with an earlier single mastectomy.
Throughout her breast cancer battle, Doherty posted to Instagram photos of various milestones: her hair loss, her chemotherapy sessions, and the community that supported her. More than just what was happening, though, Doherty shared how she was feeling — the anxiety, the terror, the self-pity, and everything in between.
“It was just about being as honest as possible,” the actress told Health. And then it became very important to me that I was there for people who were going through it. I would never give medical advice because I’m not a doctor, but I would always say, ‘Advocate for yourself.’”
Today, Doherty is in remission, having undergone reconstructive surgery in 2017 after the conclusion of her treatments. She shared some of the effects that are still hard to overcome: “The hormones I went on threw my body into menopause instantly. My metabolism came to a screeching halt, and I put on a ton of weight. Chemo also put on weight for me. Plus, the chemo and radiation drain collagen right out of your skin, so you age really quickly. For me, the hardest part is the scars. Every time I get out of the shower, I look, and it’s like, ‘Oh my God, I’m Frankenstein.’”
But mostly, Doherty focuses on how grateful she is to be alive and healthy: “It’s the little things that are making me laugh. The expressions on my dog’s face. My husband playing air guitar as we walk down the street. It’s all those little moments, the ones that make me smile and feel very joyful that I’m still here to enjoy them.”
The Grease star is currently fighting cancer for the third time, and revealed in 2019 that she was living with stage 4 cancer. In 1992, Newton-John was diagnosed with breast cancer; in 2013, she found cancer in the shoulder; and now, the cancer has spread to her back. In an interview with 60 Minutes Australia, Newton-John reflected on how she deals with her current diagnosis.
“When you’re given a cancer diagnosis or a scary honest diagnosis, you’re suddenly given a possibility of a time limit,” the performer said. “If somebody tells you, you have six months to live, very possibly you will because you believe that. So for me, psychologically, it’s better not to have any idea of what they expect, or what the last person that has what you have lived, so I don’t tune in.”
After her first diagnosis, the star underwent a partial mastectomy, chemotherapy, and reconstructive surgery. She founded the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness & Research Center to help support people battling cancer both through research initiatives and wellness programs for patients.
(1/2) Hey All, sorry for the long silence. I was diagnosed with breast cancer 2 months ago & am recovering from a double mastectomy.
— Kathy Bates (@MsKathyBates) September 12, 2012
(1/2) Hey All, sorry for the long silence. I was diagnosed with breast cancer 2 months ago & am recovering from a double mastectomy.
— Kathy Bates (@MsKathyBates) September 12, 2012
Kathy Bates was no stranger to breast cancer when she got her diagnosis: both her mother and aunt were survivors, and Bates had felt for a while that a diagnosis was likely coming. But it wasn’t her first diagnosis: In 2003, Bates was diagnosed with stage 1 ovarian cancer, for which she underwent nine rounds of chemotherapy.
Bates told Yahoo early this year how tough her first diagnosis had been: “I’m very open and direct so it was hard for me not to talk to people about it. But at the same time I withdrew from all of the activities that I had in my life …I don’t think I really came out about being a cancer survivor until I developed breast cancer in 2012.”
In 2012, an MRI revealed Bates’s breast cancer — which she says she took even harder than her first experience with cancer. “Breast cancer was much more difficult for me than the ovarian…Obviously, losing one’s breast on the outside of the body is much more noticeable. And I was in a lot of pain, which I wasn’t with ovarian.”
And the difficulties didn’t stop once she beat the cancer: The Misery star developed lymphedema, which she describes as a “souvenir of cancer.” She describes the condition like this: “The doctors remove lymph nodes to keep the cancer from spreading. If the lymph nodes have been damaged or traumatized in any way, you’re at risk for lymphedema. pain, swelling, you tend to isolate. So it’s psychologically so damaging …It was almost worse than having the cancer.”
