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Actor Evan Handler on Life After Cancer

How this 'Sex and the City' actor manages career, health, well-being -- and a new baby -- after leukemia.
By
WebMD Magazine - Feature

Evan Handler, you're in the Showtime series Californication, but you're probably best known as "the sweaty, bald guy" from your Sex and the City character Harry Goldenblatt -- a role you're reprising in the movie version of Sex and the City (opening nationwide May 30, 2008). You actually lost your hair while undergoing cancer treatment years ago. You're now 47. How did having acute myeloid leukemia at age 24 change you?

There have been times when it felt like I went back to being the same person. I didn't turn to God and become born again. I didn't retreat from big city life or remain vegetarian or macrobiotic. Other times I think I have been completely shaped by those experiences. I think my life has become about trying hard to move beyond the cancer.

You used to wear a wig. Ever still use one?

I have not put one on in a long time and would be eager to work with them more, but I am now known for the way that I look. I hoped my hair would grow back for a long time, but when it became clear that it would not, I shaved off whatever grew there.

What drove you to became a rather outspoken cancer advocate?

I was just so horrified by so many of the things that I have seen. Logic seems to dictate that if navigating the health care system was not so hard, then more people would have the chance to hang in there and maybe get better. I thought it was a story that cried out to be heard.

You're also an author. Your latest tome, It's Only Temporary: The Good News and Bad News of Being Alive, details your often funny search for life and love after cancer. How important was humor in the face of your illness?

It was very important, and largely led to my trading on it more professionally. I was not known for doing comedy or writing comedic material before my illness.

Any advice to newly diagnosed cancer patients, especially those who are given terrible odds of survival as you were?

My advice has always tended to be to gather information. Information is power. It won't make your situation better, but it will make your odds of making good choices better

A lot of cancer survivors get nervous when it's time for follow-up tests. Do you?

I do have panics that come on me if I have something wrong with me. It's difficult to presume it's nothing serious when it has been something serious in the past.

Were you anxious about your health before you were diagnosed with leukemia?

It was definitely there before, but nothing to be paid very much attention to. I was just another neurotic New York Jewish actor, but being a hypochondriac who gets a catastrophic diagnosis makes you the paranoid person who is really being chased.

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