Cynthia Nixon's Battle With Breast Cancer

I come from a long line of strong women, starting with my great-grandmother in the Missouri Ozarks. My great-grandmother's family were Northerners and my great-grandfather's family were Southerners, so her father disowned her when they married. She persisted because she believed in the rightness of her choice. They were farmers and had 12 children. My grandmother, who was born in 1892, was the oldest girl. There were seven sisters, and my grandmother made sure that all of them graduated from college, which was a feat, particularly coming from the impoverished Ozarks.

My grandmother wanted to be a doctor, but ran out of time for medical school because she was helping all her sisters; instead, she became a bacteriologist in a lab in Chicago. My mother wanted to be an actress, so she moved to New York. That didn't work out, but she had a long, wonderful career as a writer. All the women in my family trust their impulses and they follow them.

I became involved in public education because it is such an important part of my family's history. Growing up in New York, I got a great public-school education. My daughter's entrance into public school as a kindergartner coincided with budget cuts, and also with a certain level of fame from "Sex and the City." It seemed like a logical choice to use my celebrity to draw attention to public schools.

My involvement in breast cancer is also personal. My mother had breast cancer twice, the first time when I was about 13.

She was comfortable in the medical world because it was her mother's world. She passed that on to me. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I knew it wasn't a death sentence. People who've had cancer share an instant bond. I did the Komen Race for the Cure in Washington a few months ago. It was incredible for me to be surrounded by survivors. We wore pink; it was a parade of pink.

I've been living with Christine Marinoni for three and a half years. When I won an Emmy for "Sex and the City," we got phone calls asking about our relationship. I hired a publicist who happened to be a lesbian. She said, "Why don't we just confirm?" So I did. I was following family tradition. Well-behaved women don't make history.

I feel like there is a complete double standard about the age at which men and women are considered attractive on screen. But that's what's wonderful about being a New York stage actor. If you can remember your lines, there will be roles for you. I plan to die onstage.