Wanda Sykes Reveals Breast Cancer, Double Mastectomy
As Breast Cancer Awareness Month approaches, some public figures are speaking out in an effort to help bring attention to the disease. For comedienne Wanda Sykes, it's also a time to reflect back on her own bout with breast cancer, which resulted in her having a double mastectomy.
The Emmy Award-winner revealed the news during an interview on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show scheduled to air on Monday. Sykes told DeGeneres that the discovery came after a recent breast reduction surgery. "I had breast cancer. Yeah, I know it's scary,” she said. "This was in February. I went for the reduction. I had real big boobs and I just got tired of knocking over stuff. Every time I eat ... Oh lord. I'd carry a Tide stick everywhere I go. My back was sore so it was time to have a reduction."
"It wasn't until after the reduction that in the lab work, the pathology, that they found that I had DCIS [ductal carcinoma in situ] in my left breast. I was very, very lucky because DCIS is basically stage-zero cancer. So I was very lucky."
After getting the news, Sykes' decided to have an bilateral mastectomy, due to her hectic schedule:
I had the choice of, you can go back every three months and get it checked. Have a mammogram, MRI every three months just to see what it's doing. But I'm not good at keeping on top of stuff. I'm sure I’m overdue for an oil change and a teeth cleaning already ... To have a bilateral mastectomy, I had both breasts removed ... because now I have zero chance of having breast cancer.
It sounds scary up front, but what do you want? Do you want to wait and not be as fortunate when it comes back and it's too late?
Sykes said discussing her health issues in public was something she weighed carefully. But she made light of the situation to DeGeneres. "I was like, 'I don't know, should I talk about it or what?' How many things could I have? I'm black, then lesbian. I can't be the poster child for everything ... At least with the LGBT issues we get a parade, we get a float, it's a party. [But] I was real hesitant about doing this, because I hate walking. I got a lot of [cancer] walks coming up."
Check out these other black comedians:
<b>Started Out</b>:Performing his profanity-laden stand-up routine at comedy clubs, including the same Bay Area Comedy Club as Robin Williams and Whoopi Goldberg. <br><b>Big Break</b>: In 1980, after much back and forth, Murphy joined the cast of the NBC sketch comedy show 'Saturday Night Live.' <br><b>Factoid</b>: Murphy was nominated for an Academy Award for his role as James "Thunder" Early in the big screen movie remake of the Broadway musical 'Dreamgirls.'
<b>Started Out</b>: Appearing at the downtown Baltimore Comedy Factory Outlet. <br><b>Big Break</b>: Starred on the hit UPN sitcom 'The Parkers.' <br><b>Factoid</b>: Born in 1967, Mo'Nique (real name: Monique Imes) is the author of 'Skinny Women are Evil: Notes of a Big Girl in a Small-Minded World' and the cookbook 'Skinny Cooks Can't Be Trusted.'
<b>Started Out</b>: Performing in New York City nightclubs alongside other acts such as Bob Dylan and Woody Allen. <br><b>Big Break</b>: Playing the role of a drug-addict piano player in 1972's 'Lady Sings the Blues.' <br><b>Factoid</b>: The release of his third comedy album, 'That Nigger's Crazy,' in 1974 led to a Grammy for best comedy album.
<b>Started Out</b>: Appearing on the sitcom 'Martin,' where he played 'Hustle Man.' <br><b>Big Break</b>: Morgan's claim to fame came in 1996 when he began appearing on 'Saturday Night Live.' <br><b>Factoid</b>: Andrew Dice Clay inspired Morgan to pursue comedy.
<b>Started Out</b>: Began doing stand-up in the mid-1980s and was a finalist in the second annual Johnnie Walker National Comedy Search in 1989. <br><b>Big Break</b>: Hosting the nationally syndicated TV series 'Showtime at the Apollo.' <br><b>Factoid</b>: Born in 1957, Harvey (real name: Broderick Steven Harvey) made his literary debut with the New York Times best-selling relationship/advice book 'Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man,' in 2009.
<b>Started Out</b>: Cutting his teeth on the New York City comedy circuit. <br><b>Big Break</b>: He co-wrote and starred in the 1998 stoner film 'Half Baked.' <br><b>Factoid</b>: Born in 1973, Chappelle (real name: David Anand Khari Webber Chappelle) helmed his eponymous Comedy Central show, which was wildly popular until he walked away in the middle of its third season.
<b>Started Out</b>: Making an appearance on the national talent show 'Star Search,' which ultimately led to a gig on 'What's Happening Now!' <br><b>Big Break</b>: Hosting the groundbreaking comedy series 'Def Comedy Jam.' <br><b>Factoid</b>: In 1989, Lawrence was engaged to 'Saved by the Bell' actress Lark Voorhies.
