Fran Drescher speaks Out abOut cancer
by April Dawn Ricchuito
Everyone's favorite flashy girl from Flushing, Fran Drescher is well known
onscreen for her unique voice and her infectious laugh; one could even say that
she's famous for being funny. Offscreen, however, the star of Happily Divorced
lends her famous voice to a very serious cause that is no laughing matter: reform-
ing healthcare in America and across the globe. She's now serving as a public
diplomacy envoy for women's health issues for the US State Department, where
she has assisted in launching lifesaving legislature. She's also set out to change the
conversation about cancer by starting her own nonprofit organization, Cancer
Schmancer, which focuses on early detection and prevention.
Drescher's passionate activism is fueled
"It's part of my nature to want to be in control
by personal experience. In her book, Cancer and take charge of the situation," she muses.
Schmancer, she chronicles her cancer. Although "But we need to transform the idea from being
she's now cancer-free, dealing with the diagnos-
a patient into being a medical consumer; we can
tic process could have been fatal, as it took two be victimized by the medical community and
years of testing and eight different doctors before big business when we're patients. I was lucky
she was finally diagnosed with uterine cancer. As that uterine cancer is a slower-growing cancer, as
her symptoms escalated without relief, Drescher opposed to ovarian cancer, which grows quickly
forged ahead on an odyssey for answers.
and is often undetected until later, as most
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There's This convenience is modern, contemporary, and this
means good. Now we're seeing that it isn't all
cancers mimic benign illnesses in their early
good. Antiperspirants, for example--not only
stages. There are doctors who have diagnosed
idea ThaT are they packed with chemicals, but they stop us
early-stage ovarian cancer as irritable bowel
from sweating. Sweat is one of the primary ways
syndrome. Most doctors will not investigate
if you hear we eliminate toxins. You wouldn't stop an animal
thoroughly; there's this idea that if you hear gal-
galloping from sweating; it's not natural. It's a life-saving
loping and you see a horse, you shouldn't look
function. Why are we doing it to ourselves?!"
for a zebra. That's great and all, until you realize
and you see Besides conditioning, Drescher acknowledges
that there really was a zebra. If we could spot the
that being a woman in a man's world has con-
zebras--if we could detect cancers early--95
a horse, you tributed to healthcare hazards, particularly for
percent of people would be cured. Stage I, that's
women. Drescher reveals that in her work as
the cure," Drescher firmly states.
shouldn'T a diplomat, she was shocked to find out a Pap
Drescher believes that a lot of our attitudes
look for a smear was not part of the standard medical exam
about healthcare come down to how society
women in the military were required to have be-
has been conditioned; we simply haven't been
zebra. ThaT's fore deployment. "It's a male-dominated society;
programmed to be proactive about healthcare.
most men don't think about the need for Pap
Indeed, just the word patient implies patience
greaT and smears," Drescher says. The US military now has
and waiting. And if we're waiting for someone
a reformed policy, and a Pap smear is a required
else to take charge of our health, we'd better be
all, unTil you part of the standard physical women receive. "We
patient, because we'll be waiting a long time.
cannot ship our women off overseas, where they
"No one else can take charge of our health but
realize ThaT may not have access to a Pap smear for a year or
our own selves," says Drescher. It's time to move
There really two, then wonder why they have cervical cancer
away from this passive stance as a patient into a
when they come home," says Drescher. "Now, if
stance that's alert and ready to take action-- the
was a zebra. you have an abnormal Pap, it must be addressed,
or you cannot deploy."
After successfully advocating for herself, Dre-
Drescher's advocacy work has propelled her
scher has taken her advocacy public with the agement system that caters to living with chron-
to take another small step that has proven to
advent of her nonprofit organization, Cancer ic disorders, many of which could be prevented be a giant leap for (wo)man kind. In 2007, she
Schmancer. Cancer Schmancer is dedicated with lifestyle changes. Drescher points out that helped pass the Gynecologic Cancer Education
to urging a shift toward whole-body wellness the medical community has a very isolated way and Awareness Act, named Johanna's Law for
by raising awareness and educating consumers of viewing illness and doesn't pay enough at-
Johanna Silver Gordon, who did not recognize
about prevention and early detection. "Cancer tention to the big picture. She also notes that the symptoms of her disease and passed away af-
Schmancer has the cancer answer," says Dre-
through her work for the State Department, ter a late-stage diagnosis of ovarian cancer. This
scher. "Early detection saves lives. It is the cure she's observed that countries offering preventive landmark legislation authorizing the develop-
that we've all been waiting for." And you may measures have lower rates of disease and are bet-
ment of a national awareness campaign was not
not have to wait too long. If you live in Los ter off economically as well, since prevention is only the first of its kind in US history, but it also
Angeles or New York City, Cancer Schmancer always cheaper than intervention.
sidestepped party politics, passing unanimously.
has taken its crusade to the streets, with mobile
"The focus in our society isn't on curing you, "Progress is slow, but it's happening," Drescher
screening units. In California, they have part-
but how to keep you alive with chronic illness," says. "We need more women on Capitol Hill."
nered with Inner Images, Inc. to have a "Fran she says. "It's like closing the barn door after the
When asked about her tips for staying
Van" that services the entire state of California. horse is out. Cancer is not going to just go away; healthy, Drescher laughs the laugh we all know
In New York City, they've partnered with Proj-
we have to identify the causes and eliminate so well. "Sometimes it's best to just use good
ect Renewal on the "Fran Scan Van."
them. Yet this is the road less traveled by big old-fashioned common sense. Take rest peri-
As for the whole-body wellness initiative, business and government, because no one wants ods; meditate. Eat more fruits and veggies. Eat
Drescher believes that this is one of the most to invest money into telling you that their prod-
organic. Drink more water. Exercise. Get good
important aspects of healing. "Stress kills," she ucts are unhealthy and cause cancer. Something sleep. Use simple products. A lifestyle change
say. "It creates more disease than anything else. has to happen. We have to stop being a sick na-
can be intimidating, so do it gradually. Start by
It's proven that unaddressed emotion will reveal tion and start becoming a well nation!
changing what you're putting in your mouth,
itself physically, like with ulcers, for instance.
"For the first time ever, children aren't ex-
then move to what you're cleaning with, then
That's what they really need to teach in schools pected to live as long as their parents. Babies to what you're putting on your body, you know?
and at home--how to express emotions, under-
are born pre-polluted, with 200 to 300 differ-
Each time you go shopping, swap an item out.
stand your body and have a whole experience. ent chemicals found in their umbilical cords at "And nothing is worth getting sick over. Laugh!
It's so important, but it's seldom recognized. We birth. Mothers in the United States have flame It's the best medicine."
will see a shift," Drescher remarks optimistically.
retardant in their breast milk. Flame retardant!"
Although the United States is considered to
For Drescher, one of the primary methods of
For more information on Cancer Schmancer,
be a progressive nation, in many ways we are preventing cancer is daring to go where many please visit them online at cancerschmancer.org.
falling behind other countries when it comes to companies and corporations won't: Getting the You can also get more information on the early
healthcare. This is evidenced by the fact that we toxins out of our everyday products. "I always detection Fran Vans and Fran Scan Vans by calling
do not have a healthcare system that focuses on liked this quote from Einstein," she says, "where (877) 426-3926 in California or (800) 564-
illness prevention by emphasizing wellness and he talks about how we take one step forward 6868 in New York City. Visit scanvan.org for the
risk reduction; instead we have an illness man-
and three steps back. We've been taught that New York screening schedule.