Any fan of the Golden Girls can tell you what the show is about; four single, older women living together under one roof. Together the four friends that are Blanche, Rose, Sophia and Dorothy share the house, jewelry, dates, tears, fears and cheesecakes. Though they have many things in common and a few things that they that do not share in common, the main thing the four share is growing older.
Unfortunately we all do it, we all grow old, or at least we will. At the mention of aging, we think of wrinkles, aches and pains and graying hair. For some it means more serious things such as heart surgery, knee and hip replacements and more. And during The Golden Girls’ seven year stretch, Rose, Sophia, Blanche and Dorothy had their share of ailments!
From the beginning of the show we know that Sophia had suffered a stroke which landed her at Shady Pines Retirement Village for rehabilitation before she goes to live with daughter Dorothy and Rose and Blanche. In season one, episode ten, Sophia and the girls fear that Sophia is experiencing a heart attack. When the doctor finally arrives, which a feat in and of itself due to a nasty tropical storm, he determines that Sophia is merely suffering from indigestion due to gross over eating of rich Italian foods and Milk Duds!
Another example of growing old and having to deal with everything that goes along with it again, comes in season one when Dorothy needs surgery on her foot. It seems that Dorothy had a condition called Morton’s neuroma, which is actually a real thing! Dorothy described Morton’s neuroma as a small tumor in her foot that she had had for a number of years. Morton’s neuroma is actually the thickening of nerve tissue between the third and fourth toes. Aside from Dorothy, Steven Tyler from Aerosmith and Patrick Duffy also suffered from this and also had surgery to take care of the problem.
Although Dorothy and Blanche have each had their own share of issues, Blanche received a pace maker in one episode due to an irregular heartbeat, it was Rose and Sophia who faced the most amount of ailments, scares and hospital trips. In season two, Rose has a near death experience and decides that life is too short and she wants to have fun. She moves out of the house she shares with Sophia, Dorothy and Blanche and gets a house right on the beach, to be closer to the “beach crowd”! Sophia also experiences yet another near death experience in season eight when she chokes and is deprived of oxygen. Sophia spent a few minutes in Heaven with her beloved Sal until Rose saved her life by giving her the Heimlich. But perhaps the most serious issue of all was when Rose needed Triple Bypass Surgery!
Through all of the shows twists and turns and surgeries the girls of course handled everything with grace and elegance and of course stuck by each other’s side through each and every ache, pain and recovery. However, in reality, irony or destiny had different plans. It was Rue McClanahan, not Betty White that suffered the majority of health issues after The Golden Girls ended in 1992. In 1997, Rue was diagnosed with breast cancer which was successfully treated. In November of 2009 Rue underwent triple bypass surgery and while she was recovering from the surgery she suffered a minor stroke. She recovered from that ordeal until June 3, 2010 when she passed away from a brain hemorrhage.
One thing is for sure though; all four of the Golden Girls have taught us all that growing old is not a death sentence! There is still so much life to live, no matter what age you are!