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Two Secrets in One

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When the National Enquirer claimed last month that Suzanne Somers had undergone liposuction to enhance her svelteness before touring to promote her new diet book Eat, Cheat and Melt the Fat Away, the actress turned fitness guru hoped the matter would die there. Instead comics began referring to “Thighgate,” and Somers’s former Three’s Company costar John Ritter publicly ridiculed her. So Somers, 54, who has earned millions hawking the body-sculpting Thigh-Master device and writing diet books, decided to set the record straight.

On March 28 the actress admitted she had had liposuction and offered two startling disclosures on Larry King Live: first, that she is battling breast cancer, and second, that her weapon of choice is Iscador, a fermented extract of mistletoe that she injects herself with daily. A proponent of alternative medicine, Somers said that after the removal of a 2.4-centimeter tumor a year ago, followed by radiation therapy, she decided against chemotherapy in favor of an herbal remedy. “Suzanne is extremely vigilant and proactive about her health,” says Alan Hamel, 64, her husband of 23 years. Cancer experts are less enthusiastic about Somers’s unconventional choice. “It hasn’t really been well-tested in people with breast cancer,” says Dr. Susan Love, a leading expert on the disease. “It’s a riskier approach.”

Meanwhile the particulars of Somers’s Feb. 20 liposuction surgery at the Lasky Clinic in Beverly Hills remain fuzzy. Somers told King she needed to “even things out” after the removal of “part of one” breast. But Dr. Love notes that liposuctioned fat isn’t used in breast reconstruction, and says of Somers’s explanation, “I think some of this is spin.” Less ambiguous is Somers’s determination to deal with her illness. “Cancer,” she said, “is not for sissies.”