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“There was a day, I remember, sitting in the bath crying. I was bald and so frail and honestly, looked up at the mirror and didn’t recognize myself. I thought, ‘that’s an ancient little old lady that I’m looking at.’ I felt sick with all the chemo, but I never thought I wasn’t going to beat this.”
Embeth Davidtz-Sloane shared one of her darkest moments during her fight against breast cancer with The Hollywood Reporter at a private Oscars-week fete at her Brentwood home. Now, healthy and cancer-free, Davidtz-Sloane has made it her mission to educate women about the different resources available, instead of going toward the traditional mammogram checkups.
“I’ve become the person that people come and talk to, I don’t want anyone to go through what I went through,” she said. “I don’t want any person to have to experience the terror, the suffering, the sickness and everything else that comes with it.”
The event featured more than 100 of Davidtz-Sloane’s closest friends for a private reception for women to learn more about Dr. Barbara B. Hayden and Dr. Patrizia Paterlini-Brechot’s research and technology for early breast cancer detection. The group of women in attendance included doctors and actresses such as Amy Adams, Cindy Crawford and Molly Sims.
Actress Christa Miller, a close friend of Davidtz-Sloane, expressed her excitement in regard to learning more about one of the evening’s speakers. “Getting a mammogram is not fun and Dr. Hayden is doing two things [to change that] — she has a new way, instead of the mammogram; a sonogram and a blood test. All she wants to do is educate women and help women and be pro-women health.”
As the dining room, family room and the outside patio all were filled with discussion and chatter among the tony crowd, the overarching topic in several of these discussions included the importance of women’s health and being proactive in women’s education.
“I think of how privileged we all are to be in the comfort of someone’s home and get to hear Dr. Hayden and anything that affects women’s health,” model Cindy Crawford told THR of the importance of being at the intimate and informative event. “I want to learn as much as I can about it. There’s not a person in this room who hasn’t been affected by cancer in some way. I think information is power. The more you know, the better decisions you can make for yourself and your family,” she added.
Following the cocktail hour, Davidtz-Sloane gathered her guests in the seated hall as Dr. Hayden led an information-packed presentation, which surrounded her personal mantra stated, on her website: “My goal was to give my patients a fighting chance to win the battle against breast cancer, by figuring out how to catch it early before it metastasizes.”
Dr. Hayden, a reconstructive surgeon based in Santa Barbara and Los Angeles, is also a cancer survivor. Her experiences with cancer and chemotherapy treatments have become a driving force and an influence in her efforts with early detection.
The innovative Sono Ciné AWBUS (Automated Whole Breast Ultrasound) is a unique ultrasound that allows for all of a person’s breast tissue to be examined, from the midline to a person’s back, the breast and the armpit. This allows radiologists to make a closer and more detailed examination of all breast tissue, whereas a mammogram only looks at the main area of breast tissue.
Following Dr. Hayden, the evening’s second speaker, Dr. Patrizia Paterlini-Brechot, founder of Rarecells, took the stage to go further into detail about ISET. The ISET by Rarecells is a blood test that filters normal and abnormal cells in the blood. If getting tested early, this Cytopathology test isolates cancer cells at its earliest stages. Although the test does not indicate which part of the body is cancerous, it allows for early detection, which leads to early opportunities for treatment. Before an open Q&A session, Dr. Paterlini-Brechot concluded her presentation with, “Cancer kills because we let it have time to kill. I believe women will make the difference in the fight for cancer.”
The audience reaction was positive. “It’s fascinating because it’s outside the information that’s available on an everyday basis and so important to hear and to share with other women. I look forward to finding out more about it. I have a doctor who’s pretty progressive and she is always introducing new ideas and what’s going to be great is going to take this to her,” Amy Adams told THR about both techniques.
She continued: “Even the person that seems least likely to get [cancer] is susceptible to get it and that just teaches us all to be aware of it. I would be very interested in seeing how an evening like this could spin into education for women, into advanced medical screening for women and specialized female health care is something that is really important and hearing this tonight you get the sense of that. There are gaps in our health system and the way we go about diagnosing diseases that we have the science to figure out.”
Davidtz-Sloane added, “Women are hungry for this information [and] women are confused. Women don’t know and we can’t really trust the insurance companies because it’s about money. It all comes down to money. So, for the women that are fortunate enough to [be able to] pay for themselves to have tests like this, they should do it, and they should now start campaigning and rallying so that [these tests] become part of a universal health care for everybody.”
Independent of medical advancements, Davidtz-Sloane believes that support from friends and family was an integral part of how she beat cancer, an aspect that the medical industry typically disregards.
“I had an amazing support system. My husband, my children, my mom, my sister, I had this whole village. I was so lucky because I didn’t have to work at the time. That’s a big thing. I don’t know how women do what I did and also support themselves, it’s really hard to get out of bed when you’re that sick. There are days that I couldn’t do anything,” said Davidz-Sloane.
She continued: “The week of chemo, everybody knew, I couldn’t do anything. But I had so much love around me that when [the doctors] tested the white blood cell count before [my] next chemo [session], mine were skyrocketing really high. They didn’t know the count was so high. It was so unusual. My sister found an article that said something like, ‘people who feel that they have a support system around them, particularly around cancer treatment, tend to have higher white blood cell counts.’ What’s so crazy is that that is when the body knows ‘I’m taken care of, I’m looked after’ and the white cells fight. It’s that desire to fight off the disease.”
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