Blythe Danner reveals she has oral cancer, which claimed life of husband Bruce Paltrow

A woman with gray hair rests her chin on her hand.
Blythe Danner in 2019.
(Taylor Jewell / Invision / Associated Press)

Two-time Emmy Award winner Blythe Danner revealed Monday that she’s been in remission from cancer, which also claimed the life of her late husband, director Bruce Paltrow.

The 79-year-old actor, who is the mother of Oscar winner Gwyneth Paltrow and director Jake Paltrow, told People magazine that she has battled a rare oral cancer — adenoid cystic carcinoma —since March 2018. That’s when the “Meet the Fockers” and “Will & Grace” star said she was diagnosed with the cancer, which develops in the salivary glands, after she had been “feeling very woozy,” was “forgetting everything” and felt a lump in her neck right next to where her husband had found a lump in his neck in 1999.

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“Everyone is touched by cancer in some way, but it’s unusual for a couple to have the same cancer,” Danner told People. “I remember I looked up at heaven and said to Bruce, ‘Are you lonely up there?’ ... It’s a sneaky disease. But I’m fine and dandy now. And I’m lucky to be alive.”


She added that she “wasn’t quaking” in her boots about the illness and that she doesn’t “have any fear of death at all” — an outlook on mortality gained after her husband of 33 years died in 2002 after battling throat cancer.

“You never get over that kind of loss,” she said. “Bruce was the heart of our family. And life is so much paler without him around. But grief is the price we pay for love.”

The film and TV star said she underwent surgery, alternative treatments, chemotherapy and radiation to abate the disease. Then, doctors fully removed the cancerous tissue with a third surgery in 2020.

“She went through it with so much grace,” Goop founder Gwyneth Paltrow told the mag. “I was amazed at how strong she was able to be.”

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Danner, who also has four grandchildren, said she kept her diagnosis from her children for a long time because she “wanted to forge ahead as a mother, and I didn’t want them to worry.”

The actor has also used her platform to advocate for the Oral Cancer Foundation, which estimates that 54,000 Americans are diagnosed with oral and oropharyngeal cancers each year.