Last September, Marcia Cross revealed that she had been battling anal cancer since November of 2017. Now in remission for nearly a year, the actress is opening up more about her treatment, and how the disease affected her life.
“I want to help put a dent in the stigma around anal cancer,” the Desperate Housewives alum told People.
“I’ve read a lot of cancer-survivor stories, and many people, women especially, were too embarrassed to say what kind of cancer they had. There is a lot of shame about it. I want that to stop.”
Anal cancer affects about 8,300 people in the U.S. — and the number is steadily increasing, according to the Anal Cancer Foundation. Symptoms of the disease include anal or rectal discharge (pus, mucus, or blood); pain, pressure, or itching in the anal or rectal area; a change in bowel frequency, size, or difficulty; a lump near the anus; and swollen lymph nodes in the groin, pelvis, or anal area.
Cross was diagnosed with the disease after her annual gynecological checkup, during which her doctor noticed something abnormal after a digital rectal exam. She was immediately referred to a colon and rectal surgeon, who performed two biopsies and confirmed her worst nightmare.
Six weeks of “gnarly” radiation and chemotherapy followed. Surgery isn’t typically recommended for anal cancer because “you want to preserve sphincter muscles if possible,” the 57-year-old explained.
“Having woken up to its importance, I am now a big fan of the anus!”
Known for her gorgeous long red locks, Cross sadly lost all of her hair because of the treatment. She posted a photo of herself with only an inch of hair on Instagram on September 15, 2018, and asked her followers for advice on how to deal with hair loss due to cancer.
Fortunately, the former Melrose Place star has been in remission for nearly a year. Her doctor has told her that there is a low chance of recurrence. Grateful that her body is working properly once again, she is just now finding her new normal.
“Every time I go to the bathroom, I think, ‘That’s awesome! Thank you, body,'” she told People.
And Cross wants everyone to visit their doctors if something doesn’t feel right. “Listen to your body,” she urged, adding that anal cancer is curable if caught early.
This was not the first time that cancer had hit her family. Cross’ husband, stockbroker Tom Mahoney, survived cancer in 2009. Now married for 12 years, they have 12-year-old twin daughters, Eden and Savannah.
Cross will next be seen in The CW’s upcoming Jane the Virgin spinoff, Jane the Novela. Deadline reported that she will play Renata, the glamorous mother of one of the men vying for the heart of series lead Estela (Jacqueline Grace Lopez). Renata co-owns a Napa Valley winery with her handsome son, Felix, and is quite manipulative.