On the front of The Arts section of the New York Times this past week was a picture of Candice Bergen. Older (aren’t we all?) but still lovely even carrying thirty extra pounds. Making no excuses for the weight gain, she says, “I live to eat.” (I can relate to that.) She had written a memoir, her second, which is titled: A Fine Romance.
Candice Bergen played a television reporter in the situation comedy, Murphy Brown, from 1988 to 1998. I loved this show and watched it faithfully. The show resonated with me. Murphy Brown, an independent, smart and tough woman, was in control of her life and took responsibly for her actions. I wanted to live next door to her.
But it was when Murphy Brown was diagnosed with breast cancer the same time as me in October 1997 that I felt a simpatico relationship. As you know, October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month—did the Murphy Brown producers do this intentionally? I wasn’t the only one fixated on Murphy’s cancer—“The show’s handling of the subject was credited with a thirty-percent increase in the number of women getting mammograms.”
One night, I remember sitting in the burgundy recliner with Mittens, our cat, on my lap, in front of the TV watching Murphy deal with her diagnosis. Murphy was shocked and secretive at first, as was I. In that show, she was being carted around in a wheelchair (I think she was being discharged from the hospital) And I don’t know why at that moment she decided not to keep the diagnosis to herself. What I do remember so vividly was that she was stopping people who passed her in the hallway of the hospital, telling them that she had breast cancer. You can imagine the blank look on some faces and on some, fright as if saying, “Let me get away from this lady ASAP.” I nearly fell out of the recliner laughing.
The next day at work I began to share my bad news. I told one of the administrative assistants as she walked out of her office that I was just diagnosed with breast cancer without any preamble. Her face showed a mixture of fright and surprise as I moved on not waiting for her to respond. Later that evening I chuckled at myself.
Thanks Murphy Brown for giving me a reason to laugh many times but especially at a dark moment in my life.
Thank you, Candice Bergen, for ignoring your thirty-pound weight gain in spite of Hollywood’s “beauty standards” and good luck with your new memoir.