Suzanne Somers isn’t one to follow convention, especially when it comes to her own health.
The actress — best known for her role as Chrissy Snow on Three’s Company — entrepreneur, and author is sharing her breast cancer diagnosis story and why she chose to forgo chemotherapy, along with advice for other survivors.
In 2001, Somers, then headlining in Las Vegas, went to get her annual mammogram. All of sudden, she says, “the energy changes in the room.” The technician had spotted a suspicious mass. Somers found out later that she had a 2.4-centimeter tumor in her right breast.
“When you hear those three words, ‘You have cancer’ — wow — that’s coming face to face with your mortality,” Somers tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “You never think that you’re not here forever.”
But she also managed to find some humor in it. “I thought, how ironic — I was known on ‘Three’s Company’ as the Queen of the Jiggle,” referring to her breasts. “I believe this happened to me because I was a sex symbol — whatever that is,” meaning that she could use her platform to help others.
Somers had a lumpectomy to remove the tumor, followed by radiation.
But she refused to get chemotherapy despite her doctor’s recommendation, opting for alternative medicine instead.
“My cancer has become a veiled gift,” she says, “because when confronted with standard of care — the standard treatment protocol for cancer [being] radiation, chemotherapy, and after-care drugs — I looked at the doctor and I said, ‘I can’t do this.’ And he said, ‘But you’ll die.’ And I said, ‘I honestly believe I will die if I do what you tell me. The idea of flooding my body with chemical poison just doesn’t reckon with who I am.”
Following her lumpectomy — which removed so much of her right breast it was practically as if she’d had a mastectomy — her surgeon also suggested an implant, but Somers didn’t want anything “foreign” in her body. So her doctor suggested doing a TRAM flap reconstruction, which involves taking the blood vessels, fat, and skin from the stomach to create a new breast. “I said, ‘You know what? Just sew me up,” she says. “Something better is going to come along.”
Somers adds: “That was the best decision I made.”
In the meantime, Somers wore a breast insert and, for three or four years, treated herself with injections of mistletoe extract — also known as Iscador — from Switzerland, to strengthen her immune system.
While the FDA has not approved mistletoe extract as a treatment for cancer, it is one of the most widely studied forms of complementary and alternative medicine and is among the most prescribed treatments for patients with cancer in Europe, according to the National Cancer Institute.
After her diagnosis, Somers also decided that she would change her life, looking at her diet and lifestyle habits. She hadn’t been prioritizing sleep, and in fact shares that she would often stay up until 3 a.m. to write her books while everyone was sleeping. “Sleep is a game-changer,” she says. “I decided to eat as though my life depended on it. And that I would eliminate negative thoughts, and I would think of everything from a place of gratitude.”