Celebrity Cancer Deaths Remind Us That Everyone Deserves Privacy


A cancer caregiver explains why the news of a celebrity death due to cancer reminds her that everyone deserves privacy, regardless of their celebrity status.

This July marked a year since the passing of Kelly Preston. I was reminded of the emotions I had felt after her death when watching coverage of the anniversary. Her husband, actor John Travolta, noted her two-year battle with breast cancer in announcing her passing. At just 57, Preston was relatively young, and her death made news due to her celebrity.

What struck me in the following days were the comments about how she did not share her story. How she could have shared her diagnosis and educated others about breast cancer? While she could have shared her diagnosis and battle, I think it is most important to respect that she chose not to share. And not only was that her right – but it is also OK to make the choice that she did.

Cancer is an incredibly personal event in one's life. It is a diagnosis that is typically unexpected, shocking and life-altering. The details of Kelly Preston's diagnosis are not known because she did not want them to be. To speculate as to when, how, and at what stage she was diagnosed is not necessary. All that matters is that she chose not to share that news.

I am sure, like the estimated 300,000 Americans who will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year, Preston made this choice with those closest to her. Maybe having a teenage daughter and a young son played into her wish for privacy. And perhaps it didn't. Again, these decisions were hers to consider when making a choice that best suited her and her family.

To me, being a celebrity should not take away from one's right to privacy. Or one's right to choose how and when to share news as personal as cancer. When my sister was diagnosed, we decided how and when to tell those closest to us. And I continued to reflect and chose what parts of cancer to share with others through my writing.

As I have been given the autonomy to make that choice, Kelly Preston deserved the same choice. She had the right to keep her cancer diagnosis private. She had the option to not tell others of her battle, and she had the right to live out her life quietly and in private.

One's status in the world should not dictate an obligation to disclose personal information such as a cancer diagnosis. Yes, many others have shared private health battles in public ways. They have used their status to garner funding and attention for causes due to their battles. We can applaud and praise them for their choices, and we can also show respect and applaud Preston for her choice.

She made a choice to not share her cancer with the world. One choice is not right, while one choice is not wrong. Like most things with cancer, the choice is personal, and choosing what is best for you is always best. And everybody should have the same option, and their decisions should be respected, regardless of who they are or their profession.

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