In 2005, singer Kylie Minogue was diagnosed with breast cancer. But a few weeks before that, she was misdiagnosed. On The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Minogue revealed that she was initially told she was clear after a mammogram, but then discovered a lump weeks later that turned out to be breast cancer after a lumpectomy. “Early diagnosis and prompt treatment is the key for any woman diagnosed with breast cancer,” Minogue now advises.
The singer underwent surgery and chemotherapy — but one of the hardest aspects of her recovery has been accepting that she’s unlikely to have children. “I don’t want to dwell on it, obviously, but I wonder what would have been like,” she told London’s Sunday Times. “I just have to be as philosophical about it as I can. You’ve got to accept where you are and get on with it.”
Betsey Johnson discovered a lump in her breast a few weeks after surgery to remove her breast implants — a decision she tells Bustle was long overdue. After finding a “grape-sized” lump, Johnson rushed to a clinic: “When you go get a mammogram or sonogram and they don’t let you go home, you know you’re in trouble …That’s what happened.”
In 1999, Johnson had a lumpectomy. She also underwent weeks of radiation, all the while keeping her diagnosis a secret from everyone close to her, including her own daughter. Here’s why she decided to keep this massive secret: “My biggest fear was that people were gonna think I was going to die …That I wasn’t going to pay my bills. That I’m not going to design. That I’m not going to feel good. That it was over.”
It was until late 2000 that Johnson shared her diagnosis with friends and family, sharing her story with the public a few days later. Then and now, Johnson’s goal in going public was to keep the focus on survival — and early detection. “I still try to remember to tell , ‘Get your damn mammogram. Don’t fool around with this. Just get it done,’” she says. “I love being a real advocate, really pushing my customers to take care of business. Don’t be scared of it. Just get tested. If you’ve got it, do something about it.”
In 2006, Cynthia Nixon was diagnosed with stage 1 breast cancer. But she didn’t take it too hard: “I’ve learned that if you catch breast cancer early, the chances are overwhelmingly good that you’ll be cured. So my attitude, which very much mirrored my mother’s, was this wasn’t a big deal,” Nixon said in 2008. Her mother was a breast cancer survivor, and had caught the breast cancer at a similarly early stage to Nixon’s.
Given her family history, Nixon had been getting yearly mammograms since age 35, which helped with her early detection. “‘The doctor said the tumor was so small, he wouldn’t have even noticed it except for the fact that it wasn’t there on previous X-rays,” she explained. After her diagnosis, she had six weeks of radiation and a lumpectomy, all of which she completed without missing a performance of a play she was in at the time.
In 2014, Nixon’s mother died from breast cancer, which had returned 35 years after her first diagnosis. In 2016, Nixon spoke at the Breast Cancer Foundation Gala about her mother’s struggle, and why she’s fighting for breast cancer awareness today: “Breast cancer is beatable. It’s the most beatable cancer out there. We have to check ourselves and get the mammograms …. My mother brought me up to believe that a breast cancer diagnosis is not a death sentence.”
In 2015, actress Rita Wilson shared with People that she had recently received a breast cancer diagnosis: Here was her statement, which preached the importance of getting a second opinion when you feel something isn’t right:
Last week, with my husband by my side, and with the love and support of family and friends, I underwent a bilateral mastectomy and reconstruction for breast cancer after a diagnosis of invasive lobular carcinoma. I am recovering and most importantly, expected to make a full recovery. Why? Because I caught this early, have excellent doctors and because I got a second opinion.
I have had an underlying condition of LCIS, (lobular carcinoma in situ) which has been vigilantly monitored through yearly mammograms and breast MRIs. Recently, after two surgical breast biopsies, PLCIS (pleomorphic carcinoma in situ) was discovered. … I was relieved when the pathology showed no cancer.
However, a friend who had had breast cancer suggested I get a second opinion on my pathology and my gut told me that was the thing to do. A different pathologist found invasive lobular carcinoma. His diagnosis of cancer was confirmed by, yet, another pathologist. I share this to educate others that a second opinion is critical to your health …I hope this will encourage others to get a second opinion and to trust their instincts if something doesn’t ‘feel’ right.
