Meredith Baxter Talks Breast Cancer
by Jim Longworth
When someone has had a series of unpleasant experiences, they are said to have been “put through the wringer”. That describes my friend Meredith Baxter to a tee. As a child she endured a bullying and sometimes creepy stepfather. Her beautiful celebrity Mom was often distant. She was shipped off to a high school far from home where she attempted suicide. She was fired from her first job. She was physically abused by her husband. She struggled with alcoholism, was cheated by a business partner, and dealt with the stresses of coming out as gay. And, by the way, she fought breast cancer twice.
Today at the age of 76, Meredith is cancer-free and happily married to long-time partner Nancy Locke. She has a great relationship with her children and is just about the nicest person I’ve ever met. She’s also unpretentious. One day I answered the phone, and it was Meredith on the line. I said, “I love it when celebrities call me.” Without missing a beat Meredith replied, “Well I’ll hang up and maybe one will call you.” We both laughed.
I first met Meredith in 2008 when she participated in a TV Moms event that I moderated for the Television Academy. That night we honored her for playing the beautiful hippie Mom to Michael J. Fox in “Family Ties”. Next month she will be the keynote speaker at the 28th Annual Gathering of Friends luncheon in Greensboro, hosted by earlier.org, an organization that promotes early breast cancer testing. Meredith and I visited by phone recently and we talked about her personal experiences with the disease.
JL: In your book, “Untied”, you wrote about being diagnosed with breast cancer in 1999 at the age of 52, and you said that you knew very little about the disease, mainly just misconceptions.
MB: Yeah, I thought you were not a good candidate for breast cancer unless your mother had it, and even then, it wasn’t guaranteed. I think my great grandmother on my father’s side had it, but I didn’t know for sure.
JL: When you told your ex-husband of the diagnosis, you said he was “All caught up in the drama of losing a breast…MINE.” Talk about the importance of family support when you have breast cancer.
MB: I think anytime there’s a trauma going on in the family, you want to know that you have people you can count on to listen to you complain and to have an outlet, so they know that you’re hurting. I would say that my kids filled in that blank. I didn’t want to do anything at first and just couldn’t believe I had cancer. But my daughter Kate said, “Mom, you gotta do it”, and you just don’t argue with Kate, so I had surgery. I will also say that in the absence of support like the situation with my ex-husband, they’re taking up all of the air in the room with THEIR sense of tragedy and what THEY were losing. That’s hard to take.
JL: I’ve heard some women say that they won’t get a mammogram because they don’t want to know. What do you say to them?
MB: I understand that. My father died of Alzheimers and his father died of Alzheimers, but I refuse to take one of those ancestry tests because I am terrified of knowing. So, I can’t argue with someone who wants not to know if they have breast cancer. Of course, if you feel a lump, you’d be an idiot not to get a mammogram. There’s no down-side to getting a mammogram, and the earlier you get diagnosed, the better your chance of surviving.
JL: You’ve been through a lot of stressful events in your life, most of which you wrote about in your book, and which you talk about at speaking engagements. Do you ever have women come up to you and thank you for your honesty?
MB: Yeah. After my book came out, I was on a plane and the flight attendant walked down the aisle and knelt down by my seat and whispered, “You told my story.” And that happens a lot, whether it was about my book, or whether it was about a movie I was in, like the one about Bulimia. Young women who watched that film would come up to me and say, “Oh my God, how did you know my story? It made such a difference.” I found out later that the Bulimia movie was mandatory viewing in a lot of high school health classes. So, I like being part of something that makes a difference for people.
No doubt Meredith’s upcoming appearance in Greensboro will make a difference in many more lives.
The Gathering of Friends luncheon is on Wednesday, October 11 at the Sheraton Greensboro Four Seasons. Following the luncheon, Meredith is scheduled to sign copies of her book. For tickets visit www.earlier.org.
