Story Time

Shock As Christopher Reeve’s Widow Dies of Lung Cancer at 44

“How could this happen?” That was the common question Tuesday after the news that Dana Reeve, Christopher Reeve’s cheerful and lively widow, had died of lung cancer at the astonishingly young age of 44.

Michael Manganello, Christopher Reeve’s former assistant and vice president of the Christopher Reeve Foundation, stated, “We kind of knew, and Dana was surrounded by family and friends. Dana was an elegant and graceful woman, and she left this world the same way. She was at peace.”

Reeve, who was also a singer and actor, did not smoke. Around a third of lung cancer patients have never smoked, but some may have been exposed to secondhand smoke. The specifics of Reeve’s diagnosis and treatment were kept under wraps.

Reeve, 44, revealed she had cancer last summer, but only four months ago declared she was responding well to therapy.

Democrat John Kerry said on the Senate floor Tuesday that he’ll “never forget the grace and the strength” Reeve shown shortly after the “Superman” actor’s  death in October 2004.

Following her husband’s accident in 1995, Reeve put her own acting and singing career on hold. She led the nonprofit he founded to find therapies for spinal-cord paralysis after he died. Her position as a caregiver for Superman star Christopher Reeve earned her a unique place in American society. The American Cancer Society honored her with a mother of the year award last year, praising her “strength and courage in the face of tremendous adversity”

The Reeves’ 13-year-old son is “in the loving care of family and friends,” according to a Christopher Reeve Foundation spokesperson. Will’s future is secured, she claims, thanks to his mother’s efforts.

Manganello said Will’s pain was being eased by friends and family.

“He’s going to be surrounded by so many people who love him that Will will be fine,” Manganello added. “Nobody has enough time with their parents, but I think that Chris and Dana spent such a remarkable time with Will and they did such a good job raising him.”

Like her husband, Reeve became an outspoken supporter of stem cell research. She campaigned for Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry after her husband died only weeks before the 2004 election. Mr. Kerry stated yesterday: “It is impossible to put into words the quiet strength and incredible courage Dana Reeve demonstrated in the way she lived her life. With Chris, she gave voice to a movement to find life-saving cures and promote medical research, and when she lost her inspiration and love she didn’t stop the fight.”


Actor Christopher Reeve had 6 1/2 hours of surgery yesterday to stabilize his neck, which had been fractured at an equestrian event on May 27. Although Reeve remains paralyzed and unable to breathe without the use of a ventilator, the treatment should allow him to sit upright for the first time, which will likely speed up his recovery.

In a surgery that ran from 8:30 a.m. to around 3 p.m., a six-person surgical team at the University of Virginia Medical Center in Charlottesville utilized titanium wire and bone grafted from Reeve’s hip to connect the top two vertebrae of his backbone to his skull.

“Everything went well,” said neurosurgeon John Jane at a press briefing at 4 p.m. “I am confident he will be stable.”

He also said that Reeve “indicated pleasure {by smiling} when I told him this would enable him to move his head up,” according to Reuter.

Reeve has been paralyzed from the neck down since landing on his head in Culpeper, Virginia, and has been unable to breathe without artificial aid. It will also have no effect on his healing time. Rather, the fusion saves Reeve’s muscular functioning by preventing additional injury to the spinal cord.

According to medical center authorities, postoperative healing would take between 10 days and two weeks.