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Cancer Schmancer

Cancer Schmancer

4.7 33
by Fran Drescher

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With her trademark humour, Fran tells of her indefatigable search for answers and the cancer diagnosis that she ultimately beat. But not before a goldmine of humorous insights were revealed to her about what really matters most in life.


With her trademark humour, Fran tells of her indefatigable search for answers and the cancer diagnosis that she ultimately beat. But not before a goldmine of humorous insights were revealed to her about what really matters most in life.

Editorial Reviews

The Barnes & Noble Review
"Whatever I do, I do with gusto," writes Fran Drescher in the introduction to Cancer Schmancer, and the book itself is no exception. Drescher's subject matter is weighty -- her battle with uterine cancer -- but as the vivacious television star candidly recounts this health crisis (as well as her divorce, the cancellation of her series, and her difficult journey back to both good health and the dating scene), her sense of humor is a constant buoy. The result is a riveting, and often hilarious, read.

Her story is infused with her charming yet brash personality. One-liners abound, and her tales -- such as the one about fending off the advances of an Italian Stallion with a penchant for biting -- reflect her irrepressible spirit and enchanting brio. But the entertainment value of Drescher's story is ultimately eclipsed by her greater goal, which is to encourage and empower women to take control of their gynecological health. It took two years and numerous doctors' visits for Drescher to receive an accurate diagnosis of her condition. Through sheer determination and an unshakable belief in her own intuition she persevered, in spite of doctors who tried to convince her that her symptoms could be chalked up to perimenopause. In the end, a simple D&C test offered the conclusive evidence of uterine cancer -- a test that could have been performed in her doctor's office two years earlier, if only she had known what to insist upon. She knows now, and she wants the rest of us to benefit from her experience. Drescher's story will make readers laugh and cry, but most important, it will convince them to "never be passive when it comes to your health." (Karen Burns)

Entertainment Weekly
...the actress infuses her writing with humor and honesty...
People Magazine
Laughs-and inspiration...Drescher writes with unforced humor and plenty of gusto. She informs, comforts and movingly entertains.
Vanity Fair
...irrepressible Fran Drescher's frank and sassy account of coping with the big C.
Publishers Weekly
Drescher, most famous for her loud, nasal voice and her role on the 1990s TV series The Nanny, advises readers to "open a mouth" when dealing with their doctors in this down-to-earth account of her experience with uterine cancer. In the book which serves as an unexpected follow-up to her 1995 memoir, Enter Whining, the actress describes living with symptoms for more than two years while shuttling from doctor to doctor without a diagnosis. She then depicts the hysterectomy that followed as well as her recovery, focusing mostly on the support she received from her friends and family and her first post-divorce boyfriend, who is 16 years her junior. She also devotes a chapter to the loss of her beloved dog, Chester Drescher. Consistently frank about her emotional ups and downs, Drescher addresses important quality-of-life issues such as fatigue and sex. Yet it is her storytelling skills and humor that make this uncomplicated book a good read. Although Drescher sometimes lapses into therapy-speak, tracing everything back to childhood, her one-liners can be priceless. Readers will warm to this straight-talking Queens native, even if they do tire of her celebrity woes (such as facing the paparazzi too soon after surgery). Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Television star (The Nanny) and author (Enter Whining) Drescher details the two-year, eight-plus-doctor ordeal she endured to diagnose her uterine cancer. She goes from gynecologist (two) and internist to hematologist to oncologist/breast specialist, back to gynecologist, then to vascular specialist, neurologist, and finally gynecologist (the third) before discovering the cause of her bleeding, cramping, and painful sex. She underwent surgery, refused radiation, and continues to play in the fields of celebrity. Drescher also discusses the mechanics of putting out a weekly TV series, the breakup of her longtime marriage, and meeting a new man. If only the writing were not so pedestrian and the trivia so trivial (do we need to read about her trip to Paris?), we might have cheered for the actress, who claims that fame didn't get her better treatment (in truth, it probably did). Even Drescher's trademark humor isn't all that funny here. Fans of Drescher and her now-defunct series will want to read this; others who might pick it up will only respond, "Oy vey." For extensive patient health collections and comprehensive television collections only. Bette-Lee Fox, "Library Journal" Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

