Blythe Danner just revealed that she’s been battling the same cancer that killed her husband Bruce Paltrow 20 years ago. Danner, who is a Tony and Emmy-winning actress and the mother to Gwyneth Paltrow, told People that she’s in remission. She was diagnosed with oral cancer in March 2018.
Blythe Danner Felt Nauseated Before Discovering a Lump in Her Neck
“I remember I looked up at heaven and said to Bruce, ‘Are you lonely up there?'” said Danner, who is 79. “It’s a sneaky disease. But I’m fine and dandy now. And I’m lucky to be alive.”
Bruce Paltrow passed away when he was only 58 years old.
Danner added that while cancer is prevalent in many people’s lives in some way, it’s unusual for a couple to share the same diagnosis.
“I started feeling very woozy and I was forgetting everything,” Danner said of her first symptoms “And then I felt a lump in my neck, right next to where Bruce had found his [in 1999].” Scary.
Bruce Paltrow and Danner Were Both Diagnosed With Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma, a Type of Oral Cancer
Specifically, both Blythe Danner and her late husband Bruce Paltrow were diagnosed with adenoid cystic carcinoma. It is often found in the salivary glands, some of which align with the posterior edge of the jaw near the top of the neck. For Bruce, the cancer spread to his throat before he passed away.
Danner admits that she didn’t rush to tell her family.
“I kept it from my kids for a long time,” she said. “I wanted to forge ahead as a mother, and I didn’t want them to worry.”
This probably didn’t sit too well with Gwyneth Paltrow. In a recently unearthed interview, the Shakespeare In Love actress admitted that she felt responsible for her father’s death.
“I wasn’t adamant enough in cleaning up his diet and getting rid of the cancer,” said Gwyneth. She said that he “smoked for a long time” and had “vodka every day when he got home from work.”
“Now I really feel I could have extended his quality of life. But I wasn’t as strong as I should have been.”
Gwyneth Started Her Health and Lifestyle Company “Goop” After Her Father Passed Away
It was after the TV producer’s death that Gwyneth started researching natural living, eventually founding her health company, Goop.
“When he was diagnosed, I started looking at environmental toxins and how food affects our health,” she told ET Canada. “That is what started me on this whole journey.”
Paltrow told People that when her mom revealed her diagnosis, she was shocked.
“I was obviously very shocked,” she said. “It was scary. And it felt really eerie because it was so similar [to my dad’s].”
Blythe Danner received three separate surgeries to remove cancer, the last being in 2020. She also received chemotherapy and radiation treatments.
“I wasn’t quaking in my boots,” she said. “I don’t have any fear of death at all.” She explained that losing her husband made her rethink death.
“You never get over that kind of loss,” she said. “But grief is the price we pay for love.”
The Grief from Bruce Paltrow’s Death Nearly Killed Gwyneth Paltrow
For Gwyneth, who has one sibling, Jake, Bruce’s death had a profound effect on her. At one point, she was grieving so hard that she thought she might die of a heart attack.
“I woke up in the middle of the night and I thought I was having a heart attack,” Gwyneth told People. She had just returned to her home in London after Bruce’s funeral. “The only reason I didn’t call the emergency services is because I didn’t know that in England you dial 999; in America it’s 911. Honestly, I thought I was dying. It was really, really tough.”
She revealed that her sorrow was “so physical” she “thought it was gonna split me open.”
“The first year was just beyond — I don’t know how we all got through it, my mother, my brother and I,” she said. “It was pretty messed up. Anyone will tell you, who loses a love of their life like that, there’s just no other way but through. You just try to process your grief and keep going.”
The Danner-Paltrow family love is palpable and it’s fortunate that Blythe was able to discover her cancer and treat it before it was too late. Blythe Danner has jumped to her daughter’s side on numerous occasions in the past in the face of online hate.
The Oral Cancer Foundation Urges Regular Screenings
Blythe now dedicates her time to advocating for the Oral Cancer Foundation.
The Oral Cancer Foundation’s purpose is to raise awareness of oral cancers and to encourage regular screenings. Its website states that people should begin annual screenings by age 18. Additionally, the Foundation urges people who use tobacco to quite as soon as possible. Alcohol, tobacco use, and the HPV virus can all make a person more susceptible to oral cancer.
One person in America dies from oral cancer every hour. According to cancer.org, the 5-year survival rate of oral cancer varies from 23% to 93% depending on the type.
The Oral Cancer Foundation has a separate website set up for people to learn how to do self-checks as well. Checkyourmouth.org includes detailed instructions and a video tutorial that explain the process a person needs to follow for a thorough exam. It only takes about 5-10 minutes and they encourage everyone to do this once a month. You can buy a tool kit for self-examinations from the Foundation’s shop here.