These celeb cancer survivors know what it means to be a fighter, and they've shared plenty of words of wisdom to live up following their battles. Here are some of their most inspirational quotes from their cancer journeys.
Just days after her historic Emmys win, the Veep star discovered she had stage II breast cancer. She announced the sad news in September 2017, along with a plea for universal health care. "One in eight women get breast cancer. Today, I'm the one," the 56-year-old actress wrote on Twitter. "The good news is that I have the most glorious group of supportive and caring family and friends, and fantastic insurance through my union. The bad news is that not all women are so lucky. So let's fight all cancers and make universal healthcare a reality." She would go through six rounds of chemotherapy and a double mastectomy.
Two years after her diagnosis, she spoke with Vanity Fair about her cancer battle, explaining, "There is that moment that you have when you’re like, 'Is this it for me?' Because you know everybody here in this room is going to come across that moment in their life, but you never think you will." As for her outlook on life after cancer, she admitted that she's "still working it out." "I'm glad I got through it, but there's a part of me that’s still a little frightened, you know?" she told the mag.
The singer and actress revealed in March 2019 that her cancer had come back for a third time and was more aggressive than ever, but she's not letting the challenges of living with stage 4 cancer break her optimistic spirit. During an August interview with 60 Minutes Australia, she said, "I'm so lucky that I've been through this three times and I'm still here." While the battle is hard, the Grease star said she's trying to keep a bright outlook on her situation and not let it spoil the time she has left, which she plans to enjoy. The 70-year-old four-time GRAMMY winner said she had no interest in hearing estimates about her remaining life expectancy, nor an idea how long doctors expect her to live. "If somebody tells you, you have six months to live, very possibly you will because you believe that," she shared. "So for me, psychologically, it's better not to have any idea of what they expect or what the last person that has what you have lived, so I don't, I don't tune in."
One year after The Nanny ended in 1999, the comedian-actress was diagnosed with uterine cancer. Drescher had already survived being raped at gunpoint during a home invasion in 1985, which she admits she "kind of buried and got on with life" in order to not seem "weak," and in a new interview with InStyle, she reveals that the cancer diagnosis was both "strange" and "kind of poetic" due to the circumstances. "Since I hadn’t been paying attention to my own vulnerabilities, my pain from the rape lodged itself in my uterus. No one else around me had cancer. That was a rude awakening," she admitted to the outlet.
After two years of misdiagnoses, she found out she had stage 1 cancer and had surgery on June 21, 2000. "After Cancer became a whole new life. Suddenly I was a person who couldn’t have children. But I gave birth to a book, Cancer Schmancer, and launched a movement with the goal of transforming people from patients into medical consumers," she says. "The very word 'patient' implies passivity. F**k that. Take control of your body. Don’t ignore something and hope it goes away or drive yourself into an early grave because you feel like you have too much stuff to do for everyone else. That is a pitfall women often experience. I’m here to say, 'Stop that!' I almost feel like I got famous, I got cancer, and I lived to talk about it."
Trebek revealed that he was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer in March 2019. He gave his first post-diagnosis interview to Good Morning America a few weeks later, providing an honest update about his health. "My oncologist tells me I'm doing well, even though I don't always feel it," he told Robin Roberts, who herself is a cancer survivor. "But I've had kidney stones, I've had ruptured disks, so I'm used to dealing with pain. But what I'm not used to dealing with is the surges that come on suddenly of deep, deep sadness, and it brings tears to my eyes."
Still, the Jeopardy! host is doing everything he can to keep his spirtis up and fight against cancer. The 78-year-old TV personality attended PurpleStride Los Angeles, the walk to end pancreatic cancer, in May 2019, where he shared some inspiring words with cancer survivors. "As you all know, survivorship is measured starting from the date you are diagnosed with cancer," Trebek told the crowd. "And on that scale, my gosh, I am a 62-day survivor... Ladies and gentlemen, the survivors who will help get the message across that there is hope and if we keep working at it, we will beat cancer."
The Beverly Hills, 90210 alum was very open about her two-year battle with breast cancer. In August 2017, she shared a photo to Instagram of herself in a brunette wig for her role in the upcoming Heathers TV series, opening up about how grateful she was to be back on set after her battle with the big C. "It's been a rough two years. Fighting cancer. As an actor, people bench you. They assume you're [too] weak, not able etc etc. and yet it's something like work that invigorates and renews strength to conquer the unimaginable beast," she wrote. "I compared myself to a car today. That vintage Shelby that's been in the garage too long. It's still a great car. The best. Just needs time for the engine to warm up and it's good to go. Performing like it's supposed to."
The breast cancer survivor shared a special message to those battling the disease when ET spoke with her in June 2015, a few months after she went through treatment. "I just want to say that my thoughts are with you and I know that it's a truck that hits you, but I'm telling you, get through it," she said. "It's a day at a time, and I pray for you. I know, I've been there. It'll be good."
The Dead to Me star had breast cancer surgery in 2008 after an MRI revealed her diagnosis. She tested positive for the BRCA mutation, which increases the odds that the cancer will reappear if you do get it, and due to her family history with the disease -- her mom, Nancy Priddy, was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 38 -- she elected to have a double mastectomy at age 36. She has since launched a foundation called Right Action for Women, which helps fund MRIs for high-risk young women who are uninsured or cannot get their insurance companies to pay for the testing, and she's also taken part in Stand Up to Cancer benefits.