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Grand Central Publishing
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Hachette Digital, Inc.
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Read an Excerpt

In the Beginning

October 1997

I think I need to start at the beginning of my whole health crisis and catch you up to the day I finally got diagnosed. I say "finally" because it took forever -- more than two years and eight doctors -- before one of them decided to give me a D&C, which stands for "dilatation and curettage," whatever the hell that is. Basically, it's when they scrape tissue from the uterus for biopsy. In the end, this was the only test I needed to find my cancer. Because I was atypical for contracting uterine cancer, at each turn in the road I kept being steered in the wrong direction.

Just when my life had moved into a new place, I began to experience symptoms. When I say "moved into a new place," I mean a place without Peter, my childhood sweetheart and husband for almost twenty years.

One of the hardest things, if not the hardest thing, I've ever done was leaving that man. For me it was like walking through fire, because I was never one to leave anything. I had trouble parting with our old '78 Buick, so leaving the person I'd been with since I was fifteen seemed impossible.

We had a beautiful home, wonderful friends, and together had created our single greatest achievement to date, The Nanny. But I was miserable. When you achieve everything you've ever dreamed of or wanted, and you're still unhappy, the time has come to stop looking without and start looking within. I'd agonized over this for years.

We'd begun to fall apart after the night we became victims of a violent crime, years before. That night was the night that changed everything. Two men with guns broke into our home. They were brothers on a rampage. While one loaded our car with all our valuables, the other, who was out on parole, tied Peter up and raped both me and my girlfriend Judi, who had the misfortune of having joined us for dinner.

I don't think we truly realized the impact that experience had on us, but in fact we were never the same again. If we were insecure about being apart from each other before the attack, afterward we were riddled with fears, suffocated by codependency. We imprisoned ourselves in our home, put bars on the windows and doors, purchased an elaborate security system, and couldn't make a move without looking over our shoulders. We lived with a heightened sense of danger all the time. We couldn't sit in our yard without the alarm's remote panic button. For years we continued to ignite fear in each other. I envied Judi, who got to leave the scene of the crime and live among normal people who weren't scarred by what happened that night.

I remember one afternoon we were taking a walk, in Beverly Hills no less, when a car pulled up alongside us to park. Peter grabbed my arm and we began racing in the opposite direction, imagining that these people were going to hold us up. And all they were doing was parking their car. Clearly, we were in trouble. And it was our marriage that paid the price.

It wasn't all bad, though. We had great times, happy times, and a deeply committed friendship. But marrying your highschool sweetheart, as romantic a notion as that sounds, is probably not the best idea. We were too young, too inexperienced with life, and underdeveloped as individuals. Even though we were extremely compatible in our humor, ethics, food, and art, our greatest compatibility was in how we complemented each other's neuroses.

He was a person of many needs and I needed to be needed. We both had a fear of being abandoned, and that kept each of us from leaving. I was completely out of touch with my own feelings, and he was consumed by his. We loved each other very much, he just had a lot of problems. And so did I. It wasn't until I went into therapy that I began to find some answers. And boy did I get an earful.

At the risk of sounding like a cliché, I needed to find myself. I didn't know who I was as a separate person from Peter. I realized I was a woman who had no opinions apart from my husband's, no identity outside of who I was in the relationship. I was completely codependent, incapable of buying a simple chair or garment without saying, "What do you think, honey?"

