Giuliana Rancic, my celebrity breast cancer twin

5 Dec

I got a call from my editor a couple of days ago, sharing some top secret (sad) news.

Giuliana Rancic, the young and vivacious cohost of E! News who’d appeared on the TODAY show in October to discuss her recent breast cancer diagnosis, was coming back on the show early Monday morning to talk about her latest news. She now had to have a double mastectomy.

Would I like to write about this? my editor asked. Absolutely, I told her.

As someone who only too recently lived through a cast-iron-skillet-to-the-head cancer diagnosis and a double mastectomy (not to mention chemo and radiation), I had plenty to say. (Check out some of my previous essays about breast cancer on Today.com and you’ll see what I mean.)

Here’s how my latest piece, entitled Giuliana Rancic, my celebrity breast cancer twin, starts. As always, thanks for the read.

Some women look to celebrities when they’re pregnant, identifying with famous moms-to-be who are due around the same date.

Others, like me, look for celebrity cancer twins, like E! News host Giuliana Rancic, who just joined the ranks of my small group of hapless — but hardly hopeless — heroes.

Don’t get me wrong; I wouldn’t wish cancer on anyone. But there’s something incredibly powerful about a smart, successful celeb letting down her perfectly coiffed hair to speak openly, honestly and even fearfully about a wretched, life-changing disease that has turned her world — and mine — completely upside down.

Wanda Sykes is another such cancer twin. Diagnosed in February of this year (same as me), the comedian went on Ellen back in September to talk about her double mastectomy. During the interview, which I’ve probably watched a dozen times, Sykes looks healthy and beautiful and strong. More importantly, she’s fazed but still funny, taking potshots at her cancer as if she were back roasting the president at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner.

NBC News’ tough, tenacious Andrea Mitchell is another cancer twin. Ditto for Christina Applegate .

And now there’s Rancic, the 37-year-old funny, self-effacing cohost of E! News and Fashion Police, who discovered her disease while prepping for a third round of in vitro fertilization treatments.

To read the full story click here.  

As always, I’m curious how others deal with their breast cancer. Have any of you adopted “celebrity cancer twins,” people who were diagnosed at the same time you were (with breast cancer or anything else)?

If so, have they inspired you? Helped you get through your ordeal? Made you so angry that you fought even harder? Would love to hear your thoughts.

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9 Responses to “Giuliana Rancic, my celebrity breast cancer twin”

  1. Tracy December 5, 2011 at 2:05 pm #

    I read your article online first and then found your blog – apparently I’m doing things in reverse order. I love your sense of humor/sarcasm/etc. in light of the situation. I often wonder if I would be able to do that, or if I would curl up into a ball of tears and anxiety.

    The thing is that I found a lump in my breast last week (the day before Thanksgiving…so I couldn’t call my doctor until after the weekend). I went to see her, hoping she wouldn’t feel anything and I could go home and resume my boring, yet relatively happy life. Nope. She felt it…and so did the assistant that was shadowing her for the week.

    I am scheduled for a diagnostic ultrasound in two days and I’m nervous and sick and excited to get it over with.

    I have no idea why I’m telling you this. Maybe because everyone is telling me not to worry, that everything will be fine. I’m only 38 and I have no family history. But I am worried. I don’t think there’s a way around that.

    Thanks for sharing your story with the rest of us – I plan to keep reading what you write 🙂

    -Tracy

    • singleshot1 December 5, 2011 at 2:26 pm #

      Hey Tracy:

      Thanks so much for reaching out and I’m so, so sorry to hear about the lump you found right before Thanksgiving. What a horrible weekend that must have been for you.

      I’m glad you’ve got an ultrasound scheduled and that it’s just two days away. As I’ve told people before, “It’s not the cancer that kills you, it’s the waiting.” And seriously, it’s the truth. If they find “something” during the U/S, my guess is they’ll want you to have a biopsy, which will involve even more agonizing waiting. But let’s not go there yet.

      I’m not going to tell you not to worry (what person in their right mind wouldn’t?), but I will tell you that our bodies are full of all sorts of lumps and bumps and not all of them are dangerous (and even the dangerous one aren’t necessarily fatal). I would just try to be easy with yourself for the next couple of days. Let those who truly love you know what’s going on so you can get their support. And try to stay away from the online cancer forums, which can be full of dark terrifying tales (my sister refers to them as The Abyss).

      In a couple of days, you’ll know more. And remember, knowledge is power. Take care and please let me know what happens. I’ll be thinking about you a lot this week.

      Best,

      -Diane

  2. Steve Carter December 5, 2011 at 2:26 pm #

    I thought you might see some benefit from a similar experience that my sister-in-law continues to battle stemming from her first mammograph taken on April 12, 2011. In an effort to assist other women that may face a similar experience and to promote mammograph testing prior to age 40, Tamara blogged about the experience throughout the process to eliminate fiction from fact & provide women an idea of what may lie ahead for them. Tamara isn’t a writer or blogger (she’s a stay at home mom) and I believe her journal helped her through the last 8 months and allowed a vehicle of expression/communication to family and friends.

    http://www.tamarasjourney.blogspot.com/

  3. Jody Schoger December 5, 2011 at 2:39 pm #

    I don’t have any problem with celebrities discussing their cancer. The problem is that many of them, including Giuliana, don’t offer the kind of detail that could go a long way toward honestly educating others about early breast cancer. It is not about cancer stage but tumor biology; or the pathology of the tumor. I think to go on TV the moment you’ve stumbled out of the surgeon’s office is a mistake. The morning television shows do little to elaborate.

    Within the past ten years there has been an incredible rise in the rate of double mastectomies. An increase that surprises even physicians. Christina Applegate’s mastectomy, undertaken in the wake of a genetic diagnosis and extensive family history, made sense to me.

