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Let's Discuss...people in the public eye
Let's Discuss ... people in the public eye that have shared openly about their cancer experience.


In recent years, we have had Ben Stiller (prostate), Olivia Newton-John (Breast), Fran Drescher (uterine), Hugh Jackman (skin) and many other celebrities share about their cancer experience. 

How does their story affect you? 
When celebrities get cancer how is it portrayed by the media?
Is there a celebrity’s story that stands out to you? If so, please share the impact it had.
26 Replies
35 Posts
Not a celebrity but a well-known TV character, so I hope this counts.

I was re-watching the final season of Sex and the City when my partner was diagnosed with cancer. One of the characters on SATC, Samantha, goes through breast cancer treatment in the final season, so I was watching Samantha's cancer storyline in the early days of my partner's diagnosis. I know it's not quite the same as being inspired by a real person, but how her character experienced cancer but managed to keep her sense of style and humour throughout inspired me a lot.  
888 Posts
I think it is good that people, regardless of celebrity, share their experiences, assuming they are not doing so for personal gain.  Them sharing shows that they are not immune and it also raises awareness which will hopefully allow others to open up with their experiences.

Having cancer makes people feel shamed, dirty, diseased and worst.  Seeing others talk openly relieves some of that burden and makes people feel more "normal" again.
2175 Posts
Interesting topic, Lacey_adminCCS‍   Out of curiosity, I googled "Celebrities With Cancer" and came across this article from last year:   212 Celebrities Who Have Had Cancer.

So for me, I guess it's not a question of any particular celebrity's story that has impacted me, but more the fact and awareness that cancer does not care who you are.

I am thrilled to see foundations and such set up by many celebrities to help with cancer research and treatment.  Most have a wealth that many of us don't have, so I am glad they are helping out, financially.
114 Posts
Angelina Jolie - I remember her coming out and talking about her double mastectomy and the BRCA gene in 2013, and thinking "wow". I never dreamt that 2 short years later I would be facing the same decisions as her, except that I was actually diagnosed with cancer. While going through chemo for Stage 2 triple negative breast cancer in the last half of 2015, I was referred & then fast tracked for genetic testing, as my family history and my particular case (tnbc, pre-menopause) had convinced my oncologist that I had a gene mutation.

I too carry the BRCA1 gene mutation, carried on my Dad's side of the family. I think 2 of my cousins in the UK have it too. I think my testing specifically looked for BRCA1, and I still ponder getting the fuller testing done, to see if there is anything lurking in my family history. I am the 11th person in our family to have cancer, and the last one standing. As soon as I was done chemo, I had a double mastectomy (4 months after my lumpectomy surgery), and then 4 months later I also had a complete hysterectomy and BSO. 

I sometimes get called Angelina's Canadian Cousin. Like her, I have been fairly open and vocal about my story so far. The only people I have kept the BRCA mutation from are my two children. They were 9 & 7 when I was diagnosed, and will not be able to get tested until they are 18. My daughter is 13 now, and still worries about every medical appointment I have, and worries that the cancer will return. I cannot imagine telling her that there is a 50% chance that she too carries the gene, as I know she will focus on the 50% that she has it and not the 50% chance that she doesn't. Time enough for these conversations when she is older, and more able to process what it could mean for her. 

