To many, cancer is a very scary word, and it can turn to terror when a person gets news from the doctor that they have the dreaded disease. These brave women, all moms, have had to face the harsh reality with themselves, and their families, that cancer is now a reality in their lives.
1. Bethenny Frankel – Bethenny Frankel was diagnosed with skin cancer and shared her experience with PEOPLE in 2017. “I had a growth on my face that was enlarging. I guessed it to be a basal cell carcinoma and had it lanced and removed. The doctor confirmed it is indeed basal cell carcinoma, a form of skin cancer, and says while it is cancer, I am lucky to have it removed — so it won’t affect my overall health.”
2. Suzanne Somers – In 2001, Somers announced she had breast cancer. She discovered it through a routine mammogram. She had a lumpectomy to remove the cancer followed by radiation therapy but decided to forego chemotherapy in favor of alternative treatment.
3. Michelle Monaghan – Michelle Monaghan had a chunk of her calf removed after a doctor determined that a mole on the back of her leg was cancerous. The actress told Health magazine that she was grateful to her husband who encouraged her to get her leg checked out.
4. Rita Wilson – Rita Wilson underwent a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery in 2015 after being diagnosed with breast cancer. She shared a post on her Instagram, saying, “Four years ago when I was diagnosed with breast cancer, 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 want him to be super sad for a very long time 😊 and I’d also like a party, a celebration…”
5. Giuliana Rancic – The E! News personality was 36 years old when she found out she had breast cancer. She learned about the diagnosis through a mammogram she had at her doctor’s request before undergoing her third round of in vitro fertilization treatment. Following the news in 2011, she had a double lumpectomy as part of her breast cancer treatment but later decided to undergo a double mastectomy. Rancic told CBS News in 2013 about the incredible support her husband, Bill, had been, “I always say not everyone has that support system. I can’t even imagine having gone through breast cancer without having an incredible person by my side to help me through it.
6. Valerie Harper – Valerie Harper was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2009. In March of 2013, the Mary Tyler Moore actress revealed that she had leptomeningeal carcinomatosis, a rare condition in which cancer cells spread into the meninges, the membranes surrounding the brain. Sadly, the doctors only gave her an average life expectancy of three months, however, Harper lived for another six years, eventually passing away in 2019.
7. Julia Louis-Dreyfus – In 2017, Julia Louis-Dreyfus announced on Twitter that she had breast cancer, stating “1 in 8 women get breast cancer. Today, I’m the one…” The Veep star underwent chemotherapy for her treatment.
8. Joan Lunden – In June of 2014, the mom of seven revealed on Good Morning America that she had breast cancer. The journalist spoke candidly on GMA, “I heard those words that every woman fears and never wants to hear, ‘You have breast cancer.'” Lunden underwent a core biopsy that found an “aggressive” kind of cancer that will require chemotherapy, surgery and radiation, but thankfully, she is expected to make a full recovery. “I’ve got that journey ahead,” she said. “I’ve already started it. I’m already doing my chemo.”
9. Marcia Cross – Marcia Cross revealed on Instagram her cancer fight. “So grateful and happy to be alive but sad that my hair fell out and is about 1 inch long now and looks cra cra. Anyone else have #hairloss due to #cancer? Talk to me. I feel you,” she posted. The Desperate Housewives alum was diagnosed with anal cancer.
10. Melissa Etheridge – In 2004, Etheridge was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent chemotherapy. The rock singer/songwriter appeared on Dateline NBC to discuss her battle with cancer, and admitted to using medicinal marijuana while she was receiving chemotherapy, stating the drug improved her mood and appetite.
11. Sharon Osbourne – In 2002, Osbourne had surgery for colon cancer, specifying only that it was a treatable form and that she was due to have the procedure in the US. Later she revealed that it had spread to her lymph nodes and was more serious than originally thought. She survived the disease against a 33% survival prognosis. In August 2004, she founded the Sharon Osbourne Colon Cancer Program at Cedars Sinai Hospital.
