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Danielle Spencer, former child star of 70s classic “What’s Happening” recently revealed a shocking diagnosis to Black America Web: she’s got breast cancer and was diagnosed one short month ago. Spencer is most widely known for her role as the bratty and very opinionated little sister “Dee” on “What’s Happening.” Now 49-years-old, Spencer left showbiz to pursue her education at Tuskegee University where she completed a degree in veterinary science and eventually graduated and became a vet. Twenty-two years later and Dr. Spencer couldn’t be happier about her choice to leave entertainment.

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Spencer told Black America Web, “However I do miss it every once in a while. There are a lot more show and opportunities when I was young. I wish there were more representations of animal rights on TV and I’m so glad there is Animal Planet now.” Spencer says she’d love to be part of a reality show focusing on animal rights and care.

But before she can get her reality show fame, Spencer has to take care of her health, especially after her breast cancer diagnosis. Currently Spencer is seeking the best treatment for herself. “Surgery is definitely one of the options. I”m trying to get as many opinions as possible but it does look that that is what I’m going to do. Hopefully after that there won’t be any chemotherapy or radiation. With everything that I’ve been through with the spinal cord injury (Spencer was in a car accident in 1977, during the show. Symptoms of spinal cord injury showed up 26 years later, eventually leaving her near-paralysis for a time) I know God is not going to give me another affliction. So I was completely shocked when the doctors told me.”

Like many women who suffer through breast cancer, Spencer’s family history is riddled with it. But she says that through the support she’s getting from her family and friends, she’s going to pull through. It doesn’t hurt that she’s been having some good news lately–she’s been inducted into the Smithsonian Museum in the exhibition of the African-American culture! Spencer is the only child star to be inducted. “I still can’t believe it,” she says. “That’s something people can look at for years to come, long after I’m gone.”

Spencer’s catchphrase, “Ooooh, I’m gonna tell momma!” will go down in history, along with her coveted space in the Smithsonian. Luckily for her fans, Spencer will never get tired of being asked to recite the infamous line. “I chuckle, because everyone thinks its original, so I have to act like it’s new every time.”

In a tragic time like this, it’s a beautiful thing to see that Danielle Spencer is still smiling.


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Check out Dee in action from her “What’s Happening Days” here:

For 2024’s iteration of MadameNoire and HelloBeautiful’s annual series Women to Know, we knew we wanted to celebrate the people who help make the joys of film and television possible. To create art is to create magic. This year, we spotlight Hollywood Executive’s changing the face of cinema.