Martina Navratilova Recalls Emotional Toll of Cancer Battle: ‘7 Months of Hell’

“It’s still hanging over your shoulder, no matter what,” the tennis champion said recently after getting the all-clear

Martina Navratilova recently announced that she was cancer-free — but battling the disease took a physical and emotional toll on the tennis legend.

In an interview Monday with ITV’s Good Morning Britain, Navratilova, 66, who was accompanied by her wife, Real Housewives of Miami star Julia Lemigova, gave an update on her health since being diagnosed with throat and breast cancer at the end of last year.

“So I was diagnosed early December and I finally got the all-clear three weeks ago, so it really has been seven months of hell, emotionally and physically,” she said.
Navratilova added that while her cancer was mostly treatable, the treatment itself, which included proton radiation therapy, was “horrific.”

“Chemotherapy, radiation — it really beat me up,” she told the outlet. “So physically it was brutal. It’s still hanging over your shoulder, no matter what. You can’t get away from it. The powerlessness definitely came for me, but at least I can control my attitude. But Julia was really powerless with that. She was really scared in the beginning. We were both really scared.”

But, she said, she had the support of Lemigova, who was filming RHOM during the treatment but “she would come in and out” to be with her. “And of course, [friend and former tennis player] Chris Evert and I had gone through the same thing essentially and supporting each other.” (Evert was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2021.)

Navratilova also said that she lost about 25 lbs. during the ordeal. “It’s been difficult but cancer-free now, knock on wood.”

Lemigova said in the interview that the experience changed the way she thinks about life. “A tragedy like this, life teaches you different perspective. Don’t take life for granted and appreciate every moment of it. Now that’s what we do with Martina. We appreciate and thank every day and look at life completely different…and thanking every day.”
Last month, Navratilova expressed her gratitude on Twitter, thanking “all the doctors, nurses, proton and radiation magicians, etc.” after “a day full of tests at Sloan Kettering,” wrote the nine-time Wimbledon champion.

“What a relief,” she wrote, with a smiley face and the hashtags “#byebyecancer 🙂 and yes, #f—cancer !!!”

Of her original diagnosis, Navratilova admitted that although she’d been told her cancer was “very” treatable, “I was in a total panic for three days thinking I may not see next Christmas.”

In an interview with PEOPLE in March, Lemigova said she was by Navratilova’s side when she got the all-clear news. “I was with her from the good, bad, and the ugly, all the way. So when she was diagnosed with the cancer, I was with her and it’s not a secret. Yes, of course, I was with her when she had good news. I had to be. And we celebrated that day.”

Earlier this month, former tennis rivals Navratilova and Evert talked about their friendship and recent cancer diagnoses in a Washington Post interview. “[Martina] was one of the very first people I told,” Evert recalled after hearing the news about her ovarian cancer. “When I called her, it was a feeling of, like, coming home.”

Navratilova was first diagnosed with breast cancer 13 years ago — though she was declared cancer free in 2010. At the time of her initial diagnosis, Navratilova told PEOPLE: “It knocked me on my ass, really. I feel so in control of my life and my body, and then this comes, and it’s completely out of my hands.”