From Bollywood's Hina Khan to country music's Sheryl Crow, 9 breast cancer survivors you need to know about

Khan is the latest star to talk about her cancer journey

By CT Desk

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Published: Tue 9 Jul 2024, 6:31 PM

It takes courage and resolve to battle something like cancer, which can often show up unannounced and impose upon you a vice-like grip of depression and illness. Indian TV star Hina Khan knows this first hand. The actress, who has been fighting stage 3 breast cancer, has become the face of tenacity and is not backing down. She is in fact sharing her cancer journey through her Instagram posts. In her latest post, Khan shared a picture of her newly cut hair, and her scar. She captioned the post: "What do you see in this picture? The scars on my body or the hope in my eyes? The scars are mine, I embrace them with love because they're the first sign of the progress I deserve. The hope in my eyes is the reflection of my soul, I can almost see the light at the end of the tunnel. I am manifesting my healing. And I am praying for yours too."

Here's a look at some other stars, from Hollywood and Bollywood, who’ve fought the dreaded disease and what they've learned from the process.


Julia Louis-Dreyfus

The year was 2017; it was a pleasant September. The day was going well for Veep actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus. She had just won her sixth Emmy award. And that’s when she got the call telling her that she had stage two breast cancer. Her response, according to an interview with People magazine, was to laugh hysterically as the news slowly sunk in. “I mean, it felt like it was written. It felt like it was a horrible black comedy,” she told the outlet. “And then it sort of morphed into crying hysterically.”

It took a year of investigations and medication (six rounds of chemo) and surgery (a double mastectomy) before the Seinfield star was declared cancer free.


In an interview five years after the ordeal, she told People, “I find myself living more mindfully,” she said. “It’s not like it’s yakking at me all the time, but there’s more laser focus.”

Sheryl Crow

US musician Sheryl Crow. (Photo by AFP)
US musician Sheryl Crow. (Photo by AFP)

She almost didn’t go to the mammogram appointment in 2006. “I was going through a public breakup and battling with paparazzi, all while trying to focus on my career,” she was quoted as saying by Prevention.com. Fortunately, she did make it to the doctor’s door, only to find that she had ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), a non-invasive type of breast cancer. She was 44 years old at the time. The Everyday is a Winding Road singer had a lumpectomy and seven weeks on radiation therapy.

In a 2021 interview with The Guardian, the multi Grammy-winner said surviving breast cancer “redefined who I am”. “Until then, I’d spent a lifetime being a caretaker for everyone around me. From then, I started to put myself first. I had voices at the back of my head telling me whatever I did wasn’t good enough. Now, finally, I’ve silenced them,” she said.

Cynthia Nixon

US actress Cynthia Nixon. (Photo by AFP)
US actress Cynthia Nixon. (Photo by AFP)

Nixon knew cancer was a possibility; she had seen her mother battle the disease twice. But when she got the call from her gynaecologist after a routine mammogram, she was taken aback. According to an interview with ABC News, the Sex and the City star recalled the incident, saying: “I go for my completely routine mammogram and then I get a call from my gynaecologist. And she says, 'Well, I have some -- it's not such great news, but here it is, but it's very small and we're just going to get in there and take it right out, right away, and then you'll probably have radiation."

"I felt scared. … I thought, 'Oh, I don't want this to be happening.' I was very cognisant of if it's going to happen, this is the best way for it to happen, that it's found so early and we can just get right on it."

Not one to let it get in the way of her work, Nixon kept things hush hush as she went for her surgery on a Sunday before appearing on stage (she was in a play at the time), the very next day. In fact, she kept mum about her battle for about a year before telling fans.

Olivia Newton John

The late actress and singer Newton John put up a tough fight against breast cancer, which she was first diagnosed with in 1992. After periods of treatments and times of remission, the Grease star lost her battle to the chronic disease in 2022 at the age of 73.

According to a CNN report, the singer’s breast cancer in 1992 led to her having a partial mastectomy, followed by chemotherapy and breast reconstruction. And while it went into remission for a few years, it returned in 2013 as a tumor in her shoulder. The last time cancer reared its head was in 2017, when she had a tumour at the base of her spine.

