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Farrah Fawcett--Is she a heroine or did she expose herself too much in her television biography?

By Expert HERWriter May 24, 2009 - 11:47pm
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Did you happen to watch the Biography on Farrah Fawcett that was on TV a couple of weeks ago? I watched it at the time and then I caught it again on www.hulu.com (an amazing website where you can look up and watch programs you might have missed on TV).

One reason I watched the program a second time is that I just can't get Farrah out of my mind. What a compelling and sad show that was. When I recently did my colonoscopy video for the EmpowHer website I felt really exposed, but I did it for the greater purpose of educating and inspiring others about the procedure. But then I saw Farrah's show and thought "Whoa! Now here is someone who is really opening up her life to the whole world to see."

What do you think? Is she a heroine to all of us for being so open and honest about what she is going through with her anal cancer, which has now spread to her liver? Or did you feel any twinges of discomfort while watching the program, feeling maybe like she was exposing herself and her very personal part of her life too much?

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My vote is for brave. So much of her "odd" behavior during talk show interviews prior to her public announcement of her illness was explained (accusations of drug dependent dopiness, etc.). It took a lot of chutspa to share her story and videos with the world that once adored her.

And, I developed a new respect for Ryan O'Neal for sticking by her side. How very sad that they didn't have a few hours longer in order to "tie the knot" before she died.

July 2, 2009 - 4:15pm

Dear Anonymous,

Unfortunately, a lot of people think that sex education/abstinence is the answer for HPV, it's not. Safe sex, while good for many reasons does not prevent the transmission of HPV. HPV is transmitted by skin to skin contact, you do not have to have intercourse to contract HPV. As for the HPV vaccine in particular, unlike other vaccines which are developed by attentuating (reducing the strength of the organism that causes the disease) the causative agent this is not the case with Gardasil. It is made with VLP's (virus-like particles) contains no HPV DNA and therefore you cannot get the virus from the vaccine.

HPV is also shown to cause 25% of head/neck cancers and also 25% of lung cancers in addition to the typical warts on the hands and plantar warts on the feet.

A colonoscopy will not help with anal cancer. A high resolution anoscopy is what would be needed as this focuses specifically on the anal canal. Anal cancer and colorectal cancer are NOT the same. Many people think they are however anal cancer is typically squamous (arising from skin cells) while colorectal cancer is typically adenocarcinoma (arising from glandular cells). This is true of the cervix as well. The endocervix is typically squamous cell while lesions higher up in the cervical canal where the cell type changes is adenocarcinoma of the cervix. In situ (not yet invasive) of the cervix is known as AIS.

When my book comes out, it will shed the light you were referring to on not just anal cancer from HPV but all that HPV can cause and the entire gammut regarding dysplasias, grading, transmission, the vaccine, the stigma etc.

I'm glad my earlier post help to enlighten you regarding HPV.

July 2, 2009 - 1:51pm
EmpowHER Guest

I am glad I was not the only one who wondered how Farrah F. discovered her cancer and if she had colonoscopy and even wondered if colonoscopy would detect anal cancer. I was not sure if anal and rectal were the same cancers--so many questions and so many great answers and info on this website. The best thing to learn was from the person who is suffering from the identical cancer and sheds light on the fact that it is, in 90% of cases, stemming from human papilloma virus/HPV! I had no idea! They should be doing a follow up documentary for people to learn more about what to do to prevent these cancers. I am not sure yet how I feel about developing vaccines for everything that is "out there" - maybe some good sex education with emphasis on safe sex as soon as people become sexually active might be a good idea; or abstinence and fidelity. Not that I am thinking these things about Farrah, but the HPV enlightenment is a real eye opener for me.

July 2, 2009 - 7:48am
Expert HERWriter

Wow, I really love all of the comments that have come in so far. Everything you have said is so insightful and true. Bonnie, I'm so sorry about your insurance company issues. That is the last thing you need to be dealing with. I hope you go into remission again and that you are doing well very soon.

I really feel for Farrah Fawcett and I admire her so much for being so brave and showing us all what it is like to be battling cancer.

