Kirstie Alley Only ‘Recently Discovered’ Her Cancer Before She Died—Here’s the Form She Was Diagnosed With

Kirstie Alley
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If you’ve followed her four-decade-long career, you may have questions around how Kirstie Alley died and what her cause of death was before her sudden passing.

Alley, whose full name was Kirstie Louise Alley, was born on January 12, 1951 in Wichita, Kansas. Her on-screen debut came in 1982 when she starred as Vulcan Starfleet officer Lieutenant Saavik in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Alley joined the cast of Cheers in season six in 1987, and starred on the show for six seasons until the series 11th and final season in 1993. She was nominated for five Emmys in the Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series for Cheers and won once in 1991. While on Cheers, Alley also starred in 1989’s Look Who’s Talking with John Travolta. The movie grossed more than $295 million across the world and led to two sequels, Look Who’s Talking Too and Look Who’s Talking Now.

In an interview with StarTrek.com in 2016, Alley reflected on her career and revealed the roles she was the most proud of. “I would say I would start [my grandchildren] off [by watching my show] Cheers. I was very proud of David’s Mother, which was a drama, just because I hadn’t ever done something like that,” she said. “I guess any time — I’m one of those actors that likes to do things that I haven’t done before. So when someone asks me, ‘What about this?’ If my first feeling is, ‘Oh, why’d you choose me for this?’ Then I kind of go — because then you have to be a little bit braver, I guess — ‘All right, I’ll give it a whirl.’”

After more than 45 years in Hollywood, Alley died of cancer on December 5, 2022. She was 71 years old. Read on for what we know about how Kirstie Alley died and her cause of death before her passing.

How did Kirstie Alley die?

Kirstie Alley

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How did Kirstie Alley die? Alley’s children, son William True and daughter Lillie Price, announced on December 5, 2022, that she had died from a recently diagnosed form of cancer. She was 71 years old. “To all our friends, far and wide around the world…We are sad to inform you that our incredible, fierce and loving mother has passed away after a battle with cancer, only recently discovered,” William and Lillie said in a statement on Alley’s Instagram. “She was surrounded by her closest family and fought with great strength, leaving us with a certainty of her never-ending joy of living and whatever adventures lie ahead. As iconic as she was on screen, she was an even more amazing mother and grandmother.”

The statement continued, “We are grateful to the incredible team of doctors and nurses at the Moffitt Cancer Center for their care. Our mother’s zest and passion for life, her children, grandchildren and her many animals, not to mention her eternal joy of creating, were unparalleled and leave us inspired to live life to the fullest just as she did. We thank you for your love and prayers and ask that you respect our privacy at this difficult time. With love always, True and Lillie Parker.”

According to Alley’s death certificate obtained by Us Weekly, Alley was cremated and died in her home in Clearwater, Florida. After the news of her death, Alley’s friend and Look Who’s Talking co-star, John Travolta, paid tribute to her in an Instagram post. “Kirstie was one of the most special relationships I’ve ever had. I love you Kirstie. I know we will see each other again,” he wrote. Ted Danson, Alley’s Cheers co-star, also paid tribute to her in a statement to E! News. “I was on a plane today and did something I rarely do. I watched an old episode of Cheers,” he said. “It was the episode where Tom Berenger proposes to Kirstie, who keeps saying no, even though she desperately wants to say yes. Kirstie was truly brilliant in it. Her ability to play a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown was both moving and hysterically funny.” He continued, “She made me laugh 30 years ago when she shot that scene, and she made me laugh today just as hard.  As I got off the plane, I heard that Kirstie had died. I am so sad and so grateful for all the times she made me laugh. I send my love to her children. As they well know, their mother had a heart of gold. I will miss her.”

What was Kirstie Alley’s cause of death?

Kirstie Alley

Image: Getty Images.

