When Giuliana Rancic found out she had breast cancer in 2011, it was beyond shocking.
The E! television personality, who grew up in Bethesda, was trying to have a baby with Bill Rancic, her husband and a winner of "The Apprentice" television show. Then came her diagnosis.
"It felt like darkness, like the ground fell away and I was just falling," Giuliana told a crowd of about 250 people Sunday at Ram's Head Center Stage at Maryland Live! Casino in Hanover.
Rancic had a double mastectomy, and she and Bill found a surrogate mother, who delivered their first child in August 2012.
For National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the couple is traveling the country in hopes of inspiring others. They were in Hanover to share their story as the casino delivered a $15,000 check to Susan G. Komen Maryland, a nonprofit organization dedicated to breast cancer awareness, research and support.
"It reminds us that all of our stories are unique and powerful," Komen Maryland CEO Robin Prothro said.
Diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010, Kerry Anthony of Glen Burnie was surprised when friend and neighbor Debbie Forrest brought her to the Rancics' event. Anthony said she could relate to the way Giuliana felt when she was diagnosed.
"I felt like I was at the edge of an abyss," Anthony said. "I could either lay down and die or stand up and fight, so I stood up and fought."
Sharon Ruben traveled to see the Rancics from Northern Virginia. She was diagnosed with breast cancer nine years ago, just months after her daughter recovered from autism.
Ruben has since written a book, which she gave to the Rancics on Sunday, and started her own company devoted to retraining the ears and brains in children with autism. She saw the similarities between her story and Giuliana's in that the television personality was dealing with infertility when she was diagnosed with cancer.
"It just goes to prove you can turn things around," Ruben said. "You can turn a negative into a positive."
While much of the talk Sunday dealt with cancer, the Rancics also fielded questions about their lives on television.
Bill is an entrepreneur hired by Donald Trump at the end of the first season of "The Apprentice." Giuliana, a University of Maryland graduate, is a co-anchor of "E! News," cohost of "Fashion Police" on E! and stars in a reality show with her husband called "Giuliana and Bill."
Tionah Lee of Severn was happy to see Giuliana come back to Maryland.
"The fact that she used this platform to raise cancer awareness is great," Lee said.
The Rancics encouraged people in the audience to be supportive to people with cancer. The couple also urged women to get mammograms and to push others to do the same.
"At the end of the day, you don't need a show or a microphone to do something," Bill said. ___