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.
She underwent bladder surgeries as a kid, got unnecessary root canals as an adult, and would periodically lose her vision. Blair also experiences constant muscular-skeletal pain and muscle contractions in her neck that 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.”
Her baffling afflictions only worsened after she gave birth to her son, Arthur, in 2011. 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.”
After years of suffering mysterious symptoms, Blair finally received a proper diagnosis in August 2018 after her leg gave out while she was strutting the runway in a Christian Siriano show in February 2018. A few months later, her hands stopped working.
Blair saw a neurologist, who then diagnosed her with MS. Two months later, she shared the news on Instagram.
She wrote: “I am disabled. I fall sometimes. I drop things. My memory is foggy. And my left side is asking for directions from a broken gps. But we are doing it. And I laugh and I don’t know exactly what I will do precisely but I will do my best.”
A woman named Jennifer Grey reached out and told her about treatment for autoimmune diseases out of Northwestern University that 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 her get into the program, and Blair went through the risky yet life-saving stem cell procedure in Chicago at Northwestern University in 2019.
The relatively new procedure took two months 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. Once her immunity was near zero, she received an infusion of healthy stem cells. The goal is for her body to build a new and more functional immune system.
Blair saw it fit to document her medical journey, so a mutual friend connected her to Rachel Fleit, who suffers from an autoimmune disease herself.
“People don’t say how excruciating, emotionally, it can be to kind of prove you’re not well. But I want to tell the truth about MS. 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. Nevertheless, she is extremely grateful. The treatment has allowed her to feel like herself again and go back to doing the things she loves, including riding her beloved horse.
“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.”
You can watch the trailer of the documentary in the video below.