People, events and news about cancer.
When Betty Ford died in July at age 93 in Palm Springs, Calif., the former first lady was widely praised for helping to de-stigmatize breast cancer and educate women about the disease at a time when few would publicly discuss it.
Ford received her diagnosis in 1974 and underwent a mastectomy just weeks after her husband assumed the presidency. Known for her candor, she invited photographers into her hospital room and spoke frankly about her disease. According to the American Cancer Society, thousands of women, inspired by Ford, went to doctor’s offices and clinics for breast cancer exams.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt joins Seth Rogen for a dramedy about a young man who faces a 50/50 chance of survival after being diagnosed with cancer. Gordon-Levitt plays the patient while Rogen plays his best friend. Rogen also has a personal connection to the film—he’s friends with the film’s writer, Will Reiser, who based the script on his own cancer journey. 50/50 opens Sept. 30.
Laura Ziskin, producer of such films as Pretty Woman and Spider-Man, died June 12 at age 61 from complications related to breast cancer. In 2004, Ziskin received a diagnosis of stage 3 breast cancer and had a recurrence in 2009. In addition to her production credits, Ziskin served as president of Fox 2000 Pictures. She also banded with others in the entertainment industry to co-found Stand Up to Cancer, an advocacy group for cancer research. She produced two star-studded telethons for the group in 2008 and 2010.
Longtime CNN sportscaster Nick Charles, 64, died from bladder cancer at his home in New Mexico on June 18. Charles was CNN’s first sports anchor and started on the network’s first day, June 1, 1980. He went on to co-anchor “Sports Tonight” with Fred Hickman for 17 years and then his own show before leaving CNN in 2001. He was perhaps best known for his commentary on boxing and interviews with heavyweights, such as Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson.
Nick Ashford, one half of the legendary writing duo that penned such hits as “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” and “Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing” died Aug. 22. He was being treated for throat cancer. Ashford penned songs with his writing partner, Valerie Simpson, who later became his wife and recording partner.
Veteran foreign affairs correspondent for NBC, Andrea Mitchell, announced that it was discovered she had breast cancer in a recent annual screening. Mitchell says her cancer was caught in the early stages, that she has undergone treatment and her prognosis is good.
Actor Andy Whitfield, 39, known for his leading role in Starz’s Spartacus: Blood and Sand, died Sept. 11. He was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma in May 2010 and immediately received treatment in New Zealand. Production was stopped on the series to give him time to recover, but the actor had a recurrence in September 2010 that forced him to leave the show.
“We were fortunate to have worked with Andy in Spartacus and came to know that the man who played a champion on-screen was also a champion in his own life. Andy was an inspiration to all of us as he faced this very personal battle with courage, strength and grace,” said Starz president and CEO Chris Albrecht in a statement.