Suzanne Somers had her critics, but many applauded her approach to health care and cancer.
Back in 2009, I interviewed Suzanne Somers who died on Sunday October 15, 2023, from an aggressive form of breast cancer. After I finished my master’s in social work (MSW) at Florida International University, I wanted to see if I could try to get some experience at a college radio station. My goal was to try to get on public radio as an RN/MSW and discuss health care and mental health. I was taking an independent study course which turned into a series of interviews for the college radio station, WGRP, 95.3 in Miami. I wanted to try to contact a celebrity that was interested in health care. I took a leap of faith and was able to contact Suzanne Somers’ publicist. She agreed to an interview. As a full disclosure, I watched Three’s Company for years when it was on and was already a fan of Ms. Somers.
I was determined to write very objective questions that reflected my RN real-world experience.
In searching my files, I came upon the original questions I asked her during this radio interview. I will say that she was very informative and open about her journey. She truly was nice to me, and a projected 15-to-20-minute interview turned into a 45-minute interview. She was doing publicity for her best seller, “Knockout: Interviews With Doctors Who Are Curing Cancer.”The book was about her own journey battling breast cancer and cancer cures in general. She did take her own treatment path and chose not to follow the conventional chemotherapy route.
As some readers may know, when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2000, Ms. Somers underwent surgery and radiation. Following those treatments, she skipped chemotherapy—which was against the advice of her doctor.
I had mixed feelings about her approach. I thought that she was very brave to decide what would work for her as opposed to what her doctor recommended, which was a conventional course of chemotherapy. This flew in the face of my RN training to follow doctor’s orders. I remember talking to a breast surgeon at the time. When I told him that I was interviewing her, he flew into a tirade about how she was harming women. I was shocked by his response. I remember trying to explain her point of view as well as I could, but he wasn’t buying any of it.
In the past 14 years, so much has happened globally regarding health care. For example, who would have ever thought that we would have phone applications to help us with administering medication?
We still haven’t beat cancer, and in particular breast cancer. I still think that it is interesting to consider how controversial Ms. Somers’ approach to treatment was at the time. Many doctors were upset that she used her publicity to promote a treatment regimen that was not backed by peer-reviewed data or our understanding of cancer. Yet, it was her treatment and her wishes. As health care providers, I think we can present people with all the resources we have and help them to understand the latest evidence-based practices, but ultimately, their treatment decisions are their decisions.
Suzanne Somers had her critics, but many applauded her approach to health care and cancer. The jury is still out on her viewpoint.