Fran Drescher knows the benefits of healthy living.
Since being diagnosed with uterine cancer in 2000 at the age of 44, the actress has used her platform to make real change in medical establishments and educate other women about how preventative care can, quite literally, be a life saver.
"I had that cancer for at least two years," The Nanny star, 65, said in an interview with Verywell Health. "By the grace of God, there was a larger plan for me, and my cancer was slow growing."
Drescher's cancer was still in stage I at the time it was discovered. While uterine cancer is the most common gynecologic cancer in women, according to the American Cancer Society, it's those in their late 60s who are most likely to be diagnosed. That's why, Drescher said, she was presented with multiple misdiagnoses at the onset, despite her persistence.
"It's important to take responsibility for your own health. It's your life, and no one will care about it in the way you do. So, you have to do what’s right for you and what you feel good about," she said. "I'm a bit of a control freak. I'll give a doctor a few tries, and if I feel like it's not the right fit, I find someone else."
Drescher said she "went for seven different second opinions before being diagnosed with cancer. I felt it in my gut and kept seeking care to figure out what was going on with my health."
Soon after her diagnosis, Drescher went through a radical hysterectomy and has been cancer-free ever since. She also founded Cancer Schmancer, a nonprofit that advocates for cancer education and prevention. She testified in front of the Senate in 2007 and was instrumental in passing the Gynecologic Cancer Education and Awareness Act (also known as "Johanna's Law"), which helps fund and promote prevention education materials for gynecologic cancers.
Drescher's years of work in the space have also provided lessons on the joys of aging — including how to manage stress.
"Part of aging well is learning how to manage your stress. You can't stew in it," she said. "I've found that my immune system responds poorly to stress. I have to be mindful and say, 'I can't get this stressed, or I'll get sick.' When I’m noticing stress, I will force myself to lie down and decompress. Or, I'll take a walk in the fresh air and appreciate the trees."
As one gets older, Drescher says a focus on "optimal health" becomes vital.
"To do that, you have to honor your body and really listen to it. Your body works hard, and you have to respect it. You can do that by listening to it," she explained. "How you live equals how you feel. There's no wiggle room in that."
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