Charles Shaughnessy on "Dancer against Cancer" gala ball, cancer, Fran Drescher, The Nanny & how he looks at life!

Charles Shaughnessy did a magazine interview before leaving for the Dancer against Cancer ball in Austria that will take place on Saturday, 14 April, 2012, where he is guest of honour with his favourite leading lady, his wife, Susan. This is what Charlie had to say about the gala ball, cancer, Fran Drescher, The Nanny & how he looks at life.

The invitation to Dancer Against Cancer came "out of the blue." Fran was unable to come this year as she was working, so she suggested me. I knew nothing about the organization at first, but the idea of combining a short trip to such a beautiful city with such a wonderful cause seemed irresistible. It is one of the most rewarding sides of the "celebrity" that comes with a TV show that you can use it to help make a difference in some small way. If my presence at Dancer against Cancer this year can help raise some funds and awareness for the fight against cancer, then it makes those years of playing Mr. Sheffield even more valuable.

Cancer is a dreadful disease that has no compassion for age, gender, fame, economic situation or where you are in life. Even though there are many other serious diseases that can strike a person at any time, cancer has a unique hold over our imagination and psyche. The three words: " You have cancer," are the most dreaded one can hear in any language. But organizations like Dancer Against Cancer and Cancer Schmancer as well as the countless others in this fight are working hard, every day, to make those three words less and less frightening. As treatments improve and survival rates increase, the once fatal sentence of cancer loses it's hold over us. I have many friends and family members who have heard those three words and I am here for them.

When I was growing up, no one referred to cancer by name: it was always  " The "C" word"  or  " The big "C."  It is important that we name the enemy and that we refuse to let it have such a powerful grip on us. There should be no "stigma" attached to the disease. It can strike anyone at any time: no one is immune. It is important that we spread awareness NOT just that the disease exists, but that we can each do our part to drive it into the open and defeat it.

I am a huge supporter of Cancer Schmancer. I think early detection is often 90% of the fight. It is one thing to say" We are fighting to find a cure for this disease," which suggests that there isn't one and that it's going to be a bad outcome.  It's another thing to say" As long as you detect it early, there are treatments available that can greatly increase your chances of survival." Which is both true and hopeful. It takes a lot of the fear and panic away from those three words none of us want to hear.

I have always had a pretty "fatalistic" view of life. On the very same day, someone can discover that they have beaten the odds of 3 million to 1 and won the lottery, while someone else can discover that they have lost the odds by the same 3 million to 1 and contracted an incredibly rare form of cancer! You can take every precaution in life and still get hit by a falling tree. Life and one's health are fragile things and we can never take them for granted or treat them casually. Fran has been an inspiration, not in the fact that she survived cancer, but in how she has chosen to make it a central part in how she continues to live her life as a teacher and crusader for the right of everyone to have access to early detection.

The show had already finished when Fran got her diagnosis, so I was not around at that time. Once we all heard about it and she went public, everyone came together to support her and encourage her. The struggle itself is an intensely private one, but it must be a tremendous help to know that there are so many people pulling for you and loving you.

Frannie and I have always had a very strong friendship. We live very different lives that mean we don't see each other that much, but it is always a great time when we do. I have two kids that take up a lot of time and energy and she is always deep into about three or four projects at the same time. I never know even what country she is in half the time!! I have enjoyed being with her in all her shows since "The Nanny" ( including her Talk Show!) She is a loyal and kind friend and I value the time we spend together.

I continue to work on stage, in movies and on TV in various roles. I have recently taped an episode of "Castle" as well as a recurring role on a Nickolodeon show for Kids called " Victorious." I played Henry Higgins in "My Fair Lady" last summer, and am always tinkering with some project or other. I am also very involved in an Internet business with my brother, David through our company:  3S Media Solutions  

My time as Mr. Sheffield on The Nanny was a wonderful time and we did do a Nanny reunion show as a special on Lifetime. I'm not sure whether there is much point in trying to re-create something so special that existed at a particular time and place in all our lives. But you never know....perhaps : The Nanny - The Musical!!! :-)

Mitt freundlichen Grüßen,
Charlie




Comments

  1. Great interview! Fran is a wonderful person. So happy that you & Susan were able to attend this important charity. I agree cancer can come for anyone at any time. Looks like a beautiful city. Think is so great that Fran and Max stayed friends off the screen. "The Nanny the Musical" sounds great. Hopefully!

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  2. Thank you for your thoughts and support. Almost 27 years ago, when getting checked for what I thought was a simple problem, the doctor pulled out a brochure on colon cancer and proceeded to inform me that my life would change forever. Fortunately, after the initial shock wore off, I found out it was the only illustration he had to indicate where I was sick, but he also told me that my risk of colon cancer had just increased tenfold (and would continue to increase the longer I lived with ulcerative colitis). So, for me the annual "jello days" (aka prep days) that precede the annual colonoscopy are a reminder of how long I have coped with the illness, but at the same time, as each year passes, I know the risk is greater (which is why I get the procedure annually).

    Being reminded of your mortality at a relatively young age (in this case, I was in my third year of a doctoral program, getting ready to take my comprehensive exams) definitely is a scary thing. I wasn't diagnosed with colon cancer, but I knew that there was a very strong likelihood it was in my future. To me, preventive medicine--or early detection--is indeed a matter of life and death. I know that I am fortunate in that I do have health insurance to defray the cost of the annual procedures, but I also remember a time when I did not have that luxury and thus worried about whether the disease would remain in remission (and, if it did not, whether I could afford to pay for treatment).

