Famous breast cancer survivors
Movie stars, singers and a politician’s wife who’ve all been diagnosed with the disease reveal their strength to keep fighting.
Famous breast cancer survivors
No amount of fame or money can guard against breast cancer. See celebrities who have suffered and overcome the disease, and are active in promoting cancer research and education.
Diagnosed with breast cancer in 2014, journalist Joan Lunden posed on People magazine's cover bald. "I knew I could be a voice for a quarter of a million women who are diagnosed every year with breast cancer, and I wanted to show that your health is more important than your hair," Lunden told TODAY in Sept. 2014. "Your hair grows back after you stop chemo, and then you have your life." Lunden’s treatment included a lumpectomy, chemotherapy and radiation.
The author of many popular young adult books revealed her diagnosis in a 2012 blog post. "We were supposed to leave for five weeks in Italy on July 29 – four of those weeks would be spent at an artists' colony housed in a castle in Umbria where I was hoping to finish my new book. A castle! Sound too good to be true? Uh huh," she writes. "A visit to the radiologist on June 12 for a routine ultrasound (dense breast tissue) led to a core biopsy," the post continues. Upon receiving the results from her biopsy, Blume, 74, tried to process her diagnosis. Wait – me? 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."
Actress-comedian Wanda Sykes admitted for the first time to having breast cancer and a mastectomy during an interview on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show." "I had breast cancer," says Sykes, 47. "Yeah, I know it's scary." The cancer was found in 2011 after she had undergone what was essentially a cosmetic procedure, to have a breast reduction.
TV personality Giuliana Rancic announced she had breast cancer during an interview with Ann Curry on TODAY in 2011. While going through the process of trying In Vitro Fertilization for a third time, Giuliana's doctor suggested that she get a mammogram. While Giuliana initially rejected the idea, thinking, "I'm 36 years old, why do I need a mamogram?" and that's when her breast cancer was initially detected.
For actress Christina Applegate, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008, there was only one effective way to deal with her fear over her cancer treatment: Let it all out. "Sometimes, you know, I cry," she explained. "And sometimes I scream. And I get really angry. And I get really upset, you, into wallowing in self-pity sometimes. And I think that's all part of the healing."
At times, the best way for Hoda Kotb to deal with the disease was to not deal with it. "Sometimes when things are way too big and I can’t control it, I do sort of a weird thing where I kind of check out a little bit,” she told TODAY after her 2007 diagnosis. “It’s all about self-preservation for me. I couldn’t read the books. I didn’t Google it once. It’s like someone telling you what it’s like to jump out of a plane. I don’t want to know. I just want to jump.”
Feminist and political activist Gloria Steinem was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1986, soon after turning 50. She underwent surgery and radiation, telling HBO, “The cancer served a real purpose, making me a little bit more conscious of time.”
Dame Maggie Smith
When the 73-year-old actress Maggie Smith was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008, it was reported that she insisted on filming her sixth appearance as Professor McGonagall in "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" even while undergoing radiation therapy. The Academy Award winner had chemotherapy and radiation after having a lump removed.
Actress Cathy Bates, in talking about her cancer said, "I had ovarian cancer in 2003. When I went in for a scan last year (2012) they found a tumor in my left breast. I wasn't going to fool around; I had a double mastectomy, "the American Horror Story: Coven" star said in AARP's The Magazine. "Breast cancer runs like a river through my family. My mother and niece had it; my aunt died of it. Even if you test negative [for genetic mutations that predispose you to cancer] – like I did – you can't assume you're OK."
Actress Diahann Carroll was diagnosed in 1997 with breast cancer and revelaed that her diagnosis stunned her. She says she had no family history of breast cancer and was always conscious about her diet and exercise. She said, "I had a false sense of security about cancer. "It won't happen to me," she told "Coping with Cancer." Well, you know what? It did." I feared for my life, and then for my career, but I learned that it helps to turn fear into action."
Best known for her role as medical resident Abby Lockhart in NBC's long-running hospital drama "ER", Maura Tierney confirmed in July 2009 she had a tumor in her breast and needed surgery. As a result, the actress had to leave the NBC fall drama "Parenthood." Tierney's rep said in a statement to Access Hollywood, "Ms. Tierney and her doctors remain confident that the outcome of her treatments will be positive."
