Stanley Tucci Details Life With Cancer in His New Memoir

Actor Stanley Tucci's new memoir and cookbook gives readers a peek into his lifelong love of food as well as the cancer diagnosis that shook his world.

Bianca Piazza - Author

Oct. 5 2021, Published 7:21 p.m. ET

Stanley Tucci
Source: Getty Images

Whether you know him as Nigel, one of Runway magazine's most savvy employees, in The Devil Wears Prada, or as Caesar Flickerman, the colorful host of The Hunger Games, you've likely fallen in love with Stanley Tucci's warm smile and impressive acting chops, which earned him an Academy Award nomination in 2009. Aside from acting, The Lovely Bones star has had a lifelong love affair with food, which he considers to be a principal theme in his life.

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Stanley Tucci's 2021 memoir and cookbook, Taste: My Life Through Food, explores his relationship with various cuisines, his admiration for his foodie mother, and the devastating cancer diagnosis that shook his world three years ago. Said diagnosis affected his approach to eating in a way that left him hungry in every sense of the word. As for the kind of cancer he had, it's relatively rare.

Stanley Tucci With a Fan at the BFI London Film Festival
Source: Getty Images
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What kind of cancer was Stanley Tucci diagnosed with?

Three years ago, Stanley was on the receiving end of a gut-wrenching oral cancer diagnosis. "It was devastating. Luckily, the cure rate was very high," he told Good Morning America. Doctors told Stanley, whose wife died of breast cancer in 2009, the tumor on his tongue was "too large" to operate on directly, leaving him with "high-dose radiation and chemotherapy" as the best options to proceed with.

"So it's three years later now and everything is fine, but I was unable to eat solid food for six months," he explained. Though "everything is fine" now, the effects of the radiation and chemotherapy were difficult to endure, as he had no appetite and couldn't taste or swallow for a long period of time, even requiring a feeding tube. "My taste buds and saliva glands were destroyed, as was the inside of my mouth, and it's taken really two years to get back to almost normal."

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In a graphic description of his experience, Stanley stated, "Anything I ate tasted like wet cardboard slathered with someone's excrement." That sounds both repulsive and depressing. "I mean, if you can’t eat and enjoy food, how are you going to enjoy everything else?" Us foodies, who find joy in both creating and eating beautifully prepared dishes, couldn't agree more.

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Despite not yet feeling 100 percent like himself in 2019, Stanley decided to push himself and film CNN's travel show Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy. Though his sense of taste returned by the time filming began, swallowing food was another story. "I had to chew it for 10 minutes to get it down my throat," he told The Times of his experience eating Florentine Steak.

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Despite the struggles, both emotional and physical ones, Stanley was dedicated to filming the travel show, a passion project focussing on Italy's wide range of mouthwatering cuisines. "I've wanted to tell for a long time the story of Italy and the disparate cuisine in every region." Stanley didn't let the effects of his sickness consume his life, but he did accept them. "I feel much older than I did before I was sick. But you still want to get ahead and get things done.”

Taste: My Life Through Food releases on Oct. 5, 2021, and Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy is streaming on HBO Max.

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