Marcia Cross shares her anal cancer story to end the stigma: 'There is a lot of shame about it. I want that to stop'
The 'Desperate Housewives' star wants to fight the stigma surrounding the disease so people can identify symptoms and freely consult their doctors for treatment.
Marcia Cross is finally beginning to feel like herself again, a year and half after getting diagnosed with anal cancer.
In an exclusive interview with People, the former 'Desperate Housewives' star, 57, said she is now a completely different person - "a new me."
Cross, who went through three months of "gnarly" treatment, said she spent months trying to find her new normal. According to the self-described "introverted extrovert," the harrowing ordeal changed her for life.
“I want to help put a dent in the stigma around anal cancer,” she said. “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.”
In November 2017, the actress was undergoing her annual checkup with her gynecologist when she was told she had anal cancer. Her doctor grew suspicious after conducting a digital rectal exam and immediately sent her to a colon and rectal surgeon to have a better look.
Doctors were able to confirm two biopsies later she had anal cancer, before commencing radiation and chemotherapy that would last six weeks.
“Surgery wasn’t recommended, which was a relief. You want to preserve sphincter muscles if possible,” she said. “Having woken up to its importance, I am now a big fan of the anus!”
Cross made it a point to find the humor in everything after learning the treatment would be "difficult" to endure. “In the beginning, I just sort of lay down for the parting of the cheeks and I would float away,” she said, jokingly. “Because what are you going to do?”
According to her doctor, the cancer has a low chance of recurrence after nearly a year in remission. “Every time I go to the bathroom, I think, ‘That’s awesome! Thank you, body,’ ” Cross said, grateful to have a fully functional gastrointestinal tract.
Now, the actress wants to help people identify symptoms so they can discuss any concerns with their doctor. These can include anal pain, itching, bleeding, and lumps.
“If something doesn’t feel right, listen to your body and talk to your doctor,” Cross said. “Don’t let it go. It’s a very curable cancer if caught early, which mine was.”
“If you or a loved one are diagnosed, the Anal Cancer Foundation is an amazing resource,” she added. “And one I turned to often.”