I never knew how to apologize to anyone for anything. Not one of my more flattering traits. On The Nanny I obsessively tried to track the trains that would lead me to who was really at fault when something went wrong, because I never wanted to be blamed for anything. I was the same way in my marriage. Working on The Nanny was, in itself, a monumental undertaking. But doing it while my marriage was falling apart was a killer. Even now, I'm surprised Peter and I managed to pull it off each week. We always thought of the show as our baby, and no matter how hard things became in our personal lives, we tried not to bring them to work. The show must go on. We never missed a day of work. We never shut the show down. And in many ways it was our savior. There remained a real need to be civil to each other even during the hardest of times. That's not to say we never had fights backstage or screaming matches in our office, but they weren't the norm. Thank God.

Ya gotta understand, I never really wanted to leave Peter. I loved him, and he loved me. But I felt so trapped by my problems that despite my crippling fear of being alone, I left. It was after a terrible fight we had. I slept in the guest room. It was the last night I ever spent in our home. My dream house, I once called it. The next morning I checked into a hotel. I knew if I didn't escape, become my own person, and get over my fears once and for all, I wouldn't be happy with him or anybody. The first night I slept in a bed without him, my body twitched and shook from fear. It was that difficult.

Much to my horror, within forty-eight hours word reached the press that we were separated and all hell broke loose. In the middle of the night I got a call from my publicist saying she'd received a tip that the press knew where I was staying and that I had to get out. Reporters were also camped out on the front lawn of our house, where Peter was still living. It was a nightmare. I had never experienced anything like it. And needless to say, it exacerbated the situation tenfold. We were both so raw with pain, guilt, and regret, the last thing we needed was to be put under the tabloid spotlight.

Judi and my manager, Elaine, two of my best girlfriends whom I love dearly, helped me look at apartments out by the beach. Many people said the beach was very medicinal, and I needed all the medicinal I could get, so we all loaded into Elaine's Cadillac and headed west.

That afternoon I found a little one-bedroom right on the ocean. Afterward, the three of us had lunch at a nearby café. I remember Judi gabbing a mile a minute about how cute I could make the place, while Elaine went on and on about what a find an apartment with a sunset view and two parking spaces was. But there I sat, practically comatose, nauseous and in shock, chewing on a tuna sandwich. What was I doing? Letting myself out of the cage I'd put myself into many years before, that's what. So I did it, signed my name on the dotted line of a one-year lease.

It was far from what anyone would expect a famous sitcom star to live in, but for me it was perfect. I didn't want some large house with a lot of rooms. The thought of it scared me. I'd never lived on my own before, not once in forty years. I wanted to be able to see all the rooms as soon as I walked through the front door. I was living my life backwards. At twenty, I'd lived like a forty-year-old; at forty I was living like I was twenty.

The apartment had a living room, a terrace, a fireplace, a little kitchen, a little bedroom, and a little bathroom. I turned the bedroom into an office/dressing room and put my bed in the living room with the fireplace, terrace, and view, more like a great hotel suite than an apartment. I decorated it sparingly with overstuffed, upholstered pieces in shades of white, and picked up a few casual antique tables and dressers. That sounds easier than it was. I remember one night lying in bed with my dog, Chester, having an anxiety attack over a rocking chair I'd bought from Shabby Chic. The fuss I made over that rocker made me realize I was literally off mine. It's so strange how riddled with contradictions I was. During the day, an executive producer of a hit television show, but at night a weeping baby.

I must admit, though, I was proud of the way the place looked when I was finished decorating. I was living alone, without bars on my windows. No matter what I'd achieved on The Nanny, being on my own in this tiny little apartment seemed my greatest accomplishment.

One step at a time. I was managing. Not easy, but definitely on the right path. Meanwhile, why was I experiencing strange bleeding and cramping in the middle of my cycle? The first couple of times it happened, I chalked it up to stress, but now it was becoming a regular occurrence. Still, it wasn't a lot of bleeding, and it wasn't like it was happening every day or anything. All I needed was a simple panty liner and I could easily ignore it. But it was becoming chronic, so after a few cycles I decided to call Doctor #1, the gynecologist I'd been seeing for years.

