Surviving Breast Cancer: Affliction of the Stars

Nancy Reagan

Nancy Reagan was first lady when she was diagnosed with breast cancer Oct. 5, 1987. In the public eye, she faced the illness head on.

Reagan made the controversial decision to have a modified mastectomy on her left breast in the fall of 1987, rather than a lumpectomy to remove only the lump in the breast tissue.

She said at the time that her choice was due in part because the lumpectomy probably would have required follow-up radiation treatment or chemotherapy -- and that would have interfered with her busy schedule as first lady.

Reagan remains active in politics, particularly as they relate to stem cell research. Beginning in 2004, she favored a progressive approach to funding research into stem cell use. She urged President Bush to support federally funded embryonic stem cell research in the hope that this science could lead to a cure for Alzheimer's disease, from which her husband, former President Ronald Reagan, suffered.

Sandra Day O'Connor

The first woman to serve on the Supreme Court, Sandra Day O'Connor has never shied away from tough assignments. In the fall of 1988, when she was 58 years old, O'Connor was diagnosed with breast cancer. The day before her surgery she fulfilled a speaking engagement at Washington and Lee University. After undergoing a mastectomy, she was back on the bench 10 days later -- without missing an oral argument.

In her first year on the court, O'Connor received more than 60,000 letters from the public, more than any other justice in history.

O'Connor was born in El Paso, Texas, on March 26, 1930. She married her law school sweetheart John Jay O'Connor III in 1952 and the couple has three sons -- Scott, Brian and Jay. She retired from the Supreme Court in 2005 to spend more time with her husband, who suffers from Alzheimer's disease.

Julia Child

Julia Child introduced America to the delights of French cooking. She survived breast cancer to die at age 91 of natural causes.

Born Julia McWilliams in 1912, Child attended college and worked for the OSS in Asia during World War II, where she met her husband. After marrying, they moved to Paris, which led her to cooking classes at the Cordon Bleu. Child had an appetite for learning as well as eating, one that soon developed into a desire to pass on the knowledge and skills she was acquiring. And in her late 30s, she found her calling. With two women who later co-wrote her first book, she started her own cooking school. Her class notes led to the cookbook, which eventually led to her famous television show, "The French Chef."

Child was candid about her mastectomy in 1974. She told Time magazine: "I would certainly not pussyfoot around about having a radical because it's not worth it."

Linda McCartney

Former Beatle wife and vegetarian cookbook author Linda McCartney battled breast cancer in 1995, when she was 53 years old.

Her condition soon worsened as the cancer spread to her liver. She reportedly had difficulties with the medications she had to take during treatment, as she opposed medical testing on animals.

Her husband, Paul McCartney, claimed that Linda had been kept in the dark about how the drugs she took may have been tested on animals. He told the BBC in 2006: "During the treatment, a nice answer is a nice answer and if they [the doctors] say, `It's OK to have this because we didn't test it on animals,' you are going to believe them."

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