The actress and model, best known as a "Bud Girl" in Superbowl commercials, went on the attack.
The result led to a documentary about her battle on The Learning Channel and an "advice from the trenches" book she wrote titled "Crazy Sexy Cancer Tips." Following are excerpts from Chapter 2 of her book, part 2 in a 10-part series:
Chapter Two: I Have Cancer. Now What?
"Take a deep breath, get grounded, and center yourself. Like Alice in Cancerland, you're falling down a dark and creepy rabbit hole. Doctors are spewing lots of information, more of which probably goes in one ear and out the other. Why? Because when you're newly diagnosed with cancer, this is what you hear: 'Blah, blah, CANCER, blah, blah, YOU ARE GOING TO DIE, blah, blah CANCER.'
"So here it is. Yesterday you were a normal civilian; today you are a cancer patient survivor. Getting diagnosed throws your entire universe into a free fall. There's no sugarcoating it: Cancer is a devastating blow, one that takes time to process.
"There is no hard-and-fast rules on how to deal with a diagnosis. I wish I could give you a road map, but I can't. No two cancers are the same, and neither are the experiences that surround them. Remember, when you're newly diagnosed, everyone who loves you is freaked out, not just you. Friendships shift. Family roles and dynamics change, sometimes forever.
"So what do you do? Everything you can to create joy in your world. Just because you have cancer doesn't mean you can't go out, enjoy life, and be you. Unless you're in treatment and feel like a truck has hit you, in which case you area a queen and for the time being you get the biggest piece of emotional birthday cake. But whether you're feeling fine or not, never think of yourself as Sick Person.
"Narrow your focus on what really matters: you. Cancer is unknown territory. Will life ever be the same? I hate to burst your bubble, but no. Can you still drink wine? Maybe. Dance on tables? Yes. Go on vacation? Absolutely. Be 'normal'? Why would you want to be that?...
"For me, breaking the news and talking about cancer was like listening to the sound of fake nails dragging across a chalkboard. Excruciating. No matter how much I practiced or rehearsed (I have cancer, I have cancer, I have cancer), it was a total disaster! Unfortunately, there's no easy way to do it...
"Once the initial shock of my diagnosis wore off, my twisted sense of humor slithered out to terrorize once more. After all, I was the family clown, and this was great material. At times, I was wildly inappropriate, making innocent bystanders deeply uncomfortable.
"If I could laugh at my situation, I wouldn't down in it. Though it did take time for them to get used to it, eventually my parents and friends became thankful for the levity I created by poking fun at the cancer. But be sensitive. Some people, including other cancer patients, just don't think cancer is something to make light of. So you really have to the temperature of the room."
Reprinted with permission of "Crazy Sexy Cancer Tips," published by skirt! Books, an imprint of Globe Pequot Press. This book may be found online at skirt.com or a local bookstore.