When Farrah Fawcett decided to chronicle her battle with cancer, she was ready to document everything — including shedding her famous mane.
The late actress, who famously starred on the hit ‘70s show “Charlie’s Angels” and became a style icon thanks to her signature feathery tresses, was diagnosed with anal cancer in 2006. She was declared cancer-free on her 60th birthday in 2007, but a routine doctor’s visit three months later revealed the disease had returned and had metastasized to her liver.
During the next two years, Fawcett filmed her day-to-day life as she fought cancer for the 2009 Emmy-nominated documentary "Farrah's Story," which was viewed by 15 million people. The actress died on June 25, 2009 at age 62.
Nearly 10 years after her passing, ABC News is airing a new documentary titled “This is Farrah Fawcett," which is airing on Thursday, May 23. It includes interviews with friends and loved ones of the American pinup.
Fawcett’s close friend Alana Stewart helped record her experience with cancer, including the day when Fawcett realized she wouldn’t be able to keep her signature tresses.
“She had done everything to keep from losing [her hair],” recalled Stewart to the outlet. “And she hadn’t. She still had her fabulous hair. The last round of chemo she had lost her hair. And that was hard on her.”
Hairstylist Mela Murphy admitted it was difficult watching her beloved friend suffer behind closed doors.
“I went over to the house and I was brushing her hair, and it was just coming out,” said Murphy. “I didn’t even respond. I was just putting it in my pockets. I was putting it in my pants. I was just… pulling it out of the brush… I looked behind me in the bathtub, and it was in the drain. For some reason, she was the stronger one, and she could take it more, and she knew.”
Dr. Lawrence Piro, Fawcett’s oncologist who is currently the chief medical advisor for the Farrah Fawcett Foundation, said the star decided to shave her own head.
“It was very important for Farrah to shave her own head so that she was removing her hair, and cancer treatment wasn’t removing her hair,” said Piro. “It’s kind of like that fine line between being a victim and a victor.”
Stewart said that looking back, no one was prepared to first learn of the devastating news that Fawcett was diagnosed with cancer at age 58. She did share that Fawcett had been exhibiting symptoms for a while when she finally went to a doctor.
“She had a test done, and they discovered that she had this cancer the size of a strawberry,” said Stewart. “So I called her and she started to cry. And I think I started to cry. The radiation and the chemo were just devastating. She had no idea how devastating and how difficult it was going to be.”
When the cancer returned in 2007 after undergoing traditional treatment at UCLA, Fawcett decided to travel to Germany with Stewart and her longtime partner Ryan O’Neal to receive alternative treatment. According to the documentary, those aggressive treatments had grueling side effects.
“There was a time when she was so sick and she was just throwing her guts up,” said Stewart. “And I just shut the camera off and she said, ‘Why are you not filming this?’ And I said, ‘Because I don’t want to invade your privacy.’ She said, ‘No. This is what cancer is. Film it.’”
In April 2008, doctors found new tumors in her body. And while Piro insisted Fawcett was eager to try any form of treatment that was accessible to her, Stewart said that it ultimately got to a point when “they could hardly get a needle in her vein anymore.”
Stewart remembered having dinner with Dr. Thomas Vogl, who treated Fawcett in Germany, sometime around Christmas. It was there where he broke the news of Fawcett’s fate.
“He said, ‘I have to tell you, your friend is in very serious shape and I don’t know how much time she has left,’” said Stewart. “That was the first time that anyone had ever really said that. And I didn’t tell her. We didn’t want her to give up.”
Fawcett’s health quickly worsened.
“She started to hemorrhage, she had an infection,” said Stewart. “One thing led to another. And she ended up back in the hospital. And then in intensive care. And from there it was kind of, you know, we kind of knew that there wasn’t going to be a miracle at this point.”
O’Neal and Stewart were by Fawcett’s side when she passed away in Santa Monica, Calif. She is survived by her son, Redmond James Fawcett O’Neal.
“About a week before she died, she was in the hospital and I was sitting by her bed,” said Stewart. “I remember I was holding her hand and I said, ‘You know, you’re my sister.’ And she said… She looked up at me, and she was very ill at the time and weak, and she looked up at me and she said, ‘More than a sister.’”
“We had laughs, we had so many laughs,” said the now-73-year-old. “Angels in chains, being chained together. Eating lunch together. It was an education and it was eye-opening because each girl was so unique with her own personality and style. And these are my friends today. That bond is what I really remember.
“The friendship is what I treasure from that. The friendship. Aaron Spelling was so dear to me. He’s somebody I miss. He was a personal friend, as well as the producer of that show and the creator. We’ve lost some people. John Forsythe, what a gentleman. David Doyle. And of course Farrah [Fawcett]. It’s bittersweet to think back.”