When Taylor Swift accepted her entertainer of the year award at the American Country Music Awards, she gave a shout out to her absentee date, Kevin McGuire, a New Jersey high school senior with leukemia. McGuire’s sister, Victoria, started an online campaign for Swift to take him to prom. Swift couldn’t attend but asked the teen to accompany her to the awards show in Las Vegas. Although he was too sick to join her, McGuire and Swift exchanged a “good luck” phone call before the show, and he watched it on TV with family and friends.
Reality star and TV host Giuliana Rancic, who was diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer while undergoing fertility treatments and had a double mastectomy late last year, recently announced that she and husband Bill are expecting a baby via a gestational carrier (a woman who brings an implanted embryo to term but is not genetically related to the child).
After having lived with metastatic breast cancer for nearly 25 years, writer Katherine Russell Rich, 56, died of the disease on April 3. She chronicled her experience in her 1999 memoir The Red Devil: To Hell with Cancer—and Back.
Singer-songwriter Donna Summer, 63, died of lung cancer on May 17. Dubbed the “queen of disco,” she was best known for hits like “Love to Love You Baby” and “Bad Girls.”
Founding member of the Bee Gees Robin Gibb, 62, died of complications from colon cancer and surgery on May 20. Gibb and his brothers rose to fame in the ’70s, most notably with the soundtrack to Saturday Night Fever.
Actor Ryan O’Neal and investor Warren Buffett have received a diagnosis of prostate cancer. O’Neal, previously diagnosed with leukemia in the ’90s, also revealed he has a melanoma on his nose.
Longtime Doobie Brothers’ drummer Michael Hossack died of cancer on March 12. He played in the band during the early ’70s and rejoined the group in 1987 to perform in a series of benefit concerts and on subsequent albums.
Levon Helm, drummer and vocalist for the Band, died April 19 of complications related to throat cancer; he received the diagnosis in the late ’90s. Originally the back-up group for Bob Dylan, the Band eventually performed on its own, with its farewell concert documented by Martin Scorsese in the film The Last Waltz.
Adam Yauch, best known as MCA of hip-hop group the Beastie Boys, died May 4 at age 47. He had been receiving treatment for salivary gland cancer for the past three years. Yauch co-founded the group in the ’80s, and the Boys went on to have the first hip-hop album to reach the top of the Billboard chart in 1986 and were inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this year.
When Kaylin Andres received a diagnosis of Ewing’s sarcoma (a rare bone cancer) and thyroid cancer by age 23, she decided to take a humorous approach to her illness. Collaborating with friend and illustrator Jon Solo, Andres is in the process of creating the comic book Terminally Illin’. With the goal of getting people talking and learning about cancer, especially young adults, the comic takes an irreverent approach, which the creators describe as, “Entering the world of cancer feels a lot like falling down the rabbit hole - think of ‘Terminally Illin’ as a crazy, chemo-induced Alice in Wonderland adventure, with as much 'Family Guy humor' that we could squeeze in.”
On April 10, Woody Roseland, a 21-year-old stand-up comedian, was already having a great day, having been told that he was clear of cancer that morning after many rounds of chemotherapy and several recurrences, when he saw Colorado Rockies pitcher Jeremy Guthrie tweet that he needed someone to play catch with. Roseland said he had his glove and was downtown, so he set off for Coors Field. Although Roseland hasn’t thrown a ball before he lost his leg to osteosarcoma, he and Guthrie tossed the ball around and even engaged in a little batting practice, with Guthrie saying that he wasn’t bad. After the encounter, Guthrie tweeted, “Thanx for all the kind words tweeps. Cool how in an attempt to make someone's day, that someone made my day & touched my life.”
Actor Tommy Chong, 74, best known as part of the comedy duo Cheech and Chong, has received a diagnosis of stage 1 prostate cancer. He and comedy partner Cheech Marin plan to continue their comedy tour.
Breast cancer survivor and co-host of Good Morning America Robin Roberts has announced she’s received a diagnosis of myelodysplastic syndrome, a disorder in which the bone marrow doesn’t produce healthy blood cells. It’s previously been considered a preleukemia. Roberts is currently undergoing chemotherapy in preparation for a bone marrow transplantation from her sister, Sally-Anne, later this year. In her announcement of her diagnosis, Roberts noted the need for bone marrow donors, especially for minorities. In the 24 hours following her announcement, Be the Match, which helps match donors with recipients, says they had 3,600 people register—they normally only see 200-300 volunteers per day.
Richard Dawson, 79, Hogan’s Heroes actor and Family Feud host, died on June 2 of complications of esophageal cancer. Dawson is best remembered for kissing nervous female contestants on the game show.
Character actress Kathryn Joosten, 72, died June 2; she had received a diagnosis of lung cancer 11 years ago and since advocated for lung cancer awareness. She is best known for her role as the president’s secretary on The West Wing and her Emmy-winning turn as nosey neighbor on Desperate Housewives.