Ann Romney spoke openly and at length about her breast cancer diagnosis Thursday, saying catching the disease at "stage zero" through early detection is what prevented her from having chemotherapy, although she did need to have radiation.
"I had ductal carcinoma, which is DCIS," Romney said in an interview with America's Radio News. "Stage zero, which meant, for me, I had surgery, and I had radiation, but I did not have to do chemo because it was a stage zero. So again, it was early diagnosis that prevented me from having to have chemotherapy."
Romney was diagnosed with breast cancer in January 2009, a year after her husband's last presidential campaign. She also struggles with multiple sclerosis, which she talks about often on the campaign trail and in interviews. She speaks of her cancer diagnosis less frequently and today she spoke about how the disease ravaged the women in her family.
"I lost my mother from ovarian cancer, I lost my grandmother from ovarian cancer, I lost my great-grandmother from breast cancer, so for me, you know, it's been a long line of cancer," Romney said. "Women that have dealt with cancer in their lives, and I unfortunately saw my grandmother die from ovarian and I took care [of] and loved my mother in her death, with her battle with ovarian cancer. So cancer is a serious business."
Romney said her husband was with her when she got both diagnoses and that it was essential to "have loved ones around you" during illnesses. She spent much of the interview discussing cancer with co-host Lori Lundin, who has the same diagnosis.
"You don't fight them alone, you fight them with friends and with family, and you put your arms around each other and you move forward," Romney said. "I think the most important lesson I can learn from that is early diagnosis is so important."
Despite the seriousness of the interview, there was a light moment when the two women discussed having to talk so much about "ducts you have in your breasts," as Mrs. Romney put it, with the men in their lives.
Romney told the host she will have to "hold your breath for every screening you're gonna go through," saying she goes through them yearly.
"So far, so good," Romney said. "So we're celebrating every year, and every day actually, the fact that we have wonderful research in this country that has brought breast cancer awareness to so many people and so many dollars to fighting this disease."
Romney caught some flack and cries of being hard to relate to this week for wearing a $990 designer blouse during a CBS interview. But, during this interview she came across as both vulnerable and easy to relate to, another reminder of what an effective surrogate she is for her husband, especially with women.
Calling her MS and her cancer diagnosis a "couple of serious health blows," Romney said, "Sometimes you just deal with the cards that are dealt you, and you just go on and you just push forward no matter what you're living through. We all push forward and that's the bravery and courage I've seen in so many Americans that I've seen as I've been campaigning across this nation."
She said her health struggles makes her "more human, more understanding of others going through their own sorrows."
"For me it's opened my heart up and made me see others in a different light," Romney said. "And I will tell you, the other thing you're gonna find - it's how many people are gonna come up to you and give you a hug and tell you that they're praying for you and caring for you and you'll find out, again, how wonderful people are and how generous people are and how caring people are and how we all belong to this race of humanity."