If someone told actress Fran Drescher a decade ago that her advocacy efforts to bring down women's cancer death rates would one day land her on a Top 5 list of Hollywood's political powerhouses — a list that includes people such as George Clooney, U2's Bono and Angelina Jolie — her reply would be simple.
"Did you just say I was going to get cancer?" says Drescher, everyone's favorite nanny. "I always imagined myself getting involved in big things. But I never factored in that I was going to be someone who got cancer. It has been a pivotal, life-changing experience."
Even though she would have gladly bypassed her uterine cancer diagnosis, Drescher says "some of the best gifts come in the ugliest packages."
Her personal experience with cancer prompted Drescher to launch the Cancer Schmancer Movement two years ago. The movement is dedicated to lowering cancer mortality rates by educating women about the importance and methods of early detection; transforming women from patients into informed medical consumers and shifting the nation's priority to prevention and early detection as well as finding a cure. Cancer Schmancer was voted the 2009 runner up for the Cancer Fighters Award.
"At Cancer Schmancer, we believe that stage one is the cure," Drescher says in her infamous voice.
Her passion comes from her own frustrations. She was misdiagnosed and mistreated for a peri-menopausal condition she didn't have.
"My doctors told me I was experiencing symptoms because of a long list of reasons," Drescher says. "My doctors didn't order the proper diagnostic tests. At the time, I didn't know to ask why or why not because I was just happy to be told I was too young for something!"
Two years and eight doctors later, her worst fear was confirmed in the summer of 2002. She had cancer. Luckily, she caught it in stage one. But the experience inspired her to write "Cancer Schmancer" to tell her own story.
But she came to realize that the book was not an end but rather a beginning to a life mission to improve women's healthcare in the United States.
"We need to take control of our bodies, become greater partners with our physicians and galvanize as one to let our legislators know that the collective female vote is louder and more powerful than that of the richest corporate lobbyists," she says. "I got famous, then I got cancer, and now I live to talk about it."
In September, Cancer Schmancer and I Heart Inc. joined forces with Inner Images to help the low-income, uninsured women of Los Angeles received women's cancer screening tests in their neighborhoods
John Paul Mitchell Systems' John Paul and Eloise DeJoria are among two of Cancer Schmancer's biggest supporters. The Paul Mitchell Schools have raised money for the movement, and in September and October, the company offered a limited edition pink Express Ion Smooth 1.25 iron to raise money for the organization.
"Paul MItchell is a brand rooted in and praise-worthy for its philanthropy, and there's no other partner I'd rather team with to communicate my message," Drescher says.
Drescher knows hair. She is a former hairdresser, with a head of naturally curly hair that she wears both straight and curly.
"When I'm working, I like it a little more controllable," she says. "But I wouldn't ever straighten it permanently. I like having the options."