Cynthia Nixon Celebrates a Milestone
- Actress and breast cancer survivor Cynthia Nixon just celebrated her 56th birthday over the weekend.
- Nixon found a lump in her breast in 2006. She treated her stage 1 breast cancer with six weeks of radiation, a lumpectomy and five years of the hormone therapy, Tamoxifen.
- Breast cancer is a common cancer that has been the subject of much research, so there are many treatment options out there. Mammograms, a standard screening procedure for breast cancer, and self breast exams can save lives.
- Reaching milestones during or after a cancer battle is huge. These events – like getting engaged or reaching another birthday – may mean even more than they did previously, so it’s important to take them all in and celebrate all that you’ve overcome.
Cynthia Nixon Is Living Her Best Life
Nixon’s birthday was Saturday, April 9, and the former New York gubernatorial candidate celebrated big time. Based on her birthday post on Monday, her fun-filled weekend included seeing singer Billy Joel along with other fun performances and a special birthday dinner.
Read MoreView this post on Instagram
“What a birthday weekend!” she wrote under a series of photos and videos. “My teenaged self’s fave @BILLYJOEL!!!! at MSG, @FunnyGirlBwy (do NOT miss the great @BeanieFeldstein & my brother from another mother @JaneLynchOfficial), the spectacular @SkinOfTeethBway, and a fun night out with family and friends. I ❤️ NY!! Thanks for all the messages. Full of love for the next year ahead.”
But a lovely weekend and another trip around the sun are not the only things Nixon can celebrate as of late. She’s also been reveling in a flourishing career with her starring role in the HBO Max hit and Sex and the City reboot called And Just Like That…. And as of recently, the show is officially getting a second season. The popular actress can also celebrate the fact that she just sold the NYC apartment she’s lived in with her wife, activist Christine Marinoni, since 2012. The two sold the apartment for 3.59 million, according to property records.
Cynthia Nixon’s Cancer Battle
But despite all the wonderful things happening in Nixon’s life lately, there’s no denying that the actress has been through a lot – including a breast cancer battle.
Nixon found a lump in her breast in 2006. Thankfully, her cancer was found at stage 1. And though breast cancer is always a serious diagnosis, Nixon remained calm throughout her cancer journey.
“When I was diagnosed, my wife —who was not my wife at the time because there wasn’t yet gay marriage in New York—went into shock about it,” she told Parade. “She was really scared. I was much less scared because I understood they caught it very early. It hadn’t metastasized at all. And it was in this one very local, small place.”
She went on to say that her mother was a big reason she took the news so well.
“My mother had breast cancer when I was 13, and she survived,” she said. “Because of not only my mother’s experience, but also my mother’s attitude, I viewed it with caution.”
For treatment, Nixon underwent a lumpectomy and six-and-a-half weeks of radiation followed by the hormone therapy Tamoxifen for five years.
“I did all the things advised for me to do, but I tried my best to keep my fear to a minimum,” Nixon said.
Nixon’s cancer was caught at a routine mammogram. She began her mammograms at age 35 because of her mother’s breast cancer.
Understanding Breast Cancer
Breast cancer is a common cancer that has been the subject of much research. Many women develop breast cancer every year, but men can develop this cancer too – though it is more rare, in part, due to the simple fact that they have less breast tissue.
There are many treatment options for people with this disease, but treatment depends greatly on the specifics of each case. Identifying these specifics means looking into whether the cancerous cells have certain receptors. These receptors – the estrogen receptor, the progesterone receptor and the HER2 receptor – can help identify the unique features of the cancer and help personalize treatment.
“These receptors, I like to imagine them like little hands on the outside of the cell, they can grab hold of what we call ligands, and these ligands are essentially the hormones that may be circulating in the bloodstream that can then be pulled into this cancer cell and used as a fertilizer, as growth support for the cells,” Dr. Elizabeth Comen, a medical oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, previously told SurvivorNet.
One example of a type of ligand that can stimulate a cancer cell is the hormone estrogen, hence why an estrogen receptor positive breast cancer will grow when stimulated by estrogen. For these cases, your doctor may offer treatment that specifically targets the estrogen receptor. But for HER2 positive breast cancers, therapies that uniquely target the HER2 receptor may be the most beneficial.
The Importance of Screening
Screening for breast cancer is typically done via mammogram, which looks for lumps in the breast tissue and signs of cancer. The American Cancer Society (ACS) says women should begin yearly mammogram screening for breast cancer at age 45 if they are at average risk for breast cancer. The ACS also says those aged 40-44 have the option to start screening with a mammogram every year, and women age 55 and older can switch to a mammogram every other year, or they can choose to continue yearly mammograms.
For screening purposes, a woman is considered to be at average risk if she doesn’t have a personal history of breast cancer, a strong family history of breast cancer, a genetic mutation known to increase risk of breast cancer such as a BRCA gene mutation or a medical history including chest radiation therapy before the age of 30. Beyond genetics, family history and experience with radiation therapy, experiencing menstruation at an early age (before 12) or having dense breasts can also put you into a high-risk category. If you are at a higher risk for developing breast cancer, you should begin screening earlier.
In a previous interview with SurvivorNet, Dr. Connie Lehman, chief of the Breast Imaging Division at Massachusetts General Hospital, said people who hadn’t reached menopause yet should prioritize getting a mammogram every year.
“We know that cancers grow more rapidly in our younger patients, and having that annual mammogram can be lifesaving,” Dr. Lehman said. “After menopause, it may be perfectly acceptable to reduce that frequency to every two years. But what I’m most concerned about is the women who haven’t been in for a mammogram for two, three or four years, those women that have never had a mammogram. We all agree regular screening mammography saves lives.”
It’s also important to be on top of self breast exams. If you ever feel a lump in your breast, you should be vigilant and speak with your doctor right away. Voicing your concerns as soon as you have them can lead to earlier cancer detection which, in turn, can lead to better outcomes.
Reaching Milestones as a Cancer Survivor
Reaching milestones during or after a cancer battle is huge. These events – like getting engaged or reaching another birthday – may mean even more than they did previously, so it’s important to take them all in and celebrate all that you’ve overcome.
Chrissy Degennaro is a cancer warrior determined to keep enjoying these precious milestones. She has been battling a rare blood cancer called multiple myeloma for 14 years, and was first diagnosed when she was just 36 years old with a 2-year-old son. When she was given her diagnosis, she almost expected to not be able to see him enter kindergarten. But thanks to 27 rounds of chemotherapy, two stem cell transplants, a CAR-T cell trial and two CAR-T cell transplants over following 14 years, she’s able to keep making memories with her family.
“You know, I do live one day at a time,” Chrissy previously told SurvivorNet. “Now, maybe I can go a week, a month, but things are looking pretty good. I’m able to be here for more milestones for my son, for more holidays, more birthdays. I do feel like I have had another chance at life.”