Celebrities From The Groovy Era Who Took On Cancer, And Won

Entertainment | April 16, 2019

Richard Roundtree and Suzanne Somers are both breast cancer survivors. Source: IMDB

No one is safe from cancer -- celebrities can get the disease just as easily as plain folks, as we've been reminded by the recent revelation from Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek. Celebrities often have more money to buy the best care, but that's no guarantee of survival. Sometimes cancer just wins, and we can all think of famous people who've lost that battle while, perhaps unfortunately, still in the public eye. But what of the winners? Did you know that Jane Fonda, Suzanne Somers, and Richard Roundtree have all successfully conquered breast cancer? And movie tough-guy Robert De Niro has had to battle it as well.

Thankfully, modern medicine has made progress at a rapid rate. More and more people fight the odds and beat cancer in the many forms it takes. Everyone knows that cancer doesn’t discriminate. Sometimes, the most shockingly healthy people must battle this terrible disease. The same is true for celebrities! They may seem larger than life, unassailable figures. But you would be shocked to hear some of the famous people who have fought the big C and won. Without further ado, here’s a list of celebrities from the groovy era who kicked cancer’s butt.

Robert De Niro

You read right. The man who played Al Capone, Jake "The Raging Bull" LaMotta, and, of course, The Godfather, Vito Corleone, was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2003. To complicate matters, his father lost his battle with cancer in 1993. The New York-born actor does not publicly discuss his fight with the disease but we do know that doctors discovered it early. Early detection is critical for everyone who battles the disease but especially so for men in their 60s. Apparently, “Most people respect the badge. Everyone respects the gun,” even cancer. 

Jane Fonda

Jane Fonda and Dabney Coleman in '9 to 5' (1980). Source: IMDB

Our historically controversial Jane Fonda not only beat cancer once but twice! The ageless wonder reportedly, wore a ruffled white dress to the 2016 Golden Globes to hide her bandages from a mastectomy. That’s a procedure for breast cancer to remove cancerous tissue. As if breast cancer wasn’t hard enough, skin cancer has also plagued Fonda over the years. 

Fun In The Sun

Jane Fonda as the titular heroine of 'Barbarella' (1968). Source: IMDB

According to Ms. Fonda, she loved her time in the sun, “I’ve had a lot of cancer. I was a sun-worshipper. When I have a day off, I frequently go to my skin doctor and have things cut off me by a surgeon.” That’s a lesson to kids and adults alike: don’t skimp on the sunscreen. Despite so many procedures “Barbarella” still looks amazing at 81. As she would say, “It's never too late - never too late to start over, never too late to be happy.”

Suzanne Somers

Joyce DeWitt and Suzanne Somers on 'Three's Company.' Source: IMDB

Famous for her portrayal as Chrissy Snow in Three’s Company, Suzanne Somers saw her life take an abrupt left turn when she was diagnosed with breast cancer roughly 20 years ago. Unlike many people, Somers took a slightly different approach to her treatment. While she did undergo surgery and radiation treatment initially, she turned to alternative medicine after that. 

Alternative Medicine Champion

Suzanne Somers and Joyce DeWitt on 'Three's Company.' Source: IMDB

Over the past ten years, Somers has advocated alternative approaches to cancer treatment, becoming a champion for naturopathic practitioners and received criticism from the American Cancer Society. We won’t play judge here, as cancer is a personal battle that people fight in their own way.

Olivia Newton-John

Olivia Newton-John in Xanadu (1980) and on 'Today' in 2019. Source: IMDB; YouTube

Pop singer and Grease star Olivia Newton-John has battled breast cancer twice -- and won -- in the past, although she didn't say a lot as she was going through the ordeals. Her first two diagnoses came in 1992 and 2013. She was again diagnosed in 2017, and this time she let the world know about it. By late 2018, the rumors were running wild that she was on the verge of death, or even had already died. On January 2, 2019, she addressed them on social media, releasing a New Year's video greeting in which she said,

The rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated. ... I’m doing great and I want to wish you all the happiest, healthiest 2019 as possible.

She looked fabulous in the video, but later revealed that she is still fighting the disease. This time, it's progressed to stage 4 breast cancer, and has also spread to her sacrum, the bone at the base of the spine. 

Shaft Takes Down Cancer

Richard Roundtree as Shaft. Source: IMDB

Richard Roundtree, star of Shaft (1971), one of the baddest men of the ’70s, was diagnosed with a rare case of male breast cancer. Yes, you read that right, male breast cancer. Reportedly Roundtree was just as surprised, “The doctor told me, 'You have breast cancer,'" recalls Roundtree, "I heard the cancer part first -- it was only later that I heard the breast part. I couldn't believe it." Roundtree kept his diagnosis under wraps for years, "I was in the closet, so to speak, until after the fifth year when I was cancer free." Male breast cancer is incredibly rare, comprising only 1% of all breast cancer cases.

The Ageless Alex Trebek

Alex Trebek hosting 'Jeopardy'' Source: IMDB

Some celebrities never seem to age; Paul Rudd is a classic example. But the original ageless wonder is Alex Trebek, who at 78 still pumps out Jeopardy! answers like nobody’s business. His ability to perfectly host one of America’s longest running game shows takes on a new level of respect when you learn he battles stage 4 pancreatic cancer. 

Courage Under Fire

Alex Trebek with Conan O'Brien. Source: IMDB

Naturally, he performs his duties with a level of dignity that speaks to his character. "Just like 50,000 other people in the United States each year, this week I was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer," he recently announced. "Now normally, the prognosis for this is not very encouraging, but I’m going to fight this, and I’m going to keep working. And with the love and support of my family and friends, and with the help of your prayers, also, I plan to beat the low survival rate statistics for this disease." 

He also only took a single week off “Jeopardy!” to take in the difficult news. The man with five Daytime Emmys, 28 nominations and a Guinness World Record for most episodes hosted never fails to amaze. 

Tags: Alex Trebek | Jane Fonda | Olivia Newton John | Richard Roundtree | Robert De Niro | Suzanne Somers

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Kellar Ellsworth


Kellar Ellsworth was born and raised in Hawaii. He is an avid traveler, surfer and lover of NBA basketball. He wishes he could have grown up in the free love era!