12. Sheryl Crow – The pop/rock/country singer battled breast cancer in 2006. She had “minimally invasive” surgery that same year, followed by radiation therapy. The treatment was successful. In November 2011 Crow discovered that she has a meningioma, a type of brain tumor that is usually benign.
13. Deborah Norville – Deborah Norville’s thyroid cancer diagnosis came to light thanks to a viewer who noticed a lump on her neck almost 20 years ago. In a YouTube video message she said, “We live in a world of see something, say something, and I’m really glad we do… When you work on television, viewers comment on everything. Your hair, your makeup, the dress you’re wearing. And a long time ago an ‘Inside Edition’ viewer reached out to say she’d seen something on my neck. It was a lump.” Doctors initially determined that the lump was benign but years later, the thyroid nodule eventually turned cancerous and Norville had most of her thyroid removed.
14. Marissa Jaret Winokur – During the early development stages of the Broadway musical, Hairspray, Winokur was diagnosed with cervical cancer. Out of fear of being replaced on the show, the actress didn’t reveal her condition to anyone except immediate family. Thankfully, she underwent treatment for the disease and made a full recovery. She also kept her job and went on to win a Tony Award.
15. Cynthia Nixon – In 2006, the former Sex and the City star was diagnosed with breast cancer during a routine mammogram. She initially decided not to go public with her illness because of the stigma involved, however, in 2008, the actress announced her battle with the disease in an interview with Good Morning America. She later became an Ambassador for Susan G. Komen for the Cure.
16. Christina Applegate – In 2008, the former Married with Children actress underwent a double mastectomy after doctors found cancerous lumps in one of her breasts. She has an inherited genetic trait, a BRCA1 mutation, which often triggers breast cancer. Her mother, Nancy Priddy, is also a breast cancer survivor.
17. Cybill Shepherd – In 2002, Cybill Shepherd was diagnosed with skin cancer, melanoma. She sought emergency treatment for the disease after looking in the mirror one morning and discovering a “scaly patch”.
18. Olivia Newton-John – Newton-John was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1996. She has remained cancer-free since her treatment of surgery and chemotherapy but still goes for yearly mammograms and an ultrasound just to be sure.
19. Edie Falco – In 2003, the Sopranos actress was diagnosed with breast cancer, but stayed mum about it, and chose not to announce it until the following year. She once told Redbook Mag that the show’s producer kept things quiet by working her schedule around her treatments.
20. Jaclyn Smith – Following a routine mammogram in 2003, the former Charlie’s Angels’ star was diagnosed with breast cancer, and ended up having a lumpectomy with radiation. In a CNN interview, Smith once said, “One of the most important things you can do is remember the power of girlfriends. Your family is there for you, but they get emotional. Girlfriends saved my day.”
21. Farrah Fawcett – Charlie’s Angels’ legend, Farrah Fawcett was diagnosed with anal cancer in 2006. With treatment, the actress became cancer free for a few months, but unfortunately, Fawcett experienced a recurrence and was diagnosed with stage IV cancer that had metastasized to her liver. Sadly, she died in 2009.
22. Kate Jackson – Another Charlie’s Angels’ star, Kate Jackson, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1987, which she received treatment for. In 1989, the actress revealed that a mammogram indicated she had residual breast cancer that the previous operation had missed. This resulted in Jackson having a partial mastectomy and reconstructive surgery.
23. Carly Simon – Simon underwent a mastectomy, chemotherapy and reconstructive surgery for breast cancer during 1997 and 1998. There was a lump in her breast for several years before then, but her doctors had advised her against surgery. Simon later recalled: “Then one doctor said, ‘You know what, I’d rather see it in a jar than in your breast.'” She also said that she felt “a little angry with myself” over the fact that she did not insist on taking it out sooner.
