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CNN LARRY KING LIVE
Battling Multiple Sclerosis
Aired November 18, 2005 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MEREDITH VIEIRA, GUEST HOST: Tonight, stars speak out on the mysterious incurable disease that can come out of nowhere and leave you crippled and blind, it's MS, Multiple Sclerosis.
And actress Teri Garr announced that she has it right here on this show three years ago.
Also with us Richard Cohen, a successful TV journalist despite living with MS for 33 years of increasing numbness and loss of vision.
R&B singer Tamia, she was devastated to be diagnosed with MS two year ago.
And, country star Clay Walker, selling millions despite having MS for nearly ten years.
They're all next on LARRY KING LIVE.
Good evening. I'm Meredith Vieira, filling in for LARRY KING LIVE.
And tonight we're talking about Multiple Sclerosis, otherwise known as MS and it is a subject that I know quite a bit about because my husband is dealing with it and you're going to meet him in a little while.
But first up, Teri Garr, Teri is as you all know an Oscar nominated actress, a comedian who has been living with MS for a long time now. She's also, Teri I have to say that you're a paid ambassador for the MS Lifeline's Program, which is funded by Serona and Pfizer. They are the co-marketers of Rebif and that is the interferon drug therapy that you are currently on, is that correct?
TERI GARR, ACTRESS: That is correct, Meredith.
VIEIRA: OK. That done I want to talk first about your wonderful book "Speedbumps, Flooring it through Hollywood," it is terrific. What inspired you to write it?
GARR: Oh, thank you Meredith. You know I started talking about living with MS and meeting so many interesting people and I thought you know I think I'll write about what it's like to live with MS and how other people have done it and my experience with it and also, you know, talk about my experiences of growing up in L.A. and living in Hollywood and having a career and all that stuff. VIEIRA: I did not realize that you started your career as a dancer many, many years ago and so obviously very in tune with your body. When did you first notice, Teri, that something wasn't right? Do you remember?
GARR: Well I think it was maybe 20, 25 years ago that I would get this numbness and tingling in my -- in my foot. I first started out with a buzzing in my foot.
VIEIRA: A buzzing?
GARR: It was kind of like a buzzing. I thought, you know, what's that, my cell phone? You know we didn't have cell phones 25 years ago. I mean well we had them but they were more like, you know, canoes. They were big.
So, I didn't know what that was and then -- then it would go away and then I started tripping. I would -- I would be jogging in Central Park and I started tripping a lot and then I would feel this terrible like stabbing pain in my arm and I didn't know what that was either. Of course, you know, I was in Central Park. Maybe it was a knife.
VIEIRA: It could have been, yes, right a mugger.
GARR: But I would go to doctors then and they didn't have any idea what it was, I mean...
VIEIRA: Well what would the doctors say to you then?
GARR: Oh, they would say it's a pinched nerve and you need to go home and put the sandbags over a door and stretch your neck out because your spine is being pressed together. I mean it all seemed to make logical sense but no one ever really got to the point that it was MS.
And I think looking back on it maybe if the doctors suspected that it was MS they didn't -- they didn't say it was MS or they didn't say it because they thought well what the hell should we tell her for because there's nothing you can do about it. But now there are lots of medicines out there to help us and to slow the progression and to help various symptoms. I think...
VIEIRA: But if people in Hollywood started noticing that maybe you were tripping or anything different in your behavior did you start to see them treat you differently?
GARR: Oh, yes.
VIEIRA: Because the rumor mill starts even if you haven't been diagnosed with MS.
GARR: Oh, that's exactly what happened. I think many -- I told a few people that I -- boy they're testing you for MS. What the heck is that? And then they told everybody and, you know, in Hollywood if you have a hangnail you're out.
GARR: So, I mean let alone, you know, MS. It just was the beginning of the end. But you know what I kept on going and I keep plowing through and I sort of reinvent myself. I loved the idea of writing, writing a book and your husband Richard is such a great writer.
VIEIRA: Keep your hands off Richard now, all right Teri, come on?
GARR: Well, I don't want to tell you this. We've been having an affair for several years Meredith and, you know, we have the MS in common.
VIEIRA: I know.
GARR: We're writers you know.
VIEIRA: Something to talk about I know. I know, I know, I know. Well, I want to go back to the MS again because you were finally diagnosed right, I mean with a definitive diagnosis of MS?
GARR: Yes. Yes.
VIEIRA: And how many years did it take to get to that point?
GARR: A long, 25, 20 years.
VIEIRA: Twenty-five years.
GARR: Yes. Well in '99 I was diagnosed so it was many years that I had symptoms that would come and go.
VIEIRA: So, at that point were you almost relieved to finally put a name to this do you know what I mean?
GARR: Oh, yes, very much so and plus I started looking it up on the Internet and saw that there were medicines out there to help us and therapies and things to do. So, I thought well let me get on this boat because these people are going someplace and I want to be there with them.
