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Pop Culture

Olivia Munn’s aggressive breast cancer and double mastectomy is a wakeup call to all women

She’d had a clean mammogram and tested negative for cancer genes just months before she was diagnosed.

Nicole Alexander/Wikimedia Commons

Olivia Munn at the 2018 MTV Movie & TV Awards

Actor Olivia Munn has announced that she's been diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer and has undergone a double mastectomy, and her story is one all women need to read.

The 43-year-old, who has a 2-year-old son with comedian John Mulaney, shared her experience with photos, video and a written statement shared on Instagram.

"I was diagnosed with breast cancer," she wrote in the post caption. "I hope by sharing this it will help others find comfort, inspiration and support on their own journey."


Munn shared that she had taken a genetic test in February of 2023 in an effort to be proactive about her health and was relieved to find that she tested negative for all 90 cancer genes the test checked for, including the BRCA breast cancer gene. In the few months prior, she'd had a clear mammogram, so there wasn't any indication that anything was wrong.

"Two months later I was diagnosed with breast cancer," she wrote.

She explained that her OB-GYN had decided to calculate her Breast Cancer Risk Assessment Score, which takes into account age, lifestyle, family history, how old you were when you had your first child, and other factors that can impact your likelihood of having breast cancer.

When Munn's score came back with a 37% chance of having cancer, she was sent to get an MRI, which led to a biopsy, which found Luminal B cancer in both breasts.

"Luminal B is an aggressive, fast-moving cancer," Munn wrote. "30 days after that biopsy I had a double mastectomy. I went from feeling completely fine one day, to waking up in a hospital bed after a 10-hour surgery the next."

Munn said she's lucky because they caught it in time for her to have options. "I want the same for any woman who might have to face this one day. Ask your doctor to calculate your Breast Cancer Risk Assessment Score." Her doctor says if the score is higher than 20%, you should have an annual mammogram and MRI starting at age 30.

According to CNN, there are two models commonly used as breast cancer risk assessment tools: the Gail Model and the Tyrer-Cuzick Risk Assessment Calculator. Both have online versions that allow you to calculate your score for free, (though you should always consult your doctor with any concerns you might have). Munn wrote that she wouldn't have found her cancer for another year at her next mammogram if it weren't for her doctor calculating her risk score.

She also shared more of what followed her unexpected diagnosis:

"In the past ten months I have had four surgeries, so many days spent in bed I can't even count and have learned more about cancer, cancer treatment and hormones than I ever could have imagined. Surprisingly, I've only cried twice. I guess I haven't felt like there was time to cry. My focus narrowed and I tabled any emotions that I felt would interfere with my ability to stay clearheaded.

I've tended to let people see me when I have energy, when I can get dressed and get out of the house, when I can take my baby boy to the park. I've kept the diagnosis and the worry and the recovery and the pain medicine and the paper gowns private. I needed to catch my breath and get through some of the hardest parts before sharing."

Finally, she thanked all of her loved ones who have loved her through her breast cancer journey, including John Mulaney, who researched all of her medical procedures and made sure their son's framed photo was the first thing she saw when she woke up. She also thanked the medical team who has been caring for her, from her OB-GYN to her oncologist to the nurses and hospital support staff.

Munn sharing her story could help other women who may not know their risk or who may be complacent about breast cancer screenings to take a proactive approach.

To learn more about breast cancer, visit the American Cancer Society or the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

Community

Bride who was given 6 months to live celebrates 'miracle' anniversary 20 years later

"For those living with cancer - keep hoping, believing, dreaming."

Canva

Clare Runacres didn't expect to make it to her one year wedding anniversary.

Back in September of 2023, BBC newsreader Clare Runacres celebrated 20 years of marriage with her husband Mike Ramsden. Like many folks in the modern age, Runacres commemorated the milestone by posting a picture of her wedding day onto her social media pages.

While of course two decades of marriage is lovely in its own, it turns out there was even more for Runacres to celebrate. A “miracle,” in fact.

As she explained in her post, the picture was taken only six months after discovering that a cancer she had been diagnosed with during college had returned. What’s more, it was aggressive, with zero options for treatment.


As she explained in her post, the picture was taken only six months after discovering that a cancer she had been diagnosed with during college had returned. What’s more, it was aggressive, with zero options for treatment.

