Friday, May 15, 2009

Farrah's Fight Against Cancer

Several nights ago, I had a dream that Farrah Fawcett had died. In my dream, all of the T.V. news anchors were reporting on her death. I had been aware that she was suffering from a rare disease called "anal cancer" and that there was nothing else that could be done now to treat her ailment.

I didn't know much about the disease until I did some research. According to WebMD it is highly treatable with early detection. I didn't know that there was a connection with HPV (Human papillomavirus).


Who Gets Anal Cancer?
Most anal cancers are diagnosed in people who are between 50 and 80. Before age 50, anal cancer is more common in men, but after age 50 it is slightly more common in women, says Debbie Saslow, PhD, director of breast and gynecological cancer at the American Cancer Society.

Anal infection with human papillomavirus ( HPV) is a major risk factor for the cancer.

According to the American Cancer Society, 85% of anal cancers are associated with persistent infection with the sexually transmitted virus.

Although an HPV vaccine is now in use for the prevention of cervical cancer, it is not being given to prevent anal cancer.

I have been suspicious of the HPV vaccine - especially when all of those commercials came out on T.V. urging girls as young as 12 or 13 to get it. But that's another topic for discussion at another time.

WebMD reports that Farrah had gone to Germany for cancer care to get treatment that is not approved in the United States. Apparently, the actress's hospitalization (back here in the U.S.) was due to a blood clot that formed following cancer treatment she received in Germany. In addition to this, it has been reported that the actress's cancer has spread to her liver.

Since having that dream, I have heard that Farrah has done a documentary about her fight with the disease, which premiered in Hollywood last night. During an interview on The O'Reilly Factor, Dr. Keith Ablow expressed his opinion that this wasn't a good thing. Apparently, it has turned into a type of "reality show" that will reveal all of the pain, agony, and treatments that Farrah is going through.

Does anyone reading this post think that this is a good thing for anyone to do?

I have not been a big fan of reality shows. Many are obviously staged. But what about a "reality show" that documents something like a person's battle with a deadly disease? Is this an appropriate and/or worthwhile endeavor?

It's difficult to criticize what a person does when they know that they are dying. But from what I have heard, it may have been better for her (and her companion of many years, Ryan O'Neal) to keep some things private. To make matters worse, a producer of the documentary is now suing O'Neal, seeking more creative control over "Farrah's Story."

What do you think?

Update: I was flipping through the channels this evening and the documentary is on T.V. tonight! It's on NBC. Two hours long. At 9:20 p.m. (PT), the film shows that Farrah had just been treated in Germany. Apparently, the doctors at UCLA Medical Center recommended a colostomy. Farrah chose not to do that and went for the anal cancer tumor removal done by a doctor in Germany instead. We shall see what happens next.

Second Update: The treatment done in Germany made her violently ill - causing her to vomit over and over again. She described it as "the worst night she has ever had." I'm not positive, but I think it was some kind of chemo treatment targeting the tumors in her liver. She has now flown back to the U.S.

Third Update: The documentary briefly covered her life - including the invite to Hollywood to do commercials (which launched her career). It showed the love of her father. Farrah's sister died from cancer (not sure which kind) in 2001. Her mom has already passed away. Now, it's just her and her father.

Fourth Update: Farrah flew back to Germany for another treatment to destroy the cancer tumors in her liver. She insisted (against the doctor's advice) upon leaving immediately after treatment to get back home to L.A. During the flight, she became very ill. Her friend (who often does the filming) who accompanied her helped her inject herself with a pain killer. Not sure what drug was used. She is now back home again with Ryan in L.A.

Fifth Update: Farrah battled against the tabloids. Plus, she revealed that someone at the UCLA Medical Center was accessing her medical records and selling the information to the tabloids. Fortunately, the CA Legislature passed a medical records for patients online privacy bill and Gov. Arnold signed it into law. Farrah has not been the target of The Enquirer for 10 months. It was quite a victory for her.

Sixth Update: Farrah went back to Germany for treatment and the scan showed that she was "tumor free" in her liver. The doctors didn't say she was "cancer free", but it looked like the tumors that were in her liver were destroyed and no longer active. She was so happy and had a snowball fight with her friend, Miss Stewart. It was her birthday, so she had a celebration with the medical staff at a nearby restaurant. She looked beautiful and healthier than she has in years.

Seventh Update: Since she had gone public with her disease, she was now receiving letters from people who are suffering from the same disease. It helped them to be able to tell people who asked, "What type of cancer do you have?" - "The same as Farrah Fawcett." Farrah was feeling so good that she went on a "girls vacation" to Mexico with her friend. She stood near a huge iguana that was lingering by the wall. If it were me, I would NOT have been able to sleep knowing that such a slithering thing was crawling around the hotel area!!

Eighth Update: Farrah went in for another scan. The tumors had returned to her liver. She flew back to Germany for more treatment. She and Ryan were so devastated. So very, very, sad. She went to the "City of Hope" treatment center back in L.A. for a new kind of experimental treatment. They were filled with much hope about the new treatment working for her. This was happening in August, 2008 - two years after her first diagnosis. Ryan expressed his fear of losing her.

So far, I think that the documentary has been very well done. I have neglected to say that Farrah talks about praying to God for healing. It appears that she is (or was raised) Catholic. She made the sign of the cross while laying on a gurney before chemotherapy treatment. She often wears a cross necklace.

She was losing her hair. That famous mane of hair that everyone loved and admired about Farrah for all these years. She decided to shave the middle to the back of her head. She had a crop of bangs that peaked out from the front of a knit hat she wore.

They celebrated Christmas, but Farrah was weaker than last year's celebration. She baked pies with Miss Stewart, but had to rest more frequently. The next scene showed her and Ryan toasting each other on New Years Eve. They decided to go back to Germany.

Upon her return from Germany, she took a turn for the worse. She had to spend a week in the hospital due to a blood clot that formed in her from the treatment and procedures used at the hospital/clinic in Germany. She was bedridden, weak and couldn't even recognize her son - who was let out of jail (arrested on drug charges) to come see her since Ryan didn't know how long she would be alive. Redmond was allowed to have his hand cuffs and chains removed, but the officers who accompanied him to the house insisted that he wear his ankle cuffs and chain. You could hear Redmond sob as he lay across the bed so his mom could see him. Farrah didn't move and she sounded disoriented. So very, very sad.

The documentary ended with an uplifting song, film clips of various scenes from the movie, and Farrah's call for more research for the disease.

Additional stories:

Fox News: Farrah Fawcett - The Face of a Generation

Additional links to stories at Fox News page sidebar.

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