Charlotte Rae, who played the beloved Mrs. Garrett on “Different Strokes” and “The Facts of Life,” has been diagnosed with bone cancer.
This is second time the 91-year-old actress has had cancer in recent years.
“Last Monday, I found out I have bone cancer,” Rae told People this week.
“About seven years ago, I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer — which is a miracle that they found it because usually it’s too late. My mother, sister and my uncle died of pancreatic cancer. After six months of chemotherapy, I was cancer-free. I lost my hair, but I had beautiful wigs. Nobody even knew.”
She told People that at age 91 she now has a decision to make: Have treatment or not.
“I’m not in any pain right now. I’m feeling so terrific and so glad to be above ground,” she said. “Now I have to figure out whether I want to go have treatment again to opt for life. I love life. I’ve had a wonderful one already. I have this decision to make.”
Rae was one of the most famous mother figures on TV in the 1980s. Her big break came when she played housekeeper Edna Garrett on “Different Strokes.” That led to a spinoff, “The Facts of Life,” starring the Mrs. Garrett character as the housemother at an all-girl boarding school.
Mindy Cohn, who played Natalie on “The Facts of Life,” tweeted birthday greetings when Rae turned 91 last week.
In her 2015 memoir, “The Facts of My Life,” Rae detailed her long struggle with alcoholism, 44 years of sobriety and personal tragedies, including the death of her oldest son.
She described how the addiction deepened after meeting her husband, John Strauss, who became her drinking buddy. She could function and work, but the addiction got out of control during her third season of filming “Sesame Street” in 1971, she wrote.
“Alcohol became my drug of choice so I could get to sleep at night,” Rae told Fox News. “It was difficult. I was doing ‘Sesame Street’ as Molly the Mail Lady and I had to get to sleep so I could get up for the kids and do the TV show Monday through Friday.”
She joined Alcoholics Anonymous and she, and her husband, quit. Strauss died in 2011 at the age of 90 from Parkinson’s disease.
“At 91, every day is a birthday,” she told People this week.“(In my book) I want to tell everybody to celebrate every day, to savor the day and be good to yourself, love yourself, and then you can be good to others and be of service to others.”
She said she was supposed to start treatment on Thursday but canceled the appointment.
“I wanted to think about it first,” she told People. “I think I’m gong to go for it. The side effects were not too bad when I did it originally.
“I’ve had a great life, but I have so many wonderful things happening. I’d like to chose life. I’m grateful for the life I’ve already had.”