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Fran Drescher, Cancer Survivor, Has Advice for Living Through a Crisis

Fran Drescher

The Indebted actress offers LGBTQ fans calming words.


Fran Drescher, like all of us, has had a tough month.

In February, her beloved dog Samson died and Drescher was "quite broken by the experience." Afterward, an acquaintance, something of a psychic, reached out to her via text message and encouraged her to adopt again "quickly."

So last week, Drescher drove to a Los Angeles-area animal shelter, AGWC Rockin' Rescue in Woodland Hills, and found a new companion: Angel Grace, a "beautiful white husky with two different color eyes."

"It was more like a greeting of a long-lost friend than a first time meeting," Drescher told The Advocate Monday via phone in a conversation that was planned to be based on her new NBC series, Indebted, but -- like everything else in workplaces around the country and world -- gravitated back toward the global COVID-19 epidemic. She, like this editor, was in isolation. Angel Grace was helping her get through it.

"I always say I'm a cancer survivor and a health advocate and activist and the founder of the Cancer Schmancer Movement. And one of the things that I tell people going through any kind of despair or trouble for health crisis is to make sure that they have something alive and warm in the bed with them. Because during the night, you don't have the distractions of the day," Drescher said.

At night, "you're alone with your thoughts, your fears, your imagination. And that's when you need to roll over and grab onto something that's very in the moment. And if you don't have a mate or a pet, you must get one," she added. "Because you cannot go through a crisis all alone."

As Drescher mentioned, the 62-year-old actress is a survivor of uterine cancer. In 2007, seven years after receiving a hysterectomy for treatment, she founded the Cancer Schmancer Movement, in part to raise awareness of cancer symptoms and prevention.

As the world grappled with how to deal with a new disease, Drescher stressed the importance of eating healthy -- avoid factory processed foods, if possible -- and reducing stress (and alcohol intake, unfortunately) in order to take care of one's immune system.

"Get out in the fresh air. Get out in the sunshine," Drescher advised, while also repeating the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's recommendations of social distancing and hand-washing.

"That's all you can do," Drescher said. "Mind, body, and spirit must be in balance."

Decreasing the amount of time on electronic devices is also helpful, said Drescher -- not only does reading alarming headlines before bedtime disrupt restorative sleep, but the emitted blue light has been shown to interfere with it as well.

Beyond that, it's important for every individual -- and consumer -- to reflect on the systemic changes required to ensure a global disaster of this scale can be avoided. "Hopefully, this is a big wake-up call to the world," Drescher said.

American consumers, she stressed, have enormous power to influence the corporations that contribute to the factors that can lead to a global pandemic, such as global warming, deforestation, and factory farms -- a cost-effective form of agriculture in which animals are penned together and slaughtered at large scale.

Corporations "don't really want to kill us. They want to sell us but they'll sell us anything we're willing to buy, which right now is anything so they can make it cheaper if they can compromise the environment," said Drescher, who believes that consumers should demand change through commerce by "stop buying" from companies that also create harm.

"Think about where you put your hard-earned money, because it's coming back to bite you on the ass," Drescher cautioned.

Drescher is also no fan of the current health care system (she calls it a "sick care situation"), which is not only unprepared to handle COVID-19 but has left Americans particularly vulnerable to any kind of crisis. "Our government should foot the bill so that everybody has a solid health care plan," Drescher asserted. Beyond that, she said, the entire system should be reformed.

Currently, "there's very little encouragement on how to stay healthy, how to eat healthy. There's too much greed involved. There's too much money in sickness. There too much money in industrial farming. There's too much money in agrochemicals. There's too much money in the chemical industry. And for that reason, it's very hard to maintain a health care system."

"It costs the taxpayers a fortune to have all these uninsured people showing up in the emergency room without insurance," she added. "The only ones that are benefiting is big business pharmaceutical, hospitals, big business health insurance. The jig is up, the emperor has no clothes."

Drescher also had some words of wisdom for her LGBTQ fans who have supported her from rise to global stardom as Fran Fine in The Nanny to The Beautician and the Beast to Indebted, which centers on a family that has been destabilized by crisis. In it, Fine portrays Debbie, a woman who must financially rely on her children -- one of them a lesbian woman -- after filing bankruptcy, in part due to a lack of health insurance.

"What we're experiencing now is a human problem. And in a way, it's a reminder to everyone that we're all in the same boat. That's kind of a silver lining because it levels the playing field," Drescher said.

And although COVID-19 may be sucking up the media bandwidth right now, "I think that we have to continue to fight for civil liberties," Drescher continued. "And not just gay civil liberties -- all civil liberties. Now, that's one thing that I learned growing up Jewish, is that although Jews do support a lot of Jewish organizations, they also support a lot of organizations that are supporting those who are marginalized because you have to."

"I have made speeches at many LGBTQ events, and I always say try not to be too myopic. Don't be focused on just one issue because that's what most closely relates to you. You gain far more power politically if, as a large voting group, you go to the mat on a myriad of issues."

Above all, Drescher wants LGBTQ fans to take care of their health. "I think that it's important that whatever your orientation is, you honor your body to listen to the early warning whispers of the diseases that could affect you," Drescher said. "You transform from patients into medical consumers. You become better partners with your physician because some of the tests that you may need may not even be on the menu."

"This pandemic does not care what your politics is, what party you align yourself with, what religion you are, what ethnicity you happen to be, what race you are, or what orientation you are. It does not care," she concluded. "We're all humans. We're all in the same boat. It's great to be part of a group, because it gives you a voice and a power. Use it for the greater good."

Indebted airs Thursdays at 9:30 p.m. Eastern on NBC and streams on Hulu. Watch the trailer below.

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Daniel Reynolds

Daniel Reynolds is the editor of social media for The Advocate. A native of New Jersey, he writes about entertainment, health, and politics.
Daniel Reynolds is the editor of social media for The Advocate. A native of New Jersey, he writes about entertainment, health, and politics.