Wednesday, September 25, 2013


I need to pick my battles.  It was with complete sincerity that I wrote the post that appeared yesterday.  I hope the message was clear.  Live and let live.  Embrace differences.  Acceptance.  EXCEPT....

I didn't count on another Suzanne Somers thing and there is a caveat (for now, just one and hopefully, it will remain, just one... I don't like the unforeseeable stuff).  As an advocate who takes this role quite seriously, I can't sit on the sidelines while people use their celebrity to peddle things that move into the medical arena.

In December of 2011, I wrote a blog that I titled Medical Advice From A Celebrity May Be Bad For Your Health.  The celeb in question was Suzanne Somers and She's BAAACK.  She wrote a book for the perimenopausal crowd.

She was a guest on the Katie Couric show and to be fair to Katie, she did mention that Suzanne's gig has created quite a controversy.  Katie would be completely accurate in that assessment.  I depart from my fairness when Suzanne was on the stage touting her great sex life which she credits to a loving, long term relationship, (no disagreement there), along with the slathering of estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, HGH etc (yes there are more...) along with some 40 supplements in the morning and another 20 in the evening.  And, there was no one with ANY medical credentials on the stage to balance the conversation.

Suzanne thinks there's a "new way to age" and it shouldn't be the way our grandparents aged, "all pilled up."  She also notes, "Perimenopause is the most dangerous phase for a woman."  She goes on to say that perimenopause is the time she developed her own breast cancer.  Subliminal messaging?  Perhaps.  Then she went into a full pitch about bioidentical hormones.  Were this a medical conference, a financial disclosure would have been made.  Suzanne Somers is not only selling a book, she's proudly affiliated with the company that facilitates the distribution of the bioidenticals.

In the world of medicine according to Suzanne, they are plant based, therefore, they are not synthetic, they are not drugs, they are exactly what our bodies would be doing on their own if we were at the RIGHT AGE for our bodies to be doing this, they are natural because they are being produced from things found in nature.

This is where I wish I could insert a sound.  You know the sound?  That BUZZ... you are wrong.... ding ding... go away.

Dr. Donnica Moore, was seated in the audience to offer some medical information.  Real medical information.  She explained that menopause is not a disease but a phase of life.  She complimented Suzanne's appearance and with a nod to When Harry Met Sally, said it would be hard for any woman to look at Suzanne, at 66 years old, and not want to say "I'll have what she's having."  However, she stood her ground.  Healthy diet and exercise are key.  Sleep is exceptionally important (thank you, Dr. Attai for being the bed police).  Having great sex is the icing on the cake.  (As an aside, Dr. Moore did make it a point to clarify that Suzanne's husband is also taking testosterone.)

Dr. Moore was being nice.  I'm pretty sure she would have liked to have jumped out of her seat, grab a microphone and speak to the audience from the same vantage point at Suzanne Somers.  Instead, she gracefully stated that blanket recommendations for all women are not made based upon what works for one woman.  She touched on hormone replacement therapy.  NOTE to all.  The biggest decline in breast cancer was seen when HRT was identified as a contributing factor to the development of breast cancer and the practice of just prescribing it across the board was stopped. Don't believe me.  Check with Dr. Love on that.

I think Katie did a bit of a disservice to open up that conversation in such an unbalanced fashion.  She has a huge audience. Katie is a staunch supporter of **All Cancer Research**.  She delivered the keynote at the Annual American Association for Cancer Research meeting.  She is a Co-Founder of Stand Up 2 Cancer.  For heaven's sake, she had a colonoscopy on national television.  Donnica Moore should have been seated on the stage.  Suzanne Somers did not deserve the last word in the conversation.  That may not be how it actually happened on television but that's the way the clip appears on Katie's website.

"Who wouldn't want to be like me.... I've got a rockin' libido.... blah blah blah"

I think Ms. Somers should go back to selling The Thigh Master and leave her medical opinions in the green room.

