‘Golden Girls’: Rue McClanahan Survived Breast Cancer, Revealed Reaction to Initial Diagnosis

by Keeli Parkey
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In addition to being one of the stars of “The Golden Girls,” Rue McClanahan was many other things. She was a Broadway star and a bestselling author. Maybe most importantly – she was a breast cancer survivor.

She talked about her cancer diagnosis and how she battled the disease during a 2008 interview with WOW! Women on Writing. According to IMDb.com, the comedic actress was diagnosed with cancer in 1997.

During the interview, “The Golden Girls” actress was asked to share the initial reaction she had when she found out she had breast cancer. And, she reacted the way most people would when getting such worrisome news.

“I was sitting up on the examination table when my doctor said, “’It’s breast cancer.’ I got very dizzy instantly and had to grab the table to keep from falling,” McClanahan said during the interview. “I guess that’s called ‘fainting,’ or ‘getting the vapors,’ as my friend, Lette, used to say.”

So, how did the woman who so well embodied Blanche Devereaux on “The Golden Girls” change her mindset after that initial shock? She sought out the help of a therapist. Working with that professional, she learned coping techniques that helped her make it through her battle with cancer.

“I went to therapy sessions where I learned to draw pictures of my immune cells fighting the dumb cancer cells, and winning,” McClanahan told WOW!. “Then I lay down and visualized it.”

Staying Positive Helped ‘Golden Girls’ Actress Rue McClanahan in Battle Against Cancer

Keeping a positive outlook certainly helped the actress in her battle against cancer, according to the interview.

“As Winston Churchill said, ‘I’m an optimist. Nothing else makes any sense.’ We can empower ourselves with our thoughts and meditations, our imagination exercises,” McClanahan told WOW!.

According to IMDb.com, her breast cancer treatment involved a lumpectomy. McClanahan also had to endure five months of chemotherapy. After she recovered she decided to help others through breast cancer. The website reported that she spoke to breast-cancer support groups with a talk called “Aging Gracefully.”

In addition to surviving breast cancer, Rue McClanahan also survived a personal life that wasn’t always happy. “The Golden Girls” star married six times during her life. Five of those ended in divorce. And, she was separated from her sixth husband at the time of her death.

At one point, McClanahan’s personal life turned scary. This took place during her marriage to her third husband. This husband was actor Peter DeMaio.

“To tell you the truth I was afraid of him,” she told PEOPLE during the 1980s. “He was Italian and very hot-tempered. I had never known anyone like that.”

McClanahan asked him to go to therapy for his anger issues. However, the counselor told the couple that they should break up.

“I’ve only advised this once in my career, but I advise you not to stay together,” McClanahan once recalled.

Rue McClanahan passed away on June 3, 2010. Her cause of death was a brain hemorrhage, according to IMDb.com. She was 76 years old at the time of her death.

Outsider.com