VIEIRA: Well it's one thing to find out that you have an illness like MS and it's another thing to go this extra step and decide I'm not -- maybe not a poster child but you have put yourself out there. I mean I think you almost made that -- when you came on Larry's show two years ago that was your way I think of saying I'm here. I have this and I'm not ashamed to admit it.
GARR: Yes, I had no idea.
VIEIRA: What you would unleash?
GARR: Yes, that it was such a big brave move. I thought, well so I'll say this and then you know. But it's really been an amazing journey for me because I've learned things about myself and about life that I never thought possible and about people and about the world and how much I love life and appreciate life.
I mean I'm sure Richard says this too. Yes, Richard and I talk about this when we're home alone. And there's really a lot of -- there's been a lot of really positive upsides to this oddly enough, you know, there really have.
VIEIRA: Well you talk about that but what about the negatives though? I know Larry got upset with you a couple of years ago when you came on because he said you're just so darn upbeat.
GARR: Well, you know, it's not in my nature...
VIEIRA: There's got to be a bad day.
GARR: Well, I'm sure there's up days and down days and it's mostly little things when I get really mad when I can't open a jar or I trip over something but I don't think that's the end of the world and I think it's just not in my nature to focus on the negative.
VIEIRA: And you also have a daughter, an 11-year-old daughter. We were sharing stories because we have a 12-year-old daughter. Molly is your daughter.
VIEIRA: How does she keep you in line? When you're having -- you know you wake up and it's not the best day for you?
GARR: You know she's absolutely the greatest, you know. She is absolutely the greatest. I said to her this morning, "You know you're doing a lot of exercise. You're slimming down. You look good." She goes, "Yes, you're next." Excuse me. Well she's very, you know, very positive. I mean hopefully I've instilled it in her.
VIEIRA: Well you take her on the road with you sometimes don't you because she'll speak to the audience with you?
GARR: Oh, yes, I do. She likes that. Well, at first she thought it was very interesting and then she's like bored with it now. It's, you know, they (inaudible).
VIEIRA: She's so over you and your MS.
GARR: I know, yes she is over it.
VIEIRA: Well, at the risk of I don't know, I'm a little nervous because we're going to go to break and then Richard is going to join us and I don't know about the two of you. I sense the chemistry through the television but we'll do our best. You're going to stick around.
GARR: We've tried to keep it from you.
VIEIRA: It's too late honey. We'll be right back with more of LARRY KING LIVE right after this.
LARRY KING, CNN HOST: Why have you not told people? Why had you not gone public?
GARR: Well, first of all I didn't know I had it for that many years. I mean I went to many, like eleven doctors and no one really, you know, it's a very hard diagnosis and then it would go away and I'd be fine. I'd figure, oh the hell with it I need to, you know, go on with my life. I mean I do go on with my life. But I think now the good news is that there's a lot of good medicines out there and options for people, so if I can just help people to feel better.
KING: At its worst what does this do to people when it is most debilitating?
MONTEL WILLIAMS: This disease at its worst is a deadly disease because it then affects almost every organ in your body. It can cause paralysis. It can cause blindness that will never change and people can die from this disease.
VIEIRA: And we are back. Still with us is Teri Garr, comedian, actress and author of her new book "Speedbumps, Flooring it Through Hollywood."
And joining us now in New York Richard Cohen, network television journalist, diagnosed with MS 33 years ago, author of "Blindsided" which is now available in paperback, we're selling it out of our van later on. He happens to also be my husband.
In Orlando, Tamia Hill, R&B singer, known simply as Tamia, diagnosed with MS at age 28, just two years ago, married to NBA star Grant Hill of the Orlando Magic.
And in New York again Clay Walker, top selling country music singer, has had no fewer than eleven number one songs, sold more than eight million CDs, diagnosed with relapsing (INAUDIBLE) MS.
And in Minneapolis, Dr. Randall Schapiro, M.D., told me to call him Randy, founder and director of the MS center at the Minneapolis Clinic of Neurology, founder and first elected president of the consortium of MS centers, has been elected to the National MS Society Hall of Fame and he serves on the National Board of the National MS Society. Thank you all for joining us.
Tamia, I actually want to start with you because you are the newest person to join this club to speak.
HILL: Yes. VIEIRA: You were diagnosed just two years ago.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She's a baby.
VIEIRA: Yes, you're the baby of the group exactly. You have a little girl who was about a year and a half at the time.
TAMIA HILL, R&B SINGER: Yes.
VIEIRA: Did you know anything about MS when you got this diagnosis? What happened?
HILL: I did not. Actually, you know, I had done an MS benefit when I was about 17 years old for Nancy Davis and I was singing there and I didn't really know much about it. To me at that time it was just another gig and little did I know that, you know, several years later I would be diagnosed with MS myself. What first happened was...
VIEIRA: What happened with you?
HILL: Yes, I started getting the same thing, the numbness, the tingling. I felt numbness in my leg and I would kind of joke about it, you know, like I can't feel my leg and actually I went on an anniversary weekend with my husband and we went to a very, very warm climate and I was sitting outside and I realized that I didn't have the same tolerance that I used to.
