Connie Britton pays a lot more attention when she goes grocery shopping these days. The Nashville star and four-time Emmy nominee says that losing both of her parents, in a painfully short period of time to different types of cancer, served as a major wake-up call about her own health.
Britton's mom, Linda Womack, a former music teacher, died of breast cancer in 2005, the year after Britton first appeared as football wife Sharon Gaines in the film version of Friday Night Lights. Three years later, as Britton was turning Tami Taylor into an American feminist icon via the Lights TV series, her dad, Allen, an energy-company executive, passed away from anemia related to myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), a bone marrow disorder. In honor of her parents, Britton has donated her time to several breast cancer charities and served as Honorary National Walk Chair for the Aplastic Anemia & MDS International Foundation.
"It all got me really thinking about why we have cancer at what seems like almost epidemic proportions in our country, particularly breast cancer in women," says the 46-year-old Britton, who's also known for starring roles in Spin City and American Horror Story. "It makes me really think about living a life that is more actively healthful. I personally believe that there are a lot of things that we're dealing with environmentally -- in our food, in the things that we use every day -- that have chemical components that are not in our best interests, and I've started paying a lot more attention to that. I really think a lot about what I put into my body."
More research is needed to pinpoint how and why various chemicals and other factors in the environment and our diets may affect a disease as complicated as cancer. An April 2010 report from the President's Cancer Panel suggests that pollutants play a bigger role in cancer than scientists previously understood. The panel recommends that people take precautionary measures: filter water, avoid plastic containers (and never microwave them), and choose organic, antibiotic-free food, for examples -- all strategies Britton adopts.
"I want to know where the things I eat came from," she says. (Despite reports that she's a vegan, Britton says she does eat meat sometimes; her favorite meal is salmon and vegetables.) "Do I shop organic? I absolutely do. I really pay attention to the way things are manufactured. I'm not saying that any of these things, specific products or chemicals, cause these cancers, but I do think that living in a healthy way and feeling healthy perpetuates itself." She's also religious about getting regular mammograms and sonograms because her mother had breast cancer.