Elizabeth Hurley on breast cancer research, the BCA Campaign and the best advice she got from Evelyn Lauder

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Earlier this week Elizabeth Hurley, actress and Global Ambassador for the Estée Lauder Companies, was in Toronto to help launch the beginning of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. I sat down with her to talk about the work she’s doing with the Estée Lauder Companies Breast Cancer Awareness (BCA) Campaign and the lessons she learned from the late Evelyn Lauder.

Best Health: The theme of this year’s campaign is ‘Hear Our Stories, Share Yours.’ Why is it important for women to share their story and what do you hope this year’s campaign accomplishes?

Elizabeth Hurley: Obviously some people don’t want to share their stories and of course we respect their privacy for that but there are some people who have been happy to come forward and talk about their experience. What we realized is, is that of course it is very traumatic for the people involved in having their treatment but it’s also very traumatic for the family members who live through it with them, who go with them to their treatments, who do the things that they’re unable to do and who really take quite a brunt of what’s going on. We found that by listening to their stories we got a much better understanding of how it was during these times, and we also realized that people who are about to go through the same thing can get a little bit of inspiration and hope from hearing these stories. That’s where it started and now these stories are going to be up on the BCA campaign website and we’re encouraging other people to share their story as well.

BH: Do you think it helps with the healing process?

EH: I think it does for some people. I was just fortunate to speak with a woman who’s recently gone through treatment. She said that there were a lot of things that she hadn’t heard about before, that she’s now gone through and is going to share. It starts a conversation.

BH: Since becoming involved with the BCA Campaign nearly 15 years ago, is there a moment or experience that stands out to you?

EH: There are just so many amazing moments. We’ve heard a lot of stories and every single one of them is moving. It’s impossible to ever become blasé when hearing about someone’s trauma like that. We’re moved every single time.

BH: You worked closely with Evelyn Lauder over the years. What advice did she give you?

EH: She’s was a phenomenal woman. She would give advice quite literally on everything. Not only about health ‘ but she gave great advice on health. She understood the importance of healthy eating, exercise and a healthy lifestyle. She published a cookbook called In Good Taste, and I still cook from it. She really practised what she preached. She was also fantastic at giving advice on everything else – boys, family, children, homes, fashion, decor, everything. The world according to Evelyn was a very good world and we miss her. We miss her enormously. I think looking after oneself was a very big message from her and it’s still a very important message for women because we spend so much time looking after everyone else that sometimes our own health suffers.

BH: I read that every year you continue to honour a promise you made to her.

EH: She gave me my first mammogram appointment for my 40th birthday present and she made me swear I’d do it every year ‘ and I have.

BH: Since you started working on the campaign, has your perspective on the disease changed? Do you think the public’s perception of breast cancer has changed?

EH: Absolutely, when my grandmother died of breast cancer about 22 years ago, I assumed [a breast cancer diagnosis] was a death sentence. We now know it’s 95 percent curable if detected early. We hear about the very good new drugs that are being used to treat the difference kinds of breast cancer. I now know it’s not a death sentence. And the vast majority of breast cancers don’t reoccur. Early detection saves lives.

Visit BCACampaign.com to view the personal stories of breast cancer survivors (see a preview below) or share your own. For every story shared through the site, Estée Lauder will donate $1 toward breast cancer education and medical research.

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