<b>Started Out</b>: Small parts in TV shows such as 'Roseanne' and 'Hangin' with Mr. Cooper.' <br><b>Big Break</b>: Playing Ice Cube's sidekick in the 1985 comedy movie 'Friday.' <br><b>Factoid</b>: Born in 1972, Tucker endorsed Barack Obama rather than Hillary Clinton in the 2008 primaries even though he traveled overseas with President Bill Clinton.
<b>Started Out</b>: Began her stand-up career at a Coors Light Super Talent Showcase in Washington, D.C. <br><b>Big Break</b>: Played multiple roles on Chris Rock's Emmy Award-winning HBO show. <br><b>Factoid</b>: During a Las Vegas gay rights rally in November 2008, Sykes proclaimed she was "proud to be gay."
<b>Started Out</b>: As a stand-up comedian in Chicago's Cotton Club. <br><b>Big Break</b>: A performance on HBO's Def Comedy Jam thrust him into the spotlight. <br><b>Factoid</b>: Born in 1957, Mac (real name: Bernard Jeffrey McCullough) passed away August 9, 2008 -- one day before his 'Soul Men' co-star Isaac Hayes.
<b>Started Out</b>: Doing stand-up in the northern New Jersey area while attending Rutgers University. <br><b>Big Break</b>: Appearing on HBO's 'Def Comedy Jam,' where he pioneered the popular term "booty call." <br><b>Factoid</b>: Bellamy was the voice of Skeeter in Nickelodeon's hit action-comedy series 'Cousin Skeeter.'
<b>Started Out</b>: While in his early twenties, Cosby appeared on various well-known variety programs including 'The Ed Sullivan Show.' <br><b>Big Break</b>: In 1965, he appeared as Alexander Scott in the Emmy Award-winning flick 'I Spy.' <br><b>Factoid</b>: Beginning in 1965, Cosby scored the Grammy Award for best comedy album six years in a row.
<b>Started Out</b>: Doing stand-up comedy in 1985 in New York City's Catch a Rising Star Comedy Club. <br><b>Big Break</b>: Was a cast member of the popular sketch comedy series 'Saturday Night Live.' <br><b>Factoid</b>: Born in 1965, Rock won a Grammy for best spoken comedy album in 1999 for the project 'Bigger & Blacker.'
<b>Started Out</b>: As a stand-up comic on the syndicated TV show 'Solid Gold.' <br><b>Big Break</b>: Starred in the hit 1990s sketch comedy show 'In Living Color,' along with family members Keenan Ivory Wayans, Kim Wayans, Marlon Wayans and Shawn Wayans. <br><b>Factoid</b>: Born in 1960, Wayans served as the executive producer of '413 Hope St.,' a short-lived drama on the FOX network starring Richard Roundtree and Jesse L. Martin, which premiered in 1997.
<b>Started Out</b>: Griffin began his acting career the 1991 action-thriller 'The Last Boy Scout.' <br><b>Big Break</b>: In 1996, Griffin showcased his talent on a national scale when he landed the role of Eddie on the TV series 'Malcolm & Eddie. <br><b>Factoid</b>: Suffered a heart attack in 1996 while taping an episode of 'Malcolm & Eddie' following a scene in which he did the salsa dance. <em>Correction: A previous version of this slide misspelled Griffin's last name as "Griffith."</em>
<b>Started Out</b>: As the original host of BET's 'Comic View' in 1992. <br><b>Big Break</b>: As the star of the ABC/UPN sitcom 'The Hughleys,' which aired on ABC and UPN from 1998 to 2002. <br><b>Factoid</b>: Born in 1964, the father of three hosted the late-night talk show 'Weekends on the DL' for Comedy Central and CNN's weekly 'D.L.Hughley Breaks the News.'
<b>Started Out</b>: Appeared on BET's 'Comic View' in 1999. <br><b>Big Break</b>: Was a cast member on 'Saturday Night Live' in 2003. <br><b>Factoid</b>: Born in 1972, the University of Miami graduate authored the book 'Your Girlfriends Only Know So Much.'
<b>Started Out</b>: Appearing as regular at the Apollo Theater and on 'The Tonight Show,' 'Laugh-In' and 'The Ed Sullivan Show.' Wilson landed his own show, 'The Flip Wilson Show,' in 1970. <br><b>Big Break</b>: Winning two Emmys and two Golden Globe Awards for the popular variety show, in which his alter ego, Geraldine Jones, became a household phenomenon. <br><b>Factoid</b>: Though Time magazine referred to Wilson as "TV's first black superstar," Wilson devoted more time to being a father once he got custody of his children and quit show business in 1979.
<b>Started Out</b>: Doing a completely improvised routine in a New York City comedy club circa 1977. <br><b>Big Break</b>: Worked as a writer for 'The Redd Foxx Show.' <br><b>Factoid</b>: Born in 1952, Wallace owns and operates one of Las Vegas' most popular stand-up comedy shows -- his very own at the legendary Flamingo.
