Marilu Henner: Her most important role

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Marilu Henner and Michael Brown

Marilu Henner and Michael Brown

Members of the staff of Consumers Digest never hesitate to caution consumers that they shouldn’t decide on a purchase or medical treatment when they’re compromised emotionally. We have a kindred spirit in Marilu Henner. The star of TV, movies and Broadway is extremely glad that she was along when her eventual husband, Michael Brown, having been diagnosed with bladder cancer, was told on a first visit to a highly regarded doctor that drastic surgery was required that would remove his bladder and prostate and construct a way for urine to leave his body, or a neobladder.

“The doctor didn’t even examine him,” Henner recalls, yet there was Brown, still reeling from the diagnosis and willing to accept the worst-case scenario of treatment. “Just because somebody is this hot-shot guy, don’t think like, ‘OK, well, they know better,’” Henner advises. “Some people definitely have to go through [the surgery]. No question about it. Michael wasn’t there yet, and I’m so happy not to have rushed into that.”

Brown’s bladder cancer has been in remission for 13-1/2 years, the result of immunotherapy, exercise, a better diet, better sleep, stress management—and Henner being at his side all of the way. Chief among the duties of the caretaker role that she happily embraced was her commitment as note taker. “Don’t be afraid to do follow-up questions,” she says. “I think that’s the biggest mistake people make. They ask the doctor something, and the doctor launches into some explanation, and either [the patient] doesn’t understand it or they’re hearing a word at the beginning of the doctor’s sentence that they sort of stay on for a while.” Take copious notes or bring a recording device, she urges.

Henner and Brown took what they learned from the experience to write, “Changing Normal: How I Helped My Husband Beat Cancer.” In regard to her role as a caretaker, Henner says this also included the issue of how important it is “to break that barrier” in regard to getting the person who is having urinary issues to open up. “They feel like, ‘Oh, it’s an intimate body part. Maybe [my partner] isn’t going to think of me as sexy anymore.’ It’s so important to get past some of those resistances we have to discussions with a loved one.”