‘I WAS SCARED I’D LOSE HER’

Harry Con­nick Jr & wife Jill’s BREAST CANCER BAT­TLE

WHO - - In this Issue - By Kate Coyne

Harry Con­nick Jr on wife Jill’s breast cancer bat­tle— and why they kept it se­cret for years.

“When I first heard the news, I just to­tally lost it” —Harry Con­nick Jr on wife Jill’s di­ag­no­sis

The star opens up about his wife’s five-year breast cancer bat­tle as she re­veals why she kept her fight a se­cret for so long

The cosy, con­verted barn that Harry Con­nick Jr shares with his wife, Jill Goodacre, is tucked away at the end of a coun­try lane in a quiet Con­necti­cut town. At 50, Con­nick is a mul­ti­plat­inum record­ing artist, ac­tor and host of the day­time talk show Harry (shown here on Gem)—a man who could af­ford a Bev­erly Hills man­sion or a Man­hat­tan pent­house. But the cou­ple are hap­pi­est far from the bright lights, en­joy­ing a laid-back ex­is­tence with their daugh­ters Ge­or­gia, 21, Sara Kate, 20 (who goes by Kate), and Char­lotte, 15. “We’re just in­cred­i­bly pri­vate,” Con­nick says. “We’ve never wanted a high-pro­file life.”

Which is why, five years ago, they chose to weather their great­est chal­lenge pri­vately. In Oc­to­ber 2012, Goodacre, 53, had a rou­tine an­nual mam­mo­gram. With no fam­ily his­tory of breast cancer, the ac­tress and former model felt she had no rea­son to be wor­ried; her mam­mo­gram con­firmed as much. “It was all clear,” Goodacre re­calls. “They said, ‘OK, looks good. Since you have dense breasts, just go across the hall for your sono­gram.’ ” It was only dur­ing the sono­gram—or ul­tra­sound, as it’s com­monly called—that some­thing was de­tected. A biopsy and an ag­o­nis­ing wait fol­lowed. Con­nick did his best to stay op­ti­mistic, telling Goodacre that ev­ery­thing would be fine. When she got the re­sults she called him in tears. “It’s not fine. I have it,” she re­calls sob­bing. Di­ag­nosed with Stage 1 in­va­sive duc­tal car­ci­noma, Goodacre was told she would need a lumpec­tomy im­me­di­ately, fol­lowed by ra­di­a­tion. Con­nick, whose mother had died from ovar­ian cancer when he was 13, says un­der­neath his stoic de­meanour he was ter­ri­fied. “I was scared I was go­ing to lose her, ab­so­lutely,” he says now. “I wasn’t go­ing to let her see that, but I was. I know from los­ing my mom that the worst can hap­pen. She’s my best friend, and I re­ally don’t know what I would do with­out her.”

Con­nick met Goodacre at a party in 1990, when she was the reign­ing queen of the Vic­to­ria’s Se­cret cat­a­logue and he was best known as the New Or­leans–bred big-band crooner who re­pop­u­larised Gersh­win on the sound­track of When Harry Met Sally. They wed in 1994, and 23 years later Con­nick still gazes at his wife like a love­struck teen. “I think one of the rea­sons we’ve lasted this long is that we’re so aligned in every way,” Con­nick says. “We have the same morals, the same goals.” Goodacre, who stopped mod­el­ling when she had her first child, agrees. “Ev­ery­thing that he val­ues, I value so much too,” says the fel­low South­erner, born in Texas. “And our fam­ily has al­ways been the most im­por­tant.”

One of the hard­est parts of Goodacre’s cancer fight was hav­ing to tell their daugh­ters. “I took to my bed when I found out. I was just wrecked,” she says. “When the girls all got home from school, they came up to my room and climbed in bed with me, and I told them. And just watch­ing their faces—it was so hor­ri­ble as I saw the fear dawn­ing on them and the con­fu­sion. It broke my heart.” Adds Con­nick: “And they know about my mother, so while we re­as­sured them that it was all go­ing to be OK, they were also old enough to know that some­times it doesn’t work out. That was so hard.”

