Blythe Danner has revealed that she is in remission after being diagnosed with oral cancer in 2018.
The Emmy-winning actor and mother of Gwyneth Paltrow and Jake Paltrow admitted she initially kept the news a secret from 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.”
The 79-year-old star of Meet the Parents was diagnosed with adenoid cystic carcinoma, a relatively rare form of oral cancer that often develops in the salivary glands.
Gwyneth recalled being “very shocked” when her mother finally revealed her diagnosis.
“It was scary. And it felt really eerie because it was so similar [to my dad's],” she said, per People.
Danner’s husband, Bruce Paltrow, also died from oral cancer in 2002.
“Everyone is touched by cancer in some way, but it's unusual for a couple to have the same cancer,” said Danner.
After her diagnosis, she recalled that she “looked up at heaven and said to Bruce, 'Are you lonely up there?'”
The grandmother of four underwent radiotherapy, chemotherapy and three surgeries, which were successful in removing the cancerous tissue, but claimed she had no fear of death “at all”.
Danner revealed that her views on death shifted after her husband of 33 years died.
“You never get over that kind of loss,” she said. “Bruce was the heart of our family. And life is so much paler without him around. But grief is the price we pay for love.”
She added: “It's a sneaky disease. But I'm fine and dandy now. And I'm lucky to be alive.”
Oral cancer, also known as mouth cancer, is where a tumour develops in a part of the mouth.
According to the NHS, it may be on the surface of the tongue, the inside of the cheeks, the roof of the mouth (palate), the lips or gums.
Tumours can also develop in the glands that produce saliva, the tonsils at the back of the mouth, and the part of the throat connecting your mouth to your windpipe (pharynx). However, these are less common.
Smoking or using tobacco, drinking alcohol, and infection with the human papilloma virus (HPV) can all increase a person’s risk of developing mouth cancer.
Oral cancer is the sixth most common cancer in the world, but is much less common in the UK, with two thirds of cases affecting people aged 55 and above.