The Fight in the Show girl

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    Kylie’s experience with missed signs is not entirely a new story. Compatriot, Olivia Newton John had also received a clean bill of health, which turned out to not be the case. The British-born singer and actress, is most remembered for her role in the 1978 blockbuster, Grease as the starry-eyed, good girl, Sandy. Olivia spent a large part of her childhood in Australia before moving back to the UK to pursue a career in singing. Her diagnosis came in 1992, on the heels of her father’s death from liver cancer. Self-examination led to discovery of lumps, which evaded detection even with mammograms and needle biopsy. The cancer was discovered only when a surgical biopsy was conducted, a procedure she insisted on. “I don’t tell the story to scare people, but to really stress the importance of knowing your own body and trusting your instincts. This is the very reason I am now such a big supporter of monthly breast self exams.” She chose to combat her illness through a combination of Eastern and Western medicine, even trying acupuncture and meditation. Olivia has gone on to set up the Olivia Newton John Wellness & Research Centre in Melbourne, Australia


    Despite the fact that breast cancer is no longer an unknown or rare disease, awareness is still the greatest tool that can be wielded against the disease. Christina Applegate, best known for her role as Kelly Bundy, on ‘Married with Children’, Applegate founded the Right Action for Women. The charitable foundation is dedicated to breast cancer screening for women, and focuses on the type of MRI scan which saved her life. In addition to educating the public about the disease, Right Action for Women offers financial assistance to sufferers who lack the support whilst undergoing treatment. Christina’s diagnosis was made public in August 2008; post an MRI scan that her doctor ordered. Not a stranger to the ravages of the illness, her mother is a repeat breast cancer survivor. Christina carries the BRCA-1 gene mutation putting her at higher risk for reoccurrence. She opted to have both breasts removed, despite having a lump in only one breast, as a preventative measure.


    While a number of celebrities have contributed their time, efforts and funds toward the education and research of Breast Cancer, prevention and cure, Sheryl Crow took things a little bit further. The rock and country singer decided to petition the Congress to fund research to determine link between cancer and environmental factors. In her visit to Washington in 2007, she said: “I don’t live in a political world, and while this might seem like a political discussion, until you are [one of] the one in seven women diagnosed with breast cancer, you will never know how not political this is.” While there has been no direct evidence to indicate she has impacted a change, her actions served to raise a greater awareness of the need for more research. "I am a walking advertisement for early detection," Crow says, as her diligence and early detection allowed her to avoid chemotherapy. She was diagnosed in early 2006, at age 44, when a routine mammogram revealed suspicious calcification in both breasts. Her final diagnosis was Ductal Carcinoma in Situ (DCIS), which is a non-invasive form of breast cancer, and was treated with a lumpectomy in February 2006, followed by seven weeks of radiation therapy.


    The rock singer, song-writer and guitarist, who gained fame in 1988, and went on to earn a Grammy in 1993 for her hit single ‘Ain’t it heavy’, has been known to flout traditions. She famously appeared at the 2005 Grammy Awards bald from her chemotherapy treatments, to pay tribute to Janis Joplin by singing ‘Piece of my Heart’. Diagnosed in October 2004, at age 43, after finding a lump in her breast during self-examination, Melissa underwent a lumpectomy surgery. She has lost multiple family members to the disease, and considered it a spiritual awakening. She credited a healthier lifestyle with her cancer-free state and has tried homeopathic options instead of just mainstream medicine. Acknowledging that receiving the diagnosis is overwhelming, Melissa believes that if you can ‘find a space to listen to your own voice and learn to be still’ you realize that you have the power to make your own decisions."I have a different belief. I believe in the balance of my body and I believe that I can understand the subtleties and feel them in my own body. So, I actually stopped my mammograms." Experts have been quick to point out that her opinions are in effect, opinions.


    Everyone knows this woman as Miranda Hobbes from Sex and the City but she has also been a strong activist for Breast Cancer awareness in recent years. Cynthia was diagnosed with breast cancer in October 2006 and initially decided not to go public with it. Eventually, she announced it in 2008 on the TV show Good Morning America. She has had family history of breast cancer, and her mother is a survivor of the disease. At the time of her diagnosis, she was in an off-Broadway play ‘The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie’. Choosing not to let the cancer disrupt her life, she opted to have surgery to remove the lump on a Sunday, so there would be no interruption to the shows. "I want them [women] most to hear me saying that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself. So the only thing to really be afraid of is if you don't go get your mammograms, because there's some part of you that doesn't want to know, and that's the thing that's going to trip you up. That's the thing that could have a really bad endgame," she said.


