Julia Louis-Dreyfus Opens Up About the Side Effects of Chemotherapy

Erin Migdol
julia louis dreyfus

Six months after revealing she’s cancer-free, Julia Louis-Dreyfus is opening up about the reality of her chemotherapy experience and the side effects she endured.

Louis-Dreyfus, who announced she had breast cancer in September 2017, told Net-A-Porter in a cover story published Friday that she decided to go public with her diagnosis because of her show, “Veep,” and the “200 people waiting to go back to work” because of her. She also wanted to talk about it in a way that could highlight “something important,” like universal health care.

She had six rounds of chemotherapy three weeks apart and had side effects including extreme nausea and diarrhea, difficulty keeping food down, and sores on her face as well as inside her mouth.

Still, she continued reading scripts and doing table reads when she could, which she called a “joyful distraction.”

“The effects of chemotherapy are cumulative, so I definitely felt that more towards the end, but going to work was a very joyful distraction, and I was so pleased to have the strength to do it,” she said.

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She also brought up the common side effect known as “chemo brain,” or memory and information processing difficulties often brought on by chemotherapy.

“I was very worried about would I have the brain power to get back to the hard work [of shooting]. I have to memorize a lot and I was concerned about whether I’d be able to do that,” she said. “I started doing tricks, trying to memorize poems and things – I think it was mainly just comforting to me to get them in my head.”

Reflecting back on her cancer experience, Louis-Dreyfus acknowledged all the kind people who sent her things like “crystals, angels and lotions” and said the experience made her more mindful of what she eats and what her priorities are.

“[Cancer] finally crystallized my priorities, which didn’t really need that much crystallization,” she said. “But I would certainly say that I have an even deeper appreciation for the good stuff. That sounds corny, but it’s f***ing true.”

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The side effects of cancer can be brutal and wide-ranging, including fatigue, hair loss, easy bruising and bleeding, nausea, constipation, “chemo brain,” changes in libido, and mouth and throat problems like sores. It’s also common to experience mental health side effects, such as anxiety and depression. Sometimes, chemo can make you pick up unique coping habits — click here to find out what our community said they do that no one realizes they’re doing because of chemo.

Since her diagnosis, Louis-Dreyfus has indeed advocated for affordable health insurance in interviews and in a video urging people to get out and vote.

“I very much considered the notion that, as someone battling this disease, the idea that I might not have health insurance, which I do thanks to my great union, is completely terrifying,” she said in an appearance on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” last year. “Health care should be for all. I believed that before; now I really believe it.”

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