In Her Own Words
by Laura Shipp
From her remarkable childhood as the daughter of infamous rock manager Don Arden to managing and marrying heavy metal icon Ozzy Osbourne, Sharon Osbourne has, in her own words, “lived fifty lives in fifty years.” She sparked a media phenomenon when she approached MTV with the idea of filming a reality series based around the ordinary activities of her anything but ordinary family. Her clever idea grew to become an Emmy-winning reality show, simply called The Osbournes, starring Ozzy, Sharon, Kelly, and Jack.
Diagnosed with colon cancer in 2002, Sharon allowed cameras to document her illness for the show’s second season, helping to shed light on the disease. In her usual frank manner, the first lady of heavy metal shares with Coping® magazine her thoughts on battling cancer in the public eye.
How did you discover you had colon cancer?
After a blood test, they discovered I was very badly anemic and that I needed to have a colonoscopy.
What was your immediate reaction to your diagnosis?
How did Ozzy and your children react when they heard the news?
They were all completely devastated and frightened.
What did your treatment consist of?
Surgery, then weekly chemo.
When you found out that the cancer had spread to your lymph nodes, how did you respond?
I responded very badly because initially everyone thought it would be the operation and not the chemo, and I didn’t prepare myself for the possibility that it had spread.
What influenced your decision to allow cameras to continue filming your ordeal for the reality show?
I didn’t want my family to realize how sick I was. If I had asked the cameras to leave the house, they would have sensed that it was quite serious. And also, it helped me take my mind off my illness, and it was good to keep a video diary of my treatment.
To experience cancer made me re-evaluate my life, myself as a person, things I thought were important in life.
Did you ever have second thoughts about your decision or consider canceling the show?
Initially, my reaction was to cancel it, but then as I said, my family would have realized how sick I was.
What was it like for you and your family to go through this experience with cameras filming your every move?
It was business as usual, and that’s the way I decided to keep it. As little disruption to our family routine as possible.
Did you receive a lot of support from your fans?
That’s the one thing that absolutely kept me going, everybody’s kind wishes and letters. I was overwhelmed by people’s thoughtfulness. It really, really helped me through.
What one good thing, if any, has come from having cancer?
That it doesn’t mean a death sentence, and it helped me grow as a person. To experience cancer made me re-evaluate my life, myself as a person, things I thought were important in life. I realized I was being very shallow and selfish.
How has it changed your perspective on your career and on life in general?
Career-wise, it made me realize I could do things I thought I couldn’t do. And if I failed, it really wasn’t that important because my career is not of great importance. It’s a gift, not a priority in my life.
What are your future plans?
To carry on, live my life to the full and to continue appreciating what I have.
What advice do you have for newly diagnosed cancer survivors?
Don’t be afraid, and it’s essential to keep a strong, positive state of mind.
Sharon Osbourne’s autobiography, Sharon Osbourne Extreme: My Autobiography, is available at most major booksellers. For more information about Sharon, visit SharonOsbourne.com.
This article was published in Coping® with Cancer magazine, May/June 2007.