Queens native Fran Drescher gave a speech about her own bout with cancer at NewYork-Presbyterian Queens’s 2018 Cancer Survivors’ Conference last Friday. She urged them to be mindful consumers and to detox their homes.
“We have to start asking ourselves why we get sick,” Drescher said. “All roads lead to toxic environments, toxic food, toxic personal care items.
“The more we can start asking ourselves why instead of what’s wrong with us, the more we can start understanding that we have a lot of control over reducing our risk or even reversing our illness,” she added.
Drescher, who rose to prominence in the hit sitcom “The Nanny,” is a uterine cancer survivor herself. But she was misdiagnosed and mistreated for a pre-menopausal condition she did not have.
It took the actress two years and eight doctors before she found out she had cancer.
After her ordeal, Drescher wrote the book “Cancer Schmancer” in 2002, sharing her story. But after hearing similar stories on her book tour, she decided to create the Cancer Schmancer Movement, which she called a “radical company in the health space.”
The organization empowers their followers to change their lives by “using consumerism to dictate more responsible manufacturing trends” and reducing health risks. It encourages cancer survivors to question their own actions and make changes to improve their health.
“We kind of put the onus back on you,” she said. “We actually say, what are you doing? How can you change your life today to reduce your risk tomorrow?”
Jaclyn Mucaria, president of NYPQ, said she was humbled to see hundreds of cancer survivors in the audience on Friday, each of whom had their own story. She said hearing a celebrity from Queens tell her own personal story of survival, and the changes she made to prevent sickness, was well received.
“She talked about hope, she talked about environment and love and caring for yourself,” Mucaria said. “I know the people in the audience really loved it.”
NYPQ is focusing a lot of energy, time and money on cancer and oncology services. They have improved their equipment, recently built a therapeutic medicine center for infusions, and are buying new technology for radiation oncology.
They’re also conducting community outreach on prevention and screening.
“The best thing we can do is to prevent cancer and never treat cancer,” she said. “We’re doing genetic counseling, we’re doing education, we’re doing prevention.”
Dr. David Fishman, director of the cancer center at NYPQ, said Drescher’s words about improving your lifestyle and decreasing risk of cancer were not only appreciated, but inspiring.
“I think a lot of what she said today is founded on facts, not just opinions,” Fishman said. “She echoed what a lot of us in academics are writing publications about, saying these are things you can do to improve quality of life and hopefully prevent cancer.”
One crucial piece of advice she gave was to know your body.
“If you don’t feel right, make sure you seek medical evaluation,” Fishman said. “If it’s still not correct, go seek a second opinion.”
Fishman said that’s especially important for people who may have ovarian cancer, which is not only silent and subtle, but can often be misdiagnosed.
Another tip Drescher gave was to reduce inflammation because “all cancers have an inflammatory response,” Fishman said.
“Cancer doesn’t appear magically. Cancer appears after decades of exposure to something that’s causing a problem,” he said. “So I thought what she said was good, and quite frankly I think there will be a lot of different take home messages for different people.”
The cancer center director said NYPQ now has the tools to identify people at risk before they even develop cancer. But it’s important for patients to know their family history before going to see a genetic counselor.
Drescher has taken her message about prevention and early detection of cancer around the world. But she has also made recent stops in her home borough to share her story and help other cancer survivors.
“I have a great affinity for this borough and where I came from,” Drescher said. “I had a very happy childhood and very fond memories.
“Every character that I played comes from Flushing,” she added. “I’m very close to my roots.”