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Actress makes a difference in cancer fight

Seven months ago, Maria Friedman was determined to stay on stage even after her major breast cancer surgery. And she did, until she suffered a major setback, reports NBC's Brian Williams.

You may remember Maria Friedman's story. When she was about to open on Broadway, she learned she had breast cancer. She was back on stage days after surgery.

She recovered, then had a flare-up. Now, she's well. And after all she's been through, she's using her voice to tell women about life with breast cancer. I asked her what's happened since we last spoke.

“What happened was that I started radiotherapy treatment,” she says.

When last we met, seven months ago, Maria Friedman was determined to stay on stage even after her major breast cancer surgery. And she did, until she suffered a major setback.

“They got me back in,” she says, “And said, ‘We need to go back. You know, there's some other cells that we found.’ And the second surgery was much worse than the first surgery, because I knew what was coming. And so, emotionally, it was a little bit more difficult.”

here was more bad news on the way. Her beloved show “The Woman in White” — where she made her Broadway debut — ceased production.

“I'm feeling really sad," said Friedman before the final show on May 11. “Lots of lovely people here that I'm going to miss. I know that shows survive with people being off and people being ill. And I, you know, I did six nights a week for the majority of the run. But, you know, it brought me to America, it got me to New York and I got the best care I could possibly have gotten.”

Maria came to love the city. And discovered there is more to New York than just Broadway.

She has a new CD of songs recorded with celebrated composer Stephen Sondheim, and all this month you can watch her sing her heart out at New York's landmark Carlyle Hotel.

Throughout it all, she has never forgotten that she is a woman with cancer, who now can use her good fortune to share more than just her music.

“My main reason I wanted to talk to you today is start off and have the chance to say to people, ‘Check. Get checked. This is before you get it. Get checked because finding it early saves your life. That's the first thing.”

“The other thing is, people don't know the breast is from here, here,” she says, motioning to below her collarbone. “It's here [underarm]. It's this [chest]. Mine was here [above the breast]. Would not have been found in a mammogram. Please, please, please, check yourself.”

Now, with a clean bill of health she wants other women to know that it is possible to live a full, happy life, even with the uncertainty of cancer.

“Don't exclude your family,” she says. “If you have a family, keep them involved.  Both my children come to the hospital every day with me.”

They're her partners. Thursday night, one of those “partners,” her son, joined her on stage, and that one brief moment it combined the loves of her life — the music and the people she cannot live without.