An interview with Kristin Chenoweth at the 20th annual Celebrating Women Luncheon in Dallas. Speaking to an audience of more than 1300 supporters — donors, researchers, physicians, patients, survivors and loved ones — Kristin shared how her life has been touched by breast cancer and why it’s important to be proactive. Proceeds from the luncheon benefit breast cancer research, diagnosis and treatment at Baylor Scott & White.
How have your personal experiences with breast cancer inspired your fight for the cause?
Luckily, I have not had breast cancer, but I am watching myself very carefully. Two of my aunts had breast cancer, my mother had breast cancer, and another aunt had breast cancer and did not win her battle.
But I have watched their pain. When my mom had her mastectomy, I took a month and a half off of work and was able to care for her, which was such a gift to me.
“There will be a day, maybe not in my lifetime, where we hear, “We have the cure, and no one will have breast cancer.” –Kristin Chenoweth
I will keep talking about how important it is for us to continue to be checked. I don’t know my family history because I am an adopted child, but it doesn’t matter. We need to keep talking about it and keep continuing to make strides. We as women, and men too, need to keep talking about breast cancer and know that this is serious business. We need to know that if you catch it early, you can win the game.
I just long for the day when I wake up and I hear them say, “No more… No more breast cancer.”
Related: What doctors look for in a mammogram
After being a caregiver for your mom, what advice would you give to other caregivers?
Let them go through their emotions. It’s going to be a lot of peaks and valleys. They will have days where they are just crying. Let them cry. Just be there and try to make them laugh. But if not, just hold their hand and let them cry.
Make sure they know there is no judgment or shame because it’s a lot of emotion. My 43-year-old friend was diagnosed with breast cancer and she keeps saying, “My emotions are a mess!” I tell her, “Don’t be ashamed of that… Feel them!”
You have received an Emmy for your supporting actor role in “Pushing Daisies.” Tell us about the importance of a supporting actor role in the fight against breast cancer.
Well, it’s interesting that the role is “supporting actor.” When my mom was diagnosed, I took a month and a half off because sometimes you just need your daughter. I was so excited to go and be her support and to help her. It’s always been “mom helping Kris” but I got to go and be her support. In a way, I realized that all these supporting roles I have gotten to play are so much more fun than the lead.
“All my life I have been on the receiving end of my mother’s love and care and never had the opportunity to be the one to be needed. Until it was my turn, I never had the inkling of what real privilege is. It was a privilege.”
This is what it is about — just supporting the person and letting them have their good and bad days.
I remember one day my mom started crying, saying, “I don’t know why I am crying so hard,” and I was like, “Hello, you just had a mastectomy, girl! Cry!” The next day it was better. But there were hills and valleys.
All my life I have been on the receiving end of my mother’s love and care and never had the opportunity to be the one to be needed. Until it was my turn, I never had the inkling of what real privilege is. It was a privilege.
What advice would you give to the person playing a supporting role in a loved one’s cancer journey?
Take it. Don’t miss the chance because nothing else is important. And by the way, it blessed me so much.
How is your mom doing?
She is now nine years without breast cancer, two of my aunts are survivors, and one of my aunts is in heaven and was a fighter. All four of these women were a huge inspiration to me of how they lived and how they continue to live.
It’s because of people like Jennifer Cordts that Kristin fights for a world without breast cancer. Watch Jennifer’s inspiring story.
How did you use your sense of humor when you were caring for you mother?
Well, for one thing, I am a clown. I had the job of draining and measuring her tubes. So, I would always walk in with a mask and latex gloves on and I would play a nurse. She would say she wasn’t in the mood, but I would say, “You’re fixin’ to have a mood because we are about to go to town on this.” I would sing songs about how many ounces I was draining, and she would look at me like I was crazy. But we have to laugh in these times.
What encourages you about where the fight against breast cancer is today?
I was just with a company that makes machines for 3D breast exams and saw how that really helps women with earlier breast cancer detection. I can’t wait to see where we are in 5-10 years.
There will be a day, maybe not in my lifetime, where we hear, “We have the cure, and no one will have breast cancer.”
What would you say to someone battling breast cancer or supporting someone who is?
I would say this: don’t give up. Don’t give up and find the people that love you the most. I am a person of faith. I would rely on whatever that faith is for you, as well as rely on the people you love.
Celebrating Women is known as the premier breast cancer luncheon for the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Over the past 19 years, Celebrating Women donors have raised nearly $35 million for the fight against breast cancer. Together, we can find a cure for this disease that affects so many women and families in our community.