In 2019, Wilson reflected on the past four, cancer-free years: “I had so many different thoughts. You’re scared, anxious, you think about your own mortality. So I had a serious discussion with my husband that if anything happens, I wanted him to be super sad for a very long time. And I’d also like a party, a celebration.”
When Amy Robach was diagnosed with stage 2 invasive breast cancer, she felt like her world was ending. “I did not handle it gracefully or stoically at all — I completely fell apart. I think there was a gasp,” she told Cure Today in 2018. “It shook me to my core.”
It was actually an on-air mammogram on Good Morning America that led to Robach’s cancer being discovered — which, to an extent, forced Robach to go through the experience publicly. “It was scary to be public, but I don’t know how I would have gotten through it if I didn’t have the support from thousands of women who were writing, emailing, texting and tweeting me,” she said of the experience. “It felt beautiful.”
She underwent a double mastectomy (against her doctor’s advice), many rounds of chemotherapy, and remains on tamoxifen to this day. She continued working throughout chemo treatments, which she says helped her keep her head together. “It was important to me to be something other than a cancer patient, and going to work gave me something to wake up for that wasn’t cancer-related.”
But the physical and mental effects shook her to her core nonetheless: You lose your memory, and you don’t really remember what you’re doing…Hot flashes, mood swings, battling weight gain — it feels very overwhelming. I felt like I turned 40 and lost 20 years. I had to mourn the loss of who I was before and accept who I am now physically,” she recalls. “I was told and warned that when your treatments are over, you’re not going to be celebrating. You might for one day, but then the fear hits you. I’d see grandparents playing with their grandchildren and have dark thoughts: “Will I know mine? Will I play with mine? Will I be that old?”
Her advice to cancer patients now? “There is life during cancer treatments, and there is life after cancer treatments.” Personally, she’s trying to live each moment to the fullest: “I live like I’m dying. I know it sounds like a country music song, but it is how I live. That’s how I have inspired my children to live. Everyone around me lives better. We do what we want to do now — we don’t say 10 years from now.”
Suzanne Sommers has become known for her suggestion of alternative treatments since her cancer diagnosis. In 2001, she revealed that she was taking a mistletoe extract supplement to boost her immune system after a lumpectomy and radiation therapy to treat her breast cancer.
In her 2012 book Knockout, Sommers talks about her choice to pursue nontraditional treatment: “When you receive a cancer diagnosis, you’re more vulnerable than at any other time in your life. I’ve personally had the experience twice…My only hope for survival was alternatives. But that was my decision, what I thought was best for me.”
Sommers knows that her experience isn’t the same as everyone’s, but her interactions with patients benefiting from these treatments inspired her to become a spokesperson: “I am not a doctor or a scientist, but merely a passionate layperson, a filter, a messenger. I spoke with so many patients who are living normal, happy, fulfilled lives, and their enthusiasm and great quality of life convinced me that you can indeed live with cancer.”
Sopranos star Edie Falco talked to Health about her breast cancer diagnosis in 2011 — and why she kept it a secret as long as she did.
“The moment a doctor says ‘We have bad news’ is life-changing. For me, time stopped. I couldn’t walk. I couldn’t breathe,” she reflects. “It was very important for me to keep my diagnosis under the radar, even from the cast and crew of The Sopranos, because well-meaning people would have driven me crazy asking, ‘How are you feeling?’ I would have wanted to say, ‘I’m scared, I don’t feel so good, and my hair is falling out.’”
While initially terrified, Falco quickly set herself to the task of getting through treatment, however she could. “I thought: I am a strong woman. I have resources to get good treatment, so why not me? Perhaps, better me than some single mother of three kids who is working three jobs. I know I can handle this.”
While undergoing chemotherapy, Falco did what she needed to stay afloat, including trying to exercise, wearing “crazy little hats with hair attachment” to avoid freaking out about hair loss and eating whatever “fatty foods” she could keep down.
