Written by Cassidy Krygger
Fran Drescher has lived an incredible life.
Best known to us all as the hilarious and carefree Fran Fine in the hit 90’s sitcom ‘The Nanny’ that she co-created and produced. But Drescher has overcome many traumatic life situations that forced her to, in her own words, “change the negatives into positives.” From a rape in her 20s to a cancer diagnosis in her 40s, how did Fran Drescher overcome the odds to become the funny and vivacious woman that we all know and love?
Francine Drescher was born in 1957 in Flushing, Queens, New York.
She had her first break out role in the iconic Saturday Night Fever with John Travolta in 1977 and continued to play small and bit parts throughout the 1980s. In January 1985, two armed robbers broke into her and her husband, Peter Marc Jacobson’ house, and raped Drescher while Jacobson was held at gunpoint. In an essay Drescher later wrote for InStyle Magazine in 2019, she recalled that “Afterward, I didn’t really get into my feelings or my vulnerabilities. I never wanted to come off as “weak,” so I just kind of buried it and got on with life.” It took Drescher many years to recover and even longer to tell the story publicly. Her rapist, who was on parole at the time, was returned to prison and received two life sentences.
But life was about to change for the better.
A chance meeting on an international flight in the early 1990s with the President of the American television network CBS. In the usual Fran way, Drescher was able to persuade the President to let her and Jacobson pitch a show to CBS. He agreed and a few weeks later Drescher and Jacobson found themselves in sunny Los Angeles, pitching their idea of their own unique spin on The Sound of Music. In Drescher’s own words; “Instead of Julie Andrews, I come to the door.”
The series was picked up and The Nanny was born. Premiering in 1993.
The Nanny was about a young woman who turns up on the doorstep of a handsome widowed Broadway Producer who hires her as the new nanny to his three children.
Playing to her talents, Drescher created a character much like herself and the chemistry between Fran and Mr Sheffield, played by Charles Shaughnessy, would be the true magic of the 6 seasons of the iconic series.
While her career was going from strength to strength, it was during the last season of The Nanny in 1998, that Drescher’s life began to crumble.
After nearly two years of symptoms and misdiagnosis, Fran was diagnosed with Uterine Cancer.
She immediately underwent an emergency hysterectomy which successfully treated the disease. In her essay for InStyle, she wrote that
“It was strange — and kind of poetic — that my reproductive organs, of all things, had cancer,” she continued. “But it was also an amazing affirmation that pain finds its way to exactly the right place in the body if you don’t deal with it. Since I hadn’t been paying attention to my own vulnerabilities, my pain from the rape lodged itself in my uterus.”
But as she is known to do, Fran found a way to turn one of the worst hands life could deal her into a positive and in 2007 the ‘Cancer Schmancer Movement’ was created.
Cancer Schmancer is a non-profit organisation that ensures all women’s cancers are diagnosed in Stage 1, the earliest and most treatable stage. In 2008 she was appointed the Public Diplomacy Envoy for Women’s Health issues by President George W. Bush and has since spent time in Washington rallying politicians on behalf of awareness and funding for healthcare.
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