BRAVE TERI GARR'S LOVE FOR 8-YEAR-OLD DAUGHTER HELPS HER BATTLE MS

Published on: October 17, 2002

Actress Teri Garr is battling crippling multiple sclerosis with her own secret weapon: Her 8-year-old daughter Molly!

The little girl is the best medicine the "Young Frankenstein" star has in helping her hold off the debilitating effects of a disease that could someday put her in a wheelchair.

"If ever Teri feels down, Molly is there to lift her spirits," Teri's ex-husband John O'Neil said in an exclusive ENQUIRER interview. "Molly is the most wonderful child in the world."

O'Neil says playing mom to Molly, who was adopted in 1993, and taking pleasure in her accomplishments is what keeps Teri's spirits soaring despite fatigue and weakness caused by her MS.

"Almost every night, Teri reads to Molly and supervises her homework and piano lessons," said O'Neil, who was divorced from Garr in 1996 and shares custody of the child. "She takes Molly to plays and gets so much joy from it.

"Molly is gold -- she means the world to us. We are the luckiest two people in the world to have this child. The only thing that is important is raising our daughter."

After years of publicly denying she had the illness, the 52-year-old star of "Tootsie," recently appeared on CNN's "Larry King Live," and revealed she's had MS since 1983.

The incurable degenerative disease attacks the central nervous system, causing numbness, muscle weakness and even paralysis. More than 300,000 Americans suffer from the disease, including actress Annette Funicello and funnyman Richard Pryor.

Garr first realized something was wrong when she felt numbness in her toe and found herself mysteriously tripping while jogging. After MRI testing revealed she had MS, Garr hid her condition.

"I didn't want pity, and I was afraid I wouldn't get work," she said.

These days Garr treats the weakness and fatigue of MS with a new drug called Rebif, marketed by Serono and Pfizer companies. Garr says the injections make her feel better and has become a paid spokesperson for the drug makers.

"The good news is there is a lot of good medicine out there," the actress said.

"I'm going on with my life. I raise my daughter, I work."