In 2004, Falco had been in remission for a while: “When the cancer went into remission, I was relieved, of course, but it was also strangely depressing,” the actress reflects. “As long as you’re showing up at a cancer hospital every week, you know someone has an eye on you. When they say “OK, good luck,” it occurs to you you’re really on your own, and its a bit nerve-wracking.”
So, what did she do next? Her body was sending her a clear message: “Every cell in my body needed and wanted to be a mother,” she says. She adopted her son Anderson, even with all her uncertainty about what the future might hold. “Every day my life surprises me, just like my cancer diagnosis surprised me,” she says. “But you roll with it. That’s our job as humans.”
just a reminder that maggie smith was battling cancer while filming the deathly hallows part 2, and she still managed to give this outstanding performance. what a legend. pic.twitter.com/AK1Ui30mFA
— alice (@grangershug) December 28, 2018
In 2008, Downton Abbey star Maggie Smith was diagnosed with breast cancer after discovering a lump on her breast. “I didn’t think it was anything serious because years ago I felt a lump and it was benign…I assumed this would be too. It kind of takes the wind out of your sails, and I don’t know what the future holds, if anything. I don’t think there’s a lot of it, because of my age — there just isn’t. It’s all been. I’ve no idea what there will be.”
She says that discovering this cancer at a later age made it difficult to bounce back: “It takes you longer to recover, you are not so resilient. I am fearful of the amount of energy one needs to be in a film or a play.”
Nonetheless, Smith famously continued filming Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince while undergoing chemotherapy treatments. “I was hairless. I had no problem getting the wig on. I was like a boiled egg,” she recalled. Of chemotherapy (which she said was “worse than the cancer itself), she said this: “You feel horribly sick. I was holding on to railings, thinking ‘I can’t do this.’”
As of 2009, Smith was just starting to feel back to normal — whatever that means. “The last couple of years have been a write-off, though I’m beginning to feel like a person now, she shared. “My energy is coming back. S*** happens. I ought to pull myself together a bit.”
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Cancer doesn’t care who you are — it can strike anyone, even celebrities. Wonderwall.com is taking a look at some of the stars who’ve been diagnosed with cancer, including this famous rock star… On Oct. 13, 2019, TMZ reported that guitarist Eddie Van Halen — who was treated for tongue cancer nearly two decades earlier — has been suffering from throat cancer for years and has quietly been flying between the United States and Germany for treatment. In 2000, doctors removed about a third of the Van Halen rocker’s tongue following his first diagnosis. According to TMZ, cancer cells later migrated down to his throat. In 2015, Eddie opened up about his health to Billboard, sharing his theory: “I used metal picks — they’re brass and copper — which I always held in my mouth, in the exact place where I got the tongue cancer,” he said. “Plus, I basically live in a recording studio that’s filled with electromagnetic energy. So that’s one theory. I mean, I was smoking and doing a lot of drugs and a lot of everything. But at the same time, my lungs are totally clear. This is just my own theory, but the doctors say it’s possible.” Keep reading for more celebs who’ve battled various forms of cancer…
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What 9 Celebrities Are Breast Cancer Survivors?
When thinking about celebrities, many of us picture people with fame, fortune, good looks and bodies to match. We admire them and at times probably wished we could lead their charmed lives. But leading the lifestyle of the rich and famous does not protect someone from a breast cancer diagnosis. The following are some celebrities you might recognize, but might not have known about their individual battles to become breast cancer survivors.
Celebrity Breast Cancer Survivors
Christina Applegate is an actress who got her start as a teenager playing Kelly Bundy on Married with Children. She was diagnosed at young age with breast cancer, 36, opting for a lumpectomy at the time. Later on, after learning she possessed the genetic mutation for breast cancer (BRCA positive), she made the decision to proceed with a double mastectomy. Flash forward a decade later, and Applegate is still dedicated to raising breast cancer awareness, specifically for early detection with her foundation, Right Action for Women.
Sheryl Crow is a Grammy Award-winning singer and songwriter with hits like “All I Wanna Do” and “If It Makes You Happy.” She is another 10+ year breast cancer survivor because her cancer was found early, and she understands the importance of educating women to get their annual mammograms. In fact, last year, she became the national spokesperson for Hologic’s Genius™ 3D Mammography exam.