The news prompted the couple to marry immediately, and despite the harrowing news, their special day was “beautiful,” Runacres noted, surrounded by love, tears, friends and dancing til dawn.

But you don’t have to take her word for it, the pure joy is evident in Runacre’s photos. Take a look.

The BBC star told Daily Mail that although she did undergo surgery to remove the new cancer, just before her wedding day her doctors still told her she would probably only have six months to live.

Runacres and her beloved didn’t think they’d make it to their first anniversary. And now, at their 20th, can’t help but get emotional when she sees images from that day.

“Mikey, thank you for taking a chance on me. You're the best person I know. You are my miracle,” Runacres concluded in her caption. “For those living with cancer - keep hoping, believing, dreaming.”

Indeed, Runacres’ touching post inspired optimism to those going through their own difficult health challenges—be it themselves or a loved one.

Take a look as what readers shared:

“This brings me so much joy! My 5 yo has cancer. There’s a 35% chance it will return by the time she’s a teen and the medications are not kind on her poor little body. To have hope in a future like this is beyond words.”

“I’m 4 years in remission of stage 3 bowel cancer, constantly worrying about it returning and reading your post has made my heart sing with hope.”

“As someone diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer 4 months ago, this post has brought me so much joy and hope. Thank you for sharing ❤️”

Others contributed. their own miracle stories. One person commented, “my mom got diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer…October 2009…She’s still here. Cancer free. I thank God for healing and using the doctors and treatment , her survival rate for 5 years was 1%.”

Another added, “I was given 48 hrs to live in fall of 2018. Jokes on them! I’m still here! Don’t ever give up!”

While feelings of hope might not technically change a person’s chance for survival (though many survivors have attributed a key part of their success to optimism), studies have shown that positive thought can at least improve the quality of life for someone dealing with cancer.

And really, on a more universal level, none of us really know how much time we have on this planet. We can do all the “right” things and still get sick. We can receive a life-threatening diagnosis and live on for years after. So hearing stories like this reminds us to treat each day as a precious milestone. And that maybe we shouldn’t hold off on the celebrating.

Salena Webb's neighbor asks her to remove her decorations.

A situation between neighbors that played out on TikTok up an important question: Should one neighbor have to remove a holiday decoration because it makes someone else on the block uncomfortable? However, before it became a conflict, one neighbor settled the situation with kindness.

Salena Webb of Duncan, South Carolina, a confessed “Halloween lover,” proved it this year by putting her decorations up in September. Webb is the mother of 4, with another on the way, who shares gardening tips on TikTok.

Webb did an excellent job decking out her lawn for the spooky season. Her decorations included a giant spider web, some tombstones and two skeletons carrying a coffin. Webb loved her decorations but they caused a bit of a problem with her neighbor across the street.


The adult son of an elderly Russian couple came to her door with a peculiar request.

@thatsnorthsense

My family knows i loveeee Halloween and my decorations took me awhile to make and put up. I had just purshased the skeleton carrying the casket to go along with my graveyard to really set my halloween decor off this year🥴 I was a little sad at first but i thought about the bigger picture. Me removing my casket isnt hurting me at all but it may ease and bring my neighbor a little bit of peace as he adjusts to this news. Kindness is free and compassion goes a long way. Now what to replace it with🥴😩#Thatsnorthsense #dailyvlog #compassionforothers #halloween2023 #loveyourneighborasyourself

"He starts to tell me that his father was diagnosed with lung cancer," she said the couple's son said. "And then he started to talk about my Halloween decorations. I'm like, 'What do my decorations really have to do with this?'" she told Business Insider.

But then, suddenly, it all made sense. "This guy is dealing with mortality," Webb said, adding that the man had specifically noted that the casket made him uncomfortable. In a follow-up video, Webb pointed out that the elderly man often sits in his garage, directly across the street from the coffin decoration.

So, Webb decided to remove the casket from her lawn.

"I do get it, you know, and I understand it is like literally right across the street, and he can look right into it, so I get it," she admitted in a follow-up video. So, this year, she moved the coffin into her back yard.