I sat in her examining room. As usual, I nervously dabbed a little Chanel No. 5 below my belly button. What? It shouldn't be a pleasant experience for the doctor? I glanced at the wall, which was covered with snapshots of all the babies my doctor had delivered. One kid in front of a Christmas tree had reindeer antlers on his head. The dog beside him wore a red suit and a beard like Santa. Well, I suppose it's better than the butt shot on the bearskin rug from my day.

Doctor #1 eventually breezed in and snapped on her gloves. I slid down to the table's edge, placing my heels in the stirrups. There was no mention of the perfume. I wondered if she was more a Shalimar gal.

I brought her up to date on my symptoms. "I keep experiencing this cramping in the middle of the month and after sex, like I'm about to get my period."

"Do you take anything to help relieve the pain?" she asked, while performing a relatively painless Pap smear. I knew there was a reason I preferred a female gynecologist. Small hands!

"I usually take an Advil and the cramps subside," I responded.

"Well, I wouldn't worry about anything a single Advil can take care of." She didn't seem very concerned, which was a relief, but I thought she did seem a bit hyper. She talked a mile a minute as her head periodically popped up from behind the paper sheet that draped across my thighs.

She brought up the Chinese herbs I knew she was selling on the side to Judi and a few of my other girlfriends to help them lose weight. Oy. I never liked the idea that my gyno was into that, too. I should have known then. "I've been taking them for two years now," she said, while pressing on my abdomen. "I'd like to stop, but I'm afraid I'll gain weight."

"What do you make of my midmonth staining?" I asked, while noticing on the wall a set of triplets dressed like bunnies. "You're probably perimenopausal. It's the precursor to menopause and a common symptom in middle-aged women." Middlewhat? "In France they consider it normal," she added.

My mind wandered as I began to obsess on Catherine Deneuve. Catherine Deneuve is French and she looks great. Does Catherine Deneuve stain between periods? Does Catherine Deneuve still get her period? Did Catherine Deneuve get a face-lift?

"Fran, what about having children?" Doctor #1 said, pulling me back into the moment. "Do you plan to? Because time is running out!" By this point she was annoying me. My life was so up in the air I had no idea what I was having for breakfast, let alone what I was doing about having kids. But the photo of that very fat, bald baby in his tiny baseball uniform sitting in a catcher's mitt sure looked cute.

In that moment I made a mental note to stop seeing a gynecologist who was also an obstetrician. I mean, I needed this pressure like a hole in the head. So I pulled up my pants and left with a sample bag of Chinese weight-loss herbs and a clean bill of health. I had cancer at the time.

Meet the Author

Fran Drescher received two Emmy and two Golden Globe nominations for her portrayal as "Miss Fine" on the TV show "The Nanny", which she also created, wrote, directed, and produced. Her first book, Enter Whining, was a New York Times bestseller, and she won the National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship (NCCS) Writers Award for her second book, Cancer Schmancer, which was also a New York Times bestseller. Fran is now a 10-year survivor of uterine cancer, and was appointed by the U.S. State Department to serve as a Public Diplomacy Envoy for women's health.