320 Posts
I  was particularly interested in Olivia Newton-John's cancer recurrence because she had remained in remission for many years...she had a cancer recurrence to her shoulder, I think, in 2013, and then another cancer recurrence in 2017, where it spread to her spine, making her in stage four cancer...I did hear of  Olivia's breast cancer in 1992 when she was first diagnosed...I appreciate the media reporting on cancers like these to keep the public informed...the last photo image of Olivia is recent where she is emaciated and looking sickly...by the way, Olivia did believe that her cancer was cured but now she knows that she was wrong about that...Olivia has a healthy lifestyle and diet cookbook and a Wellness foundation that offers different alternative health therapies...
618 Posts
I have not followed any of the celebrities cancer stories. I have found the people on this site have a much more profound effect on me they are real you can talk to them follow their journeys pray for everyone to have a positive conclusion to their battle with this monster .I can honestly say the participants on this site are my celebrities. 
356 Posts
I agree with Ttjia‍ , the stories of individuals I have met on this site or in my daily life are more inspiring, or have greater impact on my outlook than celebrities.
i find Olivia Newton Johns public statements about breast cancer, odd.  She has metastatic breast cancer, but appears reluctant to acknowledge that.  It would bring a lot of attention to this type of cancer, perhaps money and research, if there was someone who spoke openly about the trials and tribulations of terminal illness and ongoing treatment.  Think of the difference Michael J Fox has made for Parkinson’s disease.


I agree with Ttjia‍ , the stories of individuals I have met on this site or in my daily life are more inspiring, or have greater impact on my outlook than celebrities.
i find Olivia Newton Johns public statements about breast cancer, odd.  She has metastatic breast cancer, but appears reluctant to acknowledge that.  It would bring a lot of attention to this type of cancer, perhaps money and research, if there was someone who spoke openly about the trials and tribulations of terminal illness and ongoing treatment.  Think of the difference Michael J Fox has made for Parkinson’s disease.

Like us regular folk, each 'celebrity' have their querks..like us! Some are prepaired to discuss, other like me, are open. Breasts & prostate, both sexual, some find these too sensitive.


25 Posts
Like most of you, I find the stories of people on this site much more encouraging and inspiring. I must admit though, when i heard last year that Julia Louis-Dreyfus had breast cancer, I thought, wow.. I really love her and and I hope she beats it. Have been watching old episodes of "Little House on the Prairie" featuring Shannon Daugherty as a young Jenny Wilder. She too has faced breast cancer recently and had some struggles with paying the treatment bills. Just had chemo today, I am inspired by the kindness of the nurses and doctors and pharmacists who take care of me. They are wonderful. 
Personally I don't really follow celebrities cancer experience, just like some of the posts here, each one of you girls and guys are a celebrity in my opinion. We belong to a club we don't want to join, yet we are here and we derive comfort from each other by discussing, venting, asking questions and sharing experiences without the need for fame like these celebrities are seeking. To me they are a bunch of attention seeking individuals and you really don't know who they are in a day to day life. I'd much rather listen to real peoples' stories. People like you!!!

I have been experiencing lots of side effects from radiation and it doesn't feel so good. If I had known all the facts as they really are, I would have thought twice before going through it. My girlfriend had a mastectomy - her choice - a reconstructing surgery and didn't have to do the radiation or chemo only tamoxifen for 5 years. she is very happy she did because she has beautiful breasts now (implants) and she is almost at the end of 5 years and cancer free. Maybe it is a better choice for those of us who are hormone positive. 

And talk about celebrities, Susan Sommers was and still is an advocate of bioidentical hormone therapy and I took it for 7 years with all the commotion about it and this is actually what brought on my breast cancer (or so I have been told). I read recently that there is no real difference between the regular HRT and the bioidenticals - it's all the same only the bioidenticals are more "trendy", so maybe you girls should think twice about taking them. Yeah they make you feel better when you are going through menopause, but they also cause cancer.

It is what it is and I am dealing with it as best as I can, but this is definitely an eye opener. Life is just too short to waste on negative thoughts. Every moment spent on negativity, is one less moment to enjoy life and be happy. I am taking one day at a time and trying to think about the rest of my life rather than dwelling on the past and the should haves/could haves.
2271 Posts
Good discussion point.  Given the prevalence of cancer, one would think there are way more celebrities - actors, musicians, athletes that have cancer who haven't shared their story due to possible repercussions?  Much like mental health - i think the more people who are open about their cancer diagnosis - the more it helps others who feel it is an isolating and "terminal" illness...helps to end the stigma around cancer.

