Maria Friedman: Star on refusing to cancel Broadway show days after breast cancer surgery

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Maria Friedman, 62, was diagnosed with breast cancer in the past only 18 days before she was due to perform in The Woman in White, an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, on New York City’s Broadway. The star knew the lump had to go and she underwent surgery three days later. Today, the star is a three-time Olivier Award winner and a big-timer on stage and on screen. She has since said “calling off” the show was “never an option”.

Before the diagnosis, the star was preparing ferociously for the show – even embarking on a diet just to fit into a tight corset for the show.

When looking in the mirror, she noticed something strange about her body.

“I sort of put my hands here [her chest] and I suddenly thought, instantly, ‘What’s that?’” she told NBC at the time of her cancer in 2005.

“There was something in me that I absolutely knew, categorically, that there was something wrong.”

Hours later she arrived at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City where she underwent a mammogram.

The star was diagnosed with stage one breast cancer.

“Calling off my Broadway debut when I discovered I had breast cancer was never an option because I didn’t feel ill,” she told The Guardian a decade later.

“I caught it quickly, had the operation, and it was just like I’d gone to the dentist or something.”

Although she recognised that life was more important than theatre, she also said at the time that she felt like lots of people’s livelihoods were on the line at the time, would be ruined if she pulled out.

There are several different procedures that are undertaken to remove breast cancer.

Which one is used depends on the specific case.

One form of surgery is to remove the area of cancer in the breast, Cancer Research UK explains.

This procedure is known as breast-conserving surgery or “wide local excision”.

Unlike during a mastectomy, which involves the removal of the entire breast, the surgeons performing a wide local excision will leave as much healthy breast tissue behind as possible.

Cancer Research UK notes that “you usually have radiotherapy to the breast after this type of surgery”.

Whether or not you receive this type of surgery, according to the NHS, depends on the type of cancer, as well as the size of the tumour and where it is in the breast.

Also, it will depend on the amount of surrounding tissue that needs to be removed.

Friedman definitely had no regrets about continuing with her show after the surgery.

She said Broadway was the “most exciting thing” she had done as an actress from Britain.

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