Actress Marcia Cross Has a New Role: Cancer Advocate
The Desperate Housewives star is helping lead the fight against cancer in marches, through her advocacy, and with her own family.
When a Loved One Gets Cancer
Cross speaks of an "end of innocence" that occurs when we first realize that
illness can steal away our loved ones. "I lost my virginity, so to speak, a
long time ago," she says, referring to Jordan's shocking diagnosis and death
more than 15 years ago.
She's still processing all that's happened since. "When you face this kind
of surprise trauma -- followed by loss -- for the first time, it's a double
whammy. … So when this happened with Tom, I already knew that every day is a
gift, a blessing. I already understood that every day you don't get that
terrible phone call with bad test results is a very lucky day. Before Tom's
diagnosis, I used to say to him every night, 'We are so lucky. We have each
other. We have our babies.'" Cross and Mahoney are parents to 2-year-old twins
Eden and Savannah, triumphantly conceived through in-vitro fertilization just
one week after the couple married in 2006. "Because," she adds with knowing
emphasis, "life can turn on a dime."
As it did last November, when she sat with Mahoney in his doctor's office
and together they received the frightening news: It was cancer. As the spouse
of someone suddenly sick, Cross went from "just living everyday life to being
thrown into this alternate universe of hospitals and doctors and radiation and
Still, "An odd competence took over me immediately," she says from her home
in Los Angeles, where she is currently resting -- if one can "rest" with two
toddlers in tow -- during a hiatus from her weekly Desperate Housewives
series. "When you become the caregiver to your spouse … there's no time to
wallow. You have to be on the ball. For the first six months, I managed with a
mix of denial and just total competence, dealing with what had to be done every
day. … Only now am I going through a posttraumatic-stress reaction, crying a
lot, dealing with my own fears, thinking about how hard it was to watch him
suffer. Only now do I find I'm tender trying to talk about it."
Cross's experience isn't at all surprising, says Terri Ades, APRN-BC, AOCN,
director of cancer information at the American Cancer Society in Atlanta. "What
happens typically with a cancer diagnosis is that the 'machine' starts up very
quickly. Everything goes into motion -- the treatment, the patient's needs --
at a very rapid pace. There is no time to stop and think."