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Originally published June 13, 2012 at 9:10 PM | Page modified June 13, 2012 at 10:15 PM

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Cynthia Nixon in Seattle talks cancer, same-sex marriage

Cynthia Nixon is in Seattle on Thursday, June 14, 2012, to address an audience at a Gilda's Club fundraiser, "Surviving with Style."

Seattle Times staff columnist

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Gilda's Club Seattle: www.gildasclubseattle.org.

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Despite a career of scripts and takes and prompts from offstage, Cynthia Nixon won't need much preparation to stand before the audience she will face today.

The actress, who will speak at the annual Gilda's Club "Surviving with Style" fashion show and luncheon at the Westin Seattle, knows cancer better than most.

Nixon's mother, now in her 80s, has survived three bouts of it.

In 2006, Nixon was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a lumpectomy and radiation.

And earlier this year, Nixon played the lead in the Broadway production of "Wit," about a university professor in the final stages of ovarian cancer. The role won her a Tony nomination. (She lost to Nina Arianda of "Venus in Fur.")

For her performance — a clear departure from her signature role as the wisecracking, high-powered, designer-dudded lawyer Miranda Hobbes on "Sex and the City" — Nixon said she didn't draw much on her own cancer experience.

Instead, she conjured the friends who had died of AIDS, the searing pain of childbirth and the time her mother spent in hospitals.

"I had a very minor breast-cancer diagnosis, minor surgery and six weeks of radiation," Nixon said from her home in New York the other day. "It bears no resemblance to a (character) who had aggressive chemotherapy and probably wouldn't make it.

"It had the same name," she said. "But a cat can be a kitten or a mountain lion. They're both cats."

Nixon was diagnosed while appearing onstage in "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie." She didn't go public until her treatment was over.

"I told almost no one," she said. "I told the women in the dressing room because they saw my bandages. [And] my mother ... you have enough on your plate, you don't want to manage everybody else's emotions."

Nor did she want "Brodie" audiences to know she was undergoing treatment.

"I think that would have been very distracting for people," she said.

And then there was the paparazzi.

"I am not besieged," she said, "but I didn't want them waiting for me when I was having radiation five days a week."

She praised Gilda's Club for "normalizing" cancer. "People with cancer are still people," she said.

Nixon arrives in the Northwest at an interesting time, as people across the state debate same-sex marriage.

The actress is a newlywed, having just married her longtime partner, Christine Marinoni, over Memorial Day weekend.

Are they registered anywhere?

"We're not," Nixon said with a laugh. "Please, no gifts."

Some believe being able to be married to your same-sex partner is gift enough.

Just days after Nixon's wedding, Preserve Marriage Washington submitted twice the number of signatures needed to put the issue of same-sex marriage on the November ballot here in Washington state.

"My wife's parents have been fighting (the petition)," Nixon said, adding that Marinoni is from Bainbridge Island.

"Washington state has traditionally been such a wonderfully progressive place," Nixon said. "There is nothing to be afraid of. ... Let people get married. Nothing will happen.

"You'll get to make a lot of gay people very happy, and you'll feel proud," she said. "That's how we feel in New York. Proud."

Nicole Brodeur: 206-464-2334 or nbrodeur@seattletimes.com.

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