More MS news articles for June 2000

Annette Funicello Battling New Health Crisis

America's sweetheart Annette Funicello is facing two devastating new health crises -- she's losing her vision and her voice.

COURAGEOUS Annette has battled MS for 13 years, trying to live as normal a life as possible.

Sadly, the 57-year-old former Mouseketeer -- who has battled multiple sclerosis since 1987 -- can no longer read and can barely speak above a whisper.

"Annette's eyesight has been going for a while now," her mom Virginia Funicello told The ENQUIRER sadly.

"She's no longer able to read. And when she watched TV, someone would often have to describe what was going on because it was all a blur to her."

To help, Annette's family recently surprised her with a large-screen TV. It's set up in the living room of the San Fernando Valley home she shares with her devoted husband, Glen Holt.

"Annette was so happy, she cried tears of joy," said Virginia. "We even bought her a new chair to lounge in all day long."

Chuckling, Virginia added, "The chair is so comfortable that Annette and I fought over it! Now we just take turns."

Virginia also revealed her daughter's vocal cords have gotten weaker. LOVING MOM Virginia with Annette before disease took its toll.

"Her voice has gotten very soft and rough, but it's not gone completely," Virginia said.

"If she talks too much while we're on the telephone, she'll say, 'Oh, Mom, my voice is starting to go. I'm going to have to hang up now.'"

A source close to the brave entertainer said Annette's vision has grown worse in the past few months.

"Recently, one of Annette's best friends dropped by for a visit.

Fast Fact!

Annette refused to wear bikinis during her beach blanket movie heyday, claiming: "I wouldn't even wear them around my own pool!"

Annette's eyes brimmed with tears because her friend hadn't been by in a while -- and now she couldn't see her," said the source.

"When they embraced, Annette just clung to her.

"But she quickly regained her composure and a brave smile crossed her face.

"Annette quipped: 'Just hearing your voice is enough.

" 'It's just like seeing you!'

"She's so brave. But it's obvious her days are darkening. Yet she never complains."

Annette keeps her spirits up by maintaining her routine of going to the beauty shop and the neighborhood Costco every Tuesday.

"She goes out in her wheelchair at least two or three times a week with her nurses," said Virginia.

Virginia, who lives near Palm Springs, recently spent the week of Mother's Day with her daughter.

"We're all going to my son Joey's new house for a family barbecue. We try to keep things as normal as possible for Annette," said Virginia, her voice choking with emotion.

"The last thing we want is for her to feel like a cripple."

-- MICHAEL GLYNN and BEVERLY WILLISTON