Karen Black, an Oscar-nominated actress famous for her roles in 70’s cult classics like ‘Easy Rider’ and ‘Five Easy Pieces,’ passed away in Los Angeles from complications related to her battle with ampullary cancer; she was 74 years-old.
Black’s ampullary cancer diagnosis first came in November 2010, at which time she underwent surgery to remove infected areas of her pancreas before completing chemotherapy and radiation treatments. The actress’ cancer was thought to be in remission until it returned in July 2011; by June of last year, the carcinoma had metastasized.
Ampullary cancer affects the opening of the small intestine, also known as the ampulla of Vater. This type of cancer is fairly uncommon, however, claiming a mere 1% of carcinomas of the gastrointestinal tract.
Karen Black was an American actress who appeared in over 100 films. Among the more notable were ‘Easy Rider,’ with Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda, and ‘You’re a Big Boy Now,’ directed by Francis Ford Coppola. Black was perhaps most well known, however, for her Best Supporting Actress-nominated role as diner waitress, “Rayette Dipesto,” in ‘Five Easy Pieces,’ a 1970 film costarring Jack Nicholson. (Black ultimately lost the award to Helen Hayes of ‘Airport.’)
Black’s fourth (and longest) husband, Stephen Eckelberry, had recently turned to Karen’s multitude of fans through GoFundMe, an online fundraising site, to ask for their help in raising the $32,000 needed for experimental European treatments, as well as rising medical costs. Black’s dear fans did him one better, however, and raised $45,829 in under one week for the star. (This total would rise to $60,000 in only four months.)
Sadly, the star was unable to ever fly to Europe for treatments, as she became increasingly ill very quickly. Karen Black’s family was forced to try and bring alternative treatments to her bedside, which were made possible by the thousands of dollars worth of donations raised by her fans on GoFundMe.
Although her husband Stephen Eckelberry was told numerous times throughout Black’s final weeks of life to call Hospice in, Black outlasted doctor’s predictions’ of death and continued her fight; unfortunately, Black finally lost that battle on Thursday, August 8, 2013 in Los Angeles. She is survived by her husband of nearly 26 years, Stephen Eckelberry, as well as their daughter, Celine; Black also left behind a son from the actress’ third marriage, Hunter Carson, another daughter, Diane, from a previous relationship, a sister and a brother, and multiple grandchildren. Funeral arrangements are unknown at this time.