24. Sofía Vergara – In 2000, Modern Family actress Sofía Vergara was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, and as a result had her thyroid removed. She told Parade in 2011. “I’ve never done drugs or smoked. And I don’t eat red meat. I felt totally healthy, and suddenly they tell me I have cancer? I was scared. I immediately thought of my child.” Her treatment included radioactive iodine and surgery.
25. Ann Romney – In 2012, Ann Romney, wife of Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney talked about her breast cancer diagnosis on a campaign trail, “I was fortunate enough to receive my diagnosis before the disease was very far along. And because of that, my cancer was treated successfully.”
26. Betsey Johnson – Fashion designer Betsey Johnson was diagnosed with breast cancer after one of her saline breast implants deflated during a massage, and she discovered a small lump. At the time, she only confided in her daughter, then later revealed her journey to the public.
27. Melanie Griffith – In 2009, Melanie Griffith underwent surgery to remove early stages of skin cancer from her face. The cancer resurfaced again years later, and the actress opened up about her experience on her Instagram page. “Bandaged again after having dermabrasion, the final step to fix the now removed [basal] cell skin cancer. If any of you have it, get it fixed. If you lay in the sun, are exposed to lots of sun, be CAREFUL. Use sunscreen. Get checked out by your dermatologist. If you don’t have one, get one, or go to your nearest clinic and ask to be tested for it..”
28. Dr. Jennifer “Dr. Jen” Arnold – TV personality Dr. Jennifer Arnold who has skeletal dysplasia or dwarfism, documented what it was like to receive a stage 3 choriocarcinoma cancer diagnosis, a rare cancer that began with a pregnancy loss, on the TLC show The Little Couple. This particular cancer begins in the cells that would become the placenta and since Arnold has dwarfism, treatment for the disease was difficult, however, according to a 2014 Bustle report, Arnold has been in remission since 2014.
29. Wanda Sykes – Actress-comedian Wanda Sykes was on The Ellen DeGeneres Show and revealed that she had zero-stage breast cancer. Sykes chose to have a double mastectomy and joked, “I had the choice of, you can go back every three months and get it checked…But, I’m not good on keeping on top of stuff. I mean, I’m sure I’m overdue for an oil change and a teeth cleaning already.”
30. Donna Summer – Five-time-Grammy winner Donna Summer died of lung cancer, an illness she believed was contracted from inhaling toxic particles released after the 2011 terrorist attacks in New York. The singer was living in an apartment close to the Twin Towers and friends claimed she was convinced she developed the cancer that killed her after inhaling the
31. Samantha Harris – TV personality Samantha Harris had a “clear” mammogram from the doctors, however, 11 days later she found a suspicious lump, and had it checked out. It was breast cancer. She underwent a double mastectomy, but later, the mom of two was told that the cancer spread to a lymph node, and she chose not to go through chemotherapy. She did reveal that she had a great support system in her little girls. “They were both really good about it. They were helpers, they brought me things, they checked on me—and we just continually assured them that, ‘mommy’s going to be in bed for a little bit, but then I’m going to be fine.'”
32. Ann Jillian – Former child actress Ann Jillian, who rose to national fame for the television series It’s a Living, was diagnosed with breast cancer which resulted in a double mastectomy. Her experience chronicled the top-rated made-for-TV 1988 film, The Ann Jillian Story.
33. Khloé Kardashian – Khloé Kardashian revealed that after a few appointments that turned out to be nothing, the doctors found a cancerous mole on her back. “There was one mole I had on my back that was skin cancer,” The Keeping Up with the Kardashians star shared on her website. “I had 8 in. of skin removed. It was definitely painful because it was a lot of skin, but most of the time, the removals haven’t been that bad.”
34. Hoda Kotb – Hoda Kotb opened up to Cancer Connect in 2020 about her 2007 breast cancer diagnosis. The journalist’s gynecologist discovered lumps in her breast during a routine exam, and at the time she had yet to have her first mammogram. Her treatment plan included a mastectomy, reconstruction, and five years of tamoxifen (Nolvadex®).