    Although the diagnosis of breast cancer and the treatment is in itself a battle, the war is preventing the reoccurrence. Robin Roberts, news anchor previously of Sports Centre and currently Good Morning America, is still fighting the war. Robin gained fame for her honest, engaging interviews with celebrities and star athletes for over 15 years. However, her most memorable show may have been when she turned the spotlight on herself to announce that she had been diagnosed with early stage breast cancer. Following her announcement in July 2007, she underwent surgery to remove the lump. By January 2008, Robin completed eight chemotherapy treatments, followed by nearly seven weeks of radiation treatments, giving her the all clear. Unfortunately, her battle did not end there. In 2012, doctors discovered that she had developed a rare disease, Myelodysplastic Syndrome, which affects the bone marrow. When the details of her condition were announced on Good Morning America, the National Marrow Donor Program found a 1,800% increase in donors. Robin returned to her show after a four month rest period, earning the 2012 Peabody Award for providing the network and public information and awareness around her disease, allowing hundreds of donors to register and save lives.

Few artists have achieved notoriety to the extent that their concerts will have a 50 year old and a 15 year old bobbing to their tunes. It is a rare honour that guarantees the artist needing no introduction. One such performer is Australian, Kylie Minogue. Once hailed ‘The Princess of Pop’, she has had a loyal fan base follow her across decades of iconic music, discovers Radhika Talwar

Born on the May 28, 1968, in Melbourne, Australia, to an accountant and dancer, Kylie had humble beginnings as her family moved to the suburbs during her early childhood. The stability she craved in her early youth was only granted after the birth of her sister, Danni Minogue. Kylie spent her childhood years appearing in minor roles on Australian soaps, while her sister, Danni gained fame on ‘Young Talent Time’. Initially, Danni’s success as a singer far outweighed Kylie’s until she got her big break in ‘Neighbours’. The popular daytime soap, with a huge following in the UK, was the catalyst for her success as a singer, as she was discovered singing during a ‘Fitzeroy Football Concert’ with other cast members.

Kylie was on her ‘Showgirl – Greatest Hits’ tour, when she received her breast cancer diagnosis on May 17, 2005, a few days shy of her 37th birthday. She postponed the tour, withdrew from the Gastonbury Festival and was scheduled for surgery on May 21, in Malvern, Australia. The surgery was to be followed up with rounds of chemotherapy. The intense media coverage following her treatment included a statement of support from the Australian Prime Minister, John Howard. The media and fan frenzy however, resulted in Victorian Premier, Steven Bracks issuing a warning to the media about the violation of the her family’s rights under Australian privacy laws.

Despite the speed and efficiency with which Kylie was scheduled for surgery, her cancer was nearly not detected. Her initial reports indicated there was nothing to worry about, based on which, she went on to do her tour. But instinct and a second medical opinion revealed the malignant tumour in her breast. “Just because someone is in a white coat and using big medical instruments doesn’t necessarily mean they’re right,” she said, while adding that she has the utmost respect for the medical profession and was in the very best of hands.

Following the surgery, a partial mastectomy, Kylie’s treatment included eight months of chemotherapy and radiation, which she chose to have in France. In a recent interview she talked about the challenges and fear, “I know I have strength but when you’re fighting something where there is a lot of unknown it’s a mixture, a mixture of emotions and memories. It is years until you really get the all clear and by the time my hair started growing back it was very exciting, it was like a miracle.”

In July 2006, following her announcement that she was in remission, Kylie went on to reschedule the Showgirl tour, which resulted in a series of triumphant shows. Not content to simply be back to work, she has led and participated in numerous efforts to raise awareness for breast cancer. Her fifth year cancer-free anniversary, in 2010, was celebrated by hosting an event to raise funds and awareness of the disease. French Cultural Minister, Christine Albanel hailed her as an inspiration with regards to early detection and prevention, “Doctors now even go as far as saying there is a ‘Kylie effect’ that encourages young women to have regular checks.”

Each of these incredible women fought hard and strong, choosing not to be defined by cancer. They have tirelessly strived to ensure that as much information and aid is available to millions of women who may fall victim to this illness. If there is a core message we should learn from their struggles, it is to take better care of ourselves, and never skip out on the examinations and tests. And most important, live fearlessly, fiercely and freely.