Post-Modern Sitcoms / Actors That Wrote Books / 1987 Gilbert Gottfried Pilot Written By Larry David / Tarantino, DiCaprio & Pitt on Once Upon A Time In Hollywood / Ray Liotta and Joe Pesci Talk Goodfellas / Coming to America - The Awful Sitcom? / Robert Wagner Interview / Helen Mirren on 1923 / Lucky 19-Year Old Birthday Boy on The Price is Right / 1990-1999 TV Commercials / James Hong on the First & Only Asian Talent Agent in Hollywood / More Than Myagi: The Pat Morita Story / Chevy Chase 2021 Interview / Ally McBeal and that Darn Dancing Baby / Ed Begley Jr. Interview / Peter Boyle's Heart Attack on the Set of Everybody Loves Raymond / Patrick Swayze Refused To Do 'Ghost' Without Whoopie Goldberg / Clark Furlong on Stephen King's Mini-Series Lisey's Story / 14-Year Old Brody Bett Steals the Show at a David Foster Concert / Worst Big Budget Superhero Movie of All Time / Jerry Springer's Toxic TV Legacy / Three Generations of Talent / One Season Too Many / Dick Wolf on the Writer's Strike / Angela Lansbury Tribute / Houston Knights / Uncle Buck Sitcom / My Brush With King Charles / Bonnie Bartlett Daniels Interview / Frank Zappa Talk Show? / Remembering Marvel & Buffy Scribe Pierce Askegren / Piper Laurie Tribute / 1993 Route 66 Reboot / David Hyde Pierce on the Last Days of ‘Frazier’ / Angela Lansbury Interview / The Shadow Movies of the 1930s & 40s / Remembering Hal Holbrook / Remembering Angela Lansbury / Greensboro Movie Theaters : Star Theatre / Police Squad Shot-By-Shot Remake of M Squad! / A Painting Saved Bill Murray's Life / Why Jim Carrey Fought to Cast Jeff Daniels in 'Dumb and Dumber' / Meredith Baxter Talks Breast Cancer / Sopranos Creator David Chase Had to Fight to Make Tony Soprano the Mobster He Was / Joan Collins on Working With Drunk Actors / Snowmaggedon 1969 / Joe Pesci HATES Practical Jokes / Books About Showbiz / Making It in Showbiz / Dark Justice / My Fave Book About Showbiz / Remembering Billy Packer / More Celebrity Biographies / Peter Falk : Inside The Actor's Studio / Jason Alexander on Duckman / Robert Ebert on Robert Mitchum / Watch Dave Chappelle's New Netflix Special for Free / Margaret (Wicked Witch of the West) Hamilton Was Almost Scarred For Life Filming Wizard of Oz / Restaurant Chains We Might Lose In 2020 / Night Heat / Short History of TV Advertising / Is Ellen A Monster? / To Binge Or Not To Binge? / 1986-87 TV SEASON / Celebrity Bios 4 / 1988-89 TV SEASON / 1990-91 TV SEASON / Can Comic Book City Survive? / When TV Plays Politics for Laughs / The Worst Thing I Ever Saw (Part 2) / Greensboro's Beef (Biff) Burger Has Closed! / Sally Field Looks Back on Smokey and the Bandit / Actors Writing Memoirs 2 / Gene Wilder's Sexual Chemistry with Richard Pryor / WORST Pizzas Served On Kitchen Nightmares / Ricky Gervais' Cruelly Funny 2020 Golden Globe Monologue / What It's Like To Win A New Car on The Price Is Right / Night Train! 3 - Las Vegas Comic Pat Cooper / Night Train! 4 - Resurrection and Death of Louis Prima / Denis Shepard of Paradise Lost / Space Force Logo is a Ripoff from Star Trek! / Batman Movie from 1939? What?!? / Michael Richards (Kramer) Really Hated It When his Seinfeld Co-Stars Messed Up / Melissa McCarthy Almost Quit Acting Days Before Landing Gilmore Girls / Bar Rescue's Wildest Customers! / How The Golden Girls and Elvis Got Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs Made / Charlie Brown Voice Actor Released From Prison / New Year's Eve on TV / Sir Laurence Olivier on the 'Genius' of Marlon Brando / 1967 Futurists Predict The 21st Century / Remembering Diahann