Blythe Danner Has Been Privately Battling the Same Cancer that Killed Husband Bruce Paltrow: ‘I’m Lucky to Be Alive’

The “Meet the Parents” actress says she is in remission from a rare form of oral cancer

Blythe Danner
Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images

Blythe Danner has revealed for the first time that she’s in remission after a years-long private battle with adenoid cystic carcinoma, a rare form of oral cancer. It’s the same disease that killed her husband Bruce Paltrow in 2002.

“Everyone is touched by cancer in some way, but it’s unusual for a couple to have the same cancer,” Danner, who is mother to Gwyneth Paltrow, told People. When she was diagnosed in March 2018, “I remember I looked up at heaven and said to Bruce, ‘Are you lonely up there?’” she said. “It’s a sneaky disease. But I’m fine and dandy now. And I’m lucky to be alive.”

Danner, an Emmy winner who is perhaps best known for her roles in “Meet the Parents” and “Will & Grace,” says she was working in London when she began to feel sick.

“I started feeling very woozy and I was forgetting everything,” she said. “And then I felt a lump in my neck, right next to where Bruce had found his [in 1999].”

When she was diagnosed later that year, Danner said she kept it a secret from her kids “for a long time,” as she wanted to “forge ahead as a mother.”

When she did tell Paltrow, the Goop founder told the paper that she was “obviously very shocked.”

“It was scary,” she said. “And it felt really eerie because it was so similar [to my dad’s].”

Now, Danner has spent years exploring alternative treatments after two surgeries, and in 2020, she underwent a third surgery, which successfully removed the cancerous tissue. Danner said that throughout her treatment journey, she wasn’t scared.

“”I wasn’t quaking in my boots,” she said. “I don’t have any fear of death at all.”

However, the “Meet the Parents” actress shared that the grief of losing her husband to cancer has always stayed with her and changed her view on death.

“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.”

Paltrow has been an oral cancer advocate since her husband’s death, as she made it her mission to help other families suffering with similar diagnoses and situations through organizations like the Oral Cancer Foundation, which aims to raise awareness of oral and oropharyngeal cancers.