by Jessica Webb
Giuliana and Bill Rancic live their lives in the public eye, and they don’t hold anything back. For their Style Network reality show, Giuliana & Bill, they even let cameras in on their struggle to start a family, including failed in vitro fertilization treatments and a miscarriage – issues many people keep hidden.
The couple has been through the wringer the past few years, but when the E! News host was diagnosed with breast cancer, they insisted the cameras keep rolling. In a recent interview with Coping® magazine, Giuliana and Bill open up about their cancer experience and how – together – they came out on the other side.
Giuliana’s early-stage breast cancer was discovered by accident last September when her fertility doctor ordered a mammogram before administering another round of IVF treatments. Thinking she was too young for breast cancer, the results caught both Giuliana and Bill off guard. “It’s definitely the worst feeling in the world,” Giuliana says of her breast cancer diagnosis. “It’s the moment no woman wants to live through.”
“It’s gut wrenching,” Bill adds. “As a husband, we want to always be the protector. We’ve got to be the problem solver. And this was a problem that I wasn’t able to solve.”
After a lumpectomy, the couple was hit with more troubling news – cancerous cells were still present in Giuliana’s breast. Rather than take her chances with another lumpectomy, Giuliana decided on a double mastectomy with immediate reconstruction.
“I just didn’t want to look over my shoulder for the rest of my life. We spoke to our doctors, and they felt that was the best course of action for me,” Giuliana explains. “We’re very glad we did it.”
Something like this can either tear couples apart or bring them closer together…
Just two weeks after her mastectomy, Giuliana was back to work. “The truth is, work was a fabulous distraction for me,” she says. “Instead of sitting in bed and thinking about it all day, it was nice to go to work and focus on other things, which I think helped me heal faster.”
Ever the adoring husband, Bill right away embraced his role as caregiver. “As a spouse, the best thing that I was able to do,” Bill says, “was to try to take the emotion out of the decision making, and make sure that we made smart decisions, not based on emotion, but on factual information and guidance that we’d been given.”
In the beginning, Giuliana admits, “I definitely had some very dark moments, but eventually I tried to focus on the positive in my situation and in my life, not just the negative.”
Though Giuliana was the one with cancer, she says, “It’s so hard on the partner as well.” But Bill was her “rock,” she asserts, lifting her out of her darkest moments.
The couple insists this experience has even had a positive effect on their relationship. “Something like this can either tear couples apart or bring them closer together,” Giuliana says, “and with us, it certainly strengthened our bond. We don’t take life, or any moment we have together, for granted.”
Bill, too, realizes just how important his presence has been. “We’ve had some hurdles along the way, but we’ve never given up,” he says. “We’ve always been there for each other. That’s the most important thing. In this marriage, if one person’s down, the other is there to pick them up.”
The couple’s faith has also played a part. “We certainly realize that there was a bigger play at hand here – that God had a master plan for us and that this was just part of my journey,” Giuliana says. “When something like this happens to you, you turn to your partner, and you turn to your faith.”
Giuliana now embraces her new life as a survivor. “I feel like I’m part of the sisterhood of wonderful women who go through this journey and start out very scared and frightened, but end up stronger than ever before,” she says.
She and Bill also recently received the news they’ve been waiting years for – they’re having a baby through a gestational carrier. “We feel like the sky’s the limit!” proclaims Giuliana. “It just goes to show that sometimes, even in the darkest of situations, the most beautiful light will eventually emerge. And that happened for us.”
Leading up to Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October, 2012, Giuliana and Bill will be working with Greater Talent Network to spread hope and awareness by speaking to audiences across the country about their cancer journey. “We want to touch as many people as we can and share our story – not only the patient side but also the caregiver’s side,” explains Bill. “In a struggle like this, it’s a team effort, and it affects the whole family. We hopefully will be able to shed some light on how we handled it and maybe bring a little humor to it.”
This article was published in Coping® with Cancer magazine, May/June 2012.