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Time Off For Pamela Anderson

Family and comrades grieve as they escort the coffins of Iraqi traffic police officer Hussein Qassim, 19, foreground, and Jassim Shuwaili, 24, in Baghdad, Iraq, July 15, 2009.
CBS
Pamela Anderson, the small-town Canadian girl who became one of the world's most famous women, said on Tuesday night she would take time away from her career to undergo a sometimes debilitating treatment for hepatitis C that could save her life.

Anderson, the former "Baywatch" star, said she plans to take injections of powerful antiviral drugs to treat her hepatitis C, a sometimes fatal liver disease she blames on a tattoo needle shared with ex-husband Tommy Lee.

"There's lots of side effects. ... It's going to be a year of basically having the flu. Your hair falls out. It's a little kind of chemotherapy," the Canadian-born actress said in an interview with CNN's Larry King Live on Tuesday.

"I want to do it for my kids, because I don't want to die, basically." said Anderson.

In April, Anderson, 35, made headlines when she announced that she and recording star Kid Rock, her boyfriend of a year, were engaged to be married.

But in the interview with King, she appeared to hedge: "I could say right now we're in the trenches. We're just working on things. ... We love each other very much but it's a difficult life, a difficult life. And I want what's best for my kids. And he has a son."

Anderson said a biopsy showed that her liver is still relatively healthy and she plans to take interferon in combination with other drugs starting in December.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, antiviral drugs - such as interferon - usually result in flu-like symptoms and can also cause hair loss, low blood count, moodiness and depression.

Interferon combined with ribavirin, another antiviral drug, works on about 30 to 40 percent of U.S. patients with the chronic disease, according to the CDC.

Most people with hepatitis C eventually develop chronic liver disease, with a far smaller number at risk of liver cancer or cirrhosis, potentially fatal conditions.

Lee, former Motley Crue drummer, has denied Anderson's charge that he also suffers from hepatitis C or that the pair shared a tattoo needle.

The couple divorced in 1998 and have been in a bitter custody battle over their sons, Brandon, 6, and Dylan, 4.

Anderson says Lee is "in denial" about his own disease, estranged from his children who fear him, and is unable to take care of them without a court-appointed monitor.

"They've never had a relationship with their father since they were born. They've always been afraid of their father, and their father has had no contact, really, with them," said Anderson.

Anderson's failed marriage to Lee, which came after a whirlwind romance and became linked in the public mind with an infamous sex videotape, had left her scarred, she said.

"I need to resolve a lot of issues," said Anderson, "before I can really move on and have another serious commitment."