Carroll / 50 Funniest Niles Crane Insults / TV HITS - By the Numbers / How Tom Hanks Played Mr. Rogers / Colin Farrell as The Penguin? / Alex Baldwin On His TV and Film Roles / Ray Charles' BIG Problem With TV / Malcolm Gladwell on TV Crime Dramas / Why Dolly Parton Would Not Let Elvis Record 'I Will Always Love You' / Top Ten Sitcoms of the 1970s / Danny McBride Rebooting Hogan's Heroes? / Fashion on TV / Alive & Well / James Cameron Made No Money for Titanic / Whatever Happened To Miss Cleo? / Lucy Blows Off Burt Reynolds / Dave Navarro Meets His Mother's Killer / The Real Mindhunters Killers / John Goodman Breaks Down His Iconic Roles / Growing Up In The Playboy Mansion / Ed McMahon Drunk on the Air! / Lucy Interviewed by Barbara Walters / Valerie Harper Cancer / Jeff Bridges Breaks Down His Iconic Roles / Dog Fight! The KCNC Scandal / Buckley vs Hefner / Laurence Olivier vs Marilyn Monroe / Dallas vs Eight is Enough / 1974 MAD Magazine TV Special - Never Aired! / Iconic M*A*S*H Restaurant Coming To Kroger? / Matt Damon, Bill Murray, and Graham Norton - Big Laughs! / When Lucy Got Fired / Partridge Family and Brady Bunch at Kings Island theme park 1972-73 / Awkward Talk Show Moments / Allan Blye Interview / Jack Benny's Last Tonight Show 1974 / Patricia Heaton's Audition for Everybody Loves Raymond / Luke Perry's Last Role / Johnny Cash's Last Interview / Judy Garland's Last Film / Who Was Bob Gordon? / Richard Dreyfuss vs Bill Murray / Jeff Ross vs Everybody / Tennessee Williams 1972 Interview / Ed Asner Interview / Norm Macdonald vs OJ Simpson / Tony Kornheiser Interview / Freddy's Nightmares TV Series / Awful 1990s TV Shows / The Funniest Comebacks in Talk Show History / Was Sonny Bono Murdered? / Robin Williams' Mrs. Doubtfire Screen Tests / Robert Downey Jr Asks for Forgiveness for Mel Gibson / Russell Brand / Hank Williams: The Show He Never Gave / Judy Garland vs Liz Taylor / Emmy Award Multiple Winners / Nathaniel Taylor aka Rollo Lawson / Anthony Zuiker: Mr. CSI / Jimmy & Cher / Diana Muldaur: A Viewer's History / Uncle Andy's Funhouse / Bea Arthur vs Betty White / Skidoo: Worst All-Star Comedy Ever? / Every Marvel Cartoon Opening Theme From 1966 - Present / When Stars Play Themselves / My Pen Pal is in the Pen, Pal / Small Roles Big Performances / Barbara Hall / Stars Before They Were Famous / Stars Before They Were Famous 2 / Stars Before They Were Famous 3 / A Better Classic TV Network / Bill Paxton / Who Was the Black Daliah? / How Frasier Was Created / Music Videos / Chitty Chitty Bang Bang - Behind the Scenes / Shirley Jones Interview / What We Lost When We Lost VHS / When Hit TV Shows Return / Commercials Starring Sopranos Cast Members / Shows Nobody Remembers But Me 4 / Shows Nobody Remembers But Me 1 / Bryan Cranston Interview / FREE streaming movie service you didn’t know you have / The Great Cable TV Migration / Sportscaster Woody Durham / Movie Posters and the documentary 24x36 /Chris Robinson /Dallas Reboot /David Letterman /Auditioning For Game Shows in the 80s /Ghosts of Cable TV past / Honey Boo Boo - WTF?!? / Steven Bochco Tribute / Ian Abercrombie / Joe Franklin / John Nettles / Gotham / Family Fued: Gilligan's Island vs Lost In Space / Jon Cryer / Jon Stewart / Lana Wood / David Letterman / Matt Bomer / Molly Ringwald / Morgan Brittany / Music Rights for TV Shows / Neilsen Ratings / Norman Lloyd / Not Your Dad's TV / TV Series Reunions / Rich Little / Special Bulletin with George Clooney / Howard Stern VS Jamie Foxx / Top Ten Action Movies / 2013 Emmy Awards / 2010 Celebrity Deaths
It is what it is!