There have been the famous people like Terry Fox - who did so much for cancer fund raising and are a true Canadian hero.  But, some of the stories that have had the greatest impact on me are those we read about on here - or within my community.  "Ordinary" people - who have other challenges - maybe financial, maybe personal, maybe just the curves that life throws us and how they then cope with a cancer diagnosis.  I heard about a single mom of 3, now diagnosed with breast cancer - finding ways to be present as a mom all the while dealing with cancer side effects.  Or in our community a local teacher in the middle of breast cancer treatment and her son is diagnosed with leukemia...true inspirations.

What i would like to see from our "celebrities" are women who didn't get reconstruction - images of women who went "flat"  / or  only have one breast now or embraced their scars - rather then the societal pressures of returning to "normal" after cancer. Cancer can take a lot from us - sometimes body parts - but we are still here...our souls are here and alive.

I think also hearing stories of people living with metastatic  cancer would be so empowering.  Cancer lifers....are so important to hear...I heard the term "thrivers" and thought that was so wonderful.  We may not "survive" cancer but we can thrive.

Look forward to reading other comments!!  Kim
Cynthia Mac
3876 Posts
I had chimed in on this thread, but for some reason it went to an individual via e-mail. 

Kathy Bates was on the Dr. Phil show within the past couple weeks. She’s had breast cancer and really bad lymphadema. He also interviewed her on his podcast show. If you have On Demand on your cable service, some of you might want to look up the interview on the show or the podcast (I’ve only seen the show.) Apparently this was her second bout with cancer.

As someone else pointed out, celebrities are in the position to raise funds, spread the word, and advocate because they have a platform that isn’t available to us, and often they have resources that aren’t available to us! But I think it’s safe to say that we’re all doing our bit in those departments.

2271 Posts
Quick update ! I had a dream with music from the Tragically Hip in it
Gord Downie of the Tragically Hip definitely impacted my cancer journey, because I was at so many of his concerts and particularly his last concert touched my life because I was diagnosed with cancer shortly after seeing the Hip and Gord for the last time in person.  What a terrible loss, the guy was amazing.  I really thought a lot about him during my treatments wondering how he was able to mount such a long tour across Canada.  He gave it his all! RIP Gord.
911 Posts
I googled celebrities with cancer when I was first diagnosed, mostly because I wanted to see who was still living, how long ago they were diagnosed, and what stage they were at when diagnosed.  I was probably seeking to validate the published statistics.  I think, like others have said, celebrities have the ear of the public through media platforms and they should seize their opportunities to do good, but only if they are comfortable with such a private issue.  And while they are in positions of influence, I don't think they should become a model for societal pressure, outside of advocating for better screening.  Angelina Jolie was mentioned for her advocacy and proactive mindset.  I have to say, I think I used her example in seeking genetic testing, so her public dialogue was very helpful for me.  When there is a public story that isn't so positive, it sets me back.  Olivia Newton-John's recurrence was hard for me - same type of cancer - and she was NED for so long.  
1405 Posts
I found that having a local TV news anchor, Max Keeping,  and a radio personality, Stuntman Stu) sharing their cancer journeys helped  to bring cancer and cancer treatment into the public discussion. Max Keeping had three bouts with cancer (prostate 2003, colorectal 2012 and untreatable lung cancer 2014)  and Stuntman Stu (leukemia 2016) chose to make their cancer and treatment public, This offered much encouragement to others going through cancer treatment that they are not alone.  Over the years Max participated in many telethons and raised about $100 million, cancer research being one of the areas the money went to. The #StuStrong campaign resulted in over $315,000 raised for Leukemia and stem cell research at The Ottawa Hospital. 
Cynthia Mac
3876 Posts
I agree, LPPK‍ that local media people can have a good, strong influence on people in their communities. Our local news anchor, Jane Pritchard, went through breast cancer treatments, and our former local meterologist, Bob McIntyre was a cancer survivor, too. Bob had been with the station since I was a kid, and he was part of many families in the area, so his case (Jane’s, too) really felt close to home for a lot of people.