After her diagnosis in 2002, designer Betsey Johnson tried to deal with the realities of the disease matter-of-factly, instead of obsessively. "I'm not the type of person who dwells too much on bad things," Johnson told USA Today. "I guess the only thing I've done differently is loosened up the reigns on my company and now I'm enjoying life more."
Singer-songwriter and '70s icon Carly Simon found that her breast cancer diagnosis in 1997 gave her life a focal point. "I feel stronger and more vital than ever," she told the New York Daily News. "When you actually have a battle, it's better than when you don't know who to fight."
Journalist Cokie Roberts' bout with breast cancer only reiterated what she already knew. "I had learned the life lesson that life is short and do the things that are important long before I had cancer," Roberts told Richmond (Va.) Magazine after her diagnosis in 2002. "I knew work is not important, family is, long before I had cancer."
Cynthia Nixon understands the reason many women avoid mammograms: The results could be terrifying. "(T)he only thing to really be afraid of is if you don't go get your mammograms, because there's some part of you that doesn't want to know, and that's the thing that's going to trip you up," the actress, who was diagnosed with the disease in 2002, explained." "That's the thing that could have a really bad endgame."
Actress Edie Falco found the best way to handle her battle with breast cancer was to play it close to the chest -- she even kept her 2003 diagnosis a secret from her "Sopranos" castmates. "I kept my diagnosis under the radar, even from the cast and crew, because well-meaning people would have driven me crazy asking, 'How are you feeling?'" Falco told Health magazine. "I would have wanted to say, 'I'm scared, I don't feel so good, and my hair is falling out!' "I bucked up, put on my Carmela fingernails, and was ready to work."
Diagnosed with the disease in 2002, Jaclyn Smith has this advice for anyone facing breast cancer: Don’t go it alone. "I believe in the power of girlfriends," Smith told Prevention magazine. "I believe that family and friends, and especially other women, can make a profound difference during cancer treatment."
After her breast cancer diagnosis in 1987, former First Lady Nancy Reagan chose to have a mastectomy. It was a controversial decision for the time, and although she received much criticism for it, she defended her choice. ''I couldn't possibly lead the kind of life I lead, and keep the schedule that I do, having radiation or chemotherapy,'' Mrs. Reagan said in a 1987 interview with Barbara Walters. ''There'd be no way. Maybe if I'd been 20 years old, hadn't been married, hadn't had children, I would feel completely differently. But for me it was right.''
Soon after Olivia Newton-John learned she had breast cancer in 1992, she began calling friends and family to tell them the news. "The second friend I called burst into tears, and I thought, 'I don't need this,'" she told CNN."So I had a sister and friends make the calls. That way I could focus on positive thoughts, instead of on the illness."
Doctors initially misdiagnosed the breast cancer of Kylie Minogue, the Australian pop singer has said. Her condition was finally correctly identified in 2005. She had surgery to remove the lump, followed by chemotherapy. "It's amazing how many people are affected by cancer and it's definitely something that stays with you and you have a lot to think about and your life changes," she told the Associated Press. "I feel very fortunate."
At first when she returned to work as a co-anchor for "Good Morning America," Robin Roberts wore a wig -- until one morning in April, when she abandoned it on-air. "I am not my hair," said Roberts, who was diagnosed with the disease in 2007. "I am the soul that lies within and that's it -- no more wig. That's it."
The power of positive thinking helped ice skating icon Peggy Fleming win her battle against cancer after she was diagnosed in 1998. "I do remember the dark sides, but I try not to dwell on them," the Olympic gold medalist told TODAY. "There's nothing I can do about them anymore. I can change the future. I can't change the past."
After her diagnosis in 2006, Sheryl Crow surrounded herself with positive, uplifting people. "I think encouragement always goes a long way," the singer told CNN. "It is so scary ... but having the positive support of loved ones is invaluable."
Three years after her diagnosis in 2000, actress Suzanne Somers went on "Larry King Live" to talk about her experience with the disease. "I look at everybody differently. I look at every child differently. I look at every flower differently," Somers said. "I'm grateful for every day...it's like before and after. Once you've had (cancer), you just appreciate everything."
Somewhere along the road to becoming disease-free after her 2004 diagnosis, Melissa Etheridge knew she had to start removing the cancer in every area of her life. "I've changed my lifestyle," she told "Dateline NBC." "I have taken what I consider poisonous things out of my life. Out of my food, out of my work, out of my social circle, out of everything. Because I want a clean, cancer-free life. And I believe I can have that."