The recent revelations about Erin Andrews, the national TV reporter who just revealed that she secretly underwent cervical cancer surgery without taking time off from work, are remarkable in at least two respects.
First, her dedication to her profession tells us that the 38-year-old NFL broadcaster for Fox Sports may actually be tougher than the hulking, battered athletes she covers on the field each week.
Second and more importantly, it's a testament to modern medicine that just two days after major surgery a patient as driven as Andrews can even have the option to jet back to her job, and just three days after that to be healthy enough to stand before millions on live national television.
Yes, the sideline reporter refused to be sidelined by surgery – but medical advances made it possible.
While this is not an endorsement of her decision to race back to work (flying half way across the country to Green Bay, Wisconsin on a red-eye) and toughing it out that Sunday on the sideline, the mere fact she wasn't bedridden by cancer surgery when she boarded her flight is pretty astounding in itself.
“Should I have been standing for a full game five days after surgery? Let’s just say the doctor didn’t recommend that,” Andrews told the sports website, The MMQB, short for Monday Morning Quarterback, in the exclusive interview she gave to reporter Emily Kaplan.
Kaplan's story broke the news Tuesday that Andrews learned of her cancer diagnosis on Sept. 24, and 17 days later on Oct. 11, she had surgery at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles – without telling her employer. Earlier in 2016, Andrews, who previously covered college football, NASCAR and Major League Baseball, had requested to work on the NFL full-time – and after receiving her dream assignment she simply refused to seen as anything less than fully focused and committed.
“I’m not watching any football games at home," she reportedly told her oncologist before entering the operating room. "This is [Fox’s] Super Bowl year, and I’m not missing the Super Bowl.” So when the Packers and the Dallas Cowboys met at Lambeau Field on Oct. 16, Andrews was there microphone in hand – with no one the wiser. She revealed her condition to her FOX colleagues a week or so later.
From reading the MMQB article, it's not clear how complicated Andrews' surgery was or how far the cancer had advanced. But on Nov. 17 she was informed that there would be "no need for radiation or chemotherapy," because the "margins were clear," meaning the doctors got it all. So while it's guesswork, according to a range of available treatments detailed by the American Cancer Society, it's possible that her cancer was in the early stages.
It's estimated that there were nearly 13,000 new cases of cervical cancer diagnosed in the U.S. in 2016. Meanwhile, there were an estimated 4,120 deaths attributed to the disease that same year, according to figures from the National Cancer Institute, which is part of the National Institutes of Health.
Meanwhile, the CDC reports that the incidence rate has continued to fall for nearly all races over a recent 15-year period. The NCI reports for 2016 the rate was 7.5 new cases diagnosed per 100,000 women.
And the National Cervical Cancer Coalition states that based on Andrews' age, she is in the highest risk demographic, in that "half of the women diagnosed with the disease are between 35 and 55 years of age."
It's likely that part of Andrews' determination to not miss work comes from the work ethic that surrounds her on a daily basis. Players of all stripes have been known to downplay injuries, and (sometimes even to their detriment) they simply "tough it out." Hockey players, like her fiance Jarret Stoll (pictured with Andrews), who played 13 seasons in the NHL, are famously among a group who frequently won't be deterred.
“You wouldn’t miss a game,” Andrews reportedly told him before her surgery. “You’d play through any injury, do whatever it takes to get back out there. That’s going to be me.”