Erin Andrews is opening up about how she handled her emotional wellbeing during her journey with cervical cancer in 2016, sharing that she could have responded to it in a healthier way.
"I actually didn't handle it probably the best way I could have," the Fox Sports broadcaster said in an interview for Selena Gomez's newsletter Wondermind when reflecting on the diagnosis. "Only a really small group of people knew. And I didn't even tell my coworkers, who are really like family to me."
Before going public with the news of her health journey in Jan. 2017, Andrews remained tight lipped about what she was going through. And rather than allowing herself to heal from the emotional and physical toll of doctor visits and resulting surgeries, she depended heavily on the few people privy to the situation to be strong for her as she tried to continue living life as usual.
"When it all happened, I kind of went into a state of mind where I was in week three of the football season, [and because Fox was covering] the Super Bowl that year, I did not wanna deal with it mentally at all. Because, for me, doing football — and I was also hosting Dancing with the Stars at the time — was way too important to me," she explained. "I was so obsessed with not missing a game, not showing any weakness there, and not missing any Dancing with the Stars. So I kind of made my family and my friends deal with it, even though I was the one going through the surgeries."
In a piece for Sports Illustrated that documented her experience with the diagnosis and the surgeries that allowed her to eventually be cancer-free, Andrews recalled stressing the importance of being able to show up to do her job as she was being wheeled into her first operating room. "I’m not watching any football games at home. This is [Fox’s] Super Bowl year, and I’m not missing the Super Bowl," she said at the time. And five days after that surgery, she worked the sideline of a Packers-Cowboys game at Lambeau Field.
Ultimately, the weakness that she feared people would see once she revealed the truth of her situation became a clear sign of Andrews' strength. She even had the opportunity to help others become more aware of their cervical health.
"I knew when we told that story [of my diagnosis], it was gonna blow up, and then the morning it was released, it was on every morning show. When they were reporting [on the] morning shows, they attached the numbers and the stats of how many women do suffer from cervical cancer and why it's so important to go get checked. I'm proud of myself for being vocal about it, even though it's your reproductive system, it's your vagina. Who wants to talk about that publicly?" she shared with Wondermind. "I work in a field where it's a ton of men, and a lot were coming up to me just thanking me because they went and told their mothers, their aunts, their sisters, their wives, their cousins to go get checked."
Even after that experience, Andrews admitted that she's hard on herself when it comes to maintaining a balance between her professional and personal endeavors. She's also found difficulty in prioritizing her mental health or finding ways to appease her anxiety.
"I tend to pile it on when I start thinking about something that gives me anxiety," she said. "I'm not a person that sits there and is like, 'You know what? What's gonna happen is what's gonna happen. We're gonna deal with it.' I tend to absolutely beat it to death [laughs]. That goes for a lot of things in my life. So I'm trying to work really hard on breathing in positivity and letting out the negativity."
And while learning "to not suppress my emotions" is a goal for the 44-year-old, she chooses to tap into the things that she knows will make her happy.
"I try to work on my breathing. This is something I started last year. I'll turn on a meditation app and try to relax that way. [And] if it's not the middle of the night, how I try to work on my mental health every day [is] working out," she said. "It helps my mental health so much. I mean, my husband always says you can tell when I've worked out ’cause my mood is just improved. It's like the Legally Blonde comment on happy people."
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