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How Marcia Cross turned her anal cancer diagnosis into something beautiful

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Kayleigh Dray
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Marcia Cross

“I am ecstatically alive,” writes the Desperate Housewives actress.

Marcia Cross – perhaps best known as Bree Van de Kamp to Desperate Housewives fans – recently shared a post on Instagram lamenting the loss of her hair after going through chemotherapy.

“So grateful and happy to be alive but sad that my hair fell out and is about 1 inch long now and looks cra cra,” wrote Cross. “Anyone else have #hairloss due to #cancer? Talk to me. I feel you.”

It was the first time that Cross had spoken about her cancer diagnosis on social media, and it triggered a wave of concern among her fans.

“I am so sorry my post wasn’t clear,” she wrote, in response to a flurry of worried messages. “I am POST cancer. All good now. Hard journey, but I am HEALTHY, happy, and more present and grateful than ever. Thank you from the bottom of my ever expanding heart for all of your LOVE.”

However, it was Cross’ third message – which truly found the beauty in her diagnosis – that left many feeling inspired.

“After posting a picture of myself here and uttering the words #cancer and #hairloss, I felt liberated, deliriously free and completely me,” she said.

“How or why this simple act gave me such a powerful lift I did not question, but I thanked God or whatever gave me the internal push to move forward and expose myself.”

Cross continued: “I certainly wasn’t expecting the response of love and kindness that flowed to me,” she said.

“My capacity to receive requires a massive expansion! I am ecstatically alive and what interests me post-cancer is #AUTHENTICITY. #VULNERABILITY. #TRANSPARENCY. And of course #LOVE.”

And, proving she hasn’t lost her sense of humour, Cross – whose husband, Tom Mahoney, was in treatment for an unnamed cancer in 2009 and is now healthy – added: “If you were wondering, I had #analcancer.

“I know, right?!”

Cross’ post has encouraged many others to come forward with their own anal cancer stories, with one writing: “Anal cancer survivor here! Difficult one to talk about, glad you are feeling better.”

Another added: “Fellow anal cancer survivor! 10 years out. And I still have my hair short.”

And one more wrote: “You look gorgeous! And if I didn’t lose hair to chemo, I would NEVER had nerve to try a Mohawk which is now my hairstyle! I used to have beautiful long red hair too, but ahh well, life changes. I’m so glad you’re sharing your story openly… here’s to #survivors.”

Anal cancer is a rare type of cancer that affects the end of the bowel, with about 1,300 people being diagnosed with it in the UK each year.

According to the NHS, the symptoms of anal cancer are often similar to more common and less serious conditions affecting the anus, such as piles (haemorrhoids) and anal fissures (small tears or sores).

These can include:

  • rectal bleeding
  • itching and pain around the anus
  • small lumps around the anus
  • a discharge of mucus from the anus
  • loss of bowel control

However, the NHS adds that some people with anal cancer don’t have any symptoms.

They advise that you see your GP if you develop any of these symptoms, because, while they’re unlikely to be caused by anal cancer, it’s best to get them checked out.

Image: Getty

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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is editor of Stylist.co.uk, where she chases after rogue apostrophes and specialises in films, comic books, feminism and television. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends. 

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