Anwar Knight, formerly of the Weather Channel and now with CTV, also is a cancer survivor.
For me, when I was dealing with breast cancer many years ago, I didn't even consider looking up celebrities to see who had had cancer and if they were still living. Maybe part of me didn't want to know. I was only concerned with me, especially since everyone's cancer is slightly different. It was good to see Joan Lunden's cover picture on a magazine with her bald head. That took courage. I also found Shannen Doherty's videos to be very empowering. It's one things for 'stars' to say they have cancer and another to show the reality of it. The other celebrity story was the one with Joey Feek (a singer with a husband and young child). The love and caring that were shared about the family really got to me. 

It is also encouraging to hear from others like us (who are stars to our families and friends...and possibly beyond). This way you know you are on the same playing field. No one is getting preferential treatment. Everyone is basically getting the same level of care. 

In the end, we are inspired by the people who we can identify with and who we admire. Some stories hit closer to home than others. Some stories just have an impact on you based on how the story is told.

Regardless, anyone who can inspire you and make you feel better about your cancer experience is a bonus.

Debbie (cancertakesflight)
1545 Posts
Christopher Hitchens died at age 62, (the age I am now) due to complications from cancer. https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-16212418  .  He was a very outspoken atheist, philosopher and writer. I read two of his books, cover to cover, and usually I don't enjoy non-fiction books. He covered so many topics.  When he was an adult, perhaps in his thirties or forties, he discovered that his mother was Jewish, and she had kept it a secret for many years. His mother had come to Britain right after WWII, and thought she had to hide her religion. Hitchens then tried to find out as much as possible about his mother's family background. Also, he wrote about private schools for boys, and how the teachers delighted in finding the slightest reason to have the boys lower their trousers for a caning. 
   In any case he continued publishing articles during his illness.  I admire his dedication to his writing. He was concerned that people might lie about him, and claim he had a deathbed conversion to Christianity. Something similar happened to Darwin, who didn't have cancer,  (that we know of), when the home helper claimed he converted back to Christianity. 

Terry Fox wasn't a celebrity until he developed cancer. The cancer that he had is now mostly survivable. His reaction, planning a run across Canada, is very bold and inspiring. 

Quebec premier Robert Bourassa, died from cancer,  around the time of the Oka Crisis, and I remember hearing that he had  delayed treatments, to try and resolve the crisis. So it's inspirational that he took his job very seriously, but it's still a 'what if,' as we can't really know if earlier treatment would have helped. 


580 Posts

I want to share some important information that I hope will help you on your road to recovery

I was diagnosed with Lymphoma in 2009 and had 6 treatments of Chemo it was in the aggressive stage so the Doctor had to give me aggressive treatments, lost every hair on my body and even some toe nails and finger nails.  In July of 2018 I was diagnosed with kidney cancer.  My wife is a nurse and during my fight with Lymphoma she gave me the best advise possible "Do not compare your situation with anyone else"  We all have different experiences. now I am not saying that anything you see on the TV , Movies and celebrity experiences is not helpful.  This is part of making good decisions about things that may be helpful to you on your journey. 
For me it was concentrating on the fact that I wanted to be alive to enjoy my family especially my grandchildren.
I also filled my life with uplifting music.  Which is a path to the soul
I also listened to motivational speakers
But most important for me and hopefully for others  is realizing that we can draw from our inner strength to conquer anything that is thrown at us.
And then there is Love which is sometime used without knowing its meaning  Love is Respect and Forgiveness 
I hope everyone uses this Love when dealing with Cancer no matter your role
With Love SpeedyStill 

