Fran Drescher fights for cancer awareness

By Mia Kweskin

Most people know actress Fran Drescher for her nasally voice, big hair and fun outfits. However, Drescher’s most notable attribute is bigger than any of her trademark quirks: the inspiration she brings to many people in the world. Drescher’s personal battle with cancer, her creation of the Cancer Schmancer Movement and her continued work to educate women about cancer make her a Jewish mensch.

“She’s not afraid to stand up for what she believes in. She’s just one of those genuine sweetheart people. People see Fran as the everyday woman; she is someone that people trust,” said Jessica Liss, program coordinator of the Cancer Schmancer Movement.

As an actress, Drescher has made appearances in various movies and television shows. However she is most recognized for her sitcom, “The Nanny,” where she portrayed Fran Fine, a fun and charming Jewish nanny.

“She really is funny and the voice and laugh are real. My very first day of work I spoke with [Drescher] on a phone call, and she told me ‘Get ready for the ride!’ and then she laughed that laugh and I thought ‘Oh my goodness, the laugh is real,'” Liss said.

In 2000, Drescher began experiencing strange symptoms. Because the doctors insisted the symptoms came from eating too much spinach and having restless leg syndrome, it took two years and eight doctors to properly diagnose Drescher with stage one uterine cancer. After a complete hysterectomy to treat the cancer, she came out healthy and cancer-free.

“She was just so upset with the way the medical community treated her and upset at herself because she didn’t think to ask why or why not,” Liss said.

In 2002, Drescher took this experience and wrote the book that would evolve into an inspiring movement, Cancer Schmancer. Throughout her book tour, Drescher saw how many women are affected by cancer just like she had been.

“She ended up realizing that it wasn’t really the end for her, it was the beginning. She always says that she’s a magnet for people’s stories and it’s so true,” Liss said.

In 2007, Drescher launched the Cancer Schmancer Movement, which focuses primarily on prevention and early detection for women’s cancers, specifically gynecologic and breast cancer. The movement tells of the importance of going to see a doctor, asking questions, acknowledging symptoms, educating oneself, knowing family history, and recognizing warning signs. According to the movement, one in every three women and one in every two men in the United States will get cancer in their lifetime.

“Let’s do what we can to prevent ourselves from getting cancer, but if we do get cancer, let’s catch it early so no one has to die prematurely because they were diagnosed late,” Liss said.

Teens can get involved in the movement, too, through the “We the Future” youth program that encourages young people to create clubs, fundraising events, and discussions with their peers about cancer awareness.

Drescher and the Cancer Schmancer team have done so much to help not only women but also families of women battling various cancers. With their message of education, prevention, and early detection, many lives have been and will be saved.