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.
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."
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.' "
Emma's first day at work coincided with Krista's mastectomy, but she came home whenever she could. "She made it a priority," says Krista. "She was there for multiple treatments. She couldn't be there for my final treatment, so we did it via Skype." During visits home, Emma tried to amuse Krista to lift her spirits. "I followed the philosophy I've had my whole life, which is make 'em laugh," Emma explains.
"Emma was a great distraction," recalls Krista. "She knew exactly what I needed. She would [tell me] great stories and sing and dance. We had wonderful heart-to-heart talks, too. We've always been extremely close." Indeed, Emma says, "I still haven't gone a day without speaking to her on the phone…she's my best friend, and I want her to know everything that's going on in my life. And I want to know everything that's going on in hers."
Krista finds the lyrics, Take these broken wings and learn to fly, especially meaningful in the context of her experience. "Any time you're facing your mortality, you're broken," she says somberly. "You have no control; you don't know what's going to happen; you're scared. So, through all of that trauma, you have to learn to fly again."
Today, Krista has been in remission for almost five years. "It's very exciting," says Emma, who is dedicated to raising awareness of breast cancer. She recently became a global brand ambassador for the cosmetics giant Revlon, which launched a public service campaign called "Your Lips Can Save Lives." The campaign emphasizes the need to talk to your loved ones about cancer, since early detection saves lives.
Says Krista, "I think when a daughter reaches an age where she needs to be concerned about her breast health, a mother should probably say, 'Let's be breast buddies or breast friends.' Mothers and daughters can encourage each other to do self-exams at the same time every month and check on each other."
In May, three generations of Stone women will participate in the Entertainment Industry Foundation/Revlon Run/Walk For Women in New York City. "We're celebrating my mother's 80th birthday, and she's the leader of the pack!" Krista laughs.
Emma is passionate about events like these. "When you're walking through Times Square [in New York City] and everyone is wearing pink and is completely dedicated to…raising funds in support of breast cancer research…." Emma pauses as she searches for the right words. "It's unbelievable."
Close as mother and daughter were before Krista's ordeal, they've emerged from the experience with an even greater sense of love and appreciation for each other. "It's obviously a terrible thing to go through," Emma says. "But if our story can help find a cure, then that's ultimately the positive side of a really scary thing."