One com­fort for Goodacre and her girls was the news that she would not have to un­dergo chemo­ther­apy. “It seems

like a small thing, but when the girls heard I wouldn’t lose my hair it made them feel bet­ter, and I get that,” she says. Still, her treat­ment has been gru­elling: “The lumpec­tomy didn’t come back with clean mar­gins.” Pathol­ogy tests showed she also had ex­ten­sive duc­tal car­ci­noma in situ, a less in­va­sive form of the dis­ease. “So I had to go in for a sec­ond surgery the very next day. And then ra­di­a­tion ab­so­lutely wiped me out. And since then there’s been the Tamox­ifen, which I’ve now been tak­ing for five years.”

Tamox­ifen, an oe­stro­gen mod­u­la­tor taken in pill form that helps pre­vent the devel­op­ment of hor­mone re­cep­tor–pos­i­tive breast can­cers, can have dif­fi­cult side ef­fects. “It threw me right into menopause,” she says. “And then there was the weight gain.” As some­one who once had a ca­reer built on pos­ing in lin­gerie and swim­suits, Goodacre has found her­self in a size and shape she had never be­fore ex­pe­ri­enced. (The drug can lead to weight gain, par­tic­u­larly in the mid­sec­tion, a side ef­fect with the dreaded nick­name Tamox­ifen Tummy.) “I’ve al­ways been a pretty fit per­son, and so to be just rounder and heav­ier and not to re­ally be able to do much about it—that’s been hard. It’s taken a lot out of my self­con­fi­dence,” she says. Con­nick un­der­stands her struggles. “It’s not silly and it’s not vain,” he ex­plains. “It’s a part of how the cancer and the treat­ment im­pacted her, and it was a real is­sue, even though she will al­ways be the most beau­ti­ful woman in the world.”

Now, as she ap­proaches the five-year mark of re­mis­sion, Goodacre is look­ing for­ward to stop­ping Tamox­ifen soon and telling the world what few out­side her fam­ily knew. But speak­ing openly about the ordeal still feels some­what strange for them both. “It wasn’t like we were su­per­sti­tious, like if we said some­thing about be­ing in the clear we’d some­how jinx it,” Goodacre says. “But we wanted to be well on the other side of things be­fore we told ev­ery­body. The doc­tors all say that af­ter the five-year mark, things look op­ti­mistic, so we’re start­ing to feel pretty good.” Goodacre also wants to spread the word about dense breasts and the need for ul­tra­sounds as well as mam­mo­grams. “I’d never heard about dense breasts,” she re­calls. “And if I’d only had a mam­mo­gram and walked away for the next year, things could have turned out so dif­fer­ently for me. Es­pe­cially if your doc­tor in­di­cates from your mam­mo­gram that you have dense breasts, you have to get a sono­gram.”

Both Con­nick and Goodacre say their story is far from over. “It’s not some­thing that’s just go­ing to go away like it never hap­pened,” Goodacre says. “I’ll al­ways be a lit­tle ner­vous, al­ways hav­ing to get checked, al­ways hop­ing it doesn’t come back.” Her hus­band, for one, has the same hope he did af­ter their very first en­counter. “I knew as soon as I met her that I wanted to grow old with her,” Con­nick says of his wife. “I’m so grate­ful that I still can.”

“I want as many years as I can get with her. I want to know what she’ll look like when she’s old” —Harry Con­nick Jr

“We al­ways knew we could get through any­thing to­gether, but this sort of proved it,” says Con­nick, pho­tographed for WHO’S US sis­ter mag­a­zine, Peo­ple, with wife Jill Goodacre on Oct. 16.

“This has felt like such a long road at times,” says Goodacre (at home with Con­nick in 2013, one year into her cancer bat­tle).

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