Fran Drescher made us all laugh as Fran Fine in the hit series, The Nanny, but she is more than just an accomplished actress with a signature voice. She’s also a United States diplomat, a loving dog mom, a 12-year uterine cancer survivor and President & Visionary of Cancer Schmancer—an organization devoted to the education, prevention and early detection of cancer. She’s also an expert at making lemonade out of lemons.
Throughout our lives, we all go through difficult times and Fran is no exception. Fran’s life has encountered several, including getting divorced from her high school sweetheart and husband of 18 years, becoming a victim of a violent crime, getting diagnosed with uterine cancer and having to say goodbye to her dog of almost 19 years, Chester, to name a few.
Before being diagnosed with uterine cancer, Fran says she was misdiagnosed several times ranging from a peri-menopausal condition to restless leg syndrome. It wasn’t until two years and eight doctors later that Fran was diagnosed with a condition she actually had—uterine cancer. As difficult of a diagnosis as this was, Fran was never alone. Throughout her battle with cancer there were two men always by her side: her boyfriend and her pomeranian, Chester Drescher.
According to Fran, she and Chester shared an incredible bond and he was perfectly content being a one woman dog—her dog. He was intricately intertwined within her life. Fran and Chester went everywhere together including photo shoots and talk shows. Chester even had a recurring role on The Nanny as C.C. Babcock’s lively tan pomeranian, who always seemed to love Fran Fine more.
“I always tell people with cancer, especially if they live by themselves or are alone at night, to get a pet. When you’re away from the distractions of everyday life and you are lying in bed and are in your head, you need something, that warm body to bring you back into the now,” Fran explained.[quote align="left"]“I knew when he left my life that it would leave a void the size of the Grand Canyon, and it did. However, he was 19 and he couldn’t act as a dog anymore; it was the end of an era for me.”[/quote]
Fran’s battle with cancer wasn’t just an adjustment for her, Chester needed to adjust to the change as well. While she was able to stay home recovering from her hysterectomy (and ultimately spend a lot of time with Chester, who was almost 19-years-old), she couldn’t do some of the things Chester had grown to love and expect. “I think it was especially hard on him, because after I had my hysterectomy, I couldn’t pick him up and he couldn’t understand why,” Fran remembered.
Although Fran eventually won her battle against cancer, unfortunately Chester died a mere 6 months after her hysterectomy. “I knew when he left my life that it would leave a void the size of the Grand Canyon, and it did. However, he was 19 and he couldn’t act as a dog anymore; it was the end of an era for me,” Fran said.
Fran writes more about his death in her book, Cancer Schmancer, which she wrote as a way to help educate others about the importance of being persistent and to prevent misdiagnosis. Her chapter, aptly titled “Chester Drescher” is a heartfelt glimpse of his final weeks and shows the lasting impact that he had on her life. “On December 26, 2000, the worst year of my life got even worse,” Fran wrote.
After several months of mourning and soul-searching, Fran decided to stop living in the past and focus more on the future. It was with that new mindset she decided to bring another dog into her life. “After Chester died, I realized I would need something to propel me forward,” Fran explained.
In May of 2001, Fran brought Esther, a chocolate pomeranian, home. “She’s the most unique little creature. She’s the sweetest, most gentle creature I’ve ever met in my entire life of any species. There is not a mean bone in her body. And I feel very lucky to have her,” Fran said.
Like most dog owners know, no two dogs are the same and Chester and Esther are no exception. According to Fran, Chester was a high-energy pomeranian, who loved to be the center of attention. “He was just a little spit-fire,” she recalled. Esther on the other hand, is the complete opposite. “She’s a real bon-bon girl, she loves to just lay around.”
Fran stated people would often stop to question her, confusing Esther for a teddy bear. However, according to Fran people don’t need to know what species she is to know there is truly something special about her. “All they know is that they love her. It’s so easy to get caught under her spell,” Fran described. “Esther is an angel that has come down from heaven to watch over us and show us love.”
Though Esther had some pretty big shoes to fill, she has had no problem rising to the challenge. Much like her older brother Chester, Esther enjoys attending industry events like talks shows, etc. with her mom—she has even had a recurring role in Fran’s previous sitcom Living with Fran. Now she is the newest cast member in Fran’s new hit sitcom, Happily Divorced. The new series was inspired by Fran’s real life experience and her marriage to her ex-husband, Peter Marc Jacobson.
They say every situation we are faced with, joyful or not, we learn something. According to Fran, finding Esther helped her to learn there is in fact ‘love after love.’ “I thought when I lost Chester I would never be able to love or be as committed to a dog as I was with him. Esther taught me that if I can in fact love another dog as much, then I can love another man as much, move on from a loss, etc.,” Fran said.
Fran has made turning pain into purpose her life’s mission. To date, she has devoted much of her time to educating others on the prevention and early detection of cancer. She also encourages both those currently battling cancer and cancer survivors to look beyond their medical conditions toward what makes them happy. “Cancer is just a slice in the pie of life. Don’t let cancer become the whole pie. Deal with what you have been dealt and move past it,” Fran reminds us.
In 2002, in an effort to prevent what happened to her from happening to others Fran wrote Cancer Schmancer, a book that chronicles her search for a diagnosis and ultimately her story of survival. She later founded the Cancer Schmancer Foundation & Movement in 2007 which, like her book, aims to shift the nation’s focus towards the prevention and early detection of cancer, and to help change people’s perspectives so they become medical consumers instead of passive patients. The organization aims to save lives in a different way—by catching cancer at its earliest stages.[quote align="right"]“I thought when I lost Chester I would never be able to love or be as committed to a dog as I was with him. Esther taught me that if I can in fact love another dog as much, then I can love another man as much, move on from a loss, etc.”[/quote]
In 2011, the Cancer Schmancer Foundation launched their Trash Cancer Campaign. The campaign focuses on creating public awareness about the toxic chemicals and carcinogens that can be found in consumer products and urges customers to avoid products with these ingredients. According to trashcancer.org, only 5-10% of all cancers are hereditary. Fran urges consumers to be aware of the products that we put in our mouths, on our skin and use in our households.
“I believe we need to eliminate toxins from our everyday life, and we can do the same with pet care. So eliminating unnecessary chemicals from our household (for example, no powder cleaner on the carpet) can have a positive effect on our health and our pets,” Fran said.
The Trash Cancer campaign’s website, in conjunction with Good Guide, allows users to search for products to see if they are free of known or suspected carcinogens. This provides people with the information they need to help them to become smarter consumers.
Despite all of the hardships she has faced Fran continues to inspire others to reach for that silver lining. Fran has learned to always find the positive in any negative situation— to find the joy lying beside the pain. Fran has embraced the new path life has taken her on.
Thanks to Esther, she has learned that love after love is not just a possibility, but a reality—that the heart has the ability to love another fully, even after a loss. Together both her and Esther are making a difference not only in each others lives, but in those they come in contact with on a daily basis.
Written By Gabriella Martinez | Photos Provided By Cancer Schmancer