I literally sat outside for five minutes and the next day I woke up and I couldn't really get out of bed and I couldn't hold a pencil to fill out our forms to get back into the country.
So, I went right to the hospital and, you know, they -- it took them about seven days before they could really rule in MS because you had to rule out so many other things.
VIEIRA: Many other things.
HILL: Because it kind of -- yes. They realized that I probably had an attack at that time.
VIEIRA: And, Clay, I want to ask you because I know for you I think it was your hand that went wasn't it first?
CLAY WALKER, COUNTRY MUSIC SINGER: Yes.
VIEIRA: You know you play an instrument.
WALKER: I couldn't hold a guitar pick in my right hand. We were in Calgary, Alberta and I had been in extreme cold instead of the heat, so I never experienced the fatigue like Tamia has but I hear about it quite often from MS patients. But I think that her symptoms are pretty, you know, consistent with other people's as well.
VIEIRA: Yes. When Teri Garr found out that she had MS, Teri said that she felt relieved. Richard, what was your reaction? I mean you were 25 and you didn't have to wait a long time to find out you had MS.
RICHARD COHEN, TV JOURNALIST: The diagnostic process was relatively efficient. I was not relieved nor was I freaked out. I was sort of numb. I remember sitting there and deciding that I didn't know enough about it to react that I should suspend any kind of an emotional reaction. And in a funny way it's still suspended, you know, and here it is over 30 years later.
VIEIRA: What do you mean?
COHEN: Well, I never really took the time to react to MS. I accepted it. It was a daunting challenge. I was trying to build a career in television news and I -- I just didn't have time to get involved emotionally with it. You know, I was much more interested in...
GARR: It's not a woman.
COHEN: It's like a typical man.
VIEIRA: Once again exactly. I couldn't commit to MS.
WALKER: Richard is the veteran here.
GARR: Yes, he's had it the longest.
COHEN: Thirty-three years.
VIEIRA: Teri too but it wasn't diagnosed, right, Teri (inaudible)?
COHEN: That's right.
WALKER: I didn't have the fear that you had because, you know, now there are things that you can do. As Teri was saying earlier there are some great therapies out there. You know, I have a daily injection that I know every day I'm taking care of myself but 20 years ago we didn't have it.
VIEIRA: Yes, but when you can't use your hand suddenly, didn't you think, my gosh I could lose my career?
WALKER: Absolutely. Absolutely I did.
VIEIRA: I mean it would have to cross your mind.
WALKER: And I was devastated. I was actually crushed. You know I can say this to Tamia, she's only had this for two years but, you know, you look great and you're going to be fine. You know we're in so much of a better place than we were when Richard was diagnosed 32 years ago.
WALKER: I mean does it make you feel a little bit left out because whenever you were diagnosed it was -- it was diagnose and adios?
COHEN: Well that's correct and I believe and you should ask the doctor this that a lot of the therapy is the pharmaceuticals are intended for lapsing, remitting and probably younger patients, more newly diagnosed. And I think we're not really, the old people are not really...
WALKER: Well you're not that old Richard.
COHEN: ...not really in the center of the profile. We're sort of off to the side and I think not helped as much by the drugs.
VIEIRA: Doctor, do you agree with that Randy?
RANDALL SCHAPIRO, M.D., FOUNDER, MS CLINIC AT MINNEAPOLIS CLINIC OF NEUROLOGY: Well there are a lot of varieties of Multiple Sclerosis and there's no question that the earlier we treat and the earlier we get onto the preventative type medicines the better they work. They don't work as well after there's a lot of scars and a lot of abnormalities in the nervous system.
VIEIRA: Because once the damage is done it's done essentially?
SCHAPIRO: Once the damage is done we have no way to put it back and so that's why we want to be preventative.
VIEIRA: Does it still take a long time? I mean in Teri's case it took years to figure out that she had MS. Does it still take a long time?
SCHAPIRO: Actually I don't think so. I think MS is really fairly easy to diagnose. We need three criteria. The first is that the person should be between the ages of 15 and 55 when they start. They should have fluctuations of their symptoms. They should come and go to some degree.
And then when we examine them we find more than one abnormality in the nervous system. That's why we call it Multiple Sclerosis and that's our clinical criteria. Then of course we have...
VIEIRA: So why did it take so long with Teri?
SCHAPIRO: Well I think sometimes doctors are a little hesitant to do it without a test. I think it's just people don't like to tell people bad news even when they're doctors and so sometimes it gets delayed because they just are hesitant to say it unless they're absolutely sure.
VIEIRA: But, yes but how ridiculous if these drugs could help and the faster you get them on the better, you know.
SCHAPIRO: Well, we didn't have those drugs in that time frame.
VIEIRA: No, exactly.
SCHAPIRO: But now it becomes important to make that diagnosis early and to get treated effectively that's right.
VIEIRA: We have a lot more to talk about. We'll be right back after this.
VIEIRA: And we are back with LARRY KING LIVE. We are talking about MS.
