The Desperate Housewives star, who is now in remission, said the chemotherapy was “certainly not fun”

By Julie Mazziotta
November 19, 2020 11:29 AM
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Credit: Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty

For Marcia Cross, knowledge was power as she went through intensive chemotherapy treatments for her anal cancer.

Before the Desperate Housewives star, 58, started on the 28 radiation treatments and two weeks of chemotherapy, she read up on the possible side effects, and was glad to at least feel mentally prepared for what was ahead.

“The side effects are so gnarly,” Cross told Coping with Cancer for their November/December cover. “I’m really happy with people that were really honest about it, because doctors like to play it down since they don’t want you to freak out. But I did read a lot online, and I used the Anal Cancer Foundation’s website, and they were pretty specific about things. So, I was kind of ready for what was to come.”

As she went through treatment after her diagnosis in Nov. 2017, Cross dealt with pain, gastric issues, mouth sores and skin problems.

“I will say that when I had my first chemo treatment, I thought I was doing great. And then out of nowhere, I felt this sting in my lip; it was excruciating. It was from the chemo,” she said. “So I did learn after that to be proactive and get ahead of things because I thought, ‘I don’t need that rinse, or these drugs, or whatever,’ and then I found myself in the thick of it, and I had gastric problems, mouth sores, all the terrible things that can happen with chemotherapy … It’s certainly not fun.”

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Cross is now doing well, and has been in remission for over two years, but the recovery hasn’t been entirely smooth.

“I’m very lucky, but it does take a while for your body to kind of get back to normal,” she said. “I say the new normal is that I am more sensitive of what I eat and take better care of myself and my diet.”

The mom to twin daughters Eden and Savannah, 13, first spoke publicly about her diagnosis in Sept. 2018, after going into remission, and has since made a point to open up about anal cancer in the hopes of destigmatizing the disease.

“Here’s the thing, I wasn’t interested in becoming the anal cancer spokesperson. I wanted to move on with my career and my life,” Cross told the magazine. “But, as I was going through it, I read repeatedly about people who were ashamed, who were hiding, who were lying about their diagnosis. And on the other side, how doctors were not comfortable talking about it. And women were not given the follow up care they needed. They weren’t told things like your vagina could develop scar tissue, which it does. And you have to do things afterward to take care of yourself. I just saw how, oh my gosh, we are so behind on all of this because it’s our anuses!”

Cross said that she doesn’t “have any shame” about having anal cancer.

“I’m a big fan of the anus … I just have a lot of respect for this tiny, little two inches that makes our lives livable and pleasant. I really think to destigmatize it is the way to go. It’s just silly … We all have one. It’s nothing to be embarrassed or ashamed of.”