    But the case of Andrea Mitchell, who only said she had early breast cancer and that ‘screening saves lives’ or Wynda Sykes, who had Stage Zero or noninvasive cancer and underwent a double mastectomy, don’t do a lot to help women understand a very complex disease. It’s important for women to realize that the woman with early stage cancer often has a choice. Granted, they aren’t good ones. But there are choices. Hopefully technology will soon be able to assist those w/earlier stage cancers know whether or not aggressive treatment is necessary. Because as of now, the celebrities who are talking about it on TV aren’t doing a very good job.

    Perhaps they themselves don’t know the difference. But those of us who read and keep up on cancer do. This may not sound nice but I don’t worry about Giuliana. Or Andrea Mitchell, or Wynda Sykes. They have access to some of the best care in America. I worry about our nameless twins, those who lost in the maze of our health care system, without insurance. I worry about the single working mother who finally gets a free mammogram only to find that no one will treat her for lump that mammogram identified.

    You don’t need a cancer twin, or a celebrity cancer twin. Your voice and story are so strong on their own. Keep on writing. We care about you.

  4. Blanche December 5, 2011 at 3:37 pm #

    I wouldn’t wish cancer on anyone either, I applaud these celebrities who speak out/up when they have the fight of their life in front of them. To have their bodies so battered/bruised/mutilated by cancer and by it’s treatment when many times their appearance is so much more important to their livlihood than it is to us ‘normal’ folks just shows how unimportant physical appearance is and how valuable good health is. Good for the girls and I wish Ms Rancic and Ms Sykes and all of us good health and strength to fight the good fight. I felt very much like ‘the cast iron frying pan to the head’ when I was diagnosed, I cycled every day, played baseball, ran, ate well and took good care of myself. Just when the divorce was final and I found myself a single mother……cancer. Man, bad karma or what?

  5. MaryBeth December 5, 2011 at 3:50 pm #

    I’m sorry to hear about Giuliana and I don’t like to cast dispersions, but I’m a little tired of stars looking beautiful and being strong and telling everyone how things have changed so much w breast cancer, blah blah that a double mastectomy is “no big deal” and she’s looking forward to her New Years Eve party!? I had one (a bi mast) a year and half ago and it’s no cake walk. In addition to losing my breasts and my good health, I developed a gnarly case of post mastectomy pain syndrome, including Lymphedema, which no one ever talks about, remain disfigured, disabled, depressed and anxious, and lost my job/can’t get a new one cuz no one wants to employ a young person who already had cancer.
    It’s a total nightmare and undrsellIng it like it’s some cool right of passage for the righteous, rich and beautiful does more harm than good
    for those of us every day schlumps who have to schlep through it w/out the make up
    artists, personal trainers, stylists, etc.

  6. arenee98 December 6, 2011 at 8:03 pm #

    Giuliana might be my celebrity cancer twin because she announced her diagnosis in October, which was when I was diagnosed and because she is only 6 years older than me. I really didn’t know who she was before this and I’ve only read a little bit about her so as far as I know, that’s all we have in common. I know she was going through in vitro and I understand the desire to have a baby (and feel bad for her because this breast cancer crap isn’t going to help anything fertility-wise).

    I am interested in her story and am glad when women in the spotlight are vocal about cancer and their treatment, but it always rubs me a little raw when celebrities talk about their diseases. Yes, breast cancer sucks no matter who you are and no one’s going to have it easy, but I would imagine that Giuliana probably has the resources that regular people don’t. For example, she probably has enough money that she doesn’t worry about how she’s going to pay for the bills that are mounting up (unlike me), she can more than likely have access to the best of care (I have a great doc, but you know money opens doors), she can probably take extended time off of work without worrying about how she’s going to survive (unlike me) and she probably has a team of people who help her with her appearance (unlike me). Like I said, breast cancer is no picnic, but I just wonder if I was in the same boat as she if at least some of it wouldn’t be a little easier.

    Does anyone get where I’m coming from? Or am I full of crap?

  7. Vanessa December 9, 2011 at 10:53 am #

    I wouldn’t wish breast cancer on my worst enemy but I’m so glad that celebrities are not afraid to talk about it. I believe it has put breast cancer on the front page. I must admit I am a little upset that they aren’t talking about anything but the surgery. As someone has already mentioned, talk about the biology and pathology. What about the chemo and the radiation? For example, here was Andrea Mitchell completely through whatever treatment and looking as lively as she ever was announcing she had breast cancer. I thought it made me look like a wimp as I was in the middle of chemo and only making it to work part of the time. I still have a lumpectomy and radiation to go and I’ve already lost 5 months of the live as I knew it. People need to understand that this is not a ‘take a pill and feel better in the morning’ type illness. If I had to have the mastectomy and reconstruction that I thought I would have to have, I would have also lost 2012.

  8. wallpeeler December 9, 2011 at 2:04 pm #

    I had invasive ductal carcinoma when I was 48. I had a double lumpectomy, opted not to do chemo and followed it with radiation. A year later I had a small in situ tumor. That means it was contained – which is really the opposite of cancer which I believe is defined as something spreading and growing and infiltrating. I had another lumpectomy. It sounds as though Giuliana has in situ cancer, which means that she has a 99.9 percent chance of survival. That is great. I wonder if when stories like this come out that we start to lose the understanding of the various degrees of aggressiveness in tumors. Not all tumors are created equal. My sister has a beautiful friend who has been through chemo twice, surgeries in her breast, in her brain and has been told that she will probably not live past the spring. She was as young as Gilulana when she was first diagnosed and has been sick on and off for years. I really feel that including insitu tumors in the stats skews the states of breast cancer survival and cures. All the best to Giuliana and to all women facing a cancer diagnosis. I too wish celebrities were less dramatic and more factual.

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