Dancing with the Stars' Carrie Ann Inaba My Mother's Breast Cancer Battle

updated 10/26/2009 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/26/2009 01:00AM

In June 2008, while shopping in Los Angeles, Dancing with the Stars judge Carrie Ann Inaba answered a call from her mom, Patricia Inaba Chu. "I have cancer," said Chu, 62, who was diagnosed with a stage 3 tumor in her right breast. "My world stopped," recalls Inaba, 41, who flew to New York for Chu's mastectomy and then commuted biweekly from Los Angeles for six months while her mother underwent chemotherapy and radiation.

Always "pushed to follow my dreams" by Chu while growing up in Hawaii, Inaba discovered her nurturing side. She helped with medications, prepared meals and took Chu on long walks near her Westchester home, where she lives with her husband, Simon Chu. "I became the caretaker," Inaba says. Agrees Chu, a former cancer research assistant: "Carrie was so strong. My little girl grew up." Cancer-free since last spring, Chu now belongs to a local cancer support group where she sings and socializes.

Inaba works with the Entertainment Industry Foundation's iParticipate campaign, which encourages Americans to volunteer in their communities, and Drea's Dream, a dance therapy program for children with cancer. She's also hosted the Revlon Run/Walk 5K in L.A., which will now be an annual celebration for mom and daughter. "Now I'm a survivor," Chu says. "That's an amazing feeling."

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