"Facts of Life" star Charlotte Rae has been diagnosed with cancer for the second time in her life, but she is staying positive.
“I feel so incredibly grateful that I’m still alive,” the actress told Fox News. “I’m still above ground at 91! I’ve had such an incredible life. Ups and downs, fabulous stuff. Unhappy stuff, but lots of wonderful stuff. I’ve had a full, rich life. And I’m still here.”
The news of Rae’s diagnosis broke on April 28 when she first made the announcement to People Magazine.
Rae was supposed to initially begin treatment the Thursday after she celebrated her 91st birthday on April 22d, but the star told People at the time she was canceling the appointment. But now, Rae has made up her mind and she’s choosing life.
“My doctor said, ‘You’re so active, why don’t we do a low chemo, spread it out so that the side effects won’t be too bad and maybe it’ll help stop it from spreading,’” she explained.
Rae also spoke to several women in their 90s, who revealed to her that many of their friends opted not to do chemotherapy or radiation during the later stages of their lives. She also had the option to make the same desicion, but ultimately chose chemotherapy. Her first treatment started on May 8th and she told us ahead of the appointment she was fired up with questions for her medical team.
“I’m going to ask [my doctor] all sorts of questions, like how much can I exercise? Because I want to keep moving,” she said. “I’m going to take it one day at a time. That’s all we got anyway!”
Rae also revealed she’s getting much-needed support from loved ones, including from her former “Facts of Life” cast-mates.
“I didn’t say anything to the girls when they called on my birthday because I didn’t know what the results of my exams were going to be,” she said. “But then I told them. We’re all sticking together. They’re all beautiful women and beautiful mothers. We’re all hanging in there.”
Rae is aware that worried fans have reached out to share their prayers and well wishes. However, she’s optimistic about her future and hopes viewers will feel the same.
She had a message for those fans: “Tell them I feel so grateful that I lived this long and that I lived this incredible life,” said Rae. “Tell them that every day from now on is a birthday and I’m going to savor it to the max. Really enjoy it, be good to myself and try to be of service to other people. I can’t worry in advance about anything. I just have to celebrate being alive. Being part of the universe. I’m so full of love for myself and others. I’m filled with joy.”
Before her diagnosis, Rae said she didn’t experience any unusual symptoms, except more aches than usual while working out.
“I’ve had scoliosis my whole life and it causes a little pain, but not too bad. I’m pretty good about pain,” she explained. “But lately, when I did my exercises, I noticed it was getting very painful… I thought it was time to see the orthopedic man. Maybe there are exercises or treatments to help me with my scoliosis at 91. But after the doctor took at CAT scan, he said, ‘You have bone cancer.’ That’s how I found it.”
This isn’t the first time Rae has faced cancer. Just seven years ago, she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer — a disease that took the lives of her mother, sister and uncle.
After six months of chemotherapy, she was cancer-free. Rae stayed in touch with her oncologist at UCLA, Dr. William Isacoff, who conducted tests and further confirmed the recent diagnosis for bone cancer.
“He thought it came from the pancreas spreading to my bones,” added Rae. “I said, ‘Thank you doc, I’ve had an incredible life… let’s see what’s going to happen.'”
Despite the heartbreaking news, Rae still remains active. She recently participated in a lecture and book signing alongside her son Larry Strauss at the Beverly Hills Library to celebrate her memoir, “The Facts of My Life.”
In the book, she got candid about her battle with alcoholism, giving birth to a son who was autistic and mentally disabled, as well as the shocking confession her late husband, composer John Strauss, made to her about his bisexuality. Rae sought help for her alcoholism in her 40s and has been sober for 42 years.
In addition to meeting fans while promoting the book, Rae has continued to act and even participated in a play just a year ago.