Carol Burnett has delivered endless laughs to audiences around the world, but off-screen she has endured her share of pain – especially losing her firstborn daughter to cancer in 2002 at the young age of 38.
The legendary comic opens up about her relationship with her late daughter Carrie Hamilton in her new book, “Carrie and Me: A Mother-Daughter Love Story,” where Carol recounts everything from their best times together, to Carrie’s battle with drugs, to her final fight with lung cancer.
“She was on her way when the cancer struck,” Carol told Billy Bush and Kit Hoover and Wednesday’s Access Hollywood Live, recalling how a clean Carrie had just begun to write music and make films when she was diagnosed with the disease that would eventually take her life. “I write about her brave fight.”
For Carol, penning chapters about Carrie’s teenage drug abuse and her subsequent trips to rehab were the most difficult to relive.
“Scenes where I write about the drug issue because that was really tough. I remember being so naive and not knowing how to react to this problem because she had been an all-A student. We didn’t know what she was going through,” she shared.
After attempting to be her daughter’s “friend” had failed, Carol knew what she had to do to help Carrie.
“I realized I had to love her enough to let her hate me. So I tricked her into going into rehab for the second time. She was very angry but she came through,” she said. “I had my baby back again after that, until she got sick.”
While in rehab, Carrie began smoking cigarettes. She later developed lung cancer.
During her days in the hospital, Carrie made the best of her situation.
“She drew pictures and would tack them to the wall of her hospital room. She drew the tumor and she called it ‘Yucky Chucky.’ Then she drew the chemotherapy character and the radiation character and she called them ‘Rady’ and ‘Kemo’ like Japanese characters,” Carol recounted. “Each day she would make Yucky Chucky smaller and smaller and smaller. She was visualizing it getting smaller – and it did for a while. Then it went up to the brain.”
For more of Carol’s story, pick up “Carrie and Me: A Mother-Daughter Love Story” – available in stores and online now.
-- Erin O’Sullivan