's recent return to television did not include her starring in the lead role of a new movie. Instead, we saw an incredibly poignant, honest documentary showing just how incredibly strong this woman truly is.
Filmed largely in part by Farrah's best friend, Alana Stewart (Rod
's ex), "Farrah's Story
" aired on NBC to a phenomenal 9 million viewers. Narrated by Fawcett herself, the two hour special provided a candid, no holds barred view of her two year battle since having been diagnosed with anal cancer in 2007.
Farrah left nothing to the imagination as we saw her go through painful experimental procedures, nearly pass out from pain, and vomit from chemotherapy side effects, all the while being hounded by paparazzi. The physical pain she endures, alongside the emotional battle of having a terminal illness, is enough to break down even the strongest of us. Farrah, however, is able to maintain a positive attitude through it all.
Farrah Fawcett has been famous since the mid 70s when she graced the television screen in popular commercials and then in the hit show, Charlie's Angels
. She caused an immediate devotion for many with her signature hair and glowing smile. Soon Farrah's hair
actually became as famous as she was. Although a mediocre actress, Fawcett did have a couple of outstanding performances. In both Extremities
and The Burning Bed
, Fawcett's characters suffered severe emotional and physical abuse. The parallelism between them and her own personal battle with cancer cannot be ignored. Like in the films, Fawcett is faced against incredible odds and fights like hell to beat them. Although she prevails in both movies, her fight with cancer may not end as well. Unfortunately, the star seems to be ailing further as dramatic weight loss and the termination of chemotherapy has been reported.
Watch "Farrah Fawcett documentary screens in the US"
She will not, however, let this disease bring her spirits down. Through it all, Fawcett has maintained an amazingly positive attitude. Cameras caught Fawcett in excruciating pain and agony, yet smiling. Watchers who were on the fence about Farrah and her career will surely have no argument that her strength and spirit are exemplary, almost not of this world. Farrah's Story depicts her having her medical records sold to the press as well as having to leave the United States to seek the only available treatment
for the tumors in her liver.
She vents her frustration by telling us that even though the procedure is effective, the US will not approve it. Therefore, whenever she was told that the tumors had returned, she would have to endure a long flight to Germany, which meant an incredibly painful flight back. The procedure involves injecting a long needle housing a laster into the liver and using the laser once inside the tumor in an effort to kill it and inhibit further growth. This is extremely painful as the patient is not sedated, and we see just how painful by the look on her face. This, of course, is followed by more rounds of chemotherapy and radiation treatments. Her stays in Germany averaged three weeks each time, as she often flew out as soon as possible against doctor's orders to return to her home where she is most comfortable.
Image © David Gabber / Photorazzi
Her strength is unbelievable, both physically and mentally, especially near the end of the film when Fawcett was forced to shave off her trademark locks due to a stronger chemo treatment (which, after some advice, she allowed Alana to film). Farrah sat in her bathroom with her stylist as large clumps of hair fell out which left her with no choice but the inevitable, shave it all off. Ultimately, she left only her bangs and even joked with one of her oncologists saying, "You weren't going to be happy till you got my hair." Unfortunately, her decline came rapidly as another experimental, 20 hour chemo, proved to be ineffective.
Her son, Redmond O'Neal, who is in jail for a drug related charge
, was granted three hours to visit
with his mother as the judge was told this would be his last chance. Cameras followed in what, by far, proved to be the most touching scene in the film. Ryan O'Neal
, who oddly refers to Redmond as "her son," asks the guards to remove his son's handcuffs, which they did (leaving his leg shackles on). Farrah, lying in bed in her dimly lit bedroom, seemed to not even recognize her son as Ryan had to repeatedly tell her it was her "baby boy;" a difficult scene to watch as the two immediately began crying in a way that could only be between a mother and her son.
Fawcett's vividly candid portrayal of her battle with this disease should be viewed by anyone who is diagnosed with cancer, knows someone who has it, or has lost someone to it. The disease's relentless attack on the body is difficult to watch, let alone suffer through, and everyone should be aware of what patients endure.
As Farrah is comfortably wealthy, she was able to travel out of the country to have procedures unavailable here, as well as have a team of doctors working together internationally to try and cure her, a luxury most cancer patients do not have. The viewer becomes more and more ambivalent, asking themselves, "Is it extending one's life or prolonging their agony?" That choice is left up to the patient, and him or her alone. Farrah chose to fight, and we admire her all the more for sharing her courageous journey with us. As she continues to ail
, we will have to be strengthened by the fact that her spirit is, and will remain forever, vital and healthy, just like her flowing hair and radiant smile.
Story by Lawrence Gould
Starpulse contributing writer