More than 180,000 American women are diagnosed with breast cancer each year. In the past 18 months-which would mean about 270,000 breast cancer diagnoses-the diagnosis of three of those women has been a top national news story. We all read about singer Sheryl Crow, author and political wife Elizabeth Edwards, and TV news anchor Robin Roberts.
Their cancer news was splashed everywhere from the New York Times to People magazine. Since that initial diagnosis (or news of recurrence), however, it’s harder to find out how these women are progressing with their treatment. After all, it’s the fact of having breast cancer that’s the "scoop"-not its treatment.
But if there’s anything we all want to know it’s how treatment is progressing-for any of us. Our first question, when we hear of someone with breast cancer, is usually "What does she have to do? What surgery is she having? Radiation? Chemo?" And then, afterwards, the hold-your-breath question: "Did it work?" Since inquiring minds (and empathetic hearts) want to know, here’s the most recent "scoop" on Sheryl Crow, Elizabeth Edwards, and Robin Roberts.
Singer, guitar player, and songwriter Sheryl Crow, winner of nine Grammy awards, was famously engaged to cancer activist and world-famous cyclist Lance Armstrong; their relationship ended abruptly just a month prior to her breast cancer diagnosis in February, 2006. Crow was diagnosed with stage I DCIS, underwent a lumpectomy and seven weeks of radiation, and is apparently doing well now.
Crow revealed post-treatment that she’s always had dense breasts, making diagnosis difficult. It was following up on calcifications, rather than feeling a lump or seeing a tumor via mammogram, that led to her diagnosis.
Crow went the complementary treatment route, adding acupuncture and herbal teas to her medical treatment. "The idea is to fortify the immune system. I say why not?" she said of the acupuncture. She says she now eats "all organic, clean food, a lot of fish, and colorful vegetables." We hope you continue down this path, Sheryl.
Elizabeth Edwards, wife of current Presidential candidate John Edwards, penned a best-selling book, Saving Graces: Finding Solace and Strength from Friends and Strangers in the months after her initial breast cancer diagnosis on November 3, 2004. That was the day after her husband and running mate John Kerry lost the 2004 Presidential election. The book’s message is ever more bittersweet since her diagnosis of recurrence in mid-March of this year. Edwards was diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer that has spread to her bones. Statistically, she has a 20 percent chance of surviving beyond five years with this diagnosis.
Edwards underwent 16 weeks of chemo after her first diagnosis, then had the tumor removed from her breast, and followed up with six weeks of radiation. She did well for 21 months, before breaking a rib and being diagnosed with her recurrence.
Edwards, 58, has been quoted in the news as saying cancer won’t control her life. “My job is to stay alive until the medicine and research catch up,” she said recently. At the same time, she’s working on putting her life in order. According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, she’s been boxing up her four children’s "memorabilia"-their clothes, photographs, school papers-so that they won’t be mistakenly discarded after her death. And she’s writing each of them "dying letters"-advice from a mom who’s no longer there to help her daughter dress for the prom, or watch her son struggle through a first girlfriend.
Edwards is currently taking oral chemotherapy. A CT scan in mid-July showed no change in the tumors: no new ones, no growth in the old ones. Edwards is battling lymphedema along with cancer, but continues to follow an aggressive schedule. She and John just celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary, and she’s been an instrumental part of his current Presidential campaign. At the same time, she’s spending lots of time with her three remaining children: daughter Cate, 25; daughter Emma Claire, 9, and son Jack, 7. Another son, Wade, was 16 when he was killed in an auto accident in 1996.
Wow… If anyone has spent more than a decade exhibiting grace under pressure, it would have to be Edwards. I admire her greatly.
Robin Roberts, co-anchor of ABC’s Good Morning America news show, revealed her cancer diagnosis to the public, on air, on July 31. She had surgery on August 3, and returned to Good Morning America on August 13.
Roberts didn’t reveal details of her initial treatment, other than that she underwent same-day surgery (so one would assume a lumpectomy). At the time, news sources quoted Roberts’ family as saying the surgery was "very successful." Roberts had initially said the doctors believed they had caught the cancer early.
On August 9, ABC spokesperson Bridgette Maney said, “[Roberts] is still awaiting her test results, but is feeling great and looking forward to getting back to work.” Apparently even those of us with celebrity clout can’t rush those test results
PJ Hamel is senior digital content editor and food writer at King Arthur Flour, and a James Beard award-winning author. A 16-year breast cancer survivor, her passion is helping women through this devastating disease. She manages a large and active online survivor support network based at her local hospital and shares her wisdom and experience with the greater community via HealthCentral.com.