The doctors diagnosed her with stage 2 Hodgkin's Lymphoma and discovered a grapefruit-sized tumor in her chest.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on July 1, 2022. It has since been updated.
Tracy Nelson had a taste of fame from a very young age, given that she was born into a family of celebrities. She was born in 1963, in Santa Monica, California to Ricky Nelson, and his wife, Kristin Harmon. She was their eldest child and Nelson had three siblings. With her background, she found herself in the limelight at the age of 5, when she starred in Yours, Mine, and Ours, alongside Lucille Ball. After finishing high school and a few years of college, Nelson made her first big-screen Hollywood appearance in Square Pegs.
But, her life soon came to a standstill when she lost her dad in a freak accident when he was just 45 years old, as per The New York Times. In 1987, she met William R. Moses, the man she went on to marry. They were together for a decade, but the same year she met him, she was beginning to feel very tired and weak. The glands in her neck became swollen and she had such noticeable bags under her eyes, even makeup was not enough to conceal them, as per PEOPLE.
But, she soon visited the doctor. Her reason? A dream from her father convinced her to do so. “My father called me on the phone and said, I know you miss me, but it’s not time for you to die. You have to go see a doctor.” Her visit led to doctors discovering a grapefruit-sized tumor in her chest. Soon, a biopsy confirmed stage 2 Hodgkin's Lymphoma. The following week at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center Los Angeles, her spleen, a portion of her liver, and samples of her lymph nodes were removed during a surgery that lasted seven hours.
“I was opened from right under my rib cage all the way down to my pelvic region,” Nelson said. The procedure left her with a 15-inch scar. “I was like a human biology project.” Even though the cancer was caught early on, it was not an easy journey toward recovery. In fact, it was so bad that she even considered taking her own life at one point. “Chemotherapy takes five hours to administer through a catheter,” she says, “and it’s the longest five hours of your life. It feels like you’re being poisoned.”
But eventually, she was hit with a wave that made her want to live. “I was all alone in my house, and I got down on my knees next to the bed, and I said out loud, ‘I’m too tired, I can’t do this anymore,’ ” she recalled. “Then the weirdest thing happened. I got this wonderful, euphoric feeling, like the feeling you get when you’re in love.” Nelson, who grew up “never feeling talented enough or smart enough,” remembered distinctly the thought that ran through her head next: " ‘That’s the answer to this; it’s about self-love,’ ” she remembers saying to herself. “That day I made a decision to stay alive. That’s when I really started to fight.”
But her cancer came back. In 2005, she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, and five years later, with breast cancer. Still, the actress bravely fought to live. Tracy fully recovered from a bilateral mastectomy and a complete reconstruction.
Since then, she has become an active cancer research advocate and also served as the spokesperson for The Lymphoma Research Foundation of America.
Cover Image Source: Getty Images | Photo by Amanda Edwards