Remember Princess Imani in 'Coming to America'? She Was Diagnosed with Cancer & Bravely Overcame It

Vanessa Bell Calloway, the actress best known as Princess Imani Izzi in 1988's comedy “Coming to America,” bravely won the battle against breast cancer.

In 2009, Vanessa was diagnosed with ductal carcinoma, an early stage of breast cancer. In a very detailed letter she wrote to Ebony, she revealed that one day, she felt God whispering in her ear telling her that something was wrong.

Even though she wasn’t in any pain, she asked her physician to get every test possible, so he ordered a CAT scan, blood work, and a mammogram, which she was supposed to get four months before that visit to the doctor.

“Don’t take life for granted. Take care of yourself.”


“A couple of days later, the nurses called and said there were some suspicious calcifications in my right breast. I told myself at that moment, ‘that’s what God was telling me,’” said Vanessa.

At 52 years old, she was diagnosed with ductal carcinoma in situ. In her own words, it meant that “the abnormal cells in the milk ducts have not fallen out into the tissue to invade the rest of the breast. It’s stage zero of breast cancer.”

Doctors suggested a lumpectomy, but when they performed it, they had to do a second one because the margins of the results were not as they expected. Unfortunately, the second surgery didn’t eliminate the problem either, so she had to undergo a mastectomy.

“That was the day I was the maddest. I wanted to throw things, but I wasn’t tearing up my house. I had a hard time coming to grips with my condition, but my husband and sister turned it around, reminding me ‘it’s just a breast. Let it go,’” added Vanessa.


Thankfully, the surgery was a complete success. Apart from getting rid of the malignant cells in her breast, she got reconstructive surgery too, as a plastic surgeon used skin from the soft tissue on her waistline to replace it.

Vanessa Bell Calloway attends the Premiere Of Focus Features' "Harriet" at The Orpheum Theatre  | Getty Images

Vanessa Bell Calloway attends the Premiere Of Focus Features' "Harriet" at The Orpheum Theatre | Getty Images

“Don’t take life for granted. Take care of yourself. Before I became sick, I had always believed in doctors. I married one. Anthony is an anesthesiologist. I’ve never missed my annual check ups,” pointed out Vanessa.

She even admitted to waking up worry-free and that, sometimes, she forgets she had cancer because “I’m so entrenched in the goodness of life. It’s a gift.” Due to such a difficult experience, Vanessa learned how strong she could be. “I really found the upside. I felt blessed to be here and continue to do what I love.”

Last year, the actress glittered in gold as she renewed her vows with her husband of thirty years in a video her good friend Tina Lawson shared from the occasion. 

ⓘ The information in this article is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. All content, including text, and images contained on, or available through this NEWS.AMOMAMA.COM is for general information purposes only. NEWS.AMOMAMA.COM does not take responsibility for any action taken as a result of reading this article. Before undertaking any course of treatment please consult with your healthcare provider.

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