Celebrity Breast Cancer Survivors

5 Women Who Inspire Us by Making a Difference

Celebrity Breast Cancer Survivors

Everyone, no matter how wealthy or successful, encounters difficult times in life. Everyone has to figure out how to face the challenges that arise and get past them with as much strength and dignity as possible. The most impressive amongst us come out on the other side of their struggles and see their experiences as an opportunity to make things better for others.

One in eight women can expect a breast cancer diagnosis in their lifetimes. With numbers like that, it’s no surprise that many of the female actresses, musicians and other public figures of note (and a few male ones as well) have publicly shared their experiences dealing with breast cancer.

Some of these famous survivors go the extra mile to help others suffering from or at risk of the disease. With Breast Cancer Awareness Month upon us, here are five inspiring breast cancer survivors working to make a difference.

1. Jaclyn Smith

You may know her better as Kelly Garrett, one of Charlie’s angels in the popular 1970’s television show. In the years since, she’s continued to work hard, even as she raised a family. That strength stuck with her as she underwent radiation treatments for her breast cancer, all while continuing to work on the TV show The District.

In the years since she beat breast cancer, Smith has turned part of her attention to helping others struggling with it. She was involved in Strength in Knowing, a support website created to help urge women to find the support system they need to get through the experience. She’s also worked with Susan G. Komen For the Cure to raise money for the cause, and donates a portion of the profits from her clothing and furniture lines to cancer research organizations.

2. Olivia Newton-John

Between the movie Grease and a successful music career, Olivia Newton-John had achieved icon status by the early 1980’s. In spite of a lifetime of healthy living (as evidenced by the famous “Physical” music video), at 44 she got her breast cancer diagnosis. She quickly went into treatment, getting a mastectomy and undergoing chemotherapy, and managed to kick the disease. She’s been cancer-free in the years since.

Like Jaclyn Smith, Newton-John has also worked with Susan G. Komen for the Cure, as well as starting the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Institute and a Cancer and Wellness Center in Melbourne, Australia to help fund research and treat those with the disease.

3. Christina Applegate

With a number of popular comedy series and movie roles under her belt, Christina Applegate has found consistent success in Hollywood ever since her breakout role in Married…with Children. When Applegate tested positive for the BRCA1 breast cancer gene, she went ahead with a double mastectomy.

Applegate recognizes that her success made it easier for her to get the preventative tests and procedures that are difficult for some women to afford. She therefore founded Right Action for Women, an organization devoted to helping at-risk women afford the cost of the MRI required to better detect breast cancer.

4. Diahann Carol.

With a long, successful (and still going strong) career full of the non-stereotypical roles rare for black women in much of the time she was working, Diahann Caroll’s made a memorable mark in Hollywood. Although she had no symptoms or family history of the disease, her doctor found a tumor in a routine mammogram. With a lumpectomy and radiation therapy, she was successfully cured,

She made the difficult decision to take her story public, allowing Connie Chung to report on her experience as she sought treatment. In the years since, she’s launched a campaign to travel the country and help other women, particularly those in minority communities, learn of the risk and the preventative measures they can take. She started the previously mentioned online support site, Strength in Knowing to help educate women and provide them a support system.

5. Melissa Etheridge

After years of being a rock star, and one of the earliest celebrities to take the bold stand of coming out in the 1990’s, Melissa Etheridge was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004. She took another characteristically bold stand in 2005 when she chose to perform live at the Grammys, bald from her chemotherapy treatment and without a wig.

Since beating breast cancer, Etheridge has been involved in helping raise money and awareness for the cause through Hard Rock Cafe’s Pinktober campaign.

You don’t have to go on to head fundraising campaigns and start organizations in order to be laudable as a breast cancer survivor – or a survivor of any other illness or challenge – you just have to get through it on your own terms.

For Breast Cancer Awareness Month, remember that taking care of yourself to the best of your ability is the most important first step. If you can find a way to help other people too, go for it. You might find the experience is as powerful as that of conquering your own battles.


Kristen Hicks is an Austin-based copywriter and lifelong student with an ongoing curiousity to learn and explore new things. She turns that interest to researching and exploring subjects helpful to seniors and their families for SeniorAdvisor.com.


  1. Karen Rice December 4, 2014 Reply

    “An Awakening”

    When I was diagnosed with Breast cancer a few years back, I reacted like most who receive a cancer diagnose; first thing came to mind was a “death sentence”. However, I found out later that it was truly “an awakening”. I began questioning God, why would you do this to me? What had I done in life so bad to have this placed upon me? But instead of bemoaning my fate, I decided to look for the positive side of it. There has to be a reason for it all.

    I also realized that I was about to face a new beginning, new hope, do and see more with a whole new prospective on life. When I think of the “gift of life” that was given to me, I know that I will develop and gain strength from all my experiences. After going through all that I did during my breast cancer period, I was left with a few complications I now have to live with; one being daily pain. For a while, I wasn’t happy with the way I looked around my breast area, nor the pain I had to endure each day, but I decided to snap out of it. Even after being diagnosed with another cancer (colon) a few years later. Which totally took me by surprise. But even with the pain I had to endure through each diagnose, and all the struggles I’ve dealt with all my life, I still feel truly blessed. I think about the individuals that are no longer among us. I also realized that there will always be someone worse off than I am. I reminded myself, that I “still have my life”, so who am I to complain.

    One day during one of my surgeries, I experienced something of a miracle, as if I went to the other side, so I felt the compulsion to write it down. I turn that experience into a poem and I called it “Peace”. Writing had become therapy for me. I took that poem, along with many others I had composed during my breast cancer period and placed them into book form. I was blessed enough to have that book published, called “True Simple Poems of Life, Faith and Survival”. I later had another inspirational children’s book published, with a third one on the way. I’m hoping that anyone who has the opportunity to read my first book of poems, get out of them, what I placed in all of them. My poems are from the heart, as real as any could ever be. With the words and phrases of each poem of statement, I wish to make a positive impact on someone who’s ill or otherwise, where they could develop the strength to embrace life in a whole new way. I never anticipated becoming a writer, I just became one. I truly believe when you survive a horrific tragedy or a horrible disease as cancer, it’s for a reason, “you have a purpose” and I want to live to find find out exactly what that is for me.

    That’s what I’m all about now, inspiration. I would have never become a writer, producing inspirational poems and stories, if I had not gone through all that I did. I’m a true example that you can survive cancer not once, but twice, providing you catch it in time, have faith and allow that faith to direct your path.

    Karen Rice
    x2 Cancer Survivor/Author
    Houston, Texas

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