Almost a year and a half after getting diagnosed with anal cancer, Marcia Cross is starting to feel like herself again, but a different version — “a new me,” she says.
The former Desperate Housewives star, 57, tells PEOPLE that the experience changed her — after three months of “gnarly” treatment and several more of finding her new normal, the self-described “introverted extrovert” decided to share her story publicly. Cross started with an Instagram post where she asked for advice on managing hair loss from cancer, and eventually opened up about the disease.
“I want to help put a dent in the stigma around anal cancer,” she says. “I’ve read a lot of cancer-survivor stories, and many people, women especially, were too embarrassed to say what kind of cancer they had. There is a lot of shame about it. I want that to stop.”
Cross learned that she had anal cancer in Nov. 2017 during her annual checkup with her gynecologist. Her doctor administered a digital rectal exam and immediately sent Cross to a colon and rectal surgeon. Two biopsies later, doctors confirmed that she had anal cancer, and started her on six weeks of radiation and chemotherapy.
“Surgery wasn’t recommended, which was a relief. You want to preserve sphincter muscles if possible,” she says. “Having woken up to its importance, I am now a big fan of the anus!”
Cross read that the treatment would be “difficult,” so she made a point to find the humor in everything.
“In the beginning, I just sort of lay down for the parting of the cheeks and I would float away,” she says, laughing. “Because what are you going to do?”
Now nearly a year in remission and with a low chance of a recurrence, according to her doctor, Cross is grateful to have everything working properly.
“Every time I go to the bathroom, I think, ‘That’s awesome! Thank you, body,’?” she says.
And she wants people to be aware of the symptoms — which can include anal bleeding, pain, itching and lumps — so they?they can discuss any concerns with their doctor.
“If something doesn’t feel right, listen to your body and talk to your doctor,” says Cross. “Don’t let it go. It’s a very curable cancer if caught early, which mine was.”
“If you or a loved one are diagnosed, the Anal Cancer Foundation is an amazing resource,” she adds. “And one I turned to often.”
RELATED VIDEO: Olivia Newton-John Opens Up About Recent Health Scare, Death Rumors and How She’s Really Doing with Cancer
- New study: We may smell with our nose and our mouths and it could be the key to weight lossFingers crossed that someday carrots may taste more like carrot cake. Buzz60's Tony Spitz has the details.Buzz60
- Florida toddler with rare blood released from the hospitalZainab Mughal captured hearts worldwide late last year: A desperate plea for rare blood was sent out to help save the little girl battling cancer.WTSP-TV Tampa-St. Petersburg
- Is 'breaking the seal' myth or fact?<p>“Breaking the seal” means that if you run to the restroom after drinking alcohol, you'll be going excessively for the rest of the night. True?<br></p><p></p>SELF
Olivia Newton-John Opens Up About Recent Health Scare, Death Rumors and How She’s Really Doing with CancerPeople1:13
New study: We may smell with our nose and our mouths and it could be the key to weight lossBuzz600:53
Florida toddler with rare blood released from the hospitalWTSP-TV Tampa-St. Petersburg0:52
Is 'breaking the seal' myth or fact?SELF1:44
Study: Exercise makes people happier than moneyCooking Light1:00
3 eating habits that can harm your liverCooking Light1:30
Waking up to melodic songs like this could be the key to waking up without the grogBuzz601:02
New study: Owning a dog makes you four times more likely to live a healthier and active lifestyleBuzz600:57
Study: Sugar making kids hyper might be sort of a mythBuzz601:27
When it comes to excuses for skipping the gym, Americans really put in the workBuzz601:14
Why caffeine is good and bad for your headacheBuzz601:15
More screen time could increase risk of ADHD and behavioral problems in toddlersBuzz601:25
Teens will stop buying junk food if they feel they're being manipulatedBuzz601:28
The shocking average emergency medical bill will make you want to start savingBuzz601:14
The medical device that has 100,000 women suingCBS News14:17
Family hit with $3,700 bill for out-of-network anesthesiologistCBS News2:21