We all know her. The NYPD's Anita Van Buren has led the detective squad at Manhattan’s 27th Precinct on “Law and Order” since 1993. Through 20 seasons she has broken through many barriers, including sexism. Like the other cops in her squad, she knows that her life is on the line every day, and her very survival can be at stake. This season, the last one, the show provided another of the “twists” that has made it a fan favorite. This season our tough, strong, ready for anything Lieutenant Van Buren took on cancer.
The show’s writers have never been afraid of tackling controversy. They took on an ugly cancer that's often ignored by mainstream and entertainment media. Van Buren was diagnosed with Stage-II cervical cancer caused by HPV - the human papillomavirus. It was sexually transmitted and contracted from her former husband, who had been cheating. She went through chemotherapy, lost her hair and used a wig. She ate less because of the chemo treatments. After first turning it down, this by-the-book officer of the law started using medical marijuana. When her boss, the Chief of Detectives, learned she was using pot, he stopped by, gave her mints and helped her get to a discreet source that he learned about in his own fight with testicular cancer.
She continued to go through cancer's ups and downs while continuing her extremely stressful job. She worried about her survival all the way to the final episode. While managing a crisis situation with a potential mass murderer, the lieutenant is on the phone applying for a personal loan to cover medical bills. She had two scans to determine the state of her cancer, with the cameras showing extreme close-ups of a face filled with both fear and resolve. The squad planned a surprise party to help with her bills, and she said she wanted her privacy respected, and then gave in when her fiancé pointed out that her friends need to do this for themselves as their own way of coping with her illness.
In the final minutes of the final episode she got the doctor’s call she’s been waiting for – to find out if the cancer has spread. The scene is one of the best and most memorable that has ever run on television.