Hospitalized Farrah Fawcett Battles Anal Cancer

April 5, 2009

Actress Farrah Fawcett Returning to the United States after Stem-Cell Treatment in Germany for Anal CancerActress Farrah Fawcett, 62, has been hospitalized since Thursday in Los Angeles, unconscious and in critical but stable condition, with recurrent anal cancer. It’s reported that Fawcett’s long-time companion, actor Ryan O’Neal, is at her bedside. The actress was first diagnosed with anal cancer, which is relatively rare, in September 2006. When she was told she was cancer-free on her 60th birthday in February 2007, she was jubilant, telling fans: “In the face of excruciating pain and uncertainly, I never lost hope and it never occurred to me to stop fighting — not ever.” But during a routine three-month checkup in May 2007, doctors discovered a malignant polyp, smaller than a pea. The cancer had returned. Until about a week ago, she was in Germany, where she received experimental stem-cell treatment unavailable in the United States.

Farrah Fawcett Posing in Her Famous 1976 Swimsuit PosterWho can forget Fawcett posing in this iconographic poster from 1976? The golden-tressed starlet was appearing in Wella Balsam shampoo commercials at the time when Pro Arts, Inc., a poster company, heard some buzz about her. Freelance photographer Bruce McBroom, with whom Fawcett had worked before, shot the pictures poolside at Fawcett’s Bel Air, California home. The familiar backup was almost an afterthought — an old Indian blanket covering the seat in McBroom’s 1937 Chevy. The Charlie’s Angels TV show, produced by the legendary Aaron Spelling, premiered on 22 September 1976, with Fawcett playing Jill Munroe. The show was an instant hit, partly due to the beauty of Fawcett and her co-stars: Jaclyn Smith and Kate Jackson.
But the show also touched a nerve in a cultural atmosphere where women’s liberation was much discussed; Charlie’s Angels was one of the first TV shows to depict women in roles traditionally reserved for men. In the plot, the three women, graduates of a police academy, find themselves assigned duties such as handling switchboards and traffic. The Angels quit the force and go to work as much more adventurous private investigators at the Charles Townsend Agency.

Charlie's Angels TV Show Starring Farrah Fawcett, Jaclyn Smith and Kate JacksonThe swimsuit poster was released about the same time. Since then, it’s sold a still-unrivaled 12 million copies. It decorated the walls of multitudes of teenage boys, while women tried in vain for the tousled hair look. The dazzling smile was impossible to duplicate. While Fawcett left Charlie’s Angels after only one year, the poster has taken on a life of its own. Some consider it the start of the modern celebrity poster industry, and Life magazine published the photo as well, proclaiming it as an iconic image of the 1970s. Although Fawcett still owns the rights to the photograph, it’s been reproduced and bootlegged over one billion times, adorning T-shirts, mugs, puzzles, notebooks and almost every other surface imaginable. The poster has been to outer space (in the time capsule of the Oblio satellite probe launched by NASA in 1977), and it’s displayed in the Smithsonian along with Archie Bunker’s chair and Fonzie’s jacket. G.Q. magazine called the poster “the most influential piece of men’s art of the last 50 years,” in 2007. Last year, AOL users voted the poster as the number one pin-up of all time, with Marilyn Monroe coming in second.

The American Cancer Society estimated that about 5,070 new cases of anal cancer would be diagnosed in the U.S. in 2008. The disease, which affects women more often than men, is typically found in adults in their early 60s. While most patients with this cancer can be cured, a recurrence such as Fawcett’s is considered very serious. Fawcett has served as a celebrity spokesperson for the American Cancer Society. Her older sister, Diane, died of lung cancer in 1998, while actor O’Neal successfully battled leukemia after a 2001 diagnosis.

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Photo credit: Splash News

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