It was very impactful to see the conversation around Aretha Franklin's death.  "The cause of death was pancreatic neuroendocrine tumor (pNET), though widely mis-reported as pancreatic cancer, a different disease." Wiki post.  Most folks associate pancreatic cancer with a quick death, so it was confusing to hear pancreatic cancer and a long term diagnosis in the same paragraph.  Knowing that she had pancreatic neuroendocrine cancer was relatable to me and then I understood why it was so important for the NETs community to share the truth of her disease. Same thing with Audrey Hepburn, it was widely reported that Audrey died of colon cancer when indeed it was Goblet Cell Carcinoid Cancer. Probably only interesting to me, someone with GCC, but still helps me to know I'm not alone. Being one in 2 million is interesting but not very much information out there. The few folks I have found on line have been supportive, but we are all struggling to find viable information on our disease as we live with it.
3 Posts
People in the public eye are just people too. Its great that they speak out just like everyone else. I was recently diagnosed with breast cancer in Nov.. Three weeks ago had a bilateral mastectomy. I was inspired by every single ladies that I had the privilege of meeting at every hospital visit. To the ladies who spoke to me about what they were going through and about what I was about to go through. We all need to talk to one another and we all need to be heard. I feel very lucky and honored to have had the support of all the ladies that I met, the people on this site and I hope I can be a help to other in the future. 
2 Posts

Not a celebrity but a well-known TV character, so I hope this counts.

I was re-watching the final season of Sex and the City when my partner was diagnosed with cancer. One of the characters on SATC, Samantha, goes through breast cancer treatment in the final season, so I was watching Samantha's cancer storyline in the early days of my partner's diagnosis. I know it's not quite the same as being inspired by a real person, but how her character experienced cancer but managed to keep her sense of style and humour throughout inspired me a lot.  

How about Coronation Street viewers?  I can't watch episodes with Sinead and Daniel. 
2301 Posts
Friday, January 10th, 2020

Neil Peart

"It is with broken hearts and the deepest sadness that we must share the terrible news that on Tuesday (January 07/20) our friend, soul brother and band mate of over 45 years, Neil, has lost his incredibly brave three and a half year battle with brain cancer (Glioblastoma). We ask that friends, fans, and media alike understandably respect the family’s need for privacy and peace at this extremely painful and difficult time. Rest in peace brother".   Neil Peart   September 12, 1952 – January 7, 2020

A fitting Resurrection of this thread from just one year ago. The quote I shared above is from the website Rush.com  RUSH, for those not in the know, are / were one of Canada's best Rock Bands, that took the stage way back in1974. I remember - I was there. The band officially retired in 2015.

What is important here is that very selfless message the Band wanted to share in the quote: Those wishing to express their condolences can choose a cancer research group or charity of their choice and make a donation in Neil Peart’s name. This is the positive impact fame, being mourned and being remembered can have in making the world a better place for so many.  Neil Peart's death is tragic and sad. No more or less than that of any of our loved ones. But this is the lasting huge positive impact of the message he, his family and his Band Mates chose to send out to the world in his memory. To donate to a cancer research group or charity.

Thank you Neil, the Peart family, and RUSH for your message. A donation in your name is on the way from me.


Must have missed this thread last year. But it is a good one.

In my case it has been Alex Trebeck's example of making the best of a terrible diagnosis. His openness stands an example. Here is the W5 interview that he did a few months ago. https://youtu.be/p6PByjRnmh4

Alex Trebek of Jeopardy fame comes to mind.  I can't imagine how he is able to keep working.  I was not able to, mainly because I lost all my hair and was so weak.  There is no way I could have kept working.  I do admire anyone who is able to work and do their cancer treatments.  I also remember Olivia- Newton John and Julia Louis-Dreyfus both going through breast cancer.  Of course, one of the most famous was Angelina Jolie who had a double mastectomy because she found out she had the genetics for breast cancer.  I have to say I did find that rather extreme and although I did not know anything about breast cancer at that time, it did make me aware.  I honestly have a lot of respect for these public figures but I don't think story lines on shows like Chicago Med, Grey's Anatomy etc. are very well portrayed - especially now that I've gone through my cancer journey.  
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