6 Inspiring Celebrity Breast Cancer Survivors

Carli De La Cruz

October 10, 2014

One of the most common nightmares of women everywhere is to receive a diagnosis of cancer. Aside from skin cancers, Breast Cancer is the most common of all cancers in women in the U.S.

But it doesn’t have to be so scary. With regular screenings, the disease is being caught earlier and earlier giving women who are diagnosed a greater life expectancy than ever before. The following celebrities are brave breast cancer survivors. We hope that hearing their stories will inspire you to be proactive about your health too.

1.) Sandra Day O’Connor

breast cancer survivor sandra day o'connor.

Sandra Day O’Connor was the first female member of the U.S. Supreme Court. At the time she graduated law school, most law firms did not hire female attorneys. O’Connor struggled to land a job, but due to her perseverance she succeeded.

In 1988, at the age of 58 O’Connor was diagnosed with breast cancer. She underwent a mastectomy and was back at work in just two weeks.

She gets bonus points from us because Sandra is also an advocate of Alzheimer’s research. Her husband suffered with the disease for 20 years before his passing. Read her full Alzheimer’s interview with Caring.com here.

2.) Betsey Johnson

breast cancer survivor Betsey Johnson.

You may know Betsey as the quirky “over the top” fashion designer who designs fun, whimsical clothing and accessories. Betsey is not your typical senior. She adorns herself in exuberant fashion styles, big smiles and laughter, and has been known to do cartwheels on the runway at the end of her fashion shows.

One would never guess that Betsey has battled cancer based on her bright demeanor and carefree c’est la vie attitude. However, In the year 2000, she was diagnosed with breast cancer after a fluke incident in which one of her breast implants deflated. While looking into this, the doctors discovered the cancer.

She then underwent a lumpectomy and radiation therapy. She is now happily in remission.

At first she insisted on keeping her diagnosis a secret. She was afraid that it would negatively affect her business with clients worrying about her health and well-being. Once she was in the clear she opened up about her story to help spread breast cancer awareness. She has participated in fundraising events and has designed clothing and accessories for breast cancer-related charities.

3.) Shirley Temple Black

Most of us remember Shirley as the famous child star known for her curls, dimples, and adorable melodies.

While remarkable as a child, Shirley remained remarkable in adulthood. She grew up to be an important diplomat. She served under President Gerald Ford as ambassador to Ghana and later as Chief of Protocol.

She went on to do something even more incredible. Black revealed her breast cancer diagnosis to the world in 1972. She underwent a mastectomy to remove a cancerous tumor. It was unheard of at the time for a celebrity to publicly acknowledge having cancer.

Her openness about her diagnosis lead the way for further public discussions about breast cancer. She stated “the only reason I am telling you this is to convince other women to watch for any lump or unusual symptom. There is almost certain cure for this cancer if it’s caught early enough.”

She is now considered one of the first advocates of breast cancer awareness.

4.) Betty Ford

breast cancer survivor betty ford.

Former First Lady Betty Ford lead an extraordinary life. She spent a lot of time working in her local department store to support herself prior to her days as the First Lady. She also taught dance classes and took under wing some challenging students that others might not have had had the grit to take on. She taught deaf, blind, and disabled youth to dance.

In her role as first lady, she advocated strongly for her causes of supporting performing and fine arts, equal rights, and ensuring that disabled children got their needs met.

In 1974, she was diagnosed with breast cancer during a routine mammogram screening. She revealed this to the press after having a mastectomy. She wanted to be 100% forthcoming about her condition in order to uphold her husband’s position of keeping the White House honest in light of the Watergate Scandal.

Due to her sharing the details of her ailment, many thousands of American women were encouraged to seek treatment and prevent breast cancer. They flocked to their doctors in droves to get screened for the disease. She helped further open up the dialogue on the disease and treatment options for it.

5.) Cynthia Nixon

breast cancer survivor cynthia nixon.

Cynthia Nixon is perhaps best known for her long-spanning role of the character Miranda Hobbes on HBO’s Sex and The City.

Nixon’s mother, Ann, was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was young. Ann successfully beat cancer twice. As an adult, Nixon received regular breast cancer screenings understanding that she may be at risk herself someday due to her mother having had the disease.

She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006 after Sex and the City had wrapped its final season. She kept her diagnosis a secret not wanting to be swarmed by paparazzi in her hospital room. Nixon underwent a lumpectomy and six weeks of radiation.

Cynthia is now cancer-free and is currently the official ambassador for the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation.

6.) Dame Maggie Smith

breast cancer survivor dame maggie smith.

We have talked about Dame Maggie Smith before on this blog. She is an inspiration in more ways than we can count.

Dame Maggie Smith is a decorated actress. She’s won two Academy Awards, 5 Baftas, two Oscars, a Variety Club Award, a Tony Award, and two Emmy Awards. She’s had many memorable film and TV roles such Violet Crawley in the British TV Drama Downton Abbey and Minerva McGonagall in the Harry Potter Series.

Smith was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008 while in the midst of working on the 6th Harry Potter film installment. Despite undergoing rigorous bouts of chemotherapy, she continued filming. She says she had no problem with wearing a wig for her role. Despite the pain and weakness that her chemo treatments caused her she was determined to carry on with production.

The 89 year old actress’s career continues to thrive today.

These women are powerful public figures who have overcome “the big C.” We hope their stories have encouraged you to educate all the ladies in your life on the importance of annual breast cancer screenings.

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, please visit the American Cancer Society’s website to see how you can get involved.





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