To Clarify:  I LIKE Suzanne Somers.  She's an entertainer.  And, in my most humble opinion, there's nothing more dangerous than a celebrity with a tremendous following, delivering a message they have no business delivering.  Talk to me about your great marriage, the fabulous sex, being on television.  Let me admire your appearance at age 66, with an understanding that MONEY does help.  Hell, tell me you are taking all kinds of stuff.... just do NOT position yourself as an expert.  People are hanging on to your words, quite possibly putting themselves in danger of developing the very cancer your carefully positioned words seem to imply this regimen might afford protection against.  Katie, I LOVE you.  I sat in the audience at the AACR meeting.  You are brilliant.  I'd love to see a do over or a proper segment with medical doctors on both sides having the discussion.  

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  1. Spot on as usual. The use of anecdotal evidence always drives me crazy. Coming unsolicited from a biased and uneducated source, it's worse. Coming from a celebrity who has the power of persuasion over so many, dangerous!

    As for natural? I wrote a piece a while back entitled: So is Hemlock.


    1. You REMINDED me that I wanted to include a link to your Hemlock piece. Don't tell Deanna I was up far too late trying to edit this piece (ergo, I forgot to include that bit of important info...)


  2. dear Anne Marie,

    what you write about in this post is so important, especially as to regards for the responsibility celebs have to the viewing public. I don't believe for a minute that ever comes into play in their minds, and that their own agendas are for them, the end all, be all. at least dr. Moore added some modicum of damage control, but I, too, bet she was extremely frustrated. I think the logistics were very interesting - and very telling. dr. Moore seated in the audience, but SS with Katie front and center. so who do we think got more hook, line, and sinker into the mind of the audience, both in the studio and on screen? ummm, hmmm. great job pulling the whole piece apart with your insightful (very fair and balanced) analysis. thank you!

  3. I remember seeing Suzanne Somers on the Today Show years ago when I was in graduate school doing breast cancer research, and her attitude and message made me so sad. It scares me to think that women might see her and want to follow her lead. I didn't see this interview, but your summary was great. At least now, as a breast cancer "survivor" (I still don't really like that term), I feel like people listen a little more when I suggest that not everything that makes it on tv qualifies as credible medical information. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Excellent (and balanced) assessment, AM. As you know, I saw the show live and was positively livid the way it was handled (fyi, based on the other segments which included Emmy fashions, if the show wasn't live, it was taped earlier that day and edited).

    That said, celebrities such as Giuliana Rancic, and yes, even Angelina Jolie have done somewhat of a disservice to women newly diagnosed and facing surgery. While I applaud them for returning to their work so quickly (heck, I had a television appearance the week after my bilateral) it sets very unrealistic expectations for women facing the same surgery. It's like women who instantly drop their baby weight. Why do women need (yet another) reason to judge themselves harshly?

    It's THAT MUCH worse when celebrities peddle medical advice or treatments. Seldom do they reveal their own diagnosis beyond "I was diagnosed with breast cancer". We all know there are types that are more aggressive and that the characteristics will often dictate treatment. Due to media hype, I was convinced that I would ask my doctors to treat me with Herceptin, unbeknownst to me at the time that was only for HER2+ tumors.

    I'm also a fan of Suzanne Somers, The Celebrity. She's had a great career and always seemed to be well regarded by her peers. But she has no business dispensing medical advice of ANY kind and it's irresponsible for shows such as Dr. Oz, The Doctors, and yes, my absolute fave, Katie, to give her a platform without boundaries. Given Katie's vast knowledge of cancer, I was a bit taken back as well. I truly hope they revisit this convo and have some experts (maybe even Dr. Love) on the panel.

  5. Spot on, as always AM. But I did see you up too late - you can't hide from me :)

  6. AnneMarie, I totally agree that celebrities should talk about things they know about, not medical information. Yes, it's great that she looks fab at age 66 -- she's got money. I remember she was going through her breast cancer stuff when I was going through mine, and how she recommended no medical treatment, such as chemo and radiation. My radiation oncologist and I had many discussions about how Somers should leave medical information to medical professionals. Excellent post!


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