Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Jackie Collins blamed self for not checking lump

Why best-selling book writer Jackie Collins kept her breast cancer a secret for years

Best-selling steamy-book author Jackie Collins may have given away one of her best stories.

Or, at least, one of her longest held secrets.

Only days before she died last month, Collins was interviewed by Elizabeth Leonard of People magazine for a series of articles in which she revealed, for the first time publicly, her longstanding breast cancer diagnosis and impending death.

She said, from her Beverly Hills home, that she wanted on her gravestone the following: "She gave a great deal of people a great deal of pleasure."

That pleasure took the form of what severe critics called filthy or sexy trash, and more charitable detractors called clichĂ©-riddled potboilers (defined in her case as melodramatic novels about Hollywood, celebrities and their glamorous lives that may have been written expressly to make money rather than for artistic purposes).

Collins' father, Joe, despite expressing pride in her accomplishments, told her he believed her books were pornographic.

Jackie (left) and Joan Collins
People noted that the 77-year-old writer had kept her secret from her older sister, Joan Collins, 82, star of television's "Dynasty," for six and a half years because she didn't want to be a burden. 

Jackie said that she'd protected her sister because "she's very positive and very social but I'm not sure how strong she is."

When Jackie died, Joan told People she was "completely devastated" by having lost her "best friend."

Jackie had informed her three adult daughters — Tracy, Tiffany and Rory — but only after Rory, too, was diagnosed with breast cancer.  

She told only them, however, because "I didn't want to be on the front of the 'Enquirer' with two weeks to live. And I didn't want people's sympathy. I think sympathy can weaken you. I don't live my life that way. I like to be in control and so I took control of the situation."

She also told People she'd had to deal with losing her mother to breast cancer, her husband to prostate cancer and a fiancĂ©  to lung cancer, "and I did not want to put pressure on everybody in the family. So I happily, happily went day by day."

She had only one regret about the way she handled the situation, noting that she'd written five books since her initial diagnosis.

Over a period of four decades, she'd sold more than five million copies of her "naughty narratives" — 32 best-sellers in all — throughout the world.

At her death, she reportedly was still writing — and working on her autobiography.

The one regret? She admitted she'd delayed seeing a doctor for two years after being aware of a lump in her breast. 

Why the wait? Because she was "completely doctor-phobic" and believed, erroneously, that the tumor was benign. 

In truth, it had metastasized to her bones.

Her disclosure at the end, she said, was intended to prod women into getting regular checkups and to save lives. "Always get it checked," she told People, "And the sooner the better. That is the best advice I can give."

"I know we're all told to do it," she added, "but some of us are too stupid, and I was one of them."

In my book, "Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breastcancer," I, Woody Weingarten, detail how others deal with the diagnosis — some want everyone to know what's going on, some want no one to know.

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