Documenting the most difficult moments of your life may be the last thing on anyone’s mind, but that’s exactly what Selma Blair did for “Introducing, Selma Blair,” a film that gives an intimate look into her battle with multiple sclerosis and the aftermath of her stem cell transplant in 2019.
The 49-year-old “Cruel Intentions” actress was diagnosed with the autoimmune disorder in 2018, but she has been in pain her entire life.
As a child, she had bladder surgery and, as an adult, she would have to undergo unnecessary root canals. She also lost her vision occasionally. Blair also experiences constant muscular and skeletal pains, as well as muscle contractions that can affect her speech.
“I’d compare myself to people,” she said in an interview with Variety. “I didn’t understand people didn’t hurt every day. I’ve hurt since I can remember.”
Arthur, her son, was born in 2011 and her bizarre afflictions got worse. The pain was so intense that she couldn’t move—every single one of her joints hurt, and she didn’t know why.
Blair admitted she was “chronically miserable,” which isn’t surprising considering what she had to go through. But even as she suffered, she continued to work on many projects, starring in movies such as “Legally Blonde” and “Hellboy.”
Blair was suffering from mysterious symptoms for years. In August 2018, her leg gave up while she was walking down the runway at a Christian Siriano show. Her hands stopped working a few months later.
Blair visited a neurologist who diagnosed her MS. Blair shared the news on Instagram two months later.
She wrote: “I am disabled. Sometimes, I fall. I sometimes drop things. My memory is hazy. My left side is asking for directions using a broken GPS. But we’re doing it. And I laugh and I don’t know exactly what I will do precisely but I will do my best.”
Jennifer Grey, a woman named Jennifer Grey, reached to her and shared information about Northwestern University’s treatment of autoimmune diseases. This was something she had heard from a friend. The actress said no at first but thought that she would “figure it out.”
Her symptoms kept getting worse, and she wasn’t responding well to her MS medications, so she finally told Grey that she was open to exploring the treatment. Grey helped Blair get into the program and she underwent the potentially life-saving stem cell procedure at Northwestern University in Chicago in 2019.
This relatively new procedure took two years to complete. Part of it involved Blair undergoing intensive chemotherapy to kill her body’s unhealthy immune system, as multiple sclerosis is a disease in which the body attacks its own central nervous system. After her immunity had fallen to almost zero, she was given healthy stem cells. Her body is to develop a stronger and more functional immune system.
Blair decided to document her medical journey. She was connected to Rachel Fleit by a mutual friend. Rachel is also suffering from an autoimmune condition.
“People don’t say how excruciating, emotionally, it can be to kind of prove you’re not well. I want to tell the truth. It is important to me that people see what living with a chronic illness is like,” Blair told PEOPLE.
As audiences watch the documentary, they’ll not only bear witness to Blair’s MS journey but also get to know her as a mother, daughter, and friend.
“She just kept showing up for me each day and telling me the truth and giving me herself in her fullness, which is extremely generous and very unique,” Fleit told New York Post.
Fleit, who has alopecia universalis and has been bald her whole life, said Blair wasn’t involved in the documentary’s editing. She gave her complete creative freedom and requested only one change—to correct a mislabeled family photo.
While the stem cell transplant was ultimately successful, it wasn’t the miracle cure that Blair hoped it would be. She is nevertheless extremely grateful. She is grateful for the treatment that allowed her to feel normal again.
“You go into it thinking, ‘Oh, it’s going to be a cure.’ But what is cure?” Blair said. “It’s just a period of acceptance that I’m changed. And that’s fine; I’m lucky.”
The full documentary can be viewed in the video below.