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Catherine's Health Scare

By Erin Craven.  First appeared in TV Week, 2000


After a brush with cancer, JAG star Catherine Bell opts for a slightly less crazy life.

Ten years ago, JAG star Catherine Bell came in contact with cancer first-hand.  The model-turned-actor was diagnosed with thyroid cancer - a common but non-terminal form of the disease.

"Thyroid cancer isn't a life-threatening illness, so I am very lucky in that sense," says the beautiful 32 year old.  "But having any form of cancer, especially when you are only 22 years old, is really scary."

After having surgery to remove her thyroid gland and undergoing a dose of radiation to eliminate any remaining cancerous cells, Catherine has been given the all-clear. but she still take a thyroid pill every month, and she has a thyroid test once a year to make sure the cancer has not returned.

The cancer scare has strengthened the bond between Catherine and her mother Mina, who now acts as her manager.

"When I was having the treatment, you're totally radioactive and no one can come near you," Catherine says.   "When you go to the bathroom, they actually tell you to flush three times so you can dilute the radioactive material more.  Through all that, Mom would still be there to hold my hand."

Another positive effect of her bout with cancer has been Catherine's re-evaluation of what is important in life.

"I decided to watch what I eat and not become too crazy," she says.  "I don't drink much and I don't do drugs."

However, there is still one fairly risky pastime that thrill-seeker Catherine enjoys - driving fast cars.

"I used to go parachuting, but no more," she reveals.  "I ride a motorcycle and I race cars but nothing too dangerous."

After playing Lt Dianne Schonke, the ex-girlfriend of Lt Cmdr Harmon Rabb, in an early episode of JAG, logic would have suggested that Catherine's involvement in the Seven Network action series would have ended once her character was killed off.  Instead, she auditioned for the role of Maj Sarah "Mac" MacKenzie and returned to the series.

"I really wanted the part, so I wrote a letter to our producer Don Bellisario to tell him," Catherine says.  "He called me in for an audition and I won the part."

"I wouldn't change my life for anything, but I would love to do something after JAG.  Maybe play someone really wild and sexy."

Having spent a lot of time on military bases while filming the series, Catherine knows she's not suited to that way of life.

"I want to be able to create and live life how I want," she admits.  "And I love acting too much.  It's complex and intense."

First Appeared 2nd October, 2000