An actor and producer turned country music star—not to mention the wife of Oscar winner and Hollywood darling Tom Hanks—Rita Wilson has kept extraordinarily busy in the world of entertainment. But in 2015, all of that came to a standstill when the star was diagnosed with breast cancer. Taking leave from starring in a Broadway play to begin her treatment, Wilson underwent a bilateral mastectomy, which proved successful in keeping her cancer at bay. Today, Wilson is enjoying good health, and says she has changed one major thing about her diet in hopes of keeping it that way. Read on to learn which one food Rita Wilson stopped eating after her diagnosis, and to hear the crucial message she’s now sharing with other women.
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In 2015, Wilson was diagnosed with invasive lobular carcinoma, a common form of breast cancer that begins in the milk glands. In April of that year, she shared a statement with the public (via People) confirming that she had undergone a double mastectomy and breast reconstruction as part of her treatment.
“I am recovering and most importantly, expected to make a full recovery,” Wilson wrote at the time. “Why? Because I caught this early, have excellent doctors and because I got a second opinion.” The songwriter explained that she had already been diagnosed with a related condition, lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS), which her doctors had been monitoring through annual mammograms and breast MRIs. When she went for her scans in 2015, her medical team found abnormal cells in the milk glands, but believed them to be benign.
Luckily, Wilson was unsatisfied with this answer, sensing that something deeper could be wrong. “A friend who had had breast cancer suggested I get a second opinion on my pathology and my gut told me that was the thing to do,” Wilson recalled. “You have nothing to lose if both opinions match up for the good, and everything to gain if something that was missed is found, which does happen. Early diagnosis is key,” she said.
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Wilson says her superstar husband, Tom Hanks, was a crucial part of her support system throughout diagnosis and treatment. “I feel blessed to have a loving, supportive husband, family, friends and doctors and that I am the beneficiary of advances in the field of breast cancer and reconstruction,” she said at the time.
She later shared that conversations with Hanks following her diagnosis inspired her to process her experience with cancer through music. “Four years ago when I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I had so many different thoughts. You’re scared, anxious, you think about your own mortality,” she wrote on Instagram. “So I had a serious discussion with my husband that if anything happens, I wanted him to be super sad for a very long time, and I’d also like a party, a celebration.” Based on that experience, she wrote “Throw Me a Party,” a popular single on her fourth country album, Halfway to Home.
Wilson says enduring her diagnosis and treatment was a transformative experience—and one that changed her relationship with her own body. “Once you realize that there’s something in you that is trying to kill you, you have to accept that there’s going to be a new normal,” she told Health Magazine, five years after completing treatment. “It’s been a few years of feeling back to normal. I think the relationship to my body is that I don’t take it for granted.”
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As part of her “new normal,” Wilson has embraced certain lifestyle and diet changes. While speaking with Health in 2020, she shared that she no longer eats meat, and has significantly cut down on alcohol. “Of course, my diet and alcohol consumption have changed because of what we know helps,” she told the magazine. “For example, a plant-based diet is much healthier for breast cancer—and [I have] only three to five glasses of alcohol per week. That is not a lot when you really get down to it, and so there’s a discipline that comes to that,” she said.
The star continues to be proactive about her health, and says she practices daily mindfulness meditation to help reduce stress and anxiety. “I’m healthy today. I am not going to take it for granted, and I’m not going to mess with it,” she told Health.
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