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Actress Maura Tierney Talks about Her Cancer Journey and Treatment

By Lynette Summerill HERWriter
 
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Actress Maura Tierney Talks about Her Cancer Journey and Treatment 4 5 5
actress Maura Tierney discusses her journey with cancer and treatment
Photo Courtesy of Chemotherapy: Myths or Fact ©

Nearly three years after successfully completing treatment for an aggressive form of breast cancer, Emmy-nominated actress Maura Tierney is reflecting back on her cancer journey and its impact on her life with the hope of helping others.

Tierney, who is most famous for her decade-long role in ER as Dr. Abby Lockhart, is promoting a new awareness campaign for cancer patients and their caregivers called Chemotherapy: Myths or Fact, sponsored by the biotechnology company Amgen. The campaign aims to expose common misconceptions about chemotherapy.

Forget much of what you’ve heard about chemotherapy. With as many as 650,000 people going through the cancer treatment each year, most people form preconceived notions about how chemotherapy might affect them or their loved ones.

As a result, Dr. Patrick Cobb, M.D., an oncologist at Frontier Cancer Center in Billings, Mont. says there are many myths associated with chemo.

The treatment affects people differently, so experts say cancer patients and their caregivers should take control of their cancer journey by talking openly with their doctors about what to expect.

Tierney, 47, is the quintessential spokesperson, speaking openly about her own cancer battle that began in 2009.

In a telephone interview, Tierney said when her doctors told her she would have to undergo chemotherapy unexpectedly after surgery, she had a lot of fear and anxiety about the treatment based on what she had heard.

“I worried that I would be so sick I wouldn’t be able to get up, but for me the treatment was a lot more manageable than I thought it would be,” Tierney said. “During treatment you can still love life. You can do things that you love. I’m not saying it’s always easy or fun, but you can manage it.”

One common myth is people going through the treatment should avoid spending time with family and friends.

“This is largely untrue,” says Dr. Cobb. “While most people receiving chemotherapy should be careful about visiting others who are sick and avoid large crowds, having a support system in place to help keep a positive outlook is critical to a patient’s emotional well-being during this time.”

Add a Comment7 Comments

annieec

I just found out I have IDC 2 days ago. My sister has offered to send me on a spa day with all the works. Is it safe to go for the botox? I'm going to ask my doctor, but I see that it was ok for you!

October 20, 2013 - 5:31pm
kgb2092000

After an awesome birthday celebration with two of my best friends in Vegas, I went in to see the doctor because I had a lump under my left arm that was starting to bother me when I worked out. As a Navy veteran living in DC, I was immediately referred to the Walter Reed Breast Clinic. The radiologist reviewed my mammogram pictures while I waited (never a good sign). Subsequently, he told me “I’m sorry, you have breast cancer.” Really? Yes, really. My first mammogram was my last and just like that I was a statistic.

I cried for about 30 minutes and then I called my best friend and practiced telling her so I wouldn’t cry when I told my parents and brother. My brother is a professional wrestler with a world famous temper. I went home and calmly broke the news, expecting him to hit a wall or fly into a rage. His rather elevating response was, “You’re going to get it cut out and get an upgrade. Get over it.”

And thus started my adventures with Breast Cancer. I realized I hadn’t really been living life up to that point. I was living to work instead of working to live. So I threw my left breast and cancer a going away party. Additionally, I signed up for online dating. Why would someone diagnosed with cancer sign up for a dating service during treatment? Why the hell not? I felt like I just woke up and was ready to get back in the game of life. My brother was a huge help. He made sure I ate like an athlete and was in the best shape for surgery. He might have done too good a job. The night after my first mastectomy, a male nurse asked me for my phone number. That was a little creepy. (I should mention that I was lucky enough to have immediate reconstruction. As a result when I woke up after surgery the only physical change to my breast was that it was perkier and looked like a Barbie doll. I was anatomically correct; I just didn’t have a nipple.) I ended up doing 4 rounds of chemotherapy and have a few tips on how to make that fun for anyone that has either just been diagnosed with breast cancer or knows someone that has been diagnosed.

You will find you have many friends that love you and will want to support you. Enjoy them to the fullest!

If you are going to do chemo, make each one a party. I chose to make each one a Halloween party complete with theme. Mardi Gras Chemo, Beach Blanket Chemo, Breakfast at Chemo and Biker Babe Chemo, which really ended up looking more like Hooker Getting Chemo.

Drink lots of water. Not only does it flush the chemo, your skin will look great!
Never diet during chemo. Trust me on this one.
You can have sex during chemo but not during the actual treatments.

People will send you chocolates, flowers and champagne. Enjoy!

If you decide to shave your head, get a Mohawk first. It’s a great picture opportunity. (I was fortunate enough to find out I looked better without hair and enjoyed being bald.)