Teri, you talked about your own way of coping with MS, who you decided to tell or not tell. I wanted to ask you, Richard, what your position is on that? I mean is it wise to tell the truth or not wise?
COHEN: Well, I was really struck reading Teri's book about her fears with regard to what people in Hollywood would say or how they would react.
VIEIRA: Tamia has the same fears.
COHEN: Yes, Tamia mentioned it earlier. I was trying to build a career in television news and had terrible misgivings about telling anybody anything. I stayed in the closet. I was very guarded about it and didn't mention it for years.
You know the fact is or at least my opinion is we live in a culture that celebrates physical perfection and I don't think people want to deal with illness? I don't think people feel comfortable with it and I think that we fight other people's attitudes as much as we fight the disease itself.
VIEIRA: So, Tamia, why were you able to -- I mean you're only two years into this illness. Obviously there's a bit of a risk in being so open about it.
HILL: Oh, you know what, actually for me I was sort of relieved when they -- when I found out it was MS because when I was in the hospital for six days when they were trying to figure out what it was so many horrible things came across the table, I mean worse than MS that they thought it could be.
Once I realized exactly what it was, I got a second opinion at Duke University and he explained it to me and, you know, I was just about to go on tour and I felt like if it could happen to me and I consider myself to be a fairly healthy person. I always exercise. I had always eaten right.
And literally, you know, within six months I was feeling things but literally overnight things changed and I just felt like if it could happen to me, you know, it could happen to anyone really.
VIEIRA: Well, Randy, we have four people on this panel, two women and two men each who have MS but it's women who tend to get it more, right, or more likely to be diagnosed and why is that?
SCHAPIRO: It predominantly is a disease of women, about 1.8 to one so almost two-to-one women. That's the genetic aspect of most autoimmune diseases whether it's rheumatoid arthritis or lupus erythematosus you see a predominance of women more than men and that's our genes I guess. We don't really know the explanation for why.
VIEIRA: So, Clay, let's say I got a diagnosis today that I have MS and I call you. What are you going to say to me?
WALKER: I would say don't panic first of all, you know. There are things you can do. But for me I was devastated because I thought about my children. Would I be able to walk them down the aisle? You know would I be in physical good enough shape to do that?
VIEIRA: You had just had a child, right at the time, your wife obviously?
WALKER: Three months old. I was, you know, I didn't ask the question why me? I just was wondering why now, you know, why not later in life? But I've put those fears to rest and to come in on Richard's comment about do we hide it, do we talk about it? I think that we're defined by the way we handle MS, not defined by that we have MS.
And I think that the courage that Richard and Teri both show in their books, you know, I would hate to work in Hollywood. I'll just say that. I'm glad I'm a singer and I think Tamia probably feels the same way because our fans are more, you know, they're more immediate. They're more right in front of us.
WALKER: And in Hollywood, you know, your fans are just out there and for she and I being able to be on stage and to go out there and show them I'm OK, you know, every night doing these shows you feel more and more confident about, you know what, I'm a warrior. I'm a soldier for MS. I'm not -- I'm not just a victim.
VIEIRA: But if you think, if you think if I tell my employer I have MS maybe I won't have a job or maybe I won't get hired because of it. I mean there's still that amount of prejudice. It's great that you're all fighting it but it's out there, so I wonder whether you'd advise somebody with MS to keep it quiet.
SCHAPIRO: You don't need to tell your employer if you have MS and I think you're all being awfully hard on Hollywood. It's that way everywhere in every job. If you show your weaknesses sometimes people play on them.
The reality is that there's a time and a place when you have to explain because you're not performing maybe up to the way you should and there are ways in which to compensate for that. But, by and large, I don't think people need to wear MS across their forehead and act like that's them. They have MS but their personalities are really them.
VIEIRA: Go ahead you wanted to add something and then I'll...
WALKER: Dr. Randy, I would ask him, you know, you asked me what would you tell a newly diagnosed person?
WALKER: You know as opposed to 32 years ago with Richard where it's basically go home and rest, smell the flowers, I mean I would think that today that almost all neurologists would say, hey, we do have a few therapies that we know are working in these clinical studies, especially for newly diagnosed people, so don't wait around. Don't wait a year or two before you go do something about it. That's because that's the time period I think when the disease really does its worst.
COHEN: But you know therapy has changed. There is progress. But I think people's attitudes don't change. I'm wondering, Teri, how was your career affected by your illness, I mean has it changed?
GARR: Well, I'd just say, you know, in Hollywood I think growing older for a woman is a lot worse than having a handicap. In fact, it's the big handicap.
COHEN: I love her personality.
GARR: But I don't and I've never thought that was fair but I think, you know, my career was slowing down because of growing older in spite of the fact of how fabulous I look but it just does that for everybody. I'm not doing my Olympic diving or skating anymore or trying out for the part of Catwoman.
VIEIRA: But you have a part in your book, Teri, you talk about Richard Pryor, an agent for Pryor calling up somebody looking for a job and then the person says out loud after they hang up, well Richard Pryor's got MS. He's not going to be getting a job.
