Teri Garr was hospitalized for a “Medical Emergency.”
On a frigid December night, a packed club on Manhattan’s Lower East Side presents “urban storytelling.” Onstage, five actors recalled their stories in Los Angeles. Teri Garr cracks people up on the small stage. In sleek black with her distinctive blonde hair, she explains how she avenged a cheating ex-boyfriend (Hint: it involved a hammer and all the windows of his house).
Getting on stage was more difficult than the humor. Garr first recognized signs of multiple sclerosis roughly 20 years ago. She now has right-sided weakness and a limp, making it difficult to climb stairs and stages. Like many MS sufferers, it took her years to figure out what was causing her strange symptoms.
“Since 1983, I’d trip while jogging in Central Park in New York,” she explained. “Running and getting warm made me weaker. It vanished for ten years. When I ran again, I began to have severe arm pains. I was convinced I was being stabbed in Central Park.”
Garr saw a number of experts, including an orthopedist who advised surgery for a pinched nerve. She refused. “I’d go to a different doctor in the location where we were shooting,” she explains. “Every now and then, someone would mention MS, but others would think it was something else.”
Garr was diagnosed with MS in 1999 after experiencing fluctuating symptoms.
“It’s a story that many other people with the illness are familiar with,” Garr says.
“Every time I tell them about my experience, they nod and say, ‘Uh-huh, yup, that happened to me.’”
In 2002, Garr revealed her illness on “Larry King Life.” The limp was noticeable by then, and many in Hollywood had diagnosed her with MS, putting her in the “actress protection program,” according to King.
She found herself unemployed after appearing in over 100 films and TV episodes, getting an Oscar nomination for best supporting actress in Tootsie, and gaining a strong and devoted fan base for performances such as Inga in Young Frankenstein (“I love to roll in ze hay!!”) and Caroline in Mr. Mom.
“Hollywood’s meticulous attitude would have changed my career in any case. When things slowed down, it was either MS or I’m a bad actress, so I went with MS,” she explained. “There is a lot of misunderstanding and fear out there about MS, which is why it’s so important to me to go out and talk about it.”
Because living with MS necessitates prioritizing and simplifying, the hyperactive actress has had to reduce her excessive multitasking. “I despise slowing down, but I have to.” “MS suffers from stress, worry, and high tension,” the doctor explained. “Emotional engagement is detrimental. I can’t stand too much noise, variety, or merchandise in a department store.”
Her three-times-a-week Pilates workout is beneficial. “It really helps to strengthen the muscles,” she says. “I must also, as Thoreau said, simplify.” “I’ve learned to concentrate.”
“I’m pleased I had to give up so much.” ” I’d rather accomplish three things a day than eight.”
Molly’s mother has multiple sclerosis. “She is aware of my good and bad days. She’s grown accustomed to it since I began having more symptoms at the age of eight,” Garr says her daughter has learned from MS. “She’s outgoing and enthusiastic about life.” She refers to me as Supermom and treats me accordingly.”
Garr’s broad interests complement her daughter’s viewpoint. Garr will release a book in September, in addition to parenting Molly, touring the country to raise MS awareness, and appearing in projects ranging from an urban story-telling show to an occasional TV series (she appeared on “Life with Bonnie” in 2003).
Garr’s book, titled Does This Wheelchair Make Me Look Fat (despite though she doesn’t use one), will be published by Penguin and will be a satirical look at her life, from Hollywood to MS.
Garr says the book’s central theme is “identity.” ” When you’re unwell, who are you? It’s right in front of you, compelling you to figure out who you are and what’s important.”
Garr believes MS has two options. “Look at the trees, look at life, look at how lovely it is,”. “I think it’s best,” she said. “Another reaction is, ‘I’m struck, I’m hit, I’m down, I’m out, it’s over.’” She rarely has those moments.
Garr mocks her illness. “I have a minor case of MS,” she says, recalling Dustin Hoffman’s response: “I’m sure it has something to do with sex.”
She confesses that her optimism perplexes people. “Some people try to disturb you. I’m fine, I’m not upset. Being depressed does not help you,” she explained. “It could be because of my Hollywood upbringing. You’re constantly informed that you’re too short, ugly, or whatever. But I’m intelligent, talented, and all that! Even with MS, I’ve always done it.”
“I feel terrific after completing a challenging work.”
By speaking out about the disease across the country, she has learnt that how you feel about yourself has nothing to do with your impairment. “In North Carolina, I met a woman with cerebral palsy and multiple sclerosis. She’s in a wheelchair, and everyone refers to her as “Garr.” She was the party’s favorite because she is so lively, amusing, and full of life. Your attitude is important with any illness, but especially with one that goes around and can return.”
Garr’s MS is difficult to manage. “I’ve always been self-sufficient, but you have to ask for help.” “It takes practice to let people open doors and carry luggage. That sacrifice will give me more energy to devote to something more important. It’s difficult to give up control.”
She always reminds MS patients who come to hear her talk that there is hope. “ My first question to visitors is, “Are you on medication?” You’re strong, you’re walking, and you’d like to keep it that way. We have new treatments,” she explained.“