Six months after Martina Navratilova shared her “double whammy” cancer diagnosis with the world—stage 1 throat cancer and unrelated early-stage breast cancer—doctors have declared her free of the disease. But the tennis star is still processing the emotional whiplash she endured during treatment.
“I was diagnosed early December and I finally got the all-clear three weeks ago, so it really has been seven months of hell, emotionally and physically,” the 66-year-old said in a recent interview with ITV’s Good Morning Britain, per People.
In late 2022, Navratilova noticed a sore lump on her neck. Testing revealed it as stage 1 throat cancer linked to human papillomavirus, which she was told “responds very well to treatment,” she wrote in an announcement. However, upon undergoing additional screenings, a “suspicious form” was detected in her breast and diagnosed as cancerous.
While undergoing chemotherapy and radiation, Navratilova lost about 25 pounds. In a recent interview with The Washington Post, she added that she also experienced insomnia and extreme weakness that required her to hold a glass of water with two hands. “Everything felt just wrong,” she said.
Then there were the other physical side effects—an inability to stay warm, and pain when swallowing, for example. “The actual treatment was horrific,” she told Good Morning Britain. “It really beat me up. It was brutal.”
In tennis, Navratilova prided herself on being in control of her game, and cancer treatment forced her to let go of that, which was difficult. “As a top-level athlete, you think you’re going to live to a hundred and that you can rehab it all,” she told The Washington Post. “And then you realize, ‘I can’t rehab this.’” In her interview with Good Morning Britain, she admitted that “powerlessness definitely came for me.”
Thanks to her support system—including her wife, Real Housewives of Miami star Julia Lemigova, and her longtime tennis rival and friend, Chris Evert (who was also diagnosed with cancer in 2021)—Navratilova kept going.
Lemigova “would come in and out” of filming to be with her, she said. “And of course, Chris and I had gone through the same thing essentially and [were] supporting each other.”
This journey marks Navratilova’s second one with breast cancer—she was also treated for it in 2010. On June 19, she celebrated being cancer-free once again. “I got the all clear!” she tweeted. “What a relief.”