Blythe Danner is finally speaking out about her private, four-year battle with adenoid cystic carcinoma – an oral cancer that usually develops in the salivary glands, neck, or head. She first grew worried in early 2018 when she felt a bump in her neck. It was the same bump her late husband discovered in 1999.
Her husband was famed film director and producer, Bruce Paltrow. He was diagnosed with the same disease in 1999, which is why Danner was so familiar with the signs and symptoms. Despite undergoing care and treatment, he succumbed to the disease in 2002 while on a vacation in Rome with his family.
Danner received her diagnosis in March 2018, but decided to keep it a secret – even her children were unaware at first. Paltrow and Danner shared two children together, Jake Paltrow and Gwyneth Paltrow. They eventually found out and were just as shocked as their mother, but she’s now entering remission.
“Everyone is touched by cancer in some way, but it’s unusual for a couple to have the same cancer. I remember I looked up at heaven and said to Bruce, ‘Are you lonely up there?’ said Blythe Danner in an interview with PEOPLE. “It’s a sneaky disease. But I’m fine and dandy now. And I’m lucky to be alive.”
Her daughter, Gwyneth, explained how ‘eery’ of a feeling she had when she learned of the diagnosis – considering how ‘similar’ it was to her father’s diagnosis. “She went through it with so much grace. I was amazed at how strong she was able to be,” said Gwyneth Paltrow, praising her mother’s strength.
It’s a strength that Blythe Danner is well-aware of. “I wasn’t quaking in my boots. I don’t have any fear of death at all,” she said, later adding “I think we’ve all become somehow stronger. It’s a bit of a crapshoot — this disease and this life. But I’ve had a career, great kids and a loving husband. I’m very grateful.”
Danner ultimately underwent three surgeries and a flurry of alternative treatments before learning the cancer was in remission. One would have to imagine her husband was watching down on her throughout the four-year battle with oral cancer. “Bruce was the heart of our family,” said Danner about her husband.
Blythe Danner and Her Incredible 55-Year Career
Blythe Danner attended and graduated from Bard College before receiving her first roles in musicals and Broadway productions. She eventually made her way to TV with Geroge M! in 1970 and film with To Kill a Clown in 1972. She last appeared in a film in 2019 and last appeared in a television show in 2021.
Throughout her career, she has received various accolades for her excellence – including two Emmy Awards for her role as Izzy Huffstodt in Huff. She was also nominated for four other Emmy Awards – twice with Will & Grace, once with We Were the Mulvaneys, and once with Back When We Were Grownups.
As for her husband, Bruce Paltrow was a producer and director best known for St. Elsewhere (1982), The White Shadow (1978) and Tattinger’s (1988). The couple married in 1969, shortly after Danner began her acting career. They welcomed Gwyneth into the picture in September 1972 and Jake in September 1975.
Both Gwyneth and Jake are in the industry as well. Jake is a film director, while Gwyneth is one of the more popular actresses today. She has already won a Primetime Emmy Award, Academy Award, and Golden Globe Award throughout her 30+ year career. It’s a family affair when it comes to Hollywood.
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