In 2014, Applegate opened up to Elle about how her outlook on life and her body changed after cancer. "I remember three weeks after I had my mastectomy... I was really, really being a cheerleader to myself at that time, you know? I said, 'Hey, I'm going to have the perkiest boobs in the nursing room!' or something to that effect. And then you start to live with those boobs, and it's your reminder every day that this thing happened to you, unfortunately, and it's a part of your body that's changed drastically, and embracing that is difficult sometimes," she explained. "And my take on it now, years later, is to be more honest with people... About my own body in general, so many things have changed. I had a baby so everything changes after that. I'm over 40. Everything changes after that. I'm getting used to the new me, my new body."
The Good Morning America co-host has survived two life-threatening illnesses -- a 2007 diagnosis of breast cancer followed by the discovery five years later that she had the rare blood disorder myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) -- but she's incredibly optimistic. She's shared her story to encourage others to undergo breast cancer screenings and donate bone marrow, and she's inspired countless others along the way. When asked by Cure magazine in 2018 what she wanted others to know about going through cancer, she explained, "That we all have an inner strength that we don’t realize. If somebody had said to me years ago, 'You're going to have cancer, you're going to go through it twice, and you're going to be told you have a year or two to live,' I wouldn't have expected to have the strength to deal with that. It's funny how a lot of people say to someone going through this, 'You're so brave,' because the last thing you feel is brave. But then you realize that -- you know what? -- we all are just a little bit stronger than we think we are. I say this all the time: When fear knocks, let faith answer the door. Have faith that if you’re diagnosed with cancer or if someone you love is diagnosed, there are oncology nurses, doctors, clergy and a battalion of other people who will be there and want to help you get through it."
The Andrew McMahon and the Wilderness frontman is quick to admit that he did not take things in stride when he was diagnosed with Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia in 2005 at age 22. "A lot of people in my personal life suffered in the wake of my cancer, and a lot of other people survived in my cancer," he told ET in 2016. "I think in the process of making me into a hero, a lot of people had to prop that vision of a hero up while I was systematically breaking down." The summer of his diagnoses, his band, Jack's Mannequin, was supposed to embark on their first headlining tour, but instead, McMahon underwent two rounds of chemotherapy, radiation and a stem cell transplant from his sister. "For me, 22 was really like most kids at 26, I had climbed a f**king mountain at 22 that most people hadn't," he pointed out. "If I'm being perfectly honest about what cancer did to me in the six or seven years following, it f**king destroyed me. I put on a really good face and I really tried. You try to inspire people because they're inspired by us, and you try and feed the cause because the cause can be fed by you. You try to donate your generosity of spirit, and you're a survivor to those who didn't survive."
Nearly 15 years later, he's a devoted father, husband and musician, and he's dedicated himself to giving young adult cancer survivors a voice with his non-profit, the Dear Jack Foundation, which advocates for and supports initiatives benefiting adolescents and young adults (AYA) with cancer. As for McMahon himself, plenty of introspection helped him move forward after cancer. "It took me until I finally got into therapy to forgive myself for the human wrecking ball that I was in the aftermath of my cancer because I really was one," he said.
The Canadian actress discovered that she had ovarian cancer during filming of the third season of How I Met Your Mother. She was just 25. She had multiple surgeries to remove the cancer and has now been cancer-free for almost 12 years. She relied on a "huge support system" at the time, including her now-husband Taran Killam, to help her get through the trauma. "I just tried to be very kind to my body. It was going through a horrible time, and I think that it’s super important to be patient with yourself and treat yourself and your body with kindness," she told Parade in 2018. "In terms of day-to-day, I would meditate and do anything that would help take the stress out of my life. Though she was initiallly quiet about her diagnosis, she decided to open up to help other women in the same situation. "I think there’s something to being part of a community, being part of a conversation about something that benefits everybody," she explained.
Jessica St. Clair
The Playing House star was diagnosed with stage 2b estrogen positive breast cancer in September 2015 at just 38 years old. She revealed the news via a tweet in May 2017, saying she had "the big C and then I kicked its ass, along with an open essay for Stand Up to Cancer, where she explained why her character on the USA Network show would also get diagnosed with breast cancer and go through the same treatment she did in real life.
"We hope that by sharing my experience -- our experience, [co-star and BFF] Lennon [Parham] and I -- that somebody who is going through this process or helping their loved one through it might feel less alone, and might even have some better information for their cancer care," she wrote in the blog post, which referenced hearing Simon and Garfunkel's "Bridge Over Troubled Water" in church on the one-year anniversary of the day she finished chemo. "Because that’s really all that matters at the end of the day, right? That we try and be that bridge for each other. Cause this is some straight-up troubled water, am I right?"
In April 2017, the Madam Secretary star opened up to People about being diagnosed with testicular cancer four years earlier. Admitting that "men, in general, don't like talking about this stuff," Bergen realized that he needed to finally open up so that others wouldn't be afraid to see their doctors if they felt something was wrong. “I was reluctant to talk about it because I was starting my career as an adult in Hollywood. I thought, ‘Do I really want to talk about the fact that I had testicular cancer? Is that really what I want to go out there with?’" he explained. “You start to realize you have a different purpose. You come out on the other side with this whole new appreciation for life. You really only get to live once -- and when you are punched in the face with that reality? I took it and ran with it.”