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Q&A with Evan Handler of 'Sex and the City'

Evan HandlerEvan Handler's Web site opens with the "Sex and the City" star walking a tightrope high above Manhattan, a fitting visual for the high-wire turn his own life took when he was diagnosed at age 24 with acute myeloid leukemia, a supposedly incurable form of cancer.

The Juilliard-trained native of Croton-on-Hudson, N.Y., had been on the same fast track to stardom as Tom Cruise and Sean Penn, having landed starring roles in the 1981 hit movie "Taps" and several Broadway plays while barely out of his teens.

In his biography, "It's Only Temporary: The Good News and the Bad News of Being Alive," Handler relives the physical, emotional and financial battles he faced during four years of cancer treatments that culminated in a bone marrow transplant.

Handler came out of it laughing, if only at the absurdity of now having to live a life he'd already forsaken.

He regained his center by writing a solo theater piece, "Time on Fire: My Comedy of Terrors," that focused as much on how his illness had stunted his love life as how it had sidetracked his career. He published a full-length book version in 1996.

Six years later, he reclaimed his stardom when he joined the cast of "Sex and the City" as divorce lawyer Harry Goldenblatt, the second husband to Kristin Davis' character, Charlotte York.

Now 48, Handler lives in Los Angeles with his Italian-born wife and daughter, and co-stars with David Duchovny on the hit Showtime series "Californication."

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Bankrate: Few people besides you and Michael J. Fox know what it feels like to have a successful acting career cut short by sudden, catastrophic illness. To what degree did the precipitous drop in earning power play into your "comedy of terrors"?

Evan Handler: I'm guessing the number of people who've had their careers interrupted go way beyond Michael and myself -- and certainly Michael had a lot farther to fall than I ever did. When I was first diagnosed in 1985, I was only 24 years old, but I was doing better than most my age. But I hadn't amassed any kind of fortune. The greatest irony and difficulty for me was that, in order to get Social Security disability assistance to pull me through the years of medical treatments ahead, I had to jettison any money I'd managed to set aside. I had to purposely impoverish myself in order to qualify. It's not an uncommon thing for people to be forced to do, and it's profoundly dispiriting. The reverse irony was that, once I was well and earning again, I had to fight to get the Social Security Administration to stop sending checks.

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