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Farrah Fawcett: Dead of cancer at age 62

Unfortunately, I saw this coming, although I had thought that it might be a few more months. Farrah Fawcett has lost her three year battle with anal cancer:

Farrah Fawcett, an actress and television star whose good looks and signature flowing hairstyle influenced a generation of women and bewitched a generation of men, beginning with a celebrated pinup poster, died Thursday morning in Santa Monica, Calif. She was 62 and lived in West Los Angeles.

Her death, at St. John’s Health Center, was caused by anal cancer, which she had been battling since 2006, said her spokesman, Paul Bloch.

To an extraordinary degree, Ms. Fawcett’s cancer battle was played out in public, generating enormous interest worldwide. Her face, often showing the ravages of cancer, became a tabloid fixture, and updates on her health became staples of television entertainment news.

In May, that battle was chronicled in a prime-time NBC documentary, “Farrah’s Story,” some of it shot with her own home video recorder. An estimated nine million people viewed it. Ms. Fawcett had initiated the project with a friend, the actress Alana Stewart, after she first learned of her cancer.

Because I’ve written extensively about this on two occasions, first a year and a half ago when I learned that Fawcett had turned to woo after her anal cancer, which had seemingly been treated successfully, recurred; then again two months ago when she was admitted to the hospital due to a complicationr from the therapy she was undergoing in Germany, including alternative methods; and then finally when I realized that my speculation of what therapy Fawcett had undergone in Germany was way off and I had to admit a rare mistake

None of that really matters anymore..

I didn’t see Fawcett’s special documenting her decline and her pursuit of “alternative” methods in order to assess just how badly off I had been in some of my speculations. She clearly did undergo dubious therapies with no science to back them up, but her treatment by Professor Thomas Vogl in Germany struck me as being experimental but not quackery. In essence, it appeared to be nothing more than using a different method to ablate tumors with laser, a method that appears to be no more effective than other ablative techniques, like radiofrequency ablation or cryoablation. Somehow it was portrayed as “alternative,” even though it was not like the other “alternative” therapies Fawcett was reported to have tried.

In any case, seeing the photos of Fawcett back in April, I knew instantly she was in bad, bad shape and that the protestations that she was going to beat her cancer were, sadly, never going to come true. Few solid tumors that metastasize are curable. Exceptions include colorectal cancer that metastasizes to the liver and can be resected and testicular cancer. Lance Armstrong, after all, had brain metastases, and he beat his cancer. Unfortunately, anal cancer is not one of those exceptions.

When something like this happens, one can’t help but wax a bit nostalgic. This time around, it’s because Farrah Fawcett was an icon of my teen years back in the 1970s. Although I never owned a copy of her infamous poster, several of my friends did. Even though I didn’t watch Charlies’ Angels (even at 14, I saw it for the crap that it was), still I couldn’t escape her presence. No one could. She was just that famous at the time.

And now she’s dead, and will no longer be giving any testimonials for various therapies.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

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