Clea Shearer, celebrity organizer and the heart of the popular show Get Organized With The Home Edit, announced on Thursday that she has Stage 1 invasive mammary carinoma, an aggressive form of breast cancer.
She opened up about her diagnosis and treatment to People earlier this week ahead of her planned double mastectomy, which will take place today. While she’s told everyone including her husband John and her business partner and co-star Joanna Teplin, she says she’s withholding the information from her kids, Stella Blue, 11, and Sutton Gray, 8, until just before the surgery. And it’s for good reason.
"I didn't want to tell them with too much advanced notice before my operation just because I think that it would be really hard for them to be carrying around that anxiety for the whole week," she told People in an exclusive interview. "That's actually the part that I'm most nervous about. I know I'm going to be okay and I know that I'll be fine in surgery and recovery and all of it, but I'm nervous to tell my kids."
Shearer, who is 40, was about to start promoting the second season of her hit show and was in New York City to film a Today Show segment when she felt two lumps in her breast during a self exam.
"I felt something, a mass, a lump. But I didn't know what a lump actually even felt like, so I was just in my hotel room Googling, 'What does a breast tumor feel like?' " Shearer says.
Shearer then fought to schedule the soonest mammogram she could get (at first her OBGYN said May was the earliest possible time — she asked her primary care doctor and found a much earlier appointment). While 40 is the recommended first year women should get a mammogram, she had not scheduled one amidst her busy life, which has recently included merging her company with Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine and launching a magazine.
"I went in for a mammogram and then it turned into an ultrasound and the ultrasound came back as 'suspicious and concerning,' which led to an emergency triple biopsy, that same day," she says. "The radiologist at that point, pretty much confirmed that she would be shocked if this was anything but cancer, but we waited for the pathology to come back from the biopsy."
Shearer also told her friends and fans on Instagram on Thursday.
“I have breast cancer,” she posts. “It’s a hard thing to say, but it’s easier than keeping it to myself. I’m having a double mastectomy tomorrow (prayers are welcome!), and I wanted to say a few words before I do.”
The reality TV star struggled with the diagnosis, especially before she knew what stage it was and what the prognosis and treatment plan would be.
"It's crazy to look in the mirror and tell yourself that right now, as you're physically standing there, you are a person who has cancer,” she says. It's crazy to say it out loud. It was really scary and really, really, really emotional. At that point, I didn't know what stage it was. I didn't know if it had spread. You go into a pretty dark place until you have more information."
She turned to one of her celebrity friends during that time: Christina Applegate, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008.
"[Christina] was my first phone call and my second and the last few, too," she says.
Shearer won’t be sure if she need further treatment, like chemotherapy or radiation, until further down the road. But she’s ready to go up against anything.
"I'm a fighter. If anyone can crush cancer, it is me," she says. "I'm literally afraid for cancer and I've got this. Even though I know that I'll be scared the night before, and I'm sure, in the first weeks of recovery, I'll be pretty grumpy, but it doesn't mean that I feel any less resolute about absolutely nailing it and putting cancer in my rearview."
She also wants people to learn from her experience.
“It’s a personal choice to make this public, but sharing my experience makes cancer feel purposeful,” she writes. “If I can convince any of you to self-examine on a regular basis, self-advocate always, and to prioritize your health over your busy schedules - then this will have meant something. It’s also important to note that I was under 40 when these tumors formed, and have no history of breast cancer in my family. Even if cancer feels improbable, it’s still very possible.”