A life-or-death battle with cancer that has gone on more than two years has left Farrah Fawcett weak, exhausted and largely bedridden — but as her “Charlie’s Angels” pal Kate Jackson can attest, Farrah’s bawdy, wicked sense of humor remains intact.
“Recently, I walked into the room and I don’t think she wanted to see anyone and she didn’t say anything,” Jackson told Meredith Vieira Friday. “But I was given a very clear signal, a hand signal, that I should probably leave the room. So I did!”
That the 62-year-old TV icon Fawcett can raise a joking middle finger to a close friend is proof positive that recent tabloid reports of the actress lying in a comatose state are false — and her doctor told TODAY that, given the dire circumstances of Fawcett’s health, she’s actually holding up well.
In fact, said Dr. Lawrence Piro, appearing alongside Jackson via satellite from Los Angeles, Fawcett plans to watch the TV special about her brave battle tonight with her loved ones.
“She is capable of doing that, and she plans to watch it tonight at her home with both Ryan [O’Neal, her longtime companion] and Alana [Stewart, her friend] and some other close friends,” he said. “We hope she will feel up to that and she’s looking very much forward to that.”
The TV special chronicles Fawcett’s journey from first being diagnosed with anal cancer in October 2006, her trips abroad to seek treatment as the cancer spread to other parts of her body, and her current, likely terminal state as she grapples with her fate. TODAY focused its spotlight on the courageous story of Fawcett this week, airing interviews with her longtime companion Ryan O’Neal and close friend Alana Stewart. NBC is set to air “Farrah’s Story,” a video diary of Fawcett’s cancer battle tonight at 9 p.m. ET.
Laughter, the best medicineDr. Piro told TODAY’s Meredith Vieira that Fawcett has also given him a dose of her humor, showing once again the Farrah people know and love is still very much there.
“We had to do a little procedure yesterday and at the end of it, she turned to another doctor and myself and she said, ‘You guys should have a drink now,” Piro related.“She’s obviously having a lot of side effects that come with cancer and that come with cancer chemotherapy,” he added. “She’s weak and she’s spending a lot of time in bed resting. But overall, she’s in good spirits and she certainly still has her trademark sense of humor, which has helped her through all of this.”
Stewart, who shot much of the video used in “Farrah’s Story” with a handheld camera, told Vieira in a separate TODAY interview that her love and respect for Fawcett grew only stronger as she looked through the viewfinder.
“There’s been moments when she’s broken down and cried because, Lord knows, she’s gone through hell,” Stewart told Vieira. “She’ll pull herself together afterwards and say, `I’m really sorry, I’m really sorry, I don’t mean to be a baby.’
“I’d say, ‘A baby? Are you crazy? You’re the bravest person I have ever known.’
“She never has said, ‘Why me?’ ” Alana Stewart continued. “She’s never felt sorry for herself; there’s never been any self-pity or anger about why this happened to her.”
On TODAY, Jackson lit into celebrity tabloids who have reported Fawcett’s weight has dipped to 86 pounds and that she in a coma, saying the false reports “really do hurt a human being and a person like Farrah, who has to read that she’s dying and she’s lost the will to live.”
Dr. Piro labeled those reports “completely false,” and said that, aside from times when she is groggy from pain medication, Fawcett is “just 100 percent crystal clear and on the money and with a very sharp wit.”
Close friend Jackson — her costar as Fawcett became a pop culture phenomenon through her iconic swimsuit poster and the breakout success of “Charlie’s Angels” starting in 1976 — said Fawcett didn’t agree to air her video diary out of any need to be before the cameras one last time.
“This was meant to give to others hope and inspiration,” Jackson told Vieira.
It’s made her all the more proud to call her a friend, Jackson added. “I’ve learned that she’s the most courageous human being I have ever known. I knew that she was brave, but I didn’t know that she had the courage of the depth and magnitude that she has and she shows everyone in this documentary.”
Losing her curlsOne of the most dramatic moments in “Farrah’s Story” comes when the iconic actress realizes she will have to lose her world-famous cascade of blonde curls through chemotherapy. Dr. Piro, who acknowledges “Farrah probably has the most famous hair in the world,” told Vieira the issue is far from trivial not only for Fawcett, but any cancer patient.
“Your hair is probably the most significant sign that you’re a victim of something when you’re going through cancer therapy — it affects your whole sense of who you are and what fight you’re fighting,” Piro said.
“You’ll see in the documentary this was a very difficult moment for Farrah. When it came down to the time that the choice that was best was one that would take her hair, she signed up readily, and with the same bravery she has had all through this.”
Another major moment captured by Stewart’s video camera for the TV special came when Fawcett’s 24-year-old son by O’Neal, Redmond, paid an emotional bedside visit to his mom. Redmond, currently in jail on a court-ordered drug treatment program after his third drug arrest in as many years, was granted a three-hour visit with his mother, and arrived in prison shackles.
Farrah hasn’t been told about her son’s latest arrest, but is only all too well aware of Redmond’s struggles with addiction, Stewart says. She added that the mother-son reunion “was so emotional, I didn’t even know if it should be part” of the TV special.
“It was so touching seeing him come to see his mother after all the problems he’s had and all the thing things he’s been through,” Stewart told Vieira. “He’s a good kid, and he’s promised his mom he would never, ever take drugs again.
“I pray to God he means it.”
O’Neal, who attended a special screening of “Farrah’s Story” Wednesday in Beverly Hills, told the New York Daily News Fawcett’s fighting spirit — like his love for her — has never waned.
“She’s fighting,” he said. “She’s still on treatment, still on chemo. She asked me, ‘You think I’m getting better?’
“And I said: ‘It’s hard to get better than you, Farrah.’ ”