Dana Reeve's Next Struggle: Her Cancer Fight

updated 08/22/2005 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/22/2005 AT 01:00 AM EDT

In the past few months, Dana Reeve seemed to be kicking her already busy schedule into high gear—swaying to a salsa band at a Sagaponack, N.Y., charity event, speaking on Capitol Hill in support of paralysis research, promoting a children's book and, as recently as mid-June, performing her cabaret act at a Manhattan nightclub in a slinky black cocktail dress. "Her smile lit up the whole room," says BackStage critic John Hoglund, who was in the audience that night. "She has an enormous voice. She can hold notes forever."

All the more shocking, then, was Reeve's announcement Aug. 9 that she had been diagnosed with lung cancer, a disclosure that came just 10 months after the death of her 52-year-old husband, actor Christopher Reeve, who was paralyzed in a 1995 riding accident. Though Reeve, 44, who's raising the couple's 13-year-old son Will while overseeing the foundation named for her husband, released no details of her illness, she is not a smoker, according to a spokeswoman for the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation (see box). Now that Reeve has begun treatment, in the words of foundation president Kathy Lewis, "we're sure she's going to face this challenge with grace and dignity, the way she faces everything else in her life."

In her statement (excerpted above), Reeve professes that she is already drawing strength from the late husband who still seems close by her side. That much was apparent even as she was performing her nightclub act, recalls Hoglund. "She did talk about Chris, but nothing maudlin," says the critic. "She sang 'I'll Be Seeing You,' and at the end of it she blew a kiss to heaven."

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