Giving Back to the Cancer Community

When MTV reality star Diem Brown was diagnosed with cancer, she made it her mission to improve the lives of fellow patients. Here's her story.

Deborah Pike Olsen
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She was given an internal ultrasound, and "the doctor found an 8-inch cyst on my ovary," she says. "If I hadn't gone back then, I would have waited an entire year to be checked."

Diem had surgery to remove the cyst, and she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer—the same kind she had in her other ovary. It turns out that the type of cancer she has (mucinous) can't be detected via a CA-125 test. "I wasn't angry this time; I was numb," she recalls.

Diem underwent fertility treatments to retrieve and freeze eggs before she lost her remaining ovary. "I want hope at the end of the tunnel," she says of her desire to become a biological mom. So far, she's had 10 eggs frozen. Afterward, she had surgery to remove the last part of her remaining ovary. Her doctor told her that her cancer may have actually started in another part of her body.

Diem is committed to raising awareness of cancer. She participated in the Stand Up To Cancer Telethon, a televised event during which celebrities raise money for cancer research. She has started chemotherapy and is blogging about it. She recently wrote, "I'm trusting that my personal doctor and his colleagues will find the best way to help me fight back and kick the hell out of whatever cancer is in me!"

Diem's tips for thriving during cancer treatment

  1. Do things that make you happy. "You can choose to be happy," says Diem. "Go outside and enjoy the sun or plan a vacation for when you're done with chemo."
  2. Be active. "I'm a runner, and I ran throughout my cancer treatment [the first time]," says Diem. "It's a great way to lift your spirits. When I didn't feel well, I walked." She plans to continue running during her next course of treatment. 
    How it might help you: Exercise can boost your energy, relieve stress, and decrease anxiety and depression during treatment, according to the American Cancer Society.
  3. Take charge of your diet. "I try to visualize cancer," says Diem. "I see 'good guys' and 'bad guys.' Every time I eat a tortilla chip, I feel like I'm giving cancer [the edge]. So I'll eat an apple instead."
  4. Put a positive spin on bad experiences. "I believe everything happens for a reason," says Diem. "I can look back at my life and see that good things come out of every bad experience. During my first battle with cancer, for instance, 
    I founded MedGift."
  5. Be open-minded about dietary changes. "My favorite drink is Diet Sunkist," admits Diem. "But my doctor told me that when you're undergoing chemo, you can't keep food down. If you practice juicing, some nutrients will stay in you." Diem plans to buy a juicer, which extracts juices from fresh fruits and uncooked vegetables.
    How it might help you: Fresh juice contains plenty of cancer-fighting vitamins and plant compounds, and it's easily absorbed by the body, according to the Stanford Cancer Institute, a National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated cancer center in Stanford, CA.
November 2012