Bathed in diffused light from the skylights of her Woodstock home, Kris Carr looks calm despite the fact the manuscript for her second book is due in two days. Carr weaves her long and slender fingers through her blonde hair, and it tumbles onto the shoulders of her white faux-lambskin fleece. She twists her blue-jean-sheathed legs around each other, her Ugg boots standing in as slippers, and she looks every bit the Hollywood starlet at home. That is, after all, the life the former actress was building for herself until five years ago when, at age 31, she was diagnosed with a rare and incurable form of a dreaded disease. “Cancer isn’t something to say thank you for, but it can be a catalyst,” says Carr.
These days, Carr no longer acts on “Law & Order,” no longer stars on Bud Light commercials televised during the Super Bowl, no longer strips nude on stage when playwrights (such as Arthur Miller) ask her to. She is now the real-life hero of her own documentary, and as the star of her remade life she is endorsed by celebrities such as Sheryl Crow and Donna Karan. Instead of pimping products, Carr inspires thousands of people across the country to get healthy. She inspires people to change their lives.
The diagnosis came as a shock. After an over-enthusiastic Jivamukti yoga session—she hoped her fervent downward dogs would catch the attention of a cute guy—Carr woke the next day with severe muscle and abdominal pain. A series of examinations had the nurses frowning. Scans displayed foreign lumps on her liver and lungs.
Carr sought second and third opinions, and 24 tumors of epithelioid hemangioendothelioma (EHE) were confirmed. Her liver looked like Swiss cheese. Chemotherapy and radiology are not used to fight this particular cancer, transplants are risky, and conventional treatments come with sobering side effects and no guaranteed improvement. Considering EHE is generally a slow growing cancer, Carr’s doctors advised her to “watch and wait.”
A self-described type-A personality, Carr was not content with that advice. “I had stage four. There is no stage five,” she says. Facing the potentially fatal disease for which the medical community offered no cure, Carr quit auditioning, sold her Upper East Side apartment to support herself, and dedicated herself to researching alternatives.
Two weeks into her new life, Carr set a movie camera on a tripod and began a video journal. Asked what gave her the idea, Carr says, “When I was a director, I was not a patient. When I was an artist, I was not feeling like a victim.” For friends and family who awaited news, Carr sent group e-mails with the subject line “Crazy Sexy Cancer Updates.”
Carr told her friends she would turn her healing journey into a documentary, write a book about her experiences, and one day be a guest on “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” Carr turned a deaf ear to friends who reasoned that nobody would want to watch a movie about cancer. Four years later, Crazy Sexy Cancer, the documentary, aired on the Learning Channel. The same week Crazy Sexy Cancer Tips (skirt!, 2007) hit bookstore shelves. Carr spent September and October on an extensive book tour. She was interviewed by Katie Couric and Montel Williams, and she was on “Access Hollywood.” Regional radio and television shows around the country gave her guest spots every day. And then, in October 2007, she was on Oprah.
Kris Carr’s Crazy Sexy Cancer inspires on many levels. She reveals her vulnerability and terror, but she always returns to hope. With great humor she transforms a desperate situation. Most irresistible is that she seems to have found the antidote for the impossible. At the end of the documentary her doctor says Carr can think of the tumors as no more threatening than warts. They will never go away, but they aren’t getting any worse. Carr will always need to be scanned and tested, but the frequency of the scans has been reduced to once a year.
As a humorous, passionate, gorgeous woman who has beaten the odds, it’s no wonder so many people want a piece of Kris Carr’s magic. She reflects on this from her small country cottage set amidst a forest decorated with Buddhist prayer flags. “A lot of people in the alternative community want to use me as their poster child. But I don’t want to be a poster child for either side. I want to be a conduit for both to come together,” she says. She trusts the information her oncologist brings her, and she relies on her mentor for nutrition and wellness.