Etta James is terminally ill, live-in doctor says
Etta James, the "At Last" singer whose health has been in decline, is terminally ill with chronic leukemia, her doctor says.
Dr. Elaine James, who has lived with the 73-year-old singer since March 2010, made the announcement Thursday, explaining that James’ leukemia was deemed incurable two weeks ago. The diagnosis was determined with help from an oncologist-hematologist and an internist.
"I am Southern and Christian and would just ask for the prayers of her fans and friends," the doctor, who is no relation to the singer, told the Riverside Press-Enterprise. "[Fans] know she’s been sick, but not how sick."
Leukemia is a cancer of the blood and bone marrow, where blood cells are produced, according to our sister blog Booster Shots. When abnormal cells are created, they disrupt the function of healthy cells. Treatments for more advanced stages of chronic leukemia can include drug therapy, chemotherapy and bone marrow or stem cell transplants.
Adding to Etta James' suffering are kidney failure and dementia, according to court records, and Elaine James says Etta's communication is at this point mostly just "uh-huhs”"and "no's." The Riverside resident, who underwent gastric bypass surgery in 2003, was hospitalized earlier this year with blood and urinary tract infections, and has suffered from heroin and painkiller addictions in the past.
Donto James and his brother Sametto James told Reuters on Friday that they were not involved in the announcement and are still trying to determine the accuracy of the diagnosis.
Donto has been involved with ongoing court proceedings concerning his mother's estate and care. So far, he is asking for a conservator to take over his mother’s $1-million estate in place of her husband, Artis Mills, and is questioning the employment of Elaine James. The doctor’s salary was previously reported at $20,000 per month, then $25,000 and now $30,000.
In past proceedings, Donto has drawn comparisons between Elaine James and Michael Jackson’s live-in physician Dr. Conrad Murray and recently said of his mother's at-home care: "I saw her the day before yesterday, and I think she needs to be in the hospital. She doesn't look good."
-- Emily Christianson
Reuters contributed to this report.
Photo: Etta James in 2009. Credit: Rick Diamond / Getty Images.