Newton-John, who helped to found the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness & Research Centre in Australia, tried to stay positive through it all. In 2021, she was quoted as saying by People, “I feel blessed.”

Tahira Kashyap

Tahira Kashyap. (Photo by AFP)
Tahira Kashyap. (Photo by AFP)

Ayushmann Khurrana’s wife, filmmaker Tahira Kashyap, is a fighter. Not only did she learn about, come to terms with and win over her condition back in 2018, she shared the news with netizens in 2018. She posted on Instagram: “I was detected with DCIS (ductal carcinoma in situ) in my right breast with high-grade malignant cells. Simply put stage 0 cancer/pre-cancerous stage, with cancer cells multiplying in a contained area. This mastectomy has left me with even more self-love! Mine has made me a 2.0 version of myself! This post is dedicated to awareness, self love and resilience of a warrior that I know each one of us possesses.”

Sonali Bendre

Bollywood actress Sonali Bendre (Photo by AFP)
Bollywood actress Sonali Bendre (Photo by AFP)

Unafraid. Resilient. Battle worn. Survivor. All these terms serve to describe Sonali Bandre well. When she was diagnosed with high-grade metastatic cancer in July 2018, she told Humans of Bombay in a podcast, her first thought was “Why me?” She recalled: “I'd wake up thinking it was all a nightmare; I couldn't believe that this could happen to me. That's when I started to change the way I thought. Instead of 'why me?' I started asking, 'Why not me?'" Sonali added, "I started to feel grateful this wasn't happening to my sister or my son. I realised I had the strength to deal with this, I had the resources to go to the best hospitals, and the support system to help me through this. Starting to ask 'why not me?' helped me start the healing process."

Four years on, she was a beacon of positivity. She wrote about her journey on Instagram, giving others hope. She wrote: “I felt like telling the patients that there's HOPE, and I am there on the other side and look at me today I have come in for a visit on the other side of the spectrum... It was, as you can guess, a very bittersweet, emotional day. I stepped out, looked my son in the eye, with the sunshine on my face and thanked the universe for everything."

Mahima Chaudhry

Fear can be a crippling thing. But Pardes actor Mahima Chaudhry knew she needed to beat hers. She was shocked when she was first told of her breast cancer diagnosis back in 2021.

She told The Week magazine about her diagnosis, saying, "People told me to be strong, I also told myself the same thing. But I did not want to give myself this fake sense of strength. Instead, I decided to embrace the reality for what it was, and gave myself the right to feel down and vulnerable when I had to. I told the doctor to remove both my breasts, I don't want to die.”

Admitting she went through periods of depression, she explained that she took each day as it came. The toughest part was explaining to her young daughter why her mother was looking paler as time went on, why her hair was falling out, why she didn’t have the energy she once used to. “It was a heart-wrenching to see the fear of a parent's looming death in this child's eyes; it rattled me,” she said.

Fortunately, because it was caught early, she was cancer free in 2022.

Mumtaz

A zest for life and the confidence to defy even mortality define the Indian yesteryear star Mumtaz, who told Times of India, when asked about her cancer battle: “I don’t give up easily. Even death will have to fight me.”

She reportedly was diagnosed with breast cancer at 54 and underwent six chemotherapies and 35 radiation sessions before becoming cancer-free.

Kylie Minogue

Australian singer Kylie Minogue. (Photo by AFP)
Australian singer Kylie Minogue. (Photo by AFP)

Australian Grammy-winning pop star Kylie Minogue tends to take a positive view on things. In an interview she gave to CBS News in 2023, she explained that while the experience of surgery and chemotherapy was tough on her, it was also amazing. She was diagnosed in 2005. "It's trauma, and any trauma resides within you," she said. "The experience of a cancer diagnosis will live in me. It was difficult. It was also amazing.Amazing in that you are very aware of your body, of the love that's around you, of your capability, all sorts of things."

She did admit though that she’s still processing the experience, and she does it through her music. "I sing to process everything, I think. I write to process. I perform to process. And sometimes I think I live to perform," she said.

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