Lust for Life | Community Notebook | Hudson Valley | Chronogram Magazine
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Lust for Life 

Last Updated: 08/13/2013 4:41 pm


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.

Having achieved most of what she desired five years ago, her next five-year plan is equally ambitious. Her second book, Crazy Sexy Cancer Companion: Inspirations and Reflections for the Ride, will be out in June 2008. “I’m hoping to make the message broader and take it into more mainstream media. It’s hip to be healthy. I’m trying to approach it in a way that makes people curious, makes them laugh, even gasp a little,” says Carr. To emphasize her point she untwines her knotted legs, rises from her seated position, and kicks a toe high in the air.

More books are in the pipeline. She and her husband Brian Fassett run a production studio, Red House Pictures, and are pitching ideas for series born from the idea of personal empowerment and taking responsibility for ourselves and the world around us. They are creating short wellness themed “webisodes.” They just wrapped the extras section for the Crazy Sexy Cancer DVD that will be out in March: Look for a 30-minute yoga segment with Rodney Yee, and a section on juicing in which Carr investigates the produce isle at her local “pharmacy”—Sunflower Natural Foods in Woodstock.

Carr is hired for speaking engagements at galas, events, hospitals, and wellness centers across the country. She may write a column for a national magazine. She is creating a foundation for integrative medicine for cancer patients. She envisions Crazy Sexy wellness coaches from coast to coast. Trained coaches will help patients renovate their diets and help navigate the world of alternative healing. “It’s very big and it’s overwhelming. I’ve done it already. I’ve done it for you,” says Carr.

She is meeting with hospital staff to integrate juicing programs for cancer patients. “The sickest people are fed the deadest food,” she says.

At the same time, she plans to stay healthy and balanced and remember her roots. She boosts her immune system with enzyme-rich and alkaline-based foods that are 80 percent raw and 99 percent vegan. She starts every day with a 16-ounce glass of vegetable juice, followed by another one a few hours later, then she brings on the salad courses. She drinks juiced wheatgrass every day, although she admits it tastes disgusting. She learned the body heals eight times faster with exercise. And she believes the most important element to healing is attitude. To replenish her own, she meditates in the morning, then reads inspirational writing by great speakers. Books by her friend Marianne Williamson are on her bedside table, and she often returns to The Four Agreements. She loves the poetry of Lawrence Ferlinghetti.

Carr keeps two photographs of herself and Oprah on the window ledge beside her writing desk. The photographs show the two women standing side by side, flooded with light in front of a hued background. Both are beaming. “[Being on Oprah] was one of the wildest experiences of my life, out-of-body to be exact,” writes Carr on her blog, crazysexycancer.blogspot.com.


Hundreds of people read and post messages on the blog daily. The newly diagnosed, patients, survivors; people suffering from depression or obesity; and people who want to change their lives look to Carr for inspiration and aid. Carr writes, “If you’re reading this blog on a weekly basis you’re committed to change and you’re on the path.” Her favorite healthy lifestyle choices to blog about include fasting and detoxification, food combining, colon cleansing, and positive thinking.

With so many people wanting a little piece of whatever transformed Kris Carr, it’s easy to wonder how she handles the pressure. She has the support of her friends and family, and that of her husband, whom she fell in love with and married four years into her diagnosis (she hired him to edit and shoot her documentary). They are now newlyweds and business partners and they work nonstop. They read the hundreds of letters she receives each week, in which people both praise her and recount heartbreaking stories. “I take things in deeply but I don’t absorb the pain. I know what I can give and I honor my limits and boundaries. That is one thing I learned from cancer,” she says. When she gets the blues or is overwhelmed she sits quietly beside a kitchen timer set for 10 minutes. If that doesn’t help, she walks. “Wallowing is smelly. I can figure out the world’s problems on the C-Loop at Wilson State Park,” she says.

Carr brews a cup of chamomile tea in her bright kitchen. She is reminded of Dr. Mehmet Oz’s visit when he came to film a segment for Oprah on juicing. They chatted as they chopped vegetables. “He asked if I think about death all the time,” says Carr. “I looked down at the cutting board. I answered, ‘No, I don’t. Right now I’m thinking about chopping onions.’”

It’s a windy afternoon and as Carr speaks trees can be seen swaying through the kitchen windows. A statue of a golden Buddha sits beside a stone pathway. A photograph of a monk smoking a cigarette hangs on the wall. Carr’s manuscript is due in two days, her online community is pressuring her to hurry up and add a forum to her blog, and she has agreed to emcee an upcoming fundraiser for a sarcoma group.

Carr acknowledges her path to health is not for everybody, and she doesn’t confuse herself for a doctor, although she is a certified health educator. She wraps the string of the tea bag around the handle of the mug. “There is a lot of work to be done. We are over not participating in our health,” she says. “But tonight, it’s date night with my husband.”

For updates on Kris Carr’s Crazy Sexy life, and for health tips and resources, visit www.crazysexycancer.com.

click to enlarge Kris Carr and husband Brian Fassett shooting a scene for Crazy Sexy Cancer. The couple fell in love during filming and were married  a year ago.
  • Kris Carr and husband Brian Fassett shooting a scene for Crazy Sexy Cancer. The couple fell in love during filming and were married a year ago.
click to enlarge cnotebook_jan08_kris_carr_stool.gif
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