While Elizabeth Taylor will be remembered as a movie legend and tireless AIDS advocate, the two-time Academy Award-winning beauty often received just as much press for her health ailments as she did for her films and advocacy work throughout her seven-decade career.
The actress died today at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, after being hospitalized for six weeks with congestive heart failure, a condition in which the heart can no longer pump enough blood to the rest of the body. Taylor has suffered ongoing health problems for several years and has appeared frail, and often confined to a wheelchair, in public appearances and photographs.
But her recent hospitalization came on the heels of a life riddled with as many health issues as there were romances.
While acknowledging that she has wondered why she has suffered so many physical setbacks, Taylor told Larry King in a 2001 interview that she hoped to gain a lesson with each sickness or near-death experience she had throughout life.
"Each time that I have almost died, while I have been recuperating and not quite knowing whether I was going to make it or not, you have time, plenty of time," Taylor said in the interview.
"Even an hour is plenty of time when you don't know whether you are going to live or not," Taylor continued. "And you think: Why did I make it? …There must be some reason that God wants me to live. There must be something left for me to do. And I have to find out what that something is and go out there and do it!"
It was on the set of one of Taylor's earliest films, the 1944 movie "National Velvet," that seemed to start a life of injuries, sickness and recuperation. Taylor suffered her first major injury at the age of 12, when she fell off her horse and injured her back.
Taylor reportedly had a near-death experience in the 1950s during a surgical procedure, where the actress said doctors pronounced her clinically dead.
In an interview with Diane Sawyer, Taylor opened up about the incident, explaining that she went to "the other side," and found her third husband, Mike Todd, waiting for her.
"I don't fear [death] because, when I was on the other side, like in the tunnel, and was with Mike [Todd], it was so beautiful and warm and the light was so welcoming and I held on to him and he said you have to go back," Taylor said in the interview. "You have things to do and I'll be here."
"Adjusting to life again was like learning to walk all over but then I started appreciating sounds and colors, music, and I thought, 'my God! I've taken all this for granted and it's so incredibly beautiful,' and it made me cry and I thought 'thank you, God,'" continued Taylor.
In 1960, the 28-year-old beauty fell ill with pneumonia and had to receive a tracheotomy. Many people, including Taylor herself, believed that she received the Academy Award that year for her role in "Butterfly 8" because of public sympathy for her respiratory condition.
And after a particularly overwhelming time of erratic relationships and deaths of several friends, including James Dean, rumor had it that the actress nearly died after attempting suicide with sleeping pills in 1962.