Wednesday, October 12, 2011

National Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Watch Jennifer Brooks, Monica Quartermaine, Lillian Raines, Dorian Lord, Lucinda Walsh, Reva Shayne & Others Battle Breast Cancer, Educate Audience

Serialized programs, especially daytime soap operas, are at their best when they tell stories we can relate to or socially relevant stories that both entertain and educate the viewers. October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month and We Love Soaps is taking a look back at some of the most memorable and moving breast cancer storylines in soap opera history.

From Jennifer Brooks to Lillian Raines to Monica Quartermaine and Lucinda Walsh, these stories have touched our hearts, brought us brilliant performances and, in feedback we've heard time and again from fans, lead many women to have mammograms.

Below is a timeline of breast cancer storylines on daytime.

In 1969 Nurse Meg Baldwin on GENERAL HOSPITAL was diagnosed with breast cancer, and after a radical mastectomy, Meg's insecurities about her appearance lead her to have a nervous breakdown.

In 1975 Jennifer Brooks (Dorothy Green) on THE YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS had breast cancer and a mastectomy. The American Cancer Society praised the soap for telling the story. This was the first fully realized breast cancer story line on television. Bill Bell said of the story, "We were the first to do a story line like this. And it was a powerful one. We received letters from people who said it helped them understand what happens to a woman from the time she learns she has cancer, on through the recovery."

In 1979 SEARCH FOR TOMORROW's Stephanie Wilkins had breast cancer. After surgery, she felt her life was over until she was visited by a volunteer from the group Reach to Recovery. Stephanie's portrayer, the fabulous Maree Cheatham, became a volunteer for the American Cancer Society.

In 1991 longtime GUIDING LIGHT associate producer Kathy Chambers lost her battle with breast cancer. In 1992 the character of Lillian Raines found out she had the disease and her mammogram may have been the first one shown on daytime soaps. Actress Tina Sloan did a number of public service announcements about early breast cancer detection. The American Cancer Society reported at the time the largest number of phone calls ever received by the ACS followed these announcements. Sloan wrote a wonderful piece on this storyline for AOL on Friday.

In 1993 ONE LIFE TO LIVE's Jason Webb found a lump in Dorian Lord's (Robin Strasser) breast while the two were in bed together. Dorian tried to ignore the lump at first but after coaxing from Cassie, Dorian had herself checked out and was mortified to learn that the lump was cancerous. Diagnosed with breast cancer, Dorian sought the necessary treatment and was fortunate enough to have caught it early and soon went into full remission.

In 1994 GENERAL HOSPITAL's Monica Quartermaine (Leslie Charleson) battled breast cancer in an unforgettable story. Executive producer at the time Wendy Riche explained why the story was important to her in an interview with We Love Soaps last year.

"My mother had breast cancer, which is part of why I wanted to do a story about it. When Claire [Labine] wanted to also, I was thrilled. We could explore it from the woman’s point-of-view, but from the child’s point-of-view as well. As well as how our breasts are so much a part of our identity. Every woman has dealt with this issue of breasts in some way whether they are large or small, or some issue going on. All of us have known someone who had had breast cancer. I don’t think there is a person who doesn’t."

During treatment, Monica met another breast cancer patient, Paige Bowen.  In 1995, Paige explained to her daughter Emily that she was going to die.   Monica eventually adopted Emily.

In 1994 ANOTHER WORLD's Brett Gardner (Colleen Dion) was considering a breast enlargement when she found a lump in her breast. The lump turned out to be benign. She was so relieved she decided she was content with her breast size the way it was.

In 1996 Tess Wilder (Catherine Hickland) on THE CITY found a lump in her breast. She tried to postpone her wedding to Buck until after her biopsy results were back but they were later married in a hospital chapel.

In 1998 Camille Bennett on AS THE WORLD TURNS developed breast cancer. Lauren B. Martin was terrific as she dealt with her medical condition and her mixed up feelings for Ben and Brad.

In 2000 ONE LIFE TO LIVE's Viki Lord (Erika Slezak) battled breast cancer and struggled with her relationship with Ben.

In 2002 Ashley Abbott (Eileen Davidson) on THE YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS discovered that she had rapidly spreading breast cancer. She underwent radiation and chemotherapy treatments and lost her hair but eventually recovered.

In 2003 GENERAL HOSPITAL's Emily Quartermaine (Natalia Livingston) was diagnosed with breast cancer. She finally told Jason in the scene below.

In 2005 AS THE WORLD TURNS mogul Lucinda Walsh found out she had breast cancer. Elizabeth Hubbard was robbed of an Emmy nomination for her work during the story line. In the scene below from 2008, Lucinda's cancer had returned.

In 2006 GUIDING LIGHT's Reva Shayne (Kim Zimmer) was diagnosed with breast cancer and her family dealt with their feelings and emotions of possibly losing her.

In 2009 We Love Soaps published an interview with veteran soap actress Linda Cook who revealed she had battled breast cancer in 1992 and kept it to herself.  This battle continues to this day.

1992. I was doing a show Off-Broadway at the time called "Dearly Departed" and I was getting ready to go out to L.A. I think I had just had like a million dollars worth of pictures taken with my long, blonde hair. The show we were doing was a really black comedy about death. In the very first scene, grandma and grandpa are getting a letter and grandpa falls off his chair and dies. I was doing that show and found a lump in my breast. It was like New Year's Eve and I thought, 'Holy shit.' I knew immediately what it was, but then I had to go in and do this show. And I couldn't get into a doctor for days after that because it was New Year's. I had great doctors, and we caught it early. Luckily I didn't have to lose a whole breast, just a little chunk. I did six months or so of chemo and radiation treatments, and lost all my hair. That's when I made the switch to being a red head.

Veteran soap actress Andrea Evans recently revealed that she was now cancer free saying, "In April I had been diagnosed with stage one breast cancer. I kept it private, but now I'm cancer-free."

Daytime soap turned reality producer Mary-Ellis Bunim battled breast cancer and passed away in 2004.

Yvonne Perry also bravely battled breast cancer in recent years and blogged about it on her website.  She is now happy and cancer free and part of the cast of EMPIRE.

These are some of the fictional and real stories that stand out in our minds. But there are countless other stories to be told.  Have any breast cancer story lines from soaps been a favorite of yours or meant something to you in a personal way?  Feel free to include primetime and international soaps as well.  Share your thoughts in our Comments section.

Additional information on National Breast Cancer Awareness Month:
* The first NBCAM program took place in October 1985 as a week-long event to fill the information void in public communication about breast cancer. The founding members of the Board of Sponsors, the American Academy of Family Physicians, AstraZeneca Healthcare Foundation and CancerCare, Inc., distributed brochures, spoke to news reporters, and testified before a U.S. Congressional committee about the crucial need for widespread access to mammography.
* Today the National Breast Cancer Awareness Month (NBCAM) organization is comprised of several national public service organizations, professional medical associations, and government agencies working in partnership to build breast cancer awareness, share information and provide access to screening services.
* October is designated as Breast Cancer Awareness Month, however, at NBCAM, breast cancer awareness and education is a year-round mission.

For more information, visit


  1. I was wondering, if I'm not prying too much, how is Linda Cook's health nowadays? I'm hoping & praying that she's doing OK.

  2. "GL" also did a show where Reva and Lillian were at a support group. "Warriors in Pink" is featured.

  3. Thanks, xamanthe. I was starting to get afraid there were too many videos so I stopped at a certain point. This is great.

    If people have other links they want to post, please do.

    Brian, keep her in your thoughts. She's a great lady and a fighter.