Get a pink Britney wig. It’s the only time in your life you can truly get away with it.

Botox before chemo. There is no reason to look stressed while going through cancer.

Spray tan. It’s a little cold but it freaks the nurses out. Nurse: “Kimberly! We told you to stay out of the sun!” Kimberly: “It’s a spray tan!”

After my first mastectomy, the biopsy results revealed that the lump was too close to my skin to be considered “clean”. Instead of radiation, I opted for a revision of the skin and more surgery. This was actually a blessing. Every morning I would wake up and look down at my left breast and say “Hello Barbie.” I decided I wanted my right one to match so I requested a prophylactic mastectomy. The doctors agreed and I am now the proud owner of not one but two stripper breasts.

Two years later and I am physically the same person I was before breast cancer albeit I have a great set of breasts that will never fall and a fondness of pixie haircuts. Thanks to breast cancer, I ended a life-long, love-hate relationship with my hair and have opted to keep it super short. And I actually do wake up and smell the flowers.

Lastly, I don’t want to do a disservice to my fellow breast cancer conquerors. Breast cancer was not all chocolates, champagne and chemo parties. It was pain and every day I live with the question “What if it comes back?” But I take every day as a new one and look forward to them (I look forward to Friday, Saturday and Sunday most of all.) Because it’s not about surviving, it’s about conquering!

July 4, 2012 - 6:32am
warrior (reply to kgb2092000)

You sound so much like me....maybe you're my long-lost sister that I never had. I rocked the breast cancer treatments and kept a good sense of humor and good outlook on life. I chopped my hair & donated it prior to chemo and then colored it fuchsia. I love my hair super short now but am currently trying to grow it out mostly out of curiosity since it seems that maybe it's now curly instead of straight. Not sure if it will straighten with length though. Losing your hair is what I call "minors" in the grand scheme of cancer and I tell people whenever they're griping about their hair or lack of....Get over it! Anyway, I smiled while reading your post and signed up just so I could reply. I, too feel that my life is to be lived differently now. I don't feel that I have found my purpose yet but I know that I don't sweat the small stuff anymore and try to seriously avoid people/situations that are a drag on my soul. I do worry that it could come back but I try not to & just keep going to my check-ups, etc. I finished chemo & radiation just before my 40th birthday and then celebrated with friends by going to Aruba. I still can't believe I had cancer sometimes but life is strange that way. Take care of yourself & enjoy your most fabulous self!

July 5, 2012 - 8:47am
kgb2092000 (reply to warrior)

Hi! Thanks for note, it really made my day. I wish there were more of us out there that can show how to have fun during chemo and breast cancer. The breast cancer boards are so scary and depressing. I celebrated my 45th birthday after completing treatment by going to Germany to see friends. They proceeded to take me all over Europe. That was 6 months after chemo. Love that you went to Aruba! I get you with the worry. I got a tattoo on my back of a phoenix rising out pink fire with the wings coming together in a breast cancer ribbon. It's a physical reminder that I kicked it and if it came back I would kick it again. Then I appreciate every day of life. Even the bad ones. I think we are long lost sisters! Keep living life and take care! Kimberly

July 5, 2012 - 5:52pm
warrior (reply to kgb2092000)

Sorry, I just posted a reply to you again but had not signed in....duh. Here it goes: Kimberly, thank you also for your reply. I don't know if you're still in the DC area but I am in southern VA. Maybe we could email with each other (not in this post). Anyhoo, I re-read your post and it really was funny and quite similar to my experience. I do not read breast cancer blogs really because I feel like the "lucky girl" who breezed through the process and I don't really want to know my odds, etc. As far as I'm concerned, been there, done that, and yes, got the t-shirt (from doing my first walk for Komen last year)....it's totally part of me, but trying not to let it define me. It truly is now about thriving; not just surviving. Let me know if you want to chat again. Take care. Freeda

July 9, 2012 - 6:02am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to warrior)

Hi Freeda, I still live in DC but visit Va Beach when I get a chance. If you want to chat email me at kgb2092000@yahoo.com Talk soon! Kimberly

July 9, 2012 - 6:54pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to kgb2092000)

Kimberly, thank you also for your reply. I don't know if you're still in the DC area but I am in southern VA. Maybe we could email with each other (not in this post). Anyhoo, I re-read your post and it really was funny and quite similar to my experience. I do not read breast cancer blogs really because I feel like the "lucky girl" who breezed through the process and I don't really want to know my odds, etc. As far as I'm concerned, been there, done that, and yes, got the t-shirt (from doing my first walk for Komen last year)....it's totally part of me, but trying not to let it define me. It truly is now about thriving; not just surviving. Let me know if you want to chat again. Take care.

July 9, 2012 - 5:58am
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