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This Was the First Symptom of Cancer Blythe Danner Noticed

The actor just revealed that she was diagnosed with oral cancer in 2018.

Sixteen years after the death of her husband, Blythe Danner was shocked to find out that she had the same type of cancer that had killed him at age 58. In a new interview with People, Danner revealed to the public for the first time that she had oral cancer, which is now in remission. The Meet the Parents star was diagnosed in 2018 after experiencing symptoms, including one sign that she recognized from late husband Bruce Paltrow's battle with the disease.

"Everyone is touched by cancer in some way, but it's unusual for a couple to have the same cancer," Danner told People. "I remember I looked up at heaven and said to Bruce, 'Are you lonely up there?' It's a sneaky disease. But I'm fine and dandy now. And I'm lucky to be alive."

Read on to find out more about the 79-year-old actor's experience, including her first symptoms.

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Danner received treatment after her diagnosis four years ago.

Blythe Danner at the Women in Film 2016 Crystal and Lucy Awards
Joe Seer / Shutterstock

According to People, Danner was diagnosed in March 2018. Following her diagnosis, she underwent two surgeries, explored alternative treatments, and did radiation and chemotherapy. A surgery in 2020 succeeded in removing the cancerous tissue, and she is now in remission.

She had a rare form of oral cancer.

Blythe Danner at the 2019 Movies for Grownups Awards
DFree / Shutterstock

Danner's form of oral cancer is called adenoid cystic carcinoma. According to the Cleveland Clinic, adenoid cystic carcinoma "is an uncommon type of cancer that usually develops in the salivary glands or other areas of the head and neck. Sometimes it can form in other parts of the body, including your skin, breast tissue, cervix or prostate gland."

The symptoms it causes vary, depending upon the location of the cancer. For instance, adenoid cystic carcinoma of the salivary gland could include facial pain, facial drooping, and numbness in the lips or other areas of the face.

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She consulted doctors after noticing a few symptoms.

Blythe Danner at a screening of "The Tomorrow Man" in 2019
Ron Adar / Shutterstock

Danner noticed symptoms when she was working in London in 2018, which prompted her to see a doctor and be diagnosed.

"I started feeling very woozy and I was forgetting everything," she told People. "And then I felt a lump in my neck, right next to where Bruce had found his [in 1999]."

She didn't tell her children right away.

Blythe Danner and Gwyneth Paltrow at the Environmental Media Awards in 2015
Featureflash Photo Agency / Shutterstock

Danner is the mother of actor Gwyneth Paltrow and director and screenwriter Jake Paltrow. She told People that she didn't share her diagnosis with her kids immediately.

"I kept it from my kids for a long time. I wanted to forge ahead as a mother, and I didn't want them to worry," the Will & Grace actor said.

Gwyneth also spoke to People, saying, "I was obviously very shocked. It was scary. And it felt really eerie because it was so similar [to my dad's]." She added, "She went through it with so much grace. I was amazed at how strong she was able to be."

Danner has been an advocate for people with oral cancer for years.

Blythe Danner and Bruce Paltrow at the 2002 Emmy Awards
Featureflash Photo Agency / Shutterstock

Prior to her own diagnosis, Danner began advocating for oral cancer awareness and funding. Along with her children, she set up the Bruce Paltrow Fund with The Oral Cancer Foundation.

"It means a lot to get the word out. It's a very unrecognized cancer," Danner told Good Morning America in 2006. She said that had Bruce known about his cancer sooner—in stage I or II instead of stage IV—"he'd still be with us, I think." She added, "Early detection, prevention, it just has to be out there much more, and it hasn't been out there in the mainstream media."

In her new People interview, Danner said of her late husband, "You never get over that kind of loss. Bruce was the heart of our family. And life is so much paler without him around. But grief is the price we pay for love."

Lia Beck
Lia Beck is a writer living in Richmond, Virginia. In addition to Best Life, she has written for Refinery29, Bustle, Hello Giggles, InStyle, and more. Read more
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