Verywell Health’s December 2022 Cover Star

When you think of Fran Drescher, you probably hear her character’s iconic voice (and laugh!) that helped launch her into fame as Fran Fine on the ’90s sitcom The Nanny. The show still has a large fan base more than 30 years later, with viewers streaming episodes on HBO Max. Drescher is more soft-spoken than her iconic character, but when she speaks on topics she’s passionate about—like health—there’s a gusto behind her words that doesn’t require a high decibel level.

“How you live equals how you feel,” she insists. “There’s no wiggle room in that.”

Drescher speaks from experience. As a cancer survivor who had a rough road to diagnosis, she has made it part of her life’s mission to help people advocate for their health so they can live long, healthy lives. She leads the nonprofit Cancer Schmancer—an organization she founded that lobbies for healthcare and education policy change and empowers people to take charge of their health. For Drescher, growing older is a privilege we should all be so lucky to experience.

How you live equals how you feel. There’s no wiggle room in that.

Photo by Grace Rivera for Verywell Health

When we sat down with Drescher, she spoke with us about her challenging cancer diagnosis, learning to be her own health advocate, and how she’s celebrating aging.

Trusting Her Instincts

After two years of being misdiagnosed and seeing several different healthcare providers, Drescher was diagnosed with uterine cancer in 2000.

She was only 44 years old at the time and had not yet gone through menopause; Uterine cancer tends to affect postmenopausal women. Drescher attributes her diagnosis to challenges to being out of the normal demographic.

“Many professionals subscribe to the philosophy that if you hear galloping, don’t look for a zebra because it’s probably a horse,” he says. “But if you happen to be a zebra like I was, there’s the potential to slip through the cracks. I went for seven different second opinions before being diagnosed with cancer. I felt it in my gut and kept seeking care to figure out what was going on with my health.”

Thankfully, Drescher’s cancer was still in stage 1 when it was finally discovered. “I had that cancer for at least two years,” she says. “By the grace of God, there was a larger plan for me, and my cancer was growing slowly.”

Uterine cancer is the most common gynecologic cancer in women, with women in their late 60s being the most likely to be diagnosed. Common symptoms of uterine cancer include:

Photo by Grace Rivera for Verywell Health

  • Spotting (something Drescher has said she experienced)
  • Unusual vaginal discharge
  • Pelvic pain

Soon after being diagnosed, Drescher went through a radical hysterectomy and has been cancer-free ever since. Her 2002 memoir details her diagnosis and recovery story.

Learning to Be an Advocate for Herself and Others

Cancer was just the start of Drescher’s health journey. The experience opened her eyes and changed her perspective—and made her want to share what she had learned with others. In 2007, she founded Cancer Schmancer. The nonprofit takes a three-pronged approach to advocate for women’s health.

The first thing it does is educate people on living as healthily as possible. “Preventive care is important,” Drescher says. “We need to work on not getting sick in the first place. How’s that for a cure?” To do this, the organization urges people to think holistically about their health and incorporate healthy habits and behaviors into their everyday lives.

Early detection is another important part of Cancer Schmancer’s mission. With this in mind, they provide easy-to-access information on early symptoms and connect women in underserved communities with no- or low-cost screenings.

It’s important to take responsibility for your own health. It’s your life, and no one will care about it in the way you do it.

Photo by Grace Rivera for Verywell Health

Along with early detection, Drescher is a big believer in advocating for yourself and making sure you feel heard in medical situations. “I’m a bit of a control freak. I’ll give a doctor a few tries, and if I feel like it’s not the right fit, I find someone else,” she says. “It’s important to take responsibility for your own health. It’s your life, and no one will care about it in the way you do it. So, you have to do what’s right for you and what you feel good about.”

The nonprofit’s third pillar is policy change. Drescher was named one of the top celebrity lobbyists by the magazines Washingtonian and Fortune for her advocacy work. She has testified in front of the Senate and was instrumental in passing 2007’s Gynecologic Cancer Education and Awareness Act, which helped to fund and promote prevention education materials for gynecologic cancers.

Since then, Drescher and Cancer Schmancer have continued to work hard to educate people on cancer prevention through things like educational summits on how to live a cleaner, healthier lifestyle and hosting virtual music festivals in which the proceeds go toward promoting cancer education.

She’s been so effective at this part of the organization’s mission that many people have asked if she’d consider running for office. “I say no,” she insists. “Maybe if I was 45. But at 65? I’ve done a lot, and I’m proud of it. But at this age, I appreciate and value time—and mine is probably best used not running for office.”

Embracing Aging

When it comes to getting older, Drescher approaches it the same way she tackles everything else in life—with complete determination! “It ain’t over until you are,” she says. “There are always things you can work on and improve—especially regarding your health.”

One area she’s keeping an eye on is how much stress she allows into her busy life.

Just a few things take up Drescher’s time: She’s working with her ex-husband, Peter Marc Jacobson, and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend‘s Rachel Bloom to bring The Nanny to Broadway as a musical, and there’s early talk of turning the show into a film.

Photo by Grace Rivera for Verywell Health

Her work as president of SAG-AFTRA (the Screen Actors Guild–American Federation of Television and Radio Artists) includes negotiating contracts and ensuring fair wages and safe working conditions for performers in the entertainment industry.

On top of this, Drescher continues to act. She’s the voice of Eunice in the Hotel Transylvania animated film franchise (the fourth film coming out in early 2022) and recently signed on to star in a new Lifetime movie based on a VC Andrews book.

After nearly 50 years in the entertainment industry as an actor, writer, producer, and director, Drescher may not show any signs of slowing down, but she has learned the importance of taking care of herself. “Part of aging well is learning how to manage your stress. You can’t stew in it,” she says. “It’s important to recognize that stress affects many things relating to your health.”

And the research is there—studies have found that stress can trigger and aggravate an array of medical conditions—including gastrointestinal issues and immune system disorders.

Your body works hard, and you have to respect it. You can do that by listening to it.

“I’ve found that my immune system responds poorly to stress. I have to be mindful and say, ‘I can’t get this stressed, or I’ll get sick,’” says Drescher. “When I’m noticing stress, I will force myself to lie down and decompress. Or, I’ll take a walk in the fresh air and appreciate the trees.”

Photo by Grace Rivera for Verywell Health

Scanning her system for stress is just one of the ways that Drescher tunes into her body.

“As you age, it’s important to aim for optimal health. To do that, you have to honor your body and really listen to it,” she shares. “Your body works hard, and you have to respect it. You can do that by listening to it. And if you think something is going on with your health, pay attention so that you can get to the root of the issue and make the necessary changes. We all deserve a long, healthy life.”

Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Uterine cancer statistics.

  2. Yaribeygi H, Panahi Y, Sahraei H, Johnston TP, Sahebkar A. The impact of stress on body function: a review. EXCLI J. 2017;16:1057-1072. doi:10.17179/excli2017-480

Bethany Heitman

By Bethany Heitman

Bethany Heitman is a journalist with over 15 years of experience. She is the former features director at Cosmopolitan, has held executive editor positions at Seventeen and Health, and was the editor-in-chief of People StyleWatch.