Dianne Kay on Beating Kidney Cancer

Despite her success on the big and small screen, Dianne Kay has experienced her fair share of pain. Not only did she lose her onscreen mom and older sister from “Eight Is Enough,” but Kay also just survived a battle with kidney cancer.

Ilyssa Panitz • More.com Celebrity Reporter
diane kay image
Dianne Kay
Photograph: Jack Silvera

More: How would you describe your life?
Dianne Kay: Life takes you in so many directions, and what just happened to me showed me we are the navigators and the ones in the driver’s seat. You experience a lot of ups, downs and challenges, and you need to find that inner strength to get past them.

More: Do you consider the Eight Is Enough years an up moment in your life?
DK: Oh my God, it was one of the best times. I think Eight Is Enough gave people an hour to experience our big happy family and get into our lives. I came from a small family, so to come into this big family made me feel so lucky and blessed. We really were a family on that show. We went to each other’s weddings and baby showers, and when Diana Hyland passed away, we grieved like family.

More: You must have been rooting for your former costar Ralph Macchio on this past season of Dancing with the Stars.
DK: I was rooting for him. He is such a sweetheart. Matter of fact, my son just finished reading The Outsiders, and then we rented the movie. When I told my son that Ralph was a friend of mine, he was shocked and said, “Wow, he knows you?”

More: Unfortunately, some of your costars fell into tough times. How did it make you feel to hear about Lani O’Grady’s death, Adam Rich’s trouble with the law and Willie Aames’s falling on hard financial times?
DK: You hope and wish the best for them. We all have choices to make, and sometimes we don’t make the best ones at the time. When you have a debilitating disease like Lani did, that is just not something you just can’t help. What was so hard for me was when Lani passed away, because I was so close to her.

More: I’m sorry.
DK: You try to offer advice, but sometimes there are demons in people’s lives that are too powerful, and there is only so much you can do. I miss Lani, and I think about her a lot. Matter of fact, I still have her picture, and sometimes I will pass by it and think, I would love to talk to you. Unfortunately, Lani had a lot of demons in her life, and she couldn’t get past them. It is sad because I miss her a lot.

More: It sounds like you tried to help her.
DK: We all did in many ways. When you have addictions it is difficult, because the addictions take over the person. Lani was a beautiful person when she wasn’t dealing with her addictions.

More: When Eight Is Enough ended—was that a downtime for you?
DK: It was a challenging time for me, but I did go on to do other projects, and I was able to work with Steven Spielberg in 1941, which was incredible.

More: How did you avoid going to the dark side of Hollywood?
DK: I had a solid homelife. I think because of that I was able to make careful choices. I always had my parents to fall back on when I was uncertain about something. They were my best support system, and you need that in this town.

More: What lessons have you learned as you get older?
DK: As you get older you learn how to sink or swim and figure out how to deal with the obstacles in front of you.

More: You are also penning a sitcom. Tell me about that.
DK: It is called Seconds, and it is about four women who are in their second stages of life. Our menopausal hormones are battling our kids’ raging hormones. I guess you can say our show is a parody, and we are really making fun of ourselves in a positive way.

More: Has writing a comedy series helped you work though some of your issues and find the humor in it all?
DK: If you don’t, life is pretty darn bleak. After surviving cancer I was given a second chance, and as a result I decided I wanted to make every second of my life count.

More: Will you write about your experience with cancer?
DK: Maybe down the road there will be a situation where we could write about it.

First Published June 15, 2011

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