Peter Criss plays drums behind the legendary front man, Gene Simmons, for the rock band KISS. Although he first noticed a lump in 2007, he did not learn that he had cancer in his left breast for another two years. As a breast cancer survivor, he is determined to raise awareness about the fact that men can develop breast cancer, too.
Julia Louis-Dreyfus is a comedic actress formerly on Seinfeld and currently appearing in her Emmy Award-winning show Veep on HBO. She announced her diagnosis in a very public fashion on Twitter on Thursday, September 28. “One in 8 women gets breast cancer,” she stated in her tweet. “Today, I’m the one.”
Olivia Newton John is the British-born but Australian-raised singer/songwriter who first hit American radio airwaves with her lesser known song “All Things Must Pass” until she hit it big with “I Honestly Love You.” And of course, she rose to stardom when appearing opposite John Travolta in the movie adaptation of the musical “Grease.” In 1992, Newton John received her breast cancer diagnosis and decided to have mastectomy. She was cancer-free for 25 years, but learned earlier this year breast cancer had returned and localized in another area of her body, the pelvis. The recurrence was discovered due to the fact that she experienced pain upon walking. This time around, Newton John opted for radiation therapy along with a strong focus on yoga and other natural therapies, such as herbal supplements, meditation and even medicinal cannabis. She is currently raising money for her cancer wellness center in Melbourne, as well as fund clinical research trails for potential breakthrough cancer treatments.
Giuliana Rancic is the former host of E! News and appeared opposite her husband in the reality TV show Giuliana & Bill. In October 2011, prior to undergoing another round of infertility treatment, Rancic’s mammogram uncovered early-stage breast cancer. Two months later she had a double mastectomy along with reconstructive surgery. A couple of years ago, Rancic created Fab-U-Wish, a non-profit organization that now runs in conjunction with The Pink Agenda. The mission of Fab-U-Wish is to grant celebrity-themed wishes to women who are undergoing breast cancer treatment.
Robin Roberts started her broadcast career as one of the first female reporters in sports on ESPN, which then led to her position as a featured reporter for Good Morning America and eventually becoming the show’s co-anchor. After performing her self-breast exam in 2007, she found the lump, which a biopsy confirmed as early stage breast cancer. Roberts’ treatment plan included a lumpectomy, partial mastectomy, six and a half weeks of radiation therapy and eight rounds of chemotherapy. She survived breast cancer only to learn five years later that she developed a rare blood disease known as myelodysplastic syndrome (MSD), which was attributed to her cancer treatment. Roberts has used her position on the national morning show to help raise breast cancer awareness along with importance of donating to Be the Match, a national bone marrow registry.
Jaclyn Smith is famous for her role as Kelly Garrett in the original Charlie’s Angels TV series. Her annual mammogram in 2002 uncovered her breast cancer, which was treated with a lumpectomy and radiation. Concerning a woman’s battle against breast cancer, her words of wisdom are to find a support group: Don’t go it alone.
Suzanne Somers first came into our homes as Chrissy on Three’s Company back in the 1970s. After hearing the words, “You have breast cancer,” the marketer behind the Thighmaster proceeded with a lumpectomy and radiation treatment plan, steering clear of chemotherapy. She opted instead to follow alternative therapeutic methods in her breast cancer recovery. Shortly thereafter, she also adopted an organic diet and strict exercise regimen. Somers’ lesson learned after breast cancer is to empower women to become the healthiest versions of themselves, a strong breast cancer survivor.
At Chapters Health System and its affiliates—Good Shepherd Hospice, HPH Hospice and LifePath Hospice, every day is devoted to educating our patients and keeping them in the place they call home. We are dedicated to ensuring that patients, young and old alike, and their families are able to make educated decisions about important healthcare matters. For more information, please call our helpful Chapters Health team at 1.866.204.8611 or send an email to [email protected]