While much of the attention in the tennis world has recently been focused on the upcoming Australian Open, especially Novak Djokovic's attempts to get into the country to play there, a message from legend Chris Evert on Friday evening shifted things to more sobering ground. "I wanted to share my stage 1 ovarian cancer diagnosis and the story behind it as a way to help others," the 67-year-old Hall of Famer wrote on Twitter, linking to an ESPN article written by Evert's friend Chris McKendry that details said diagnosis.
In the article, Evert, now an analyst for the sports network, reveals the early-stage cancer was detected during a preventive hysterectomy, and that cancer wasn't found anywhere else in her body. She started the first of a half-dozen rounds of chemo this week, admitting her nervousness of what's to come. "As someone who has always had control over my life, I have no idea how I'll respond to [the treatments]," Evert notes. Still, "I have comfort in knowing the chemotherapy is to ensure that cancer does not come back."
McKendry notes another reason that underlies Evert's anxiousness over the disease: Her younger sister, Jeanne Evert Dubin, died of it in February 2020 at the age of 62. Evert says that she's "so lucky" the cancer was found early, considering none of her annual exams—ultrasounds, an MRI, tests for a protein found on cancer cells—picked up on it. McKendry notes that the disease in its early stages is "virtually impossible" to detect, as it often doesn't exhibit noticeable symptoms. Evert's surgeon, Dr. Joel Cardenas of Cleveland Clinic Florida, adds that had Evert's cancer not been detected for another three months or so, she'd likely be at stage 3 or 4 by now.
The cancer was removed during Evert's hysterectomy, and after chemo, there's a more than 90% chance it won't return. Evert, whom the New York Times calls "one of the most celebrated players in tennis history," acknowledges the road that lies before her. "I've lived a very charmed life," she says, per ESPN. "Now I have some challenges ahead of me." But she's publicizing her story to keep other women cognizant of the risk factors—including endometriosis, infertility, and breast cancer, according to Cardenas—and to remind them to go for their regular checkups. In the meantime, she remains inspired by her sister. "When I go into chemo ... I'll be thinking of her," she notes. "And she'll get me through it." (Read more Chris Evert stories.)