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Cancer Schmancer 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 33 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am Fran Dreshers hugestt fan i would read anything by her or about her she is very inspirational and awesome
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was awsome!!!!! The greatest
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Awesome inside look into her life a she battles cancer! A great read! I had a hard time putting it down.
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Maria Anderson More than 1 year ago
i loved this book! words cant even describe how much i loved it! love u fran drescher! im a big fan of the nanny to so this was great!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
TEST NOOKUSER More than 1 year ago
good book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Fran takes you through her life with cancer. From being mis-diganosed to beating cancer, she gives us details of how she feels, and how she deals with it. I loved this book from start to finish!! She also makes you laugh. Reading this book, I felt like I was with her, holding her hand while she dealth with the pain. She gives us details, and that is what makes this book stronger.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I picked this book up at random, not even having been aware that Fran Drescher had written a book OR had had cancer. So i was immediately intrigued. I loved this book very much. It made me smile, it made me tear up a little & it made me happy because her story is so easy to relate to. Fran is so open in this book, not seeming to hold anything back and I found that although I am much younger, I have a ton in common with her. I found myself cheering for her when she finds out she is cancer free, crying with her when she received bad news. I was hooked from the get go. I'd recommend this book to anyone who is a fan of hers! :)
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was pleasantly surprised by this book. My attention was grabbed by the time I finished the first paragraph in the prologue. I laughed, cried, and became angry with Drescher through the course of the book. I recommend purchasing this book. Its a purchase that you won't regret.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The book is easy to read. Very funny and personal . It gives you sometimes chills. You feel like she is talking directly to you. I just love the book !
Guest More than 1 year ago
When I picked out this book, I was thinking that it would be fun to read about Fran Drescher, since I loved her show, The Nanny. I thought it would be a light read, funny ¿ like her, and I would get to know the full story behind her cancer. I was right and I was wrong. It was fun to read about her as a real person, talking about a personal experience, very different from just watching her as a character on TV. But in some chapters, she got a little too personal about a couple relationships she had I expected her to focus more on her cancer than the people in her life. However, as the pages wore on and I got closer to the actual day of her surgery, I realized why she had went on and on about her relationships with her family, friends, and a couple men. They weren¿t just side notes in her life they played a role in the intense, emotional journey of her cancer. As a reader, one of the most important things Drescher tells you is that the longest part of her experience was really just getting diagnosed first. She went through nine doctors over two years, just to find out that her symptoms were linked to uterine cancer, not pre-menopause ¿ as the other eight doctors falsely suggested. And during those two long years, her friends, assistants, family, and her boyfriend went through every problem and worry with her. Each person was very important in encouraging, helping, and supporting Fran every step of the way. So, the histories she included about these people were not pointless, they helped you know exactly how she felt and how much she really appreciated every person that made her surgery ¿ before and after ¿ possible to survive. All in all, this book was a nice light read. I usually take my time when I read, but Cancer Schmancer spoke so well that I found myself speeding through it. Even though most chapters were not light and fuzzy, it was Fran¿s determination and wit that told me to read more.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I love her, this made me smile in parts just because of her sense of humor and attitude, she's a wonderful person.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Very human and realistic, she shares advice and helps us understand cancer with an optimistic view... and laughter of course! I recommend it to woman all age. This book is not only about cancer, it touches different aspects from a woman's life, I am 21 and definetly learned a lot from her experience.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed Cancer Schmancer! Fran gives a prespective to all women old and young, that we are truly the only ones that know our bodies. She shows us to stand up to doctor's and tell them what you want them to do. Educate ourselves about women health topics. She is very open about everything and I amire that about her! It's an outstanding book!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Ms. Drescher's book contains an important message about taking charge of your health. Though it may not be a classic that will be studied in English Lit. for years to come, it is a very open account of a struggle to survive and heal, both physically and emotionally. Ms. Drescher is a highly talented woman who has entertained millions of people. She has the guts to let us in on her life's struggles and I can't imagine any woman not seeing many parallels between her own and Ms. Drescher's problems. As a member of the medical profession, I am well aware that mistakes are made. I was also the victim of a mistake and you would think that the people caring for me might be trying just a little harder, knowing I was one of them. But there are a lot of great health care professionals who really are helping people. We can't regard them as Gods and we can't just put everything in their hands. We have to take charge of our health care by being informed and making informed decisions. We have to advocate for ourselves and when we can't, we must have someone near us who can. That is the main message of this book. Because it is very readable and entertaining, (but I wouldn't call it hilarious, because that isn' the point), many women will be able to get the important message it contains.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Cancer Schmncer is the best book I've every read-and I've read many! lol I recomend this book to everyone regardless of if they had/have cancer or not. I think it would be smart for everyone to read this book. It's a long book, but it took me only three days to read it!