Giuliana Rancic Recalls How She Felt After Double Mastectomy: 'This Isn't Going to Define You'
Giuliana Rancic reflects on being cancer-free for 7 years and her partnership with Astellas Oncology C3 Prize to nurture innovation within the cancer community
TV host and entrepreneur Giuliana Rancic has been cancer free for almost a decade. But there was a time, says the 44-year-old mother of son Duke, when cancer was all she and her husband Bill could think about.
“I am 7 years cancer free, which is wonderful, but I have to say that it’s interesting being 7 years out — it’s a very different feeling than those first 5 years,” the E! News host tells PEOPLE. “Those first 5 years, I was just thinking about breast cancer — I was consumed by it. I was probably thinking about it … it felt like every minute of the day.”
She continues, “Now, I am able to look back and obviously I am so thankful and grateful to be here and healthy today.”
Giuliana, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011, recalls her emotional first day upon returning to the E! News set after taking some time away from the program to recover from her double mastectomy.
“When I went back to work, I remember being on set, getting ready — I was in the hair and makeup chair. I didn’t even look up from my phone because I was dealing with the doctor, Bill, my mom. It was just crazy and I was back at work and it was hard,” she says.
“I remember a voice saying, ‘Hey G, it’s time to go to set,’ and I looked up and I saw myself in the mirror. It was the first time in a long time that I recognized the person looking back at me and the person that I was before breast cancer. It reminded me of my life before cancer and it made me realize for the first time in a long time, this isn’t who you are. This is part of your life, but this isn’t going to define you.”
After that feel-good revelation, the TV host told her husband that she wanted others who had successfully battled cancer to experience the same feeling.
“I started an initiative where we grant wishes to women going through breast cancer — whether it’s makeovers, shopping sprees, family vacations. And we granted hundreds of wishes from that moment. From that little idea,” Giuliana says of her FAB-U-WISH foundation that works in conjunction with The Pink Agenda to grant wishes to women affected by breast cancer.
Giuliana and Bill, 48, have also partnered with Astellas Oncology’s C3 Prize, a competition program that allows anyone to submit a non-treatment idea for those struggling with the everyday challenges of cancer.
“I think once we showcased our journey on The Giuliana and Bill Show, there still isn’t a day that goes by when someone doesn’t come up to one of us and says, ‘Thank you, my wife got a mammogram after watching the show,’ or ‘Thank you, my parents now know what we’re going through with fertility,’” Bill said of why the power couple was inspired to work on the C3 Prize program.
“When Astellas Oncology approached us years ago, we knew we wanted to continue to use our platform to make a difference. And going through cancer, we realized firsthand some of the challenges that people face — not necessarily the treatments, but the non-treatment options,” he said.
And the best part about the C3 Prize project? You don’t have to be a doctor, a scientist or an inventor. Anyone who has any kind of idea about how to help those impacted by cancer can submit a concept to the organization’s website.
“The C3 Prize is to help find innovative ideas to help solve problems, and we’re going to give away up to $200,000 of grant money to help fuel the next big idea or ideas,” says Bill.
Bill praised last year’s innovation prize winner, Ebele Mbanugo, who took home $50,000 to create free educational videos for women throughout Africa to address breast cancer stigmas and to provide access to awareness. Mbanugo’s idea won the prize’s Educational Tools category, highlighting ideas that aim to educate patients about the cancer treatment process, available resources and the disease itself.
And through their own personal experience with cancer, the Rancics hope to inspire people to speak up if they have ideas on how to improve the lives of those in the cancer community.
“No idea is too crazy. You never know,” says Giuliana. “The littlest thing you might have could become something that changes thousands of people’s lives.”