Saturday, August 13, 2011

Who is your cancer survivor role model?

When I was first diagnosed with breast cancer, I scoured the Internet to find examples of people who had what I had. I wanted to know the extent of their breast cancer, what they did for treatment and most importantly, how they were doing today. I guess I just needed some reassurance.

The first person who came to mind was Christina Applegate. Here is a young woman who made the very dramatic decision to undergo a bilateral mastectomy even though she only had early stage breast cancer and no lymph node involvement. Her initial protocol was a lumpectomy and radiation. She also tested positive for the BRCA gene and watched her mother fight breast cancer twice.

Christina decided she didn't want to deal with breast cancer her entire life like her mother had done. She also didn't want to expose her body to chemo or radiation. And she wanted to start a family. Now that I know more about breast cancer, I can understand why someone like Christina would want to avoid removal of her ovaries and hormonal therapy.

Christina's situation was a little different from mine so I started looking for women who had undergone a lumpectomy and radiation only. I found Jaclyn Smith and Sheryl Crow.

Both of these beautiful women had similar diagnoses as me. I thought: "If they can do it, I can do it,too!"

Sheryl Crow went on to adopt her two sons after cancer. Both women are stellar examples of the importance of early detection and how you can move on after a lumpectomy and radiation.

Keeping these women in mind, I went ahead with my lumpectomy feeling confident I would have the same outcome. But after my surgery, my doctor found a tumor in my sentinel lymph node and I learned I would need chemo along with radiation. I need a new role model.

That is when I read about the actress Maura Tierney. Maura is just a few months younger than me and had a similar diagnosis. She underwent a single mastectomy, chemo and radiation. During her treatments, she put her career on hold and gave up her role in the NBC series "Parenthood."

Now almost two years later, Maura has finished her treatments and has returned to acting. She appeared on the TV series "Rescue Me" playing Denis Leary's girlfriend. The show's writers added breast cancer into the her character's storyline and Maura played the part with her own bald head exposed.

Maura's hair has started to grow back beautifully. I hope that I will be as brave as Maura and hope my hair comes back just as gorgeous!


  1. I love Maura Tierney, too. She's one of the few celebs who speaks of cancer as life-changing and somewhat scary instead of a gift. While there are gifts to be found in the cancer journey, I find Maura's outlook much more realistic than the women whose sound bites focus on how excited they are to have new boobs.

  2. Did anyone take aromitas inhibitors?