Actress Bellamy Young opened up about how losing her dad at a young age empowered her to become the woman she is today.
“It’s an interesting blessing to meet death early because it makes you never take life for granted. And I was my worst self,” the Scandal alum, 53, exclusively told Us Weekly on Wednesday, October 4, while promoting her partnership with Salix to raise awareness for hepatic encephalopathy (HE), the disease her father suffered from. “You’re a teenager, so you’re a big jerk, and mostly everything is about you. So I have a lot of regrets about that now that his disease process, which was something I didn’t understand, [and] couldn’t understand.”
Young shared that as a teen she would “often” give her dad “an eye roll” and typical teen angst while being unaware of what he was going through at the time. Still, dealing with her dad’s illness — despite not understanding the extent of it — helped Young become more “vigilant” in being more empathetic and compassionate.
“You never know what anybody’s going through. You just don’t ever know,” she reflected. “Don’t ever take anything for granted. People are fighting battles internally that you’ll just never be aware of.”
Young’s father, who was an auditor, was initially diagnosed with cirrhosis — a severe form of chronic liver disease — due to drinking. However, his condition escalated into HE, which occurs when toxins in the liver build up and travel to the brain, per the Cleveland Clinic. At the time, Young and her family didn’t realize her dad’s liver disease would turn into something more serious.
“We had no idea that a disease that starts in your liver could affect your brain or your behavior. So we didn’t even know to look for symptoms [or] to be watching for signs. We didn’t know how to take care of him in his process,” Young recalled to Us. “We just sort of got ashamed of it and then didn’t talk about it, and then sort of carried on exactly as we had been.”
It wasn’t until Young’s father was in the “really late stage” of overt HE that her family took him to the doctor to see what was wrong with him. At the time, Young shared that her dad “wasn’t offered any treatment suggestions” besides seeking alternative remedies.
After learning more about the disease, Young is now aware of the symptoms to be on the lookout for — including change of breath odor or memory issues — while also wishing she “had known” this information for her dad. For now, she’s focusing on raising awareness by working with Salix and their new website, UnderstandingHE.com, where readers can learn more about the condition, track symptoms and hear from patients about their battle.
“I don’t want anybody to feel alone, and I don’t want anyone to feel confused,” she told Us. “So I spent a lot of time processing my poor response and feeling guilty about the fact that I couldn’t help my dad. So this is what I can do is offer help to other folks.”
Visit UnderstandingHE.com to learn more and access educational tools, including an interactive symptom tracker and discussion guides for patients and caregivers to use with their doctors.