GARR: Right, oh and I actually have friends that have suggested me for pilots and stuff and they go, "Oh, you can't use her. She's got MS." And this friend of mine, you know, who they said that to said "But she's still funny. She's still OK."
I think that it's OK to be out there. For me I have to be the soldier that goes, you know what, I can still work. I mean I can't do the parts that I used to do not because of the MS but because I'm older, you know, but I still can work and that people with MS still have vitality and they still have a brain and they still have -- there's a lot of things they can do.
VIEIRA: Right it's just getting that message across to people and for whatever reason there often seems to be a disconnect.
WALKER: Well, perception seems to be reality in the entertainment business.
WALKER: So, I can -- I can understand where Teri is coming from and Richard as well but you look great on the cover of this book by the way, Teri.
GARR: Thanks, Clay, you're awfully cute yourself.
VIEIRA: God, will you stop already.
GARR: I'm sorry.
VIEIRA: You're working every man in the room. We'll be right back with more after this.
KING: When, Richard, did this Multiple Sclerosis come on?
RICHARD PRYOR: I think it came on in '86.
KING: Did it have anything to do with your hectic lifestyle or is it just luck of the draw?
PRYOR: The doctor said what you said, the luck of the draw.
KING: So it had nothing to do with the fact...
KING: ...that you had drug problems or anything like that?
PRYOR: Nothing. But I pray that it don't, you know. I said, please God, don't let this be it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. I rest my case. Nobody knows what the hell this is, so I figure it's time to come out and find, you know, raise some awareness that it's not fatal, that there is hope, that it's not so bad. And so that's why I'm here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VIEIRA: And we are back. Still joining us Teri Garr, actress and comedienne from L.A., Richard Cohen, my husband, who also is a wonderful author and a journalist, Tamia R&B singer, who was diagnosed two years ago with MS, country singer award winner himself, Clay Walker, and Dr. Randall Schapiro, who has been very involved with MS for years now. Thank you all for coming back.
In the break you said, that Clay, that you would really like to talk about the fears involved with MS. What is your greatest fear when it comes to MS?
WALKER: My greatest fear was how my children would handle it. You know that would be... VIEIRA: What do you mean how they would handle it?
WALKER: Their opinion of me is everything. It's the most important one to me. And I would think that you know this disease being primarily a woman disease, now, how do women -- how do the women handle that because primarily they're the caretakers and the responsibility that comes -- you know the physical challenges alone of taking care of children...
VIEIRA: How old are your children?
WALKER: My children are 9 and 6. And I've been diagnosed almost 10 years and my first child was 3 months old. I remember leaning over the hospital bed to get the spinal tap and looking into her eyes at 3 months old and I just started crying because I was just thinking to myself, here's this beautiful baby and what type of image is she going to have of me?
Is this disease going to take my life now? Is it going to put me in a wheelchair? Or will she be proud of me? And those fears have since subsided because my children have grown up with me having MS. You know they give me my shot. You know so as long as they're not fighting...
VIEIRA: They do...
VIEIRA: Don't have a needle with a fighting child.
WALKER: Absolutely, but I think you know they look at me like well you know I'm not any different. You know I still get out in the yard and I run with them. I play with them. And you know that's the thing about MS is that I'm still doing all the things that I did before I had MS. I thought it was going to take it all away from me.
But my outlook on this, I look at it like Teri was saying earlier much as a blessing because it made the relationships that I do have so much more meaningful. And it made every day that much sweeter because when you realize you're mortality...
VIEIRA: But you can still do it. I mean in Richard's case, you can't do a lot of things with our kids that you could have done without the MS?
COHEN: Right. I mean it's heartbreaking in a true way not to be able to run and play with your kids. You know, and you wonder what do they think? What am I not giving them that other kids are getting from their dads? And it took a lot of years for me to realize that my kids are getting something from me. It's just very different. You know and I think they get it, they see what I can't do. But I think they appreciate me for what I can do.
VIEIRA: Has that been your experience Teri with Molly (ph)? GARR: Yes. Absolutely.
GARR: I was just thinking I have never focused on what I can't do. And I always focus on what I can do. As far as being the woman being the caretaker and the woman having to -- the women get more of this, I'm sure Tamia feels this, too. I mean there's a lot on your plate just being a woman and especially if you want to be in show business.
And you're so beautiful and you're going to say that way. You're going to be fine. That's my attitude. Do not think about anything bad that can happen. You know focus on your child and your kid and as Richard says, they pick up what the good stuff that's coming out of you anyway. I really think they do.
VIEIRA: Have you had...
VIEIRA: ... about that, Tamia, about being the caregiver and now not being able to do that. I mean you were -- I know with your husband Grant very much the caregiver.
HILL: Yes, I was for about four years...
VIEIRA: Any sports injuries...
HILL: He had four surgeries...
HILL: Yes. So I mean I think what it has done for me is that it's helped me to focus on, you know, eating better, just taking overall better care of myself and also, you know, with my family as well. It -- you know, I have a 3-year-old daughter myself. So it's true. They adjust. And she calls herself the happy helper, although she will not be giving me any shots, just for the record.