    I also have seen firsthand how early detection makes a difference. More than 20 years ago, my mother noticed something was different, had it checked by the doctor, and had surgery for skin cancer. She has been cancer-free for over 20 years, but she still checks to make sure it hasn't recurred or spread. In contrast, my cousin didn't find out she had Hodgkins until she was stage 4. If she had been diagnosed even six months earlier, she probably would still be alive today. Instead, she died a couple of weeks after graduating college. Early detection is the key and often is a life-saver.

    Thank you again for your work with organizations like "Dancer against Cancer" and for sharing your experience (and Susan's) with us. I'm looking forward to seeing you perform again, whether it's on the small screen or live in a theatre.

    Danke mein Freund!

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  3. It is very pleasing to see that so many amazing people such as Mr and Mrs Shaughnessy and Ms Drescher are engaged in cancer awareness organizations-with so much passion and dedication. Cancer can truly affect anybody, however, there is a great deal that could be done to minimise the risks. I am 24, studying in the South-West of Great Britain. Unfortunately, I'm not a medical student. I'm a political science student, even though I am not planning to go into politics. I just believe it is important to understand politics to be able to comprehend all the issues we face as human beings (violence, corruption, crime, etc.), which too often are caused or exacerbated by politics, including health issues. I, therefore, believe that Mr. Shaughnessy's engagement with politics is invaluable.

    Since I am not a medical student, I can only offer my view about causes of cancer from a political student's perspective.

    EXTERNAL THREATS:
    Cancer can be caused by both the external environment and internal environment (processes within our bodies). External causes of cancer can include environmental pollution, a radioactive environment, etc. Where known that the environment is polluted or radioactive, it is essential to avoid exposure to such an environment. However, in many cases this is not possible, for instance in the case of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as well as Fukushima today. People cannot just leave their homes and jobs as a result of such disasters, since it involves tremendous sacrifice and high costs. However, such disasters are caused solely by human beings. We could well do without nuclear weapons and plants. The same applies to radioactive working environments. Many people work for companies that require the handling of radioactive and toxic chemical materials, not to mention the use of such materials in products used by the general population as well, which is often unknown to most of us. However, politicians and businesses could care less about their destructive effects on our health. In addition, the use of certain electronic devices (mobile phones, computers, etc.) can cause brain and breast cancers, although not scientifically proven. We must keep in mind, however, that the medical community is often pressurized by multi-million and multi-billion-dollar corporations producing such devices containing toxic materials. For most of them, everything is about profits, which leads us back to Mr. Shaughnessy's insights on ethics.

    INTERNAL THREATS:
    Internal threats (processes within our bodies) are caused by a number of factors, and space here is limited to list them all. The most severe one's, however, include toxic diets, drugs and STDs (sexually transmittable diseases).

    In regard to diets, again, politicians and businesses could care less about what we consume and how it affects our health. It is not surprising, therefore, that many people who cannot afford organic food, have to resort to toxic diets, especially considering the fact that apples for $2 each cannot compete with hamburgers and trans fats for only $1 each. Such diets, in turn, affect our entire digestive system, causing cancer in a number of cases.

    Drugs and STDs are more of a social issue, rather than a political issue, and therefore can affect anybody, regardless of social status. Social lifestyles have changed dramatically in recent years. Especially young people of all walks of life drink excessively, consume drugs of all kinds and change partners frequently (monthly, weekly, and sometimes even daily). ‘Pleasure’ is prioritised over love and responsibility. Some people, however, sadly become victims of crimes, especially sexual abuse-without having been involved in excessive drinking and clubbing, that can result in cervical cancer. The same applies to spouses who might have been affected by STDs transmitted by their partners through adultery, etc.

    Well, these were some of my insights. I hope they were of some interest to you.

    I wish Mr and Mrs Shaughnessy as well as Ms Drescher all the best.

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  5. As an Austrian citizen from Vienna, I was especially pleased to read about Mr and Mrs Shaughnessy's involvement in the Dancer against Cancer event.

    Since organic food and environmentally friendly products are highly valued in Austria, I just remembered the documentary 'Plastic Planet' by Austrian film director Werner Boote on the destructive effects of plastic on our planet and health. The film was aired in 2009.

    Since some forms of plastic are possible causes of cancer as well, I thought you might be interested in seeing the trailer on the official website. Unfortunately, it is in German only, but the short trailer includes segments in English on www.plastic-planet.de

    There is also another Austrian website called 'plastic free' (www.plastikfrei.at), in cooperation with the film, listing plastic-free products, some of which are available internationally, but I'm sure there are even greater programs offered in the United States.

    I think it is important to consider buying products made from alternative materials, for instance wood, glass and stainless steel, rather than human-made materials produced through the use of toxic chemicals. Unfortunately, alternative materials are more expensive, but I guess it is worth giving up 'pleasures' such as alcohol and cigarettes to be able to purchase alternative, more environmentally friendly and healthier products.

    Why do we, for instance, have to purchase the latest iPhone or iPad all the time even though we know that employees of companies such as Foxconn in China, producing such devices, are constantly exposed to severe toxic chemicals (Online New York Times Article: 'In China, Human Costs Are Built Into an iPad')?

    I wish Mr and Mrs Shaughnessy, Ms Drescher and their families all the best.

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  6. liz herrington21 April, 2012 18:11

    .Loved the video blog. I am so glad you and Susan had a wonderful time. I am also so glad you bring up the subject of cancer. We still get patients in our hospital who wait too long because of fear, and it is so sad. Finding or hearing that you might have cancer is frightening, but doing nothing is so much worse. There is a lot of research being done and new treatments all the time. Knowledge is your best bet as is paying attention to your what your body is telling you.

    Thanks for all your attention to this subject.

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