In 2002, just before she turned 35, mom of two Laurie Arslani was diagnosed with breast cancer. Though she was scared of what this might mean for her future, Arslani was determined to fight the disease — in a very public way. That same year, Arslani allowed “Oprah Show” cameras and Oprah to accompany her to her chemotherapy treatments, wanting to show the world what she and millions of other women go through in their efforts to beat breast cancer.
As Arslani went in for her third chemo treatment in a regimen of four sessions, she opened up to Oprah about what the entire experience had been like. Though she was often physically and emotionally drained, Arslani tried not to focus on her exhaustion for the sake of her 6-year-old and 2-year-old daughters. “I have two young kids, and I have to keep my energy up,” she said matter-of-factly.
Sitting in the chemotherapy room, Arslani described to Oprah how it felt to have the drugs course through her body. “It’s a nausea that just doesn’t go away,” she said, clutching a picture of her girls, which she used as a source of strength. “You look at that and then you say, ‘I can take this.’”
Before Oprah left, she shared words of encouragement with the brave mother. “You’re going to get through it. I can feel it,” Oprah said. “You’re going to really knock this thing out of the ballpark.”
Twelve years later, “Oprah: Where Are They Now?” followed up with Arslani and learned she did exactly that. Now cancer-free, Arslani reveals what she really thought about welcoming Oprah’s cameras into her world.
“My reaction when I found out Oprah was coming to chemo was complete shock. I’m like, ‘This is bittersweet.’ Who doesn’t want to meet Oprah?” she says. “But under those circumstances… At least it gave me something to look forward to as I was going to my next treatment.”
When Arslani finished chemotherapy, Oprah reached out once again. “I got a handwritten note. ‘I hold you in my prayers. Thank you again. Oprah,’” Arslani reads.
Today, Arslani feels especially fortunate for her health, her children and her strong marriage. “I feel very lucky with my circumstances,” she says. “I just love the fact that I have been here for milestones for my daughters.”
As for her children, Arslani’s eldest recently graduated high school and her younger daughter turned 14 this year. And upon becoming cancer-free, Arslani was later thrilled to give birth to a third child. “I refer to Aiden as my ‘miracle baby’ because anytime you’re under chemo, it can affect you where you can’t have kids,” she says.
The last 12 years haven’t just changed Arslani’s perspective on life, but has also impacted her children as well, especially firstborn Arielle. “Once we actually got a little older and we realized what was going on, it made us kind of appreciate her a lot more, that she was there with us… My mom’s like my best friend,” Arielle says, her voice breaking. “If anything happened to her, it would have been really hard.”
“I wouldn’t have let it, for that reason,” Arslani says, hugging her daughter close. “These [kids] have been my rock.
“I can honestly say that I always felt it in my heart that I would be here,” she continues. “And I would do anything I had to do.”