Jackie Moms Mabley
<b>Started Out</b>: Performing at Harlem's Apollo Theater. <br><b>Big Break</b>: In addition to making a number of mainstream TV appearances in the 1960s, Mabley performed at Carnegie Hall in 1962. <br><b>Factoid</b>: Beginning her career at the age of 14, Moms Mabley adopted her original stage name from an ex-boyfriend, Jackie Mabley.
<b>Started Out</b>: Acting on a dare (from a girlfriend) and competing in an open-mic contest at a comedy club in 1989. <br><b>Big Break</b>: Playing the comely date-challenged Wanda on 'In Living Color.' <br><b>Factoid</b>: As of 2009, Foxx (real name: Eric Marlon Bishop) has released three music albums: 1994's 'Peep This,' 2005's 'Unpredictable' and 2008's 'Intuition.'
<b>Started Out</b>: In 1995, Epps was making his rounds on the scene through the 'Def Comedy Jam' tour. <br><b>Big Break</b>: Epps caught his big break as Day-Day in the sequel to Ice Cube's sleeper hit 'Next Friday.' <br><b>Factoid</b>: Throughout his career, Epps has played four characters named Reggie.
<b>Started Out</b>: While in pursuit of a career as an comedian, Whiterspoon started as a model for various catalogs. <br><b>Big Break</b>: Witherspoon brought his unique flavor to a national audience in the 1990 comedy 'House Party.' <br><b>Factoid</b>: Witherspoon is the cousin of legendary singer-songwriters Lamont Dozier and Reggie Dozier.
<b>Started Out</b>: As a writer for the groundbreaking sitcoms 'The Richard Pryor Show' and 'Sanford and Son.' <br><b>Big Break</b>: Creating the character Homie the Clown for the irreverent sketch comedy show 'In Living Color.' <br><b>Factoid</b>: Born in 1941, Mooney recorded racially charged comedy albums - via Stepsun Records - during the 1990s and gained newfound notoriety as Negrodamus on the hit Comedy Central series 'Chappelle's Show.'
<b>Started Out</b>: Making his rounds as a stand-up comedian on the "chitlin' circuit" during the 1940s and 1950s. <br><b>Big Break</b>: Starring in the BBC spinoff 'Sanford and Son,' which premiered on NBC in 1972 Hometown: St. Louis. <br><b>Factoid</b>: Foxx, whose real name was John Elroy Sanford, passed away in 1991 while rehearsing on the set of his show 'The Royal Family.'
<b>Started Out</b>: Underwood's talent saw the light of day in 1989 when she became the first female finalist in the Miller Lite Comedy Search. <br><b>Big Break</b>: In 1998, the comedienne landed the role of Bad Mouth Bessie in Master P's 'I Got the Hook Up.' <br><b>Factoid</b>: Over the years, Underwood appeared as a on-air radio personality on the 'Tom Joyner Morning Show.' She is also a devout member of the black Greek organization Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc.
<b>Started Out</b>: Working a day job as a legal secretary while doing stand-up comedy at night. <br><b>Big Break</b>: Became the co-host of ABC's long-running talk show 'The View' in 2007. <br><b>Factoid</b>: Born in 1967, Shepherd is renowned in the Christian entertainment industry and is often booked for her "clean" comedy.
<b>Started Out</b>: Making seven appearances on 'Star Search' and beating comedian Dennis Miller led to his role as Byron Lightfoot on the 'The Redd Foxx Show.' <br><b>Big Break</b>: Landing the role of Coach Walter Oakes in 1987 on the 'Cosby Show' spinoff 'A Different World.' <br><b>Factoid</b>: Sinbad replaced Chris Spencer as host of Vibe magazine's short-lived late-night talk show in October 1997. The series ended in the summer of 1998.
<b>Started Out</b>: Becoming the first woman to host BET's 'Comic View' from 1994-1995. Shortly following her stint as host, she received the Richard Pryor Award for comic of the year. <br><b>Big Break</b>: The comedienne gained a wider fan base while being a part of the record-breaking 'Queens of Comedy' tour. The tour's Showtime special went on to be the highest-rated and longest-running special in the history of the network. <br><b>Factoid</b>: Sommore and actress Nia Long are siblings.
<b>Started Out</b>: In 1984, her one-woman show - directed by Mike Nichols -- became a Broadway hit. <br><b>Big Break</b>: The Steven Spielberg-directed movie 'The Color Purple,' in which she made her debut and won an Academy Award nomination. <br><b>Factoid</b>: Born in 1955, Goldberg (real name: Caryn Elaine Johnson) became a co-host of ABC's long-running talk show, 'The View,' in 2007.