May 27, 2009 - 11:52pm

Having survived invasive anal cancer 17 years ago and dealing now with a recurrence I think she showed tremendous courage in exposing what most people are blissfully unaware of, the horrific and often painful treatments cancer patients must undergo. I needed to watch it because I wanted to see if they mentioned HPV at all since 90% of anal cancers are believed to be caused by HPV. I was a bit of a wreck for the next three days having flashbacks of my own treatments. I only wish they had done a public service announcement at the end telling people anal cancer can be preventable and about HPV. I found it odd they would begin with her at Stage 4 with liver mets and not tell how she was diagnosed, what people need to watch for etc. In this regard it truly was, in my opinion, a missed opportunity to enlighten the 9 million people who watched the documentary. Anal cancer is still a hush hush disease mainly because people dont want to talk about THAT body part. For years I told people had colorectal cancer because that was better "received" by others.

In the midst of all this stress, I have had to be fighting with the insurance company which has delayed my surgery by three months and I am frightened of just how much it may have progressed during this time.

Anal cancer truly doesn't need more research money. When 90% are determined to be caused by HPV, the course should be obvious = get the Gardasil vaccine if you are able and get your daughters vaccinated as well. For those of us already dealing with HPV this is of no help but it can help to potentially eradicate anal and other cancers caused by the virus. Unfortunately the connection between HPV and cervical cancer is so ingrained in peoples heads that they are clueless that it can also cause a myriad of other cancers.

May 25, 2009 - 11:31am
HERWriter Guide

My vote is also for brave.

Farrah was one of the most beautiful and sought after women in the world in her heyday. She was also a good actress - not the Charlie's Angels thing but Extremities, the Burning Bed, Small Sacrifices and others.

Despite that, her looks were a huge selling point and for any "Hollywood" actress to show the ravages of cancer without vanity, or an ulterior motive is brave. Cancer is not how it looks in the soap operas. It's not a pretty scarf around the head, still wearing lip gloss and saying dramatic yet insightful things. It's pain, and agony and surgery and excruciating treatments that offer no promises. It's dealing with family issues that still go on, despite cancer (in her case, her addict son) and it's about hope, as well as the despair that grows when the hope begins to fade.

Farrah made cancer real, in all it's splendor (hope) and all it's misery (terminal diagnosis). She has been luckier than many - and could afford any kind of treatment. But she could also afford to bring her story to the world and I think she will touch many people with her documentary.

The fact that there were very sad and uncomfortable moments was good. Cancer IS sad and uncomfortable. But there was also some laughter, good times with friends and family - and a deep reflection on what life really means.

I think she did a really good thing.

May 25, 2009 - 11:09am

I vote for brave.

I think that by allowing the camera to be held by a friend -- which would have never seemed invasive to Ms. Fawcett -- and by recording nearly every doctor's appointment, every development, every new surgery and problem and triumph and disappointment, that she actually gave us a brutal window into what cancer is really like. The fight for each new day, and the joy when it arrives. The sometimes-hell of the treatments themselves. And the tangle that is the health-care system.

This was the vibrant pinup girl of the 70s and 80s, the owner of arguably the most famous head of hair in the world, allowing herself to be bald and sick and vulnerable for all the world to see. Whether you like her as an actor or not, this was a human portrait of a woman fighting a disease with all she's got. Her family and friends fight too, and her doctors are there for her at every turn. And the fact that the story has no ending yet makes us think: How would we be in the same circumstances?

In making herself vulnerable, I think Ms. Fawcett also made herself strong. And in so doing, also shed some light on anal cancer, which needs more research money and more awareness in its own right.

May 25, 2009 - 8:00am
EmpowHER Guest

Most of us want to go down kicking and screaming, but few have the resources to do so, and we end up alone, in a hospital bed, watching the blip on the monitor. Good for Farrah that she can do it this way.

It's her death, and she can manage it any way she wants, and tough nuggies for anyone who feels "uncomfortable". No one has to watch if they don't want.

Yeah Farrah !!!!!!!!!!

May 25, 2009 - 3:41am
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