"The aim is to kind of kill you," the actress explains.
Selma Blair is opening up about what happened when she hit a wall in the treatment of her multiple sclerosis.
On Thursday, the actress joined Dr. Mehmet Oz and Time 100 health summit co-chair Dr. David Angus for a panel titled "Searching for a Cure: A Patient's View." Blair's been candid about her journey with the chronic disease since revealing her diagnosis almost exactly a year ago, but was admittedly hesitant during Thursday's interview to discuss publicly her newest course of treatment.
Dr. Angus revealed Blair recently "went through one of the most aggressive and almost barbaric treatments we have in medicine" -- a stem cell transplant -- which he explained was "aggressive chemotherapy to, in a sense, reset [her] own immune system."
In addition to experiencing her usual and debilitating MS symptoms, "we hammer the hell out of you with a drug," Dr. Angus noted of the process. He asked the 47-year-old mother of one about what the experience was like on the receiving end.
"I haven't talked about it much yet 'cause I've been wanting to show everyone that the proof is in the pudding, but my pudding is still kind of scrambled," explained Blair, whose speech has been affected by spasmodic dysphonia, a symptom of the disease. "I don't wanna scare people away, [but] the disease modifiers didn't work for me at the time, and I was really declining more rapidly than I found acceptable. And it was strange, so someone mentioned Dr. [Richard] Burt at Northwestern, and that someone also sent me there to see him."
"I had no intention of doing [the stem cell transplant]," she went on. "I was like, 'I am not ruining my body, what's left of it. Why would I put this horrible drug in it? Chemotherapy? I don't have cancer. I don't need this. This is horrible.' But I was kind of out of options, and I was looking, and when he put me on a micro-dose of chemo months before the transplant to see how it worked, I immediately felt some relief. So I was like, 'Oh, maybe I just have too much junk in there, and that killed some junk? What do I care if it kills my whole body, 'cause my whole body's like one big macrophage of yuck.'"
"So I did it, and I was warned. You kind of make your plans for death, told my son I'm doing this, he would like me cremated," she added with a chuckle. "I'm here, though! We don't have to worry about that. It was a little hard. I had a great support system, but I did have more chemo than for cancer patients because the aim is to kind of kill you, and it's the stem cells that allow you to live with the amount of chemo. The chemo is what's the MS cure, if it does, in fact, do that."
Despite "some complications," Blair said the process "went pretty smoothly."
"It was okay, but my hair's still not growing in," she noted, as Dr. Angues joked, "It's okay. Neither is mine!"
Smiling, the actress announced to the audience that the two "go to the same hairdresser," adding that she's "never minded hair loss" or "any of the things that would be ego-involved."
"My dream is to lie next to my son at night and be there as long as he needs me and hopefully do something for people," she explained.
Blair has said in the past that she experienced years of symptoms before receiving the proper diagnosis.
"Looking back, I would've asked for an MRI," she told Dr. Angus. "I just didn't ask for that simple tool, and no one thought to give it to me."
"Before my son was born, I definitely noticed a kind of rapid aging happening in my 30s," she explained. "And it was very painful. I burned all the time. I just felt like I got arthritis or something, you know? I was very active -- horse jumping -- and I just thought, 'Oh, I just pinched a nerve; that's why I have numbness.' I've always had a lazy eye, so 'what's the big deal if it goes blind one day?' I just thought, 'Well, human bodies are strange.' I'm not a hypochondriac; I'm the one that's like, 'We're resilient!'"
"So after the birth of my son, I was incapacitated," she went on. "I was done. I thought it was postpartum depression, and I went on antidepressants and got my life [together]. Was really conscious, had a macrobiotic diet, had someone making my food, really making an effort. I just felt worse and worse."
Blair said she went to the doctor "several times and had all my blood levels checked." The results claimed she was simply "malnourished. Totally. And I just thought, 'Okay, it's that. I'll get on the proper food-vitamin [routine].'"
Looking back, though, she "would've just asked for an MRI when I stopped being able to use my leg, and I didn't. And my doctor would see me dragging my leg in, and I'd laugh about it, like, 'I guess I pinched a nerve!'"
When Dr. Angus assured Blair she was impacting many lives by being open and vulnerable about her disease, she was humbled.
"It's so wonderful to interact with people and to realize they had some shame about it," she said. "I mean, my only fear when I got it, I wasn't even scared or sad. I was saying to someone yesterday that I made some crocodile tears 'cause I thought that's what you're supposed to do when you got a diagnosis, but I was actually relieved to at least feel like I was among you. Other people feel isolated; I felt like, 'Oh, I have a human disease! I am human.' I felt, 'Oh, we'll take care of it.' I also thought it would be fleeting 'cause I do know other actors that have it, and they continue. And some are quiet about it. Some have it and don't say anything, but my symptoms were kind of flamboyant. I have glitches for me that manifest."
"I had finally gotten a job, and I had to tell them, and they were wonderful," she added, noting she "didn't want people to think I was drunk 'cause I have a history of that." With a chuckle, she stated, "I'm sober, and I'm so proud of it."
At her first red carpet appearance following the diagnoses, Blair stepped out wearing a gorgeous gown, matching cape and a cane personalized with her monogram. The powerful moment blew up on social media.
"I see other people really were so comforted that I wore a cane to a glamorous event, which I didn't even think about. I just didn't wanna fall!" she said. "And that it means something to them, it's like, 'Oh, well, I'm glad I'm useful!' Because I do see so many people get so isolated in these chronic diseases."
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