Television personality Kym Douglas is known for sharing lifestyle tips, but her perspective on her own advice changed when she underwent treatment for breast cancer.
“Here's the irony: I'm on camera every day, talking about beauty, health and wellness. I have no hair, I'm green, I lost 27 pounds, I have no eyebrows, I have no eyelashes,” Douglas, 61, told TODAY.
“It made me really look at what I was doing, what I was projecting to women, and how important ... our inner beauty is, because I didn't have any outer beauty.”
The ordeal started three years ago. Douglas’ career kept her busy and like many women, she delayed getting her mammogram. She reassured herself it was fine because she was at a healthy weight, wasn’t a big drinker, never smoked and enjoyed longevity in her family, including her mother who was in her 90s.
“I'm fine. I don't have to go,” Douglas recalled telling herself. “Six months turn into three years and I hadn't gone for my mammogram.”
When Douglas did get the screening in 2018, she received the dreaded follow-up call. After several more tests, the 58-year-old was diagnosed with ductal carcinoma in situ, also known as stage 0 breast cancer. DCIS means the cells that line the milk ducts of the breast have become cancer, but they haven’t spread further, according to the American Cancer Society. About 1 in 5 new breast cancers will be ductal carcinoma in situ.
Stage 0 sounds like it would require little treatment, but Douglas learned she would need surgery. Scans of her body showed why: “If you see a breast, it was like someone took a glitter and went poof. And there was little glitter of calcification all over. So I couldn't get a lumpectomy and I couldn't watch it — we had to remove the breast,” she said.
Douglas opted for a double mastectomy and was told she would need six weeks to recover, with no follow-up treatment necessary. She was planning to go right back to her life, but as she underwent the surgery, her doctors found three tumors behind her breast tissue. Experts say such a situation is rare.
“I went from stage 0 to stage 3 in one second and everything changed,” Douglas recalled. “I knew in that exact moment that my life would never be the same. I was never going back.”
She underwent more than 18 weeks of chemotherapy and more than seven weeks of radiation. The treatment was grueling, but she continued to work and make television appearances. It changed her sense of true beauty, she said, crediting her family and friends with helping her stay positive. There has been no evidence of cancer since her treatment.
Douglas urged others to follow her grandmother’s motto: Health is wealth.
“I want other women to know that you really should take care of your health. You do have to take care of yourself because you can't pour from an empty vessel,” she said.
“It really is true that old cliché — it's what's inside that matters and the outside, it comes and goes… let's just love each other and get along because wow, it's scary on that other side.”