7:00am PT by Chris Gardner
Renee Zellweger and Courteney Cox Pose With Nanci Ryder for Brain & Life Magazine
During a 30-plus year career as a top Hollywood publicist, Nanci Ryder negotiated countless magazine covers and features for a long list of star clients. But for the first time in her life, Ryder has now posed for her very first cover.
Joining former clients and longtime friends Renée Zellweger and Courteney Cox, Ryder is featured on the front of the April/May issue of Brain & Life magazine for an in-depth look at her nearly six-year battle with ALS.
The magazine, published by the American Academy of Neurology, dedicates six pages to Ryder's courageous fight with the neurodegenerative disease that has claimed her ability to walk, talk, eat and move. It hasn't claimed her activism, however, as she has raised close to $750,000 in the fight to find a cure, thanks in part to the commitment of Zellweger, Ryder and the rest of Team Nanci.
"Everybody is still here for Nanci — her extended circle of friends are family now," Zellweger told The Hollywood Reporter of being a member of the team and the honor that comes with showing up to support Ryder, whether at annual Walk to Defeat ALS events, fundraising events or just to sit and catch up at her Studio City home, site of the Brain & Life photo shoot. Sitting next to Ryder with Cox proved to be a special day, she added, "especially for Nanci, who had such difficulty seeing how loved she was, and now she knows everybody will still show up for her on whatever afternoon and have their photograph taken."
Zellweger, Cox and close Ryder confidante Kathy Shawver Maffei also sat for interviews as part of the cover story, titled "Fight of Her Life." In it, her friends and doctors describe the difficult road Ryder has been on these past few years living with ALS, and before that, living with and beating cancer. But they also talk about good days, whether it's Cox detailing coveted lunches at Cecconi's, Zellweger dishing on quick wardrobe changes backstage or Maffei opening up on what Ryder still loves to do (she never misses The Bold and the Beautiful).
"I would do anything for Nanci. It makes me feel a little less helpless," Cox says in the spread. "I can show up and hope that by my showing up, she knows I love her. If there's one extra person who finds out about this disease, I'm doing something. But it's not enough."
Says Maffei: "Some days are wonderful, and some days are not so good, but we take the good and bad and make it work the best we can."
As for how they're finding their way through it today, Zellweger says in the article, "You're not born knowing how to manage something like this with grace. Every time I see her, I don't know what to expect in terms of how she'll be or how my own emotions will be. But like any friendship, it has stages and evolves. You adapt. You trust that the love you feel will help you navigate. You just show up. I have accepted that this is how I will go forward in our friendship. I will continue to love her, to advocate for her, and to show up."