HILL: Let's stop that right now.
VIEIRA: Richard doesn't want me to give him a shot. He's so worried where I'll stick it, so...
HILL: Yes. So they're just -- you know kids, they adapt. So...
HILL: ... you know... (CROSSTALK)
SCHAPIRO: Maybe I could add a perspective...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
SCHAPIRO: ... here a little bit. Because I agree with everything everybody has said about you want to do as much as you can with what you have. But my mother had multiple sclerosis and I was raised with that and here I am. And so I don't know how well adjusted I am, but most people would say I'm OK.
VIEIRA: Is that why you got involved, Doctor, because...
SCHAPIRO: No. That may have got me interested in neurology. You know you think you know what you're doing with your life, but in fact there's a better plan for you.
SCHAPIRO: Somehow you just follow your nose.
VIEIRA: Doctor, how important is attitude? Everybody that we are talking to tonight, everybody's very positive despite the diagnosis. How important is that?
SCHAPIRO: I think a positive attitude means everything. You know, you can -- if you're given lemons you make lemonade. And quite frankly, I can see in many people, people with very mild disability that have made themselves disabled. And people with more moderate and significant disability who work through life and are very successful.
So we try to push the positive attitude and try to get people to understand just what they can do, not what they can't. Your panel's really been wonderful at expressing that.
VIEIRA: Yes, absolutely. What's sad and we can talk about this when we come back, is how often when somebody is diagnosed the person closest to them decides to check out to leave and that often does happen.
We'll be back with more of LARRY KING right after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LARRY KING, HOST: Do you feel it is going to be cured?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think right now we live in the best times that we could ever live in when it comes to any kind of illness. Because I think doctors right now are on the forefront. And right there, just in that final frontier we're learning more about the body every single day. So I think there is something like a cure coming, but I really believe what's going to happen is that doctors are going to be able to stop our symptoms. They're going to bring this disease to a halt. They're going to stop it from ravaging any further. Maybe hold us all in limbo and hey for me that's all I really want. (END VIDEO CLIP)
VIEIRA: We're back with LARRY KING LIVE. And I'm Meredith Vieira sitting in for Larry talking about MS. And I mentioned before I went to break that often when someone is diagnosed with MS, their loved one decides to check out (INAUDIBLE). In the break, Richard said he's still waiting for me to do that, which I found rather obnoxious. But how do you experience -- I mean you know your family stuck with you and I know Tamia and in our case. But do you understand why people flee, Clay?
WALKER: Sure. I mean the fear and anxiety you know of what -- you don't want to see your loved one go downhill. I had an aunt who had ALS and her husband left her. You know that was a fear of mine, too. I would not have blamed her, but she did not.
WALKER: You know I remember laying in bed one night feeling sorry for myself and saying, you don't know what it feels like to have this disease. And it was in the dark and this voice comes out of the dark and it gave me chill bumps because she said, you don't know what it feels like to lay on this side of the bed wondering if I'm going to wake up with the same man I laid down with, if you're going to be able to get up in the morning.
And I realized at that point that what I needed to do or what could I do to relieve that anxiety and it's what Tamia basically said and it's take great care of yourself so that your loved ones know. You know that Richard is taking care of himself.
WALKER: When they know that and they see that they'll stick by you. But if you are just going to wallow in self-pity and you know just burn yourself into the ground, then why should someone stick around for that. So have a good attitude and take care of yourself.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right.
COHEN: But Meredith, you know as well as anybody the burden that the other person has to bear. You know, picking up to do things that your spouse can't do dealing with kids in a way that your spouse can't help you with. There's a tremendous price tag for people in your position. And I don't think we should ever lose sight of that.
VIEIRA: But you know what I think, you get philosophical about it. It could -- there's always a chance of something happening. You know you either love someone or you don't, so...
WALKER: Well let's ask you, how do you...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
WALKER: ... feel about Richard right now after 32 years of watching him battle this?
VIEIRA: I think there are times that it's very difficult where I don't quite know what to do because Richard is an incredibly independent man. He doesn't want help. So often if we're crossing a street, my inclination is to help him, he purposely walks faster...
VIEIRA: ... like defying me, like I won't fall...
COHEN: I actually jaywalk.
COHEN: The only legally blind jaywalker in New York.
VIEIRA: Well, Teri, you were married at the time you were diagnosed with MS, correct?
GARR: Right. But I mean it had nothing to do with...
VIEIRA: The divorce...
GARR: ... MS.
GARR: It just had to do with various insanity. And by the way Richard, if she dumps you, I'm here, I'm available.
GARR: I'm, you know...
COHEN: Give me your number later.
VIEIRA: Yes, we'll be flashing her number across the screen later.
GARR: I just -- I've been working on you know "Law & Order" and Ted Kotcheff, producer, he said my mother had MS and lived to be 93. And my father never treated her any differently. He'd go hey, get me coffee and she'd bring me coffee over and she'd be shaking and go here, and he said I think that's why she lived so long was because she didn't have pity. And she didn't have...
