‘I feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude’
by Laura Shipp
Every holiday season, millions of fans tune in to Hallmark’s Countdown to Christmas for their yearly dose of small-town seasonal charm, wholesome holiday romance, and, of course, a Christmas miracle or two. Earlier this year, just days after wrapping up filming for his latest Hallmark Christmas movie, actor and Hallmark Channel’s Home & Family host Cameron Mathison received what he describes as a miracle of his own.
Struggling with gastrointestinal issues for years, the former All My Children star had been going from doctor to doctor trying to get a diagnosis. Finally, after much persistence, Cameron convinced one of his doctors to send him for an MRI.
“I knew in my heart of hearts that something was going on with my body that was not normal,” Cameron confides in a recent interview with Coping magazine. “I just know my body. So, I went to several doctors and I took several tests and would not let it go until I got this MRI.”
While the MRI showed that there was nothing amiss with his gastrointestinal tract, it did reveal a small mass on Cameron’s right kidney. That mass was later diagnosed as renal cell carcinoma, or kidney cancer.
“It was as if time stood still,” Cameron says recalling the moment he learned the mass on his kidney was likely cancer. “It didn’t seem real. And, of course, I didn’t know anything about kidney cancer. I didn’t know if it had spread. I didn’t know if it was a death sentence. I didn’t know anything. I just heard cancer, and it was pretty scary.”
Cameron says his doctors estimate that the tumor on his kidney had been growing there for eight to ten years. If he hadn’t insisted on that MRI, who knows how much more it would have grown before it was detected. Fortunately for Cameron, his cancer was not aggressive and had not spread to his lymph nodes or to any other part of his body. He underwent a laparoscopic partial nephrectomy, in which doctors removed a portion of his kidney along with all the tumor.
“No chemo, no radiation in my case, which I was super grateful for,” Cameron shares. “The pathology report came back, and the margins were all clear. Which was great news.”
In the days leading up to his surgery, Cameron opened up about his ordeal with Home & Family viewers. He also reached out to his fans on social media, asking them for positive thoughts and prayers.
“We share a lot of ourselves on our show,” Cameron says. “It’s one of things that makes this show unique. We share our successes, and sometimes our failures. I knew there was no way I could go through this without eventually talking about it on Home & Family. It was really important for me to be open and honest.
(Photo: Cameron relaxes with his wife, Vanessa Mathison, during a day of skiing. Photo by Vanessa Mathison)
“It has been unbelievably positive the reaction,” he adds. “And I don’t regret it at all. Maybe it will encourage people to go to their doctor appointments and listen to their bodies.”
Cameron says he realizes he is fortunate that his cancer experience had such a good outcome. “I feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude,” he says. “There are so many people going through cancer situations that are a lot tougher and a lot scarier.”
However, that’s not to say that he takes his cancer diagnosis lightly or that it hasn’t been life altering. “I’ve always tried to channel my life to be grateful for every day, to really get the most out of it, and to live a meaningful, spiritual life as much as I can,” Cameron says. “I thought I was doing it … until I had a life or death situation. And it made me realize how precious every day is and how important it is to take good care of our bodies and our minds.”
I’ve always tried to channel my life to be grateful for every day. I thought I was doing it … until I had a life or death situation.
Now cancer-free, Cameron is focusing on his family and getting back to work. “I’ve got a really sweet Christmas Hallmark Channel movie coming out at the end of November called The Christmas Club,” he says. “I was on the set of this movie just before I got my diagnosis. The movie is all about Christmas miracles and random acts of kindness. And then just days after I finished filming it, I feel like I had this miracle of my own by being allowed to get this MRI that found this random tumor on my kidney.”
This article was published in Coping® with Cancer magazine, November/December 2019.