What was Kirstie Alley’s cause of death? Alley’s representative confirmed Alley’s cause of death was colon cancer to People. According to the American Cancer Society, the lifetime risk of developing colorectal cancer is 1 in 23 (4.3 percent) for men and 1 in 25 (4 percent) for women. The organization estimates 106,180 new cases of colon cancer and 44,850 new cases of rectal cancer in 2022. The American Cancer Society also reports that colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in men and women in the United States and the second most common cause of cancer deaths for men and women combined. The organization also estimates that colorectal cancer is expected to cause about 52,580 deaths in 2022. Other celebrities who have died of colon cancer include Audrey Hepburn, Chadwick Boseman and Eartha Kitt.

Before her death, Alley was open about her health and weight. She worked as a spokesperson for weight-management company, Jenny Craig, from 2004 to 2007, where she lost 75 pounds, bringing her weight down to 145 pounds. In an interview with People in 2009, Alley revealed she had gained 83 pounds and weighed 228 pounds after her partnership ended with Jenny Craig. “It started with New Year’s [2008], right after leaving Jenny Craig. “I started screaming,” she said. “It said 228 lbs., which is my highest weight ever. I was so much more disgusting than I thought!…I fell off the horse.” She continued, “It started with New Year’s [2008], right after leaving Jenny Craig. When you’re a spokesperson for Jenny Craig, there’s responsibility. You have a person every week standing over you when you get on the scale, and I did it naked because those panties could weigh 30 lbs.! It was amazingly successful. But the first nail in the coffin was that I didn’t have to weigh in. I just sort of went wild.” Alley resumed her partnership with Jenny Craig in April 2014. Jenny Craig’s parent company also acquired Alley’s weight-loss company, Organic Liaison, and integrated its products into Jenny Craig’s product line.

In an interview with Women’s Health in 2014, Alley explained that she lost weight for her overall health, not to look thinner. “I love to feel limber, and I love to move really, really fast,” she said. “When I gain weight, I can’t move as fast. I’m not as limber or agile, and that translates into [not being able to] run around with my friends’ little kids. Also, when I’m at a certain weight and I’m working out—doing all of the right things—I don’t injure myself.” She continued, “I’m really healthy already. For me, [losing weight] makes me feel youthful. I was athletic: I was a swimmer, I did gymnastics, I was a cheerleader, and I could run really fast. Even when I did Dancing with the Stars, I found that I could dance better and faster [when I was at a lighter weight] So for me, it’s more about: How do I want to live my life? That’s why I keep at it. I could weigh what I weigh right now, and most people would say I don’t look really fat. But it’s about how I feel and what I can accomplish. Those components are more important. In my mind, my attention is 10 percent on losing weight, and the rest is on living my life.”

She also responded to “attacks” she faced at the time over her weight. “If someone’s attacking me for my weight, I go flourish and prosper somewhere else in the universe. I’m the master blaster of turning lemons into lemonade,” she said. “The time it hit me the hardest—because it was the first time I gained a lot of weight—was right before I did Jenny Craig. I was being attacked in the press for being fat—just brutal. I also remember that I owed the IRS a lot of money, and I needed to figure that out in 30 days [on top of] the press calling me fat. I had also broken up with a boyfriend, and that was gruesome and hideous. One day, I went in a room, locked the door, and went, ‘What am I going to do? What are my options?’ I wrote a TV series called Fat Actress and made it really funny. I sold it that week.”

"The Art of Men" by Kirstie Alley

Image: Atria Books.

The Art of Men (I Prefer Mine Al Dente) by Kirstie Alley

For more about Kirstie Alley, read her 2012 memoir, The Art of Men (I Prefer Mine Al Dente). The book—which is a follow-up to Alley’s 2005 memoir, How To Lose Your Ass and Regain Your Life: Reluctant Confessions of a Big-Butted Star—is a collection of candid and audacious essays that provides readers with never-before-told details on Alley’s most famous Hollywood relationships: John Travolta, Parker Stevenson, Ted Danson, Maksim Chmerkovskiy, Kelsey Grammer, Patrick Swayze, Woody Allen, Woody Harrelson. “Kirstie chronicles all the good, the bad, and the ugly men who have influenced and guided her. She demonstrates how men can be the air that women breathe or the source of all of their frustrations. But for better or worse, Kirstie shows that a life well-lived is a life lived in the company of men,” the publisher’s description reads. “Especially if they remember to put the lid down.”

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