Tennis great Martina Navratilova has revealed she is cancer-free following a dual fight with the disease.
In January, Navratilova announced she had been diagnosed with throat and breast cancer.
“This double whammy is serious but still fixable, and I’m hoping for a favourable outcome,” she said in a statement at the time.
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Appearing in an upcoming interview on TalkTV’s Piers Morgan Uncensored, Navratilova said she first learnt in December that she had the early stages of throat cancer and that her doctor believed the “squamous cell carcinoma” was coming from somewhere else in her body.
“I had a sense of foreboding when I asked the doctor, ‘What do you think the chances are?’ and he says, ‘About 50-50’. I was like, ‘I don’t like those odds’,” she said.
“The lymph nodes don’t get swollen for no reason, and so I didn’t have a good feeling about it at that point. And then when the doctor called me and told me it could be coming from the liver or the kidney or the lungs, and I’m thinking it could be the brain, it could be the pancreas, the liver’s not a good thing either.
“So, I was in total panic for three days thinking I may not see next Christmas. This was the first week in December, I will see this Christmas but maybe not the next one.”
While Navratilova was undergoing tests on her throat, cancer in her right breast was also discovered.
In 2010, Navratilova was diagnosed with a non-invasive form of breast cancer in her left breast and underwent a lumpectomy to remove the mass.
“I was very up and down. I find out it’s throat cancer, I think I could be dying but then I find out, no, it’s very treatable,” she said.
“Then they found the right breast, and when I had the biopsy on the right breast the doctor was saying this doesn’t look great and that’s when she sat down like, ‘Oh great, I have another cancer’ and that’s when I started crying on the table as she’s still poking and getting samples out of my boob and I’m like, ‘Oh great, now I have two cancers at the same time that are not related’.
“Who else has two cancers at the same time? I’m a great achiever but this is getting ridiculous, following in (my former rival) Chris Evert’s footsteps, who went through cancer a year before with the same place in New York.”
Asked her if she thought that “this could be it” for her when she was rediagnosed, Navratilova said she feared her life would be cut short.
“Yeah, I did that weekend when I didn’t know where it was coming from, then you get hopeful when you realise it’s very treatable but still it’s not an easy one to fix, but you definitely come face-to-face with mortality a lot more when you’re 65 compared to when you’re 50 or 55 or whatever I was, 52,” she said.
“The bucket list comes into mind of all the things I wanted to do, and this may sound really shallow, but I was like, ‘Okay which kick-ass car do I really want to drive if I live like a year’ because I love driving, I love being in a great car… that’s what I was thinking about.
“But once the oncologist said, ‘No, it’s from your throat and it’s very treatable’, then I’m like, ‘Okay, so what do we do?’ You get into tennis mode… that’s where having been a champion athlete comes in pretty handy.”
The 18-time grand slam singles champion and member of the International Tennis Hall of Fame became emotional when describing the bell survivors ring to signify that they are cancer-free.
“I rang it three times,” Navratilova said through tears.
“It’s very hard not to cry, sorry. I’m crying just looking at it again because you just can’t wait to ring the bell and I’m still in God’s hands whether or not you’re going to be 100 per cent or not but you hope for the best.”
While undergoing treatment, Navratilova said she struggled with the loss of her appetite.
”I knew it was going to be hard but I didn’t realise it was going to be as hard as it really was. You know how much I love to eat, as we have had dinner together,” she told Morgan.
“I love to eat and eating was the hardest part of this whole treatment. I lost seven kilograms, not because I wanted to, but because I just couldn’t get enough food in my body.
“The radiation, the proton therapy affects your throat and the mouth, and there is a lot going on and it started closing up. I couldn’t even yawn.”
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