GARR: ... and he knew that she had it and that she was dealing with stuff, but he didn't treat her any differently. And I think it's very important.
VIEIRA: Well Tamia, what about in your case, how has your husband handled this because it's still sort of fresh.
WALKER: I don't think he's leaving.
HILL: No. And you know what? I've taken care of him for five years...
HILL: ... five surgeries. So you know I put in my work, so...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's your turn.
HILL: ... I was like it's my turn. Actually you know I think sometimes he has a hard time dealing with it because I'm not as open as you know probably -- he'll come home and say, you know I'm so tired and I'm like you're tired, you know, so, you know he'll say what's going on. What's -- you know and I'm like, no, it's just, you know it's normal. I'm just a little bit tired today. But he's very helpful. You know like I said, I helped him, so it's my turn. So...
VIEIRA: So is the best thing for somebody like me take my cues from Richard then rather than impose?
HILL: I -- you know, my husband does.
HILL: You know, often you know I think you know a lot of times I get, well, you don't look sick. So -- and I don't feel sick all the time.
HILL: I have you know wonderful days most of the time. But sometimes I have you know bad days and he can tell. You know he's a good judge. So he can tell. But if he can't, you know, I just bring it to his attention and he helps me out, so...
WALKER: Richard and I were holding up ten fingers. You definitely don't look sick.
VIEIRA: You look good. We'll be right back with more of LARRY KING LIVE.
(MUSIC) VIEIRA: And we are back with LARRY KING LIVE. I'm Meredith Vieira sitting in for Larry. Clay, I wanted to ask you and actually everybody on the panel tonight what you were doing in particular to try to fight this disease because you're not just here speaking out, you've actually formed your own foundation.
WALKER: Well two years ago I decided to come off the sidelines because I think a lot of people need that inspiration. You know I was doing so well and I realized that it was probably selfish not to express myself to people in fighting the disease, so I started a foundation called Band Against MS and we're going to do a concert series across the U.S. next year to promote, just everything to do with MS.
We're going to invite doctors out, MS patients, the public, everybody to do exactly -- to put away the myth about MS. I want people to come out. I want to have other entertainers that have MS on the shows and just let people see, you know what, you have MS but we're normal. You know there's not very many things that we still can't do, so and just raise the money for research because I think that Richard -- especially someone like Richard who has battled this for 32 years deserves a cure.
And you know I will not give up. It's my personal crusade to make sure that we have a cure for this disease in my lifetime.
VIEIRA: What about you, Richard? I mean obviously the book and now you're writing a second book on chronic illness. I mean...
COHEN: Yes. I mean I think that we all have a problem and want to be part of the solution. You know and I think that we are advocates. I think that in whatever we can -- in whatever way we can, we do want to demythologize the illness. And I also believe that advocacy brings us something in a very personal way, which is a satisfaction that we may never turn something bad into something good, but maybe it will be a little less bad by trying to be, you know, trying to do something constructive with it.
VIEIRA: Teri, is there something very personal about being an advocate for you? I mean do you -- obviously, you must get something out of it beyond helping others...
GARR: So much and I -- yes, I'm that -- MS Lifeline's ambassador. And I go around the country and talk to people about living with MS. And it's -- they come up to me afterwards and say you know you really inspire me. And I think you know you inspire me. Anybody that comes and tries to help themselves inspires me. And Clay, I think that's wonderful that you've started this foundation. I think we should all have that in our heads that we're going to get a cure before we check out.
WALKER: Absolutely. I think you and I are both bullheaded enough to get it.
VIEIRA: And yet Randy -- Dr. Schapiro, you don't believe that there will be a cure in your lifetime. You're hoping maybe that there will be something to prevent it, but...
SCHAPIRO: Well, I'd sure like to see a cure. But you know to have people jump out of wheelchairs and run down the hall takes a lot more than just stopping the disease. And so I have to be realistic about it.
SCHAPIRO: I keep hearing five years, five years, five -- I've been around for a lot of five years and quite frankly, I see a lot of hope and a lot of things have changed dramatically in the past 12 years, but I just want to be real about it. I think our first job is to stop the disease cold and then we can go about fixing it.
VIEIRA: But you make it sound like that's a real possibility in the near future. What is the research showing?
SCHAPIRO: I really think it is a real possibility in the near future. We have five FDA approved drugs now that really do something in most people who take them. We have one that's sitting on the sidelines that we hope will get back into play and action if we can control it that will be an addition to it. There's many more that are in the pipeline that we just have to see how they turn out. But these are exciting times. And I'll tell you I've been around in times that weren't so exciting. These are exciting times.
VIEIRA: Tamia, are you an advocate or a reluctant advocate?
HILL: I think definitely an advocate. You know I think the best part is getting out there and actually, for me, having people go to the doctor early. I know I was silent for about six months, so I was dealing with little things for around six months before I actually even went to the doctor. But I think that's one of the reasons why you know I'm doing kind of well right now is because I've -- I went to the doctor early and I caught it early.
