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In a new interview with WebMD magazine, actress Jennie Garth speaks at length about her 6-year-old daughter Lola Ray‘s diagnosis of Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis. At the height of her battle, Lola even required hospitalization for nine days while doctors scrambled to figure out what was wrong. "Since they could not treat her because they were not sure what the illness was, we decided to take her home and monitor her because we felt being in the hospital was actually making her depressed and worsening her condition," Jennie, 36, explains. "We went home and researched it on our own, with help from friends and family in the medical profession until we found web sites for JRA, which seemed to match her symptoms."
At first, Jennie admits that she and husband Peter Facinelli chalked those symptoms up to "growing pains, and her fussiness as a typical, needy 5-year-old." Lola was "just not herself," Jennie says, complaining of fatigue and wanting to be carried everywhere because her joints ached. When she developed a persistent rash and a high, prolonged fever the couple knew that something bigger was to blame. After she was discharged from the hospital, Lola got the lucky break she needed when Jennie and Peter found an "incredible specialist" at UCLA who treated their daughter for a rare form of JRA known as Still’s Disease. Lola started a long-term course of the drug Naprosyn which stopped her fevers, and a short course of steroids knocked out the rash.
"She responded well to the treatment, and is now in remission…My husband and I have never been more thankful to God, that we were able to get her through this and that she is back to her old self, running and playing."
With Lola’s health back on track, Jennie says that there are other issues to be addressed in her home — which also includes daughters Luca Bella, 11, and Fiona Eve, 2. Helping the girls to maintain a positive body image is "a challenge" in today’s image-obsessed culture, she admits.
Click ‘More’ to read about what Jennie tells the girls to help them feel good about themselves.
Without naming names, Jennie says that one of her daughters is "really into soccer and sports," keeping her "lean no matter what she eats." As a result, Jennie and Peter don’t "really think a thought about her weight." Another daughter already frets that her "tummy is fluffy," however — the couple doesn’t use the word ‘fat’ when talking about their bodies, or anybody else’s — which worries Jennie.
"I tell her she is exactly the way she is supposed to be, and that she is beautiful. I make sure that they eat healthy and balanced and get adequate exercise."
The best piece of advice Jennie says she has received as a parent is to "get down on the floor and play with the kids." She notes that "they love when you let the sink fill up with dishes and don’t seem to care." She also cites reading a story to the girls each and every night as "very important" because "it really makes a difference in their love for reading later on." Noting that "balancing everything in a woman’s busy life is really hard," Jennie says that when she’s stretched too thin between her professional commitments and the demands of her private life, she has help to fall back on.
"We … are blessed to have a wonderful nanny who has been with us for 16 years. She is the only one we trust with our babies. She helps me so much. And Peter is incredibly helpful and such a wonderful father and husband."
Speaking of the latter, Jennie goes on to rave that Peter is a very "hands-on" dad who helps her "with every aspect of raising and caring for" their girls. "So, we both make doctor appointments, and take the kids to them," she adds.