Julia Louis-Dreyfus' Battle With Breast Cancer
- Julia Louis-Dreyfus, known for acting as Elaine Benes on popular TV sitcom “Seinfeld, felt “deeply terrified” when she was diagnosed with breast cancer back in 2017, however, her “strong” support system helped her get through the tough times.
- Louis-Dreyfus, who spoke over the weekend about how she reacted to her doctor’s call about her diagnosis, was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer back in 2017. She later went public with the news on her social media channels to an outpouring of support. She was announced to be “cancer-free” about a year later.
- According to SurvivorNet experts, acknowledging these emotions that come with a diagnosis can be therapeutic and important to the healing process,
- Dr. Dana Chase, a Gynecologic Oncologist at UCLA Health, also it’s important to try to focus on the good, stay positive, and do things that bring you joy [like making others laugh] to the degree you’re able to do so amid battling a disease like cancer.
- “We know, actually from good studies, that emotional health, quality of life is associated with survival, meaning better quality of life is associated with better survival, better outcomes,” Dr. Chase tells SurvivorNet.
The 62-year-old breast cancer survivor, who beat the disease in 2018, spoke about the whirlwind of feelings she experienced to Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Remnick over the weekend.Read More
She continued, “And I’m like, ‘Huh? What?’ And so, it was a very bizarre juxtaposition. And, of course, I did laugh, and then I became hysterical, crying, because I was terrified, as most people are, or as all people are if they get a diagnosis like that.”
Luckily, it was the support of her family which kept her hopeful and positive through her battle with cancer.
Louis-Dreyfus explained, “I have a very strong and supportive family, and for which I am eternally grateful, upon whom I relied — sisters, husband, my sons, my mother, my mothers, my stepmother, everybody.
“I was deeply terrified because who wouldn’t be? I mean, all the tropes are true. You know, you get that call and it’s like, ‘What, me? No, no, no.’ I mean, you can’t imagine that something like that would happen to you.”
As for how she got through chemotherapy treatments, Louis-Dreyfus said she would often think about a memory she cherishes from years ago—one that taught her to never look back and only look forward, toward her goals, according to People.
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She said, “Many years ago, I was on a boat with my husband. I was swimming in the water. He came to the bow of the boat and he said, ‘Jules, I don’t want you to panic, but there’s a shark in the water, so you need to come back.’ And I was far away from the boat.
“And so, I just saw the ladder and I started swimming towards it, and I made the decision not to look around me at all. I was just going to stay looking at the ladder.
“And that very much applied to how I got through my cancer adventure, was sort of looking at the ladder. Just let’s get this done, let’s get there.”
Louis-Dreyfus is so grateful to be alive, she admitted to the crowd that she thinks she’s “enjoying things more” after cancer.
“I think I work hard now to try not to allow my stress to enter my body if I can do it,” she added. “I’m just very focused on trying to enjoy my life as much as possible.”
The “Seinfeld” star also seems to be aging with grace and looking forward to getting older.
“I had this one conversation with the wonderful writer Isabel Allende, and she is so stoked to be, I believe she’s 82 or 83, and the way she was talking about it, she’s let go of so much,” Louis-Dreyfus said, recounting speaking to the Chilean author.
Realizing how the writer “does whatever the hell she wants” and is “completely unburdened in a way that she was not when she was younger,” Louis-Dreyfus told the wise woman how she “can’t wait to be 83.”
Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ Cancer Journey
Louis-Dreyfus was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer back in 2017. Following her diagnosis, she went public with news on her social media channels to an outpouring of support.
“1 in 8 women get breast cancer. Today, I’m the one,” she wrote in her tweet.
Her tweet continued, “The good news is that I have the most glorious group of supportive and caring family and friends, and fantastic insurance through my union.
“The bad news is that not all women are so lucky, so let’s fight all cancers and make universal health care a reality.”
Just when you thought… pic.twitter.com/SbtYChwiEj
— Julia Louis-Dreyfus (@OfficialJLD) September 28, 2017
As Louis-Dreyfus bravely fought her breast cancer head-on, she underwent six rounds of chemotherapy and a double mastectomy during her treatment. It took roughly a year, but in October 2018, she announced she was cancer-free.