VIEIRA: We were talking before the show -- I was talking to Clay and Richard actually here in New York about how this is one of those clubs you don't really want to join but once you're in it you're surrounded by incredible people. And it can change your life...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
VIEIRA: ... having MS and Clay, you said that it's made you a more honest person.
WALKER: Well I mean I think it's made me more realize who is BS'ing you and who is not.
WALKER: I mean it kind of takes the blinders off. And I feel very blessed that it happened early in my life where I still had my physical abilities. I could still do things. And I also feel so blessed that there are therapies out there. You know I don't know where I would be -- I don't have the courage that I think that Richard has, because 32 years ago, there was nothing, there was nothing. And now we know that in the last 10 years that we do have things that are working. I haven't had a relapse in five years.
VIEIRA: Would you call your -- what you have courage?
COHEN: No, I don't think of it as courage. I think of it as determination to go forward. You know this is my only shot. And I'm going to live as long and as well as I can.
VIEIRA: And on that note, we're going to take a break. We'll be right back after this.
VIEIRA: We are back with our last minutes here on LARRY KING LIVE. I'm Meredith Vieira, filling in for Larry.
Dr. Schapiro, I want to go back to you for a minute. I never asked you about stem cell research. Could it affect people with MS in a positive way?
SCHAPIRO: There's a lot of hope that we may be able to regenerate a nervous system by learning how to use stem cells. And we have to get in a situation in which we can learn how to use them. The hope is there. The reality may not be there, but the hope is there and science has to progress. That's where we have to head. The National Multiple Sclerosis Society, which is the largest private supporter of MS research in the world has now taken a stand that we need to move ahead and learn about stem cells because they may be the key toward regenerating our nervous systems.
VIEIRA: Just in the last minutes that we have, coping and what do you use to get through a day? Clay, are you a religious man at all...
WALKER: I think that faith is...
WALKER: ... I think your mind, body and spirit, I think you feed all three of those things. And I don't credit one more than the other. You know the medication over the faith. I think you have to see it to be it. And if you don't see yourself getting better, you most likely won't.
VIEIRA: Teri, how do you get through every day? I mean is it the quit your bitching thing?
GARR: Well that's one of the things. But I also think I just keep a good attitude and I don't focus on anything negative. And I try to think about that other people are in worse shape than I am. And I don't mean physically. I mean sometimes emotionally.
GARR: They can't find joy and they can't find any fulfillment and they're frustrated. And I go, you know what? You're crazy. Life is really good. And even if I've got MS, life is fabulously great.
VIEIRA: And Tamia, since you -- as we said at the beginning, you're the baby in this group.
HILL: I agree. I agree with Teri wholeheartedly. You know there's always someone worse off than you. And if you just focus -- for me, I just focus on the positive things. I have a beautiful baby girl, a wonderful husband, and they take up a lot of my day. So I don't really have time to focus on a lot of other negative things.
VIEIRA: Doctor, why is it that so many people say that this disease is under-reported, that there are probably many more people with MS than we know about?
SCHAPIRO: Well I'm sure there are many more people with MS than we know about. You know in every autopsy study that's been done in the past -- and we haven't done autopsy studies for a long time -- but when they get done we find another eight to 10 percent of people who have MS who don't even know they have it.
The reality is that there are about 20 percent of people who have MS that for whatever reason just do well. And they often get lost to medical follow-up because they don't need medical follow-up. And so they lead their lives and they have it, they know they have it, but they don't get counted. And so, it's a tough disease to count. It's...
SCHAPIRO: You just can't do a poll, unfortunately.
VIEIRA: Randy, Richard and Clay told me earlier that statistically it's smart people who tend to get MS. I'm not sure I believe them. They're the exception.
SCHAPIRO: I think it's fair to say on this panel, that's true.
VIEIRA: Any parting words, Richard, for people, particularly people who could have been diagnosed like this friend of ours -- mutual friend who was diagnosed earlier this week and is freaking out.
COHEN: I agree with Clay. Stay strong. Stay positive. Reach into yourself. Find your own personal well strength and lean on your family. Because I think there's tremendous strength around all of us. And you get through it. You really do. It's not as bad as like a parking ticket.
VIEIRA: Who was going to -- who was just about to speak up there? Teri? GARR: Yes, I was. It isn't as bad as a parking ticket. I mean there are a lot worse things in life. I think we need to deal with it from our own -- yes, reach inside. Richard is so smart and articulate...
VIEIRA: Oh just enough already, OK. Enough.
GARR: So jealous of me.
VIEIRA: I love you, Teri Garr. Thank you so much...
GARR: I love you too.
VIEIRA: ... for joining us and Tamia, thank you.
VIEIRA: Dr. Schapiro and Richard Cohen and Clay Walker here in New York.
VIEIRA: Wonderful panelists. Thank you so much for joining us on LARRY KING LIVE.
There's lots more of CNN to come.
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