What’s not to love about Gilda Radner? She entered our lives in 1975 as the first person ever to be cast for Saturday Night Live and co-wrote many of the sketches she permormed in. There, she endeared herself to generations inspiring the likes of Tina Fey, who has credited Radner with being her inspiration to become a comedy writer. During her five year run on the show, Gilda created characters that we still love today from Rosanne Rosannadanna to Emily Litella to Lisa Loopner. Maybe that’s because there’s a little Rosanne, Emily, and Lisa in all of us.
After her stint on SNL, Gilda left to pursue film work where she met the love of her life, Gene Wilder. They married in 1984. In 1986, after 10 months of visiting doctors for fatigue and pain that wouldn’t relent, Gilda was diagnosed with stage IV ovarian cancer. Despite surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation, the cancer spread and she passed in 1989 at the age of 42.
In her book It’s Always Something, written during a short period of remission, Gilda took her illness head on. She spoke candidly about it and, after her death, Wilder carried out her wish that information about her illness would help other victims. To that end, a number of organizations have been founded and/or inspired to emphasize early diagnosis, hereditary factors and support for cancer victims.