@thatsnorthsense

Replying to @JennAngel 🪱🌈🪐☁️🪅💠 maybe some can now understand why they were a little touchy about it and at night theres fog that i have come out from it🤣 so i get it.. #Thatsnorthsense #dailyvlog #compassionforothers #halloween2023 #loveyourneighborasyourself

“I was a little sad at first but I thought about the bigger picture,” Webb captioned her TikTok video. “Me removing my casket isn’t hurting me at all, but it may ease and bring my neighbor a little bit of peace as he adjusts to this news. Kindness is free and compassion goes a long way.”

There are many different ways in which that situation could have played out. The neighbor could have been aggressive when asking Webb to remove the decorations, but he wasn’t. Webb could have gotten defensive and told the neighbor that her decorations were none of his business. But she didn't.

One commenter perfectly summed up the situation. "His explanation was so heartfelt. It’s so kind of you to respond in the same way," CocoJoJo30 wrote.

After the video went viral, Webb went across the street and gave her ailing neighbor a card and some balloons to tell him that removing the casket wasn’t a problem. As for the skeletons, they’re still on the lawn, but now they are playing a friendly game of badminton instead of carrying a coffin.






Family

Woman hosts 'living funeral' for her dying sister and calls the experience 'magical'

“I would describe it as an exclamation point at the end of a sentence. The sentence of her life."

Canva

Living funerals can provide closure and comfort.

What do you do when you or a loved one becomes terminally ill? When the inescapable end all but sends a morbid telegram announcing its arrival? Do you "go gentle into that good night," filling the final days with solemn reverence and aching nostalgia? Or do you go out with a bang, choosing instead to savor whatever else life still has to offer?

For Heidi Satterthwaite, the choice was obvious.

Her sister, Jenna Satterthwaite, shared on BBC’s “Woman’s Hour” that Heidi had been diagnosed with a rare type of cancer known as myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), which occurs when blood-forming cells found in bone marrow are abnormal, back in 2018.

Before her death, Heidi made a heartfelt request to her sister—that they throw a party with all of their family and friends.


Jenna was happy to fulfill her sister’s wish and began sending out invitations. To their surprise, 200 people showed up, many traveling long distances and canceling plans to show up and say their goodbyes.

The “massive event” was very akin to a wedding, Jenna recalled, filled with the merriment of dancing, an “explosive playlist,” heartfelt speech and catered food. Heidi and her husband even closed out the night by dancing to the same song they danced at for their own wedding.

living funeral, funeral costs

Heidi Satterthwaite dancing her heart out

pbs.twimg.com

“It was just this magical and pain-filled celebration of her life,” Jenna told BBC. “I would describe it as an exclamation point at the end of a sentence. The sentence of her life.”

After Heidi’s death, Jenna took to X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, to share a touching poem titled “Advice for the Dying,” created in part to encourage others with “the curse of advance notice,” to host a party, not a funeral, because funerals aren’t as “fun.”

As Alexandra Keeler, contributor for Big Think, brilliantly lays out, the concept of “living funerals” might not exactly be mainstream, but it has been around for a long time. Though the exact origins are unknown, living funerals have historical roots both in indigenous and ancient Japanese cultures, who would use the tradition to gain closure, make amends, show respect and generally provide ease of passage.

The idea was also incorporated in Mitch Albom’s popular “Tuesdays with Morrie.” As Morrie reflects on his colleague’s passing, he says, “What a waste. All those people saying all those wonderful things, and Irv never got to hear any of it.” So Morrie decides to gather a small group of friends and family to honor their beloved Irv.

As religion takes on less significance for many, it’s not surprising that more and more people are taking an interest in creating their own customized rituals for saying goodbye, whether that’s trading the formality for more festive, personal traditions during the funeral itself, or conducting a living funeral that allows the ailing person (and the ones they’ll leave behind) some measure of autonomy and joy during an otherwise bleak and gloomy situation.

For Jenna, giving Heidi a living funeral “was a moment to pause and acknowledge a beautiful life.”

"We don’t do that often. We’re bad at celebrating. We’re always looking to the next thing and shifting goalposts,” she said. “So it was really special to come together and kind of close that sentence as a group and say, ‘This was her life, she lived it well.’ Exclamation point.”

funeral alternatives

"She was the best person I’ve ever known ."

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It’s no easy task to say goodbye to a loved one, but choosing to make it an event can be helpful for everyone.