Eight years after E! News anchor and red carpet personality Giuliana Rancic was diagnosed with cancer, Rancic says her recovery after having a double mastectomy had a big impact on the charitable work she does for other cancer patients.
“I have to tell you: I never really made the correlation until recently, but when I went back to work after getting my double mastectomy, the last thing on my mind was hair makeup and wardrobe,” she said in a new interview with AOL. “There I was getting my hair and makeup done my first day back at E! and I remember looking up and, for the first time in a really long time, I recognized that face in the mirror.”READ MORE
But her career reminded her that there was something other than cancer, and the feelings that came after her procedure. “I had been really lost in all of the treatment and everything I was going through for so long that I kind of forgot who I was without cancer. Here I was, the person I knew before the cancer and that was such a defining moment for me in terms of my recovery,” she said to AOL.
Now, Giuliana and Bill have 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.
E! News anchor Giuliana Rancic and the first “Apprentice” winner Bill, who married after meeting on an interview
When it comes to breast cancer surgery, there are a few options. “When I talk to a woman who comes to me and she has breast cancer, I evaluate what the standard options for treatment for her are, which typically include cutting out the cancer,” says Dr. Ann Partridge, an oncologist at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, “which is either a lumpectomy if you can get it all with just a little scooping around of the area that’s abnormal or a mastectomy for some women meaning taking the full breast because sometimes these lesions can be very extensive in the breast.”
Rancic is one of many women who knew that mastectomy was the best option for her. Indeed, for a lot of people, double-mastectomy is the best option available. “Depending on the size and other features, such as family history, a patient may opt for more aggressive surgery,” says Dr. Elizabeth Comen, Medical Oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. “And so even for early stage one breast cancer, a woman may elect a mastectomy to remove her whole breast.”
Dr. Anne Partridge and Dr. Elizabeth Comen on when to think about a mastectomy
“We sat down and we decided we would use this platform to make a difference,” husband Bill Rancic said during the interview. “A day doesn’t go by where someone doesn’t stop one of us to thank us for doing that. It was ultimately her decision, but her bravery inspired a lot of people and that’s what we’re trying to do here.”
“That night, Bill and I were driving to dinner and I was telling him this story and told him how much hope it gave me,” she said about the transformational moment. “I said, ‘Gosh, I wish everyone could feel like this in my shoes.’ That’s the moment I came up with the idea to grant wishes to women that are going through treatment.”
And that’s why the money they are raising is going toward giving people lifestyle experiences that might take their mind off cancer, and let them feel like themselves. “We give makeovers, shopping sprees, trips, celebrity experiences where you can just be yourself again and just not think about the cancer for a day. That’s exactly what this contest is all about: Whether you’re a survivor, a caretaker, know someone who’s been through cancer… is there something that could be an idea here that could help others?”
Rancic also imparted a way of keeping hope within view during her journey. “I remember when I would be in an uncomfortable situation, like prepping for surgery or getting a procedure done, and it’s tough. A couple of things helped me: One was the phrase, ‘This too shall pass,’ and I would repeat that over and over again in my head. That was really helpful because just knowing that there is a light at the end of the tunnel kept me going,” she said.
She talked about why she wanted to let others know what she was going through. “The other one was that, when I opened up about what I was going through, I did it because I thought that if I could get breast cancer at age 36 with no family history, anybody could get this. If I can just get out there and say that and tell people to get checked, it has an incredible survival rate when caught early.”
And how much strength she got from the supportive response from fans after she told her story. “What I didn’t realize was what I would get in return from speaking out on social media: It was incredible the amount of support I got from around the world, and I remember this one word would always show up: Strong. Be strong. Stay strong,” Rancic said. “That word always resonated in my mind, and I would picture those posts. It was actually very helpful. Just sharing your story in general and people helping you through it, you never know what could come out of that to help you.”
Bill spoke a little bit about looking up to his parents when he became Giuliana’s caregiver. “The caregiver wears lot of different hats. My mom was a caregiver to my dad, so I had a very good role model,” he said.
And said that staying rational and making well thought out decisions during this very emotional time was really important to him.”The one thing she did was that she was there to help my dad make good decisions. I knew that my No.1 role was to help Giuliana make good decisions based on knowledge and not emotion,” he continued. “Whenever you hear the words, ‘You have cancer,’ it’s overwhelming and you never think it’s going to happen to you, so I was there to help surround her with good people and good information so that we could avoid making decisions coming from the gut.”
Throughout all the different roles he played to support Giuliana, he said, he always felt they were a team. “You wear a lot of different hats: You’re a chauffeur, you’re a short order cook, you’re a comedian… but that was, for me, the most important thing. You’re a team, too, and that’s how we looked at it. That’s life: You make a commitment to each other in sickness and in health. You have to put yourself on the back burner. It wasn’t about me.”
And all he did to care for her was definitely recognized. “I was so fortunate to have Bill as my caregiver and to have support 24 hours a day, and I can’t imagine having to go through that without him and a lot of people do,” she said. “A lot of people go through cancer without someone right by their side. In the middle of the night, I would often wake up scared, crying, or what have you, and I couldn’t imagine if I had been alone during those times. We were talking about it before: Maybe there’s a solution there; what can we do for those people?”
“I’ve had a lot of incredible moments on the red carpet, but nothing is more rewarding than talking about this and things that could save a life,” said Giuliana about her new partnership. “My career is more rewarding than I ever pictured it would be.”