It’s been eight years since E! News host Giuliana Rancic, now 45, was diagnosed with breast cancer. Now, she and her husband, former “Apprentice” star Bill Rancic, have an adorable seven-year-old son named Duke and a successful cancer foundation that is helping to improve the quality of life for women with cancer. And in one week, Rancic will hit the red carpet to interview some of the most accomplished television celebrities on the red carpet for the 71st Primetime Emmy Awards.
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Devastating Fertility Struggles — Then Cancer
At the time of her breast cancer diagnosis in September 2011, Rancic, then 36, and her husband were struggling to have a baby. They had been trying unsuccessfully for a child and had decided to go through artificial insemination, a procedure in which sperm is inserted into the uterus. When that didn’t work, they decided to try in vitro fertilization, a process in which the egg and sperm are fertilized in a petri dish outside the body and then implanted back into the woman’s uterus. To Rancic’s surprise, one of the screening tests that her fertility specialist required her to get before her insemination was a mammogram. At age 36, she was four years away from the age when breast cancer screening is usually recommended for most women, who are not at high risk for cancer.
“I have no family history of cancer, so can’t I just skip that one?” Rancic recalled asking her doctor in a passage from her 2016 memoir entitled, “Going Off Script: How I Survived a Crazy Childhood, Cancer, and Clooney’s 32 On-Screen Rejections.”
Rancic went on to write that her doctor’s nurse had responded, “Sorry, it doesn’t matter whether you’re twenty-six, thirty-six, or forty-six… If there’s estrogen-positive breast cancer and you get pregnant, nine months of hormones can fuel the cancer.”
Rancic complied and went in for the mammogram fully confident that it would turn out all-clear. But Rancic was called back in for repeat testing after a speck showed up on her mammogram only to have the same speck show up again. Her doctor told her she would need a needle biopsy. Rancic complied and got this test, too — still fully confident that she did not have breast cancer.
Rancic’s confidence at that time was not unwarranted. After all, as Dr. Connie Lehman, Chief of the Breast Imaging Division at Massachusetts General Hospital, told SurvivorNet in a previous conversation, 10 percent of all women get called back for further testing after a mammogram, and 80 percent of those women end up being “totally fine.” Given that Rancic did not have a family history of cancer or any known mutations linked to breast cancer, the odds were in her favor.
It wasn’t until Rancic was sitting in the waiting room at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center about to receive her results that she recalled in her memoir, “I started getting a really weird vibe. Something just came over me.”
Rancic was indeed diagnosed with breast cancer. It was early-stage — so very treatable — but hearing the words, she wrote, made her “lose it.”
“I didn’t know anything about cancer, except you die,” Rancic wrote bluntly. “You lose your hair, and then you die.”
Of course, Rancic was not accurate about that part; she is still alive today, and is doing incredibly well. After a surgery called a lumpectomy failed to remove all of her cancer cells, Rancic underwent a double mastectomy to remove both her breasts (after which she had reconstructive surgery) and starting on a hormone therapy pill called tamoxifen. She was able to beat her breast cancer and return to work, but her challenges did not end there. The treatment meant she had to rule out the possibility of ever getting pregnant on her own.
After how much Rancic and her husband had gone through in their efforts to have a baby, the news was devastating, Rancic wrote. But ultimately, when they decided to go a different route and have a child by way of a surrogate mother, things began looking up. The couple had one of their fertilized embryos (which they’d had frozen before her breast cancer treatment) implanted in the uterus of a surrogate woman named Delphine, and nine months later, they were finally parents to a little boy they named Duke.
Several years later, Giuliana and Bill tried to repeat the surrogate procedure with the remaining embryos that they had frozen to give Duke a sibling, but their surrogate tragically had a miscarriage. The news was again devastating — but at that point, Rancic recounted in her memoir, something shifted within her and she decided to begin “letting the chips fall where they may.”
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One of the highlights of our trip to Italy this week was visiting the church we were married in almost 12 years ago. On that day, Bill and I had no idea that we would be dealt some tough cards, like the struggle to have a child. We thought (like so many others) that our journey would be an easy one. Little did we know, years of heartache, disappointment and many tears lay ahead of us. But now, seven years later, here we are…standing in front of the church we became husband and wife with our little guy by our side. It wasn’t easy but somehow we managed to keep our faith throughout the most painful of moments. What’s meant to be, is…and we wouldn’t have it any other way ❤️ #september1st2007 #keepthefaith #whatsmeanttobewillbe
“I turn forty in triumph,” Rancic wrote. “I feel more beautiful than I ever have, gloriously alive in this body that’s been crooked, infertile, cancerous. I realize that something inside me has been shifting, that what I’m seeking now is affirmation, not approval, a gift I can only give myself.”
Duke is now seven years old, and Rancic has started a foundation called “Fab-U-Wish,” which helps women with breast cancer look and feel their best while also supporting groundbreaking research.
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When I was diagnosed with breast cancer seven years ago, I often felt like I lost myself. What helped me feel like ‘me’ again was when I went back to work, styled my hair and makeup like I used to and put on a cute outfit…suddenly I recognized myself in the mirror again ???? Something so simple went a long way. It was a powerful feeling, and one I wanted to share with others. So, I created #FABUWISH, and with @thepinkagenda, we’ve granted hundreds of wishes to help empower women to feel their best during such a difficult time. If you know someone undergoing treatment for breast cancer (or you are yourself) click the link in my bio or visit fabuwish.org to learn more and nominate someone special for a FAB-U-WISH ????
Rancic and Bill have now also partnered with the C3 Prize (Changing Cancer Care), a challenge sponsored by Astellas Oncology that funds ideas to improve cancer care other than treatment for both patients and their caregivers. Ideas are submitted by the public.
Ultimately, just sharing their difficult journey with the public at all has helped a remarkable amount of women. “Once we showcased our journey on ‘The Giuliana and Bill Show,’ there still isn’t a day that goes by when someone doesn’t come up to one of us and says, ‘Thank you, my wife got a mammogram after watching the show,’ or ‘Thank you, my parents now know what we’re going through with fertility,’” the couple shared with People magazine in May.