In a time of personal struggle when facing a health scare — such as being diagnosed with cancer — it can be comforting to know that others have faced the same situation, and it’s possible to learn from their experiences. Over the years, celebrities have shared stories about their battles with cancer in order to do just that.
While some cancer survivors choose to be private about their cancer fight, others publicly share that they are going through. Here are 17 inspirational stories of celebrity cancer survivors.
1. Michael C. Hall
On television, actor Michael C. Hall is known for playing characters dealing with death. However, according to Radar Online, the “Dexter” star wasn’t about to let a 2010 Hodgkin’s lymphoma diagnosis stop him at age 38. Hall was able to return to work and told reporters that he was thankful for all the support he received, saying, “It’s an invitation to be grateful for what I have.”
2. Mark Ruffalo
Marvel superhero actor Mark Ruffalo battled a brain tumor back in 2001. The Avengers: Endgame actor claims that he actually had a dream about having a tumor which led him to consult a doctor who gave him the diagnosis, according to The Guardian. At the time his wife was also pregnant, so he waited until after the birth of his son to make his illness public. Luckily for fans of The Incredible Hulk, Ruffalo’s tumor was removed with a successful surgery and he has been cancer free since.
3. Ben Stiller
Actor Ben Still was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2014. The Zoolander actor didn’t make his cancer battle public until 2016 when he told the Today Show, “I "really fortunate that my course of treatment was basically an operation and that was it.” He has been cancer free ever since.
4. Christina Applegate
Married With Children actress Christina Applegate received the devastating news that she had breast cancer back in 2008 at age 36. According to CNN, after a double mastectomy Applegate has been cancer free and devoted herself to helping others get early detection. Founding the group Right Action For Women she helps at risk women receive free MRIs, the test which helped detect her cancer early on.
5. Dr. Drew Pinsky
While Dr. Drew is known to help people with their relationship problems on “Love Line,” the doctor needed help himself when he fell ill returning from vacation in 2011. After going to the hospital, it was discovered that the radio personality had prostate cancer. Luckily after surgery Dr. Drew is cancer free. He later told People magazine, “The erectile function is normal, sex drive is normal, bladder works normally. And I don’t have to worry about prostate cancer.”
6. Hugh Jackman
“Wolverine” actor Hugh Jackman is known for being a tough guy on screen, so it is no surprise that he fought his skin cancer the same way. Jackman has been treated several times for basal cell carcinoma since 2013. The actor has been open about encouraging fans to wear sunscreen to help protect against the threat of skin cancer. In 2017, Jackman took to his Twitter account posting a picture of his bandaged nose along with the caption, "Another basal cell carcinoma. Thanks to frequent body checks and amazing doctors, all is well. Looks worse with the dressing on than off. I swear! #wearsunscreen".
7. Tom Green
Back in 2000, MTV star Tom Green was diagnosed with testicular cancer. True to his comedic style, he broadcast “The Tom Green Cancer Special” on the network, which famously featured real footage of the comic’s own surgery. According to People magazine, the show was all in an effort to get young people talking about cancer detection. Green told Us Magazine, “I got rid of cancer, and now I’m recovering from cancer. And the truth is, I don’t have cancer anymore. I want people to know that it’s gone. That’s one of the reasons I’ve been so public. I want to raise awareness among young guys who don’t ordinarily think about cancer. Check yourself every day.” The comedian even wrote a song encouraging men to check for signs of testicular cancer with his own unique comedic spin. He performed the song live at the University of Florida, titled “Feel Your Balls.”
8. Wanda Sykes
Comedian Wanda Sykes was undergoing a breast reduction surgery in 2011 when doctors discovered that she had breast cancer. Luckily for the funnywoman, the type of cancer she had was called ductal carcinoma in situ. It was detected early enough, and she was able to undergo a double mastectomy to prevent the spread of the cancer cells. According to Radar Online, she said about the surgery, “I had both breasts removed, because now I have zero chance of having breast cancer.”
9. Edie Falco
The Sopranos star Edie Falco was diagnosed with breast cancer while still filming the hit HBO show, according to NPR. She kept her cancer battle private while undergoing chemotherapy treatment. After realizing that she was going to survive the cancer scare she decided that she wanted to adopt children.
10. Mr. T.
Back in 1995, 80s icon Mr. T detected a lump while he was removing an earring. The actor went to a dermatologist and found out that he had T-Cell Lymphoma. The irony was not lost on Mr. T who, according to Celebrity Diagnosis, said, “Can you imagine that? Cancer with my name on it. Personalized cancer!” He would go in and out of cancer treatments for several years before being declared cancer free.
11. Sheryl Crow
Singer Sheryl Crow found out that she had breast cancer in 2006. Having survived that bout with cancer she told The Mirror that, “It forced me really to look at who I was and the line of people I took care of. I was at the bottom of my list and never said no to anybody.” However, in 2012 she had to again battle cancer ... this time a brain tumor, which was thankfully removed with surgery.
12. Sharon Osbourne
Manager and wife of rocker Ozzy Osbourne, Sharon Osbourne had survived colon cancer back in 2002. Doctors performed a surgery to remove part of her colon, which led the reality TV star to be cancer free. However, according to Radar Online in 2012, she learned that she had a gene that caused breast cancer. This led to the decision to have a double mastectomy so that she would not have to live in fear of battling cancer a second time.
13. Giuliana Rancic
Back in 2011, television host Giuliana Rancic announced live on “The Today Show” that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer. She underwent a double mastectomy and has been cancer free ever since. According to Radar Online, she said, “I have so many young female viewers who watch me that I just want to help them and I have an amazing platform to really help people, so that’s why it was really important for me to share this story.”
14. Kathy Bates
Misery actress Kathy Bates had to face cancer twice. The first time — in 2003 — she had ovarian cancer. The second time she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012 and decided to have a double mastectomy to help stop the spread of the disease. While at first she was reluctant to talk publicly about her ordeal, she later told the Daily Mail, “Now if I go through it again I think I would be a lot more open about it. I admire people who have been open, like Melissa Etheridge and women I see walking around, facing it without wigs and all of that stuff. I think I would be more courageous next time.”
15. Rod Stewart
In 2000, singer Rod Stewart got the terrifying news that he had a tumor on his thyroid gland requiring throat surgery. Luckily for Stewart fans, surgeons were able to remove the tumor without disrupting his singing abilities. Stewart has gone on to devote his time to the City of Hope Foundation, which works to help find cures for different types of cancer. According to Radar Online, in 2016 Stewart had another cancer scare when doctors found a lump during a routine screening. Luckily he was diagnosed with an enlarged prostate that did not require surgery.
16. Robert De Niro
Academy Award winning actor Robert De Niro was diagnosed with prostate cancer at the age of 60, back in 2003. According to Radar Online, the “Raging Bull” actor found out that he had cancer just before filming was to begin on the movie, Hide and Seek. This caused the film schedule to be delayed and the film’s insurance company to sue De Niro for failing to report his prostate cancer during a medical checkup before filming began. However, the lawsuit was thrown out in 2008 when it was proven that the actor had the checkup five days before finding out about his cancer diagnosis. At the time his attorney said of the insurance company, “We are pleased that the Court has found that Fireman’s Fund can’t sue Mr. De Niro for getting cancer.”
17. Melissa Etheridge
Back in 2005 rock star Melissa Etheridge was diagnosed with breast cancer. According to Radar Online she underwent five rounds of chemotherapy before being declared cancer free. She was quoted as saying, “I’ve been cancer free for nine years now," she says, “and looking back, I completely understand why I got cancer. There was so much acidity in everything.”