Emma Stone Spreads Breast Cancer Awareness

When actress Emma Stone's mom was diagnosed with breast cancer, they became closer then ever. Here, how they supported each other—and others fighting the cause.

Ellen Byron
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Emma Stone will never forget the phone conversation that changed her life. In October 2008, she called her mom, Krista, who happened to be on her way home from a mammogram appointment. When Krista heard Emma's voice, she burst into tears. "She had found a [breast] lump…and she needed a biopsy and was scared," recalls the 24-year-old actress, who has starred in The Amazing Spider-Man, The Help and Crazy, Stupid, Love. "For the first time in my life, I heard my mom cry out of fear."

Shortly afterward, Krista, then 48, was diagnosed with Stage II breast cancer. "Emma was unbelievably calming," she recalls. "In that moment, she became the parent and I became the child. It was special in a strange way."

Emma herself was surprised by her reaction. "I got pretty stoic, which is the opposite of how I usually react to things in life, being the Scarlett O'Hara type that I am," she says. "Hearing that your mother has been diagnosed with breast cancer is horrifying, but you have to focus on the person who's actually going through the experience and worry about how she's feeling more than how you're feeling."

"A difficult, terrifying time"
Krista vividly recalls the moment she realized something was wrong. She was putting sports drinks in the refrigerator and accidentally brushed up against one of her breasts. "I felt some tenderness," she recalls. "I thought, What is that? I could even feel the lump through my bra. I was sort of perimenopausal, so I thought, Oh, this is hormones." Krista called her gynecologist, who recommended a mammogram. It turned out she had triple negative breast cancer, an especially aggressive form of the disease.

Krista underwent a double mastectomy, then 25 weeks of chemotherapy. Afterward, she had radiation and participated in a clinical trial involving an experimental medication. Watching Krista fight for her life was "a really difficult, terrifying time," says Emma, her voice filled with emotion. "I wanted to latch onto her and never let go, to be by her side every minute, keeping her safe," Emma wrote in her mother's blog, kristasbiggirlpanties.com. "I [was] in New York shooting the most beautiful movie…but all I wanted was to be next to her in Arizona."

Krista wouldn't have it. "My greatest joy was to see everybody live their lives because it gave me a diversion," she says. "I said, 'If you don't do the film [Paper Man], I'm not going to do chemo. That's how strongly I feel. Please, go live your life—and call me and tell me all about it. It will help me through this because it will give me something to look forward to and something to talk about that isn't related to my health.' "

March 2013