“I got diagnosed with cancer, and I powered through it,” the long-time actress turned cancer warrior told People, during a 2018 interview.
“I came out the other side. I’m grateful for all of it,” she continued.
WATCH: Understanding Your Breast Cancer Diagnosis
Handling Fear When You Get the Diagnosis
It would be very out of the ordinary if you didn’t get scared when face with disease. Anxiety and fear are certainly normal reactions to the news that you have breast cancer.
Acknowledging these emotions can be therapeutic and important to the healing process, according to SurvivorNet experts.
Here are some tips on how to confront your fears without letting them take over entirely:
1. Let your family and close friends know and let them help. So many cancer survivors tell us they want and need support but are often too preoccupied to make specific requests. Urge those close to you to jump in with whatever practical help they can offer.
2. Keep a journal. It can be extremely cathartic to let those feelings loose on paper. Grab a pen and a nice journal and chronicle your different thoughts throughout the day.
3. Join a cancer support group. There are groups in nearly every community offering opportunities to connect with others going through a similar journey. You’ll learn incredibly helpful insight from others who can tell you about what to expect and how to stay strong on tough days.
4. Consider seeing a therapist. Ask your doctor to refer you to a therapist so you can discuss your fears and concerns in a safe space. Often, vocalizing your thoughts and feelings rather than internalizing them can provide relief.
Above all, just know that there are countless resources and support here for you to turn to at any time. We’re fortunate to be in a time where we can rely on so many entities to help us through life’s hurdles.
A lot of survivors tell us that they’re incorporating mindfulness into their cancer recovery experiences. For example, Shannon Masur, who took on colon cancer and Lynch Syndrome, previously told SurvivorNet she had never meditated before she was diagnosed.
“I thought it would be such a challenge,” she explained. “But it really wasn’t because [my guide] has taught me how to … when a thought comes in, to feel it, feel the fear, but let it go after a few seconds.”
Getting negative thoughts and energy out of your mind can make a real difference during a cancer journey.
Check out SurvivorNet’s guided meditation to embrace some mindfulness of your own.
Additionally, Dr. Dana Chase, a Gynecologic Oncologist at UCLA Health, says it’s important to try to focus on the good, stay positive, and do things that bring you joy to the degree you’re able to do so amid battling a disease like cancer.
“We know, actually from good studies, that emotional health, quality of life is associated with survival, meaning better quality of life is associated with better survival, better outcomes.” Dr. Chase said in an earlier interview.
Power of Support
A cancer diagnosis can be extremely stressful. One way SurvivorNet experts encourage cancer patients to alleviate some of that stress by leaning on their support system, just like Louis-Dreyfus did with her family.
A support system can be made up of loved ones like family and friends. It can also be comprised of strangers who have come together because of a shared cancer experience. Mental health professionals can also be critical parts of a support system.
WATCH: Sharing Details About Your Cancer Diagnosis.
“Some people don’t need to go outside of their family and friend’s circle. They feel like they have enough support there,” psychiatrist Dr. Lori Plutchik told SurvivorNet.
“But for people who feel like they need a little bit more, it’s important to reach out to a mental health professional,” Dr. Plutchik added.
Dr. Plutchik also stressed it is important for people supporting cancer warriors to understand their emotions can vary day-to-day. “People can have a range of emotions, they can include fear, anger, and these emotions tend to be fluid. They can recede and return based on where someone is in the process,” she explained.
Meanwhile, Dr. Charmain Jackman, a licensed psychologist and founder of InnoPsych, echoes SurvivorNet experts on the benefits of positive mental health while facing a health diagnosis.
Dr. Jackman explained, “In the face of a life-threatening diagnosis, fear, hopelessness, and despair can quickly take space in your mind. However, your mindset is a superpower and can be a potent antidote to illness.
“Practicing gratitude, cultivating joy, and connecting to the community are practical ways to develop a resilient mindset.”
Contributing: SurvivorNet Staff