Erin Andrews made a startling revelation in a new Sports Illustrated profile: She quietly battled cervical cancer last year, shortly after her nude video lawsuit took place — for which she was awarded $55 million after she was secretly taped in her hotel room.
The Fox NFL reporter says she had a routine checkup in June that included tests that led to her diagnosis. Andrews, 38, was in a meeting at the New York Giants’ team facility when she got a call from her doctor, telling her she had cervical cancer. Andrews’ doctor said she would need surgery soon.
Andrews didn’t tell her coworkers about her diagnosis. Instead, she reported on a game and then flew home to L.A. Her surgery was scheduled for Oct. 11 and before she was taken into the operating room, Andrews told her oncologist, “I’m not watching any football games at home. This is [Fox’s] Super Bowl year, and I’m not missing the Super Bowl.”
Two days after her surgery, she took a red-eye flight from L.A. to Green Bay, where she filmed a feature with the Green Bay Packers’ Jordy Nelson. She then went on to cover more games. “Should I have been standing for a full game five days after surgery? Let’s just say the doctor didn’t recommend that,” Andrews says.
“But…sports were my escape. I needed to be with my crew.”
Andrews eventually revealed her diagnosis to her colleagues after her boss noticed that she wasn’t herself. It was then she says she realized her cancer wasn’t a weakness. “After the trial everyone kept telling me, ‘You’re so strong, for going through all of this, for holding down a job in football, for being the only woman on the crew,’ ” Andrews says. “Finally I got to the point where I believed it too. ‘Hey, I have cancer, but dammit, I am strong, and I can do this.’ ”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 11,955 women in the U.S. were diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2013 (the most recent year for which numbers are available), and 4,217 women died from the disease. The main cause of cervical cancer is human papillomavirus (HPV), the most common sexually transmitted infection, the CDC states, and it’s often detected by an abnormal Pap test.
Hye Sook Chon, M.D., a gynecological oncologist at the Moffitt Cancer Center, tells Yahoo Beauty that recovery time varies for cervical cancer surgery, depending on what stage a woman’s cancer is in, and what type of surgery she had.
Jack Jacoub, M.D., a medical oncologist at MemorialCare Cancer Institute at Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center in Fountain Valley, Calif., tells Yahoo Beauty that surgical options typically range from conization, a form of biopsy in which abnormal tissue is removed from the cervix to a hysterectomy, in which all or parts of a woman’s uterus are removed.
Jacoub points out that it’s natural—and even helpful—for people to want to get back to normal as soon as possible. “When people are given a diagnosis of cancer, there’s a bit of a loss of control—you’ve given your body to your physicians and healthcare team,” he says. “It can be a very stressful period.”
That’s why he says striving to have a sense of normalcy after cancer surgery is an important part of the recovery process. “If someone has the ability to set goals and do them through motivation and energy, whether that’s exercising sooner or going back to work sooner, it can help recovery,” Jacoub says. In fact, he says not being engaged in regular life can lead to a slower recovery.
Chon says many of her patients want to know how soon they can resume their normal life after surgery, and she says it varies. If a person was active before surgery, they’re likely to get back to normal sooner than someone who was more inactive. “If it’s possible, it’s very important for patients to resume their normal activities,” she says.
However, recovery timeframes vary for everyone and even Andrews’ father points out that she wasn’t acting like herself again for several weeks. If a patient is active again too soon after surgery, she’s at a higher risk of bleeding and can be in more pain than if she rested more, Jacoub says: “That’s why we typically recommend that people take it slowly after surgery.” However, it’s best to consult your doctor if you’re not sure.