Marcia Cross Gets Real About Her Anal Cancer and the 'Shame' That Surrounds It
Actress Marcia Cross knows how difficult it can be to talk about certain kinds of cancer, so she’s speaking up about her experience with anal cancer in hopes of easing the stigma.
The “Desperate Housewives” and “Melrose Place” actress told People magazine Wednesday that she wants to “put a dent” in the shame many people feel about anal cancer, which is diagnosed in more than 8,000 people in the U.S. each year. Cross was diagnosed in 2017 after her annual gynecological exam.
“I’ve read a lot of cancer-survivor stories, and many people, women especially, were too embarrassed to say what kind of cancer they had. There is a lot of shame about it. I want that to stop,” Cross said.
After her diagnosis, Cross was treated with radiation and chemotherapy. She spoke frankly about the awkwardness of rectal exams and how she tried to find the humor in the situation.
“In the beginning, I just sort of lay down for the parting of the cheeks and I would float away,” she said. “Because what are you going to do?”
Now that she’s post-cancer, Cross said she has found a new appreciation for her body — as she says, “Having woken up to its importance, I am now a big fan of the anus!”
“Every time I go to the bathroom, I think, ‘That’s awesome! Thank you, body,’” she said.
Cross first went public with her cancer in 2018, when she posted a photo on Instagram of her hair loss.
“So grateful and happy to be alive but sad that my hair fell out and is about 1 inch long now and looks cra cra. Anyone else have #hairloss due to #cancer? Talk to me. I feel you,” she wrote.
She followed that up with a post explaining that after opening up about cancer, she feels “liberated, deliriously free and completely me.”
Symptoms of anal cancer include bleeding, itching, pain, lump or mass, changes in bowel movements and swollen lymph nodes in the anal or groin areas. The five-year relative survival rate is 82 percent for those who were diagnosed before their cancer could spread outside the anal area.
Opening up about cancer can be tough, and people with cancers associated with “embarrassment” may have unique emotions to grapple with. Mighty contributor Gail Payne wrote that after her colon cancer diagnosis she thought she wanted to keep the news to herself until a friend convinced her that telling more people would give her an even bigger circle of support. She wrote:
She said I had a whole army of friends out there who would want to send prayers, love and support that could only serve to help me, not hurt me. Keeping it to myself, and then perhaps telling people after it was all over, would only serve to mask the true me to my friends. The more I thought about Carol’s words, the more I realized she was right.