Cynthia Nixon talks about cancer and "Sex and the City"

BY LENA HUANG | MAY 13, 2011

While there are many inspiring aspects of my job as CURE's senior managing editor, one of my favorite moments of the year is attending CURE's Extraordinary Healer Award for Oncology Nursing. This year's event honored three outstanding nurses who went above and beyond to help their patients. But the evening also pays tribute to all oncology nurses and how they encourage and sustain those on the cancer journey.

At this year's event, the mistress of ceremonies was Cynthia Nixon who is known for her role as Miranda on "Sex and the City" and for countless other characters she has portrayed in plays, movies and television. Among her many awards are Emmys, a Tony, a Grammy and Golden Globes. All this is very admirable, no doubt, but I am also impressed by Nixon's advocacy as a breast cancer survivor.

I had the opportunity to chat with Nixon for a few minutes before she went on to host the Extraordinary Healer event. She spoke openly about her breast cancer experience and shared details of her treatment. She also shared her mother's story, a two-time survivor who, after being first diagnosed with breast cancer, had to advocate for a lumpectomy over mastectomy during a time when lumpectomies were not common. And Nixon discussed the "Sex and the City" episodes in which Samantha had breast cancer.

I asked Nixon if having cancer changed her life. She said, "It's so hard to know. I got cancer the year I turned 40. Turning 40 was a big deal for me, not necessarily in a bad way. It just felt like I had arrived at a real peak in my life--that I could look forward and I could look back. I had a big party and invited people from my past, my present, and people I didn't know well but always wanted to be friends with. And I feel like the cancer only added to that feeling--that we are not going to be here forever. Are you living your life the way you want it to be? What are the things you've always wanted to do or meant to do? You're still here, and you're 40. Why aren't you doing them? It sounds small but I started taking singing lessons, things like that, that really made me put my money where my mouth was. You can't constantly defer--at some point, you have to step up."

To read the entire interview, click here. And tell us what you have "stepped up" to change in your life after cancer.


Cancer survivors needed for online support study


Last September, I blogged about a study that sought to improve the lives of cancer survivors by providing online support. And while that study has been closed, the Stanford Patient Education Research Center recently received additional funding to offer another workshop –- one targeted to people who have survived cancer more than once.

Study manager Katy Plant, MPH, said the new program was initiated to address this patient population who could not qualify for the first study. Researchers are looking for survivors who have been originally diagnosed with cancer and have had a new or recurring cancer within the last five years.

This six-week, Internet-based workshop called "Cancer: Thriving & Surviving" aims to help survivors with the unique issues that confront them post-treatment, such fatigue, emotional concerns, physical changes, and late effects of treatment. This program also offers survivors the opportunity to connect with other survivors online.

Each workshop will bring together about 25 survivors and will be facilitated by two trained moderators with at least one moderator being a cancer survivor. Participants will also have access to an online learning center and discussion boards, and will be asked to log in at their convenience two or three times for a total of about two hours a week during the six-week workshop.

The study will assess the effectiveness of this program. A similar study by Stanford showed that participants who developed confidence in managing their own health required fewer medical interventions and were overall healthier.

Results from the first study will be released early next year. For more information and requirements for the current study, go to or email


Putting your health first


To support women in putting their health first in the battle against cancer, today the American Cancer Society kicked off a new program called "Choose You." This program hopes to encourage women to make healthier choices in areas that may affect cancer risk.

The Choose You program uses technology from stickK, a free Internet service that encourages participants to reach personal goals through "commitment contracts" that, if broken, result in a payout to a person or charity of their choice. We mentioned stickK in an article in CURE's 2008 summer issue. In Choose You, participants commit to eating better, exercising, quitting smoking, getting regular health checks, or protecting their skin, and then make a monetary pledge to the ACS.

If the goal is achieved, the pledge is returned. If the goal is missed, then the pledge is a donation to the ACS. So either way, you are a winner! A referee is assigned to help you toward your goal, and you can add a virtual cheerleading squad of family and friends to support you along the way.

The Choose You website also has many tools to help you achieve your goals. There is a virtual dietitian, videos on subjects such as making healthy choices on vacation, articles on eating healthy at restaurants, and nutrition and activity quizzes.

Being a working mother of two children, I know it is easy to put everyone first in your life, and many times, you have no choice. But if you don't stay healthy, how can you be there for your family, friends, and work? So do something for yourself--"